My first hackathon experience – devnull with Spotify

It was last weekend, it was called “Escape from the /dev/null” and the main sponsor was Spotify.

In short, I was glad I came! Despite the snowstorm that Stockholm’s weather prepared for us that day! I got to meet lot’s of awesome people and the atmosphere was really inspiring.

It’s started with Robert Hancock’s ( he is the leader of the New York Python Group, GTUG-NY and a long-time expert on real-time and resilient systems programming) talk on concurrency and Python. If you missed it and are interested in GIL, find your way to the slides –

Now it’s worth mentioning, that devnull isn’t really a hackathon – it’s a recruitment game. Programmers get short challenges, this time in Python or Javascript, since that is what Spotify is looking for. And the goal is to solve all the challenges first and reach the prize! It’s a great idea, though, not everything worked as planned 🙂

This is how the map looked like:


I signed-up as a frontend developer to sort of test my newly acquired Javascript skills and because I haven’t touched Python for a while and wasn’t sure about it.

First, our team – A03, got stuck because we didn’t get any internet connection and the rest moved forward pretty quickly, as you can see:)

Then, the whole awesome software just broke and we were stuck again. But luckily there was a plan B! Old-fashioned way – challenges on paper and live interactions with judges from Spotify 🙂

Me and Jonas(our team’s backend) were really closed to the second prize, but not fast enough. The competition was tough I must say!

You can see the challenges we solved in our github repository. It was a pleasure working with Jonas, we had fun on the way and I learned a few new things both about JS and Python. And I would say those kind of events are really good to sort of test your basic programming skills, if you are in the beginning of your career.

I noticed that some of the more senior guys were quite bored with the challenges though. One way to improve it from my point of view is to formulate it according to the theme. All the geeks got so excited by the possibility “to escape from the alien space ship” using their programming skills. Why not build every challenge in the same manner?

…Create a page that illustrates the view from the illuminator with stars lighting up and fading away…

instead of just

…On mouse-click event create a circle that gradually grows in radius until it’s too big to be seen…

That will possible lead to less challenges but you could also time-box them and if a developer can’t manage on time – let him try another one.


Peter Svensson and the other organizers did well despite of all the troubles that occurred during this the first of it’s kind crazy space competition, so thumb’s up for that and I’m sure the next devnull will be even more awesome!

Read more on how it was and why you should sponsor the next devnull from Peter himself –

More pictures here: