Pixels Camp 2017

After three days of Pixels Camp to top off a grueling week of travel and meetings, I’m down for the count with the flu, but quite happy indeed.

Like last year, I didn’t have much time to dive in and actually organize the event. I did, however, spend a fair amount of time at the Microsoft booth doing the corporate thing, as well as going on stage for a few times – to present the Microsoft challenge during the opening session, as a commentator for the Chasing Ghosts challenge (along with the inimitable @chbm), and as an impromptu host for Presentation Karaoke.

So great fun was had, if only because I spent the past three days in the company of people who matter to me:

The organization team (best shot I got so far). I'm the guy in the Microsoft T-shirt, far left.

Again like last year, I didn’t have time to actually sit down and see a single session from beginning to end, so I’ll just wait until they show up on YouTube.

This year’s motto was “to the moon!”, and I think it was spot on, because there were a lot of amazing things happening besides “just” a hackathon – it was a rich, multi-layered experience, and you just had to be there to enjoy it.

Pay Me With Exposure

This year there was a grand (and, let’s face it, insanely awesome – or awesomely insane) experiment: The entire event ran on a crypto-currency named Exposure (EXP), which I believe to be an absolute first.

I know a complete (technical and organizational) write-up is in the works, but the whole thing was so awesome that I felt the need to provide a little summary:

The Market. Some services on offer were... creative, to say the least.

To get things started, participants could buy and sell services in a public market, but the awesome new twist was that project voting was made through Exposure, which meant that every participant who created a wallet (getting 300 EXP to begin with) could “invest” in their favorite project – and there were even angel investors who could provide massive funding (25000 EXP).

The T-Shirts

Another hilarious twist that is sure to be properly documented later was that the event T-shirts had a puzzle behind them – and whomever figured it out would be able to unlock a massive amount of… You got it, exposure.

The Moon T-shirt, which was only given to organizers and had the last missing bits of information.

Between artwork, coloring and text variations, there were twenty-four different T-shirts , and once people caught on to that fact (around the morning of the second day) a feverisly updated Google Sheet was ablaze with data and a lot of wild speculation – I kept a copy here for posterity.

The puzzle was solved quite late in the second evening, and it was a lot of fun to watch the attempts at figuring it out.

Project Voting

The final project ranking after funds were redistributed (and losing projects went "bankrupt").

After hackathon contestants did their on-stage pitches, participants and angels invested in their projects, and it was amazing to watch market dynamics in action and see how they invested their EXP and the project rankings shifted – it was eerily similar to real life, and the only fault I can find with this model is that a couple of solo projects that were brilliant and obviously had tremendous effort put into them simply couldn’t earn enough exposure by themselves to be successful.

But maybe that’s not really a fault when you consider the big picture – Pixels Camp now has a publicly auditable way to run the entire event and expose participants to market dynamics, just like they would need to do to succeed in real life.

“To the moon”, indeed. I can’t wait for next year.