The reason for NUSMods popularity, is that it was solved by someone who really felt the pain of not being able to schedule their timetable in a user-friendly, concise manor. Like all inspired computing students, said student went on to do up his own timetable scheduler that pulls and visualizes data from IVLE in a user friendly timetable builder, and we all know the ending to that story. I feel that like many existing projects, people are able to find solutions to problems only if they experience the problems themselves, and really feel inspired to come up with a solution to it (and also has a background in making cool shit and doing cool shit).
I mean that’s what most of the module (and the world) talks about, solving a pain, instead of just making something cool. But then again, how in the world would anyone go about finding such a pain worthy to be solved? Apart from doing tons of market research and talking to more people, I feel that the best solutions come from people who actually felt the intensity of the pain by undergoing it themselves. The most widely renown ideas from NUS students still studying currently revolve around making studying life better, and it was a stark contrast to me when I saw the different types of ideas pitched by the external speakers, and the NUS students, with each group speaking more about ideas for solutions to their daily problems, rather than anything else.
In this sense, hackathons, like what one of our TAs happened to mention in a blog post, could actually be an outdated way of doing things. Hackathons are activities that solve pains which companies feel for, but the people going on these hackathons to solve problems may not actually understand the problem before coming up with solutions. Granted that some of these solutions could be innovative and fresh, but I believe truly inspired solutions generally take a long time to formulate, given that you have to have an intimate understanding of the problem to come up with them.
Which brings me to how I feel that people should explore the world, experience the world for what it is, find real life problems out there, and start solving them. If an individual stays in his own society, he would be mainly inspired to solve issues here, despite whether or not he wants to solve issues on a larger scale. Only by personally experiencing those issues, can you gain a deeper understanding of them, and be able to come up with inspired solutions to them.