What is a "hackathon" and how does it work?

First question to clear up ...

"Isn't a 'hack' a bad thing, like breaking into the bank to steal money?" 

That is definitely one usage but that's not us:

The word "hackathon" is a portmanteau of the words "hack" and "marathon", where "hack" is used in the sense of playful, exploratory programming, not its alternate meaning as a reference to computer crime. The term seems to have been created independently by both the developers of OpenBSD and the marketing team of Sun; these usages both first happened in 1999.

[source: Wikipedia: Hackathon]

So how does a Hack Miramar hackathon weekend work?

With the 5 elements in place a typical weekend works along the following structure ...

People arrive, grab a coffee and mingle around until the kick-off. It is ususal for most attendees to know no other person at the event, now is the time to shake hands with the person next to you and ask, "So what happens now?"

One of the Hack Miramar team will then welcome everyone, run through the venue housekeeping and outline the schedule. Normally there's a little, "Who are we all and hopes/desires for the weekend".

We then, for the next 45-60 minutes crack into team forming. This is done using yellow stickies, a lot of talking and moving around. As people naturally gravitate to the challenges that most interest them the teams are formed.

'Homes' for the teams are taken, paper is spread out and the work starts.

Lunch is a time to re-meet everyone and the Hack Miramar team will ensure cross-polination of ideas flow during the day. We end the day with a down-tools, a brief catch-up and a drink to celebrate getting half-way through. It is rare for teams to have completed their challenge and even might seem unsurmoutable - a good sleep clears the heads for the final push.

We meet back the next day at 9am, have the oh so important coffee and then repeat the day with lunch provided.

Around 3pm the Hack Miramar team start to guide the teams to the "Dragon's Den" presentation as pitches are prepared and practiced. At 4pm we all come together and, in a very informal manner, each team presenting their weekend's work with only the panel allowed to ask a few probing questions.

Photographs of oeveryone are taken, friendships deepened and any ideas that have legs are conencted to those that can ensure further action is done.

And that, ladies and gentlemen is a Hack Miramar event.