The Secret Life of Hackathon Code

by   Ahmed Imam, et al.

Background: Hackathons have become popular events for teams to collaborate on projects and develop software prototypes. Most existing research focuses on activities during an event with limited attention to the evolution of the code brought to or created during a hackathon. Aim: We aim to understand the evolution of hackathon-related code, specifically, how much hackathon teams rely on pre-existing code or how much new code they develop during a hackathon. Moreover, we aim to understand if and where that code gets reused, and what factors affect reuse. Method: We collected information about 22,183 hackathon projects from DEVPOST – a hackathon database – and obtained related code (blobs), authors, and project characteristics from the World of Code. We investigated if code blobs in hackathon projects were created before, during, or after an event by identifying the original blob creation date and author, and also checked if the original author was a hackathon project member. We tracked code reuse by first identifying all commits containing blobs created during an event before determining all projects that contain those commits. Result: While only approximately 9.14 hackathons, this amount is still significant considering the time and member constraints of such events. Approximately a third of these code blobs get reused in other projects. The number of associated technologies and the number of participants in a project increase reuse probability. Conclusion: Our study demonstrates to what extent pre-existing code is used and new code is created during a hackathon and how much of it is reused elsewhere afterwards. Our findings help to better understand code reuse as a phenomenon and the role of hackathons in this context and can serve as a starting point for further studies in this area.


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