When hackdays just *aren’t* cool – some PR advice

I just got a bit ranty and grumpy on Twitter. I saw this tweet:

Cadbury Mobile Hackday tweet

And upon following the link, it rather made me angry. The link goes to this page:

Cadbury Mobile Hackday website

Wow. Cadbury want developers to develop their Olympic app for no money, and think they will do so for the chance to win tickets to the games, or some chocolate (or other prizes). So, let’s get that straight: no payment. You make their app (no mention of you keeping your IP, so I presume they want that too), and don’t get paid actual real money that will keep your roof over your head, help pay for the upkeep of tools for your trade, feed you and if you have one, your family. Unless you win and really like just eating chocolate.

Will anyone do this? Of course they will. The hackday will no doubt be full – it’s worth a pop for the developers’ marketing potential, plus no doubt it’ll be fun. So what’s my problem? My problem is developers (well, anyone, actually) should not be exploited or taken the piss out of. By a multi billion pound company creating a hack day like this, they’re essentially saying “we don’t think you’re worth paying because we don’t have to”. And that’s just a bit shit.

Some folks on Twitter were asking if this is just ignorance on their part, that they aren’t aware of how this comes across. Well, that is really ignorant then, and just as bad. I don’t count that as a valid excuse to be exploiting people. Would they expect their copywriters to work for free? How about their accounts people? No. Because people should be paid for working for your company. It’s that simple.

But what if a company wants to run a hack day, and get all the benefits from the crowdsourcing and brainstorming getting some really talented folks in a room? Go for it! But PAY PEOPLE MONEY. Pay for their time, and their ideas, and their input to your company’s research and development. If their ideas are so important to your company that you are willing to use them as your official app(s), then they should be paid a market rate (or if it’s as high profile as the Olympics, market rate++ in my opinion!).

Hackdays that run without people getting paid cash money for their work are generally because they exist to help folks to make things that they then own and benefit a cause they are passionate about. Not developing for a specific company, and giving up their IP – which is the difference brands need to get a handle of.

As well as paid hack days, companies/brands could consider another professional alternative: do prototyping days with developers who can create apps and products for you in quick time frames at relatively low cost compared to fully developed projects, so you can fail fast on stuff you don’t like and move forward with the innovations you like. Loads of these folks now exist – there’s a subset of devs who do just this. Want to know them? Get in touch, I’d be happy to do you an intro.

To sum up: there’s a whole technology industry watching you undervalue them when you pull stunts like this. For the sake of a few thousand pounds, you get to choose between a PR fuck up and a proper engagement and R&D strategy. Your call.

UPDATE! 14th May 2012 – here is what has happened since this blog post:

Cadbury Mobile Hackday website update

[This is a repost from thayerprime.com – to read or add comments please visit there]