I've been judging Hackaday contests since early 2017; not as one of the celebrity judges but as a community member brought in to help with the crushing number of entries every year. Keep in mind this is my personal opinion, and these are not the official Hackaday judging guidelines or anything like that. Each judge will look for different things, but I wanted to share what I look for in hopes of encouraging more people to start entering projects, and knowing what judges generally look for. I've gotten (I like to think) pretty good at being able to size up a project in about 30 seconds. I can tell right away whether I am going to need to spend time reading and analyzing all their content and code, or whether to disqualify them right away. 

That second choice -- immediate disqualification -- happens so often it's starting to become routine. Why do projects get disqualified or get low scores? Here's the top reasons:

Alright, so we've gone over what not to do. Want some ideas to make your project stand out?

That last point is super important -- you should be having fun! Don't worry about winning or losing the prize -- just focus on making a cool project that others will be interested in. Make careful note of the do's and don'ts above (especially the don'ts!) and remember to update your project page as your project comes along. Show your effort to us! We want to see the work you've done. Often, I see projects that probably took a lot of effort to build, but the documentation is incomplete and the project page is bare. When we look at your project page, we want to see every step of the process! Feel free to go into detail if it applies to your project -- we are hackers and geeks too, and we love reading about cool new things!

And in the end, win or lose, remember that it's about learning & spreading knowledge above all else. If you've learned something new, or developed a new skill, then you HAVE won.