Geeklist, a social networking site for developers, recently hosted #hack4good, a 48-hour global coding marathon during which more than 2,000 independent developers in 21 cities created applications to help world charities solve various humanitarian and environmental problems. The marathon’s purpose was to unite the world’s software developers and tech industry leaders to find technical solutions to the world’s greatest social challenges.

#hack4good began last Friday night and lasted through Sunday night. Participating cities included Kathmandu, Nepal; London; Minsk, Belarus; New Delhi; New York; San Francisco; Tel Aviv; and Toronto. Just as one would expect in a coding marathon, there was a lot of coding, a lot of coffee and very little sleep, according to Reuben Katz, founder and CEO of Geeklist.

“But what was different about this event was that it was the first-ever, tandem, global hackathon where all the cities participated all at the same time—with the same start and end times in their respective time zones,” he said.

Doing it for love of the code
Nourished with free pizza, soda and coffee, developers designed their applications to solve issues including environmental conservation, climate change, education issues, global hunger, and emergency communication after earthquakes and other natural disasters. Each city had its own winning application, which was chosen based on its ability to best address the issue for which it was developed.

“But we don’t promote big prizes for the winners,” Katz explained. “We do have one grand prize, who is more of a winning ambassador, selected to represent Geeklist and #hack4good at our future events. Or they get to travel to other hackathons on Geeklist’s behalf.”

Katz said that the people that he wants for these events are not people that really want or expect a big reward for building an app that, for example, helps Amnesty International find refugees. “The reward that they get is that they’ve done something for social good that helps,” he said. “And to maintain that sanctity of social good, we really try to focus in very heavily on running events that developers really get personal, long-term value out of.”

Katz was impressed by the caliber of apps created during the marathon. “As just one example, there was an incredible app made that helps people locate their lost pets,” he said. “It’s basically a pet rescue app where rescue agencies that get cats and dogs into their shelters are able to pinpoint where they were found and their characteristics and develop a registry of lost cats and dogs.”

Charities such as Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth, International Medical Corps, Macmillan and UNICEF UK, will benefit from the winning applications, but only because the applications will help their causes. Geeklist emphasized that the applications will remain open source and are not for profit.

Geeklist also did not give out any monetary awards, but tech firms such as 50onRed, Actuate, Bountysource, Deezer,, Google, Mandrill, Pivotal Labs, Rackspace and others supported the coding marathon’s participants by offering tools and other technological assistance. “These are gifts that are given by corporations and sponsors who made the event happen,” Katz explained. “Those gifts are usually infrastructure-based, or based around things that help make developers’ lives better, to help them be able to create more things in a better way—like free storage, servers, hosting services or developer tools, things like that.”

Geeklist will also be holding another one-day hack event at Web Summit in Dublin on Oct. 29. The winner of last weekend’s coding marathon will be sent to Web Summit, all expenses paid. The overall winning application will be announced soon, said Katz.

The Geeklist Corps of Developers
Geeklist also recently launched the Geeklist Corps of Developers, a community of experts who can be on hand during global disasters to help solve problems in real time. The company described it as the world’s first and largest corps of tech leaders who are trained and prepared to be the first technical responders for disaster, humanitarian and wildlife relief solutions. Currently, the Geeklist Corps of Engineers is open only to invitees or to #hack4good participants, the company said.