Hackathon Startup Guide (10 min)

Introduction to NEAR

First thing you need to do is go over some of the Smart Contract Basics. You don't need to become an expert, just get acquainted at this point.

Then head over to the Beginner Quickstart. That will get you actually exploring the code.

I recommend getting familiar with how to actually write code in a smart contract in studio, and hitting the run button. That will give you a good foundation for local development.

For the start of the hackathon, it's fine to do development in the studio, but eventually you're going to want to set up a Github repo and share code with your team. That will be easier to do with a local setup.

This is the quick and dirty way to do that:

Running official TestNet locally

By default we use Docker to run the client (with auto-updating via watchtower to upgrade the node to the new versions automatically).

Follow next instructions to install Docker on your machine:

To run locally, clone the repo and use ./scripts/start_testnet.py.

git clone https://github.com/nearprotocol/nearcore.git
cd nearcore

This will ask you for account id to run validator on (if you want to just run a node, you can pass empty). Will print the public key that should be used for staking. And will start node in background inside the docker.

If you want to check the logs inside the docker, you can use docker logs --follow nearcore.

Alternatively, you can build and run validator on this machine, just use --local flag to switch off the Docker. This will install Rust and compile the binary.

Running official TestNet on GCP

Create new instance, with at least:

  • 2 vCPU and 3.75 GB of RAM.

  • Select Ubuntu 18.04 LTS or later.

  • Allocate 100GB of persistent storage.

Add firewall rules to allow traffic to 24567 port from all IPs (

SSH into the machine (there is "SSH" button in the console or use gcloud ssh command).


sudo apt update
sudo apt install -y git binutils-dev libcurl4-openssl-dev zlib1g-dev libdw-dev libiberty-dev cmake gcc g++ python docker.io protobuf-compiler

Now run commands from Running TestNet locally.

Common questions and issues

Here is where you can find what common errors and issues people troubleshoot as they build.

1. Sending data to your contract from the frontend

Say you've got a function defined in your contract that takes data:

export function someMethod(myData:string):void {

When you call it in the frontend, you're having issues sending data. This often shows up like this as an error in the encoder that looks similar to this:

"ABORT: unexpected string field null : 'YOUR DATA'".

In the frontend you can fix this issue when you call contract. Instead of calling:

contract.someMethod("YOUR DATA"); // WRONG WAY TO CALL METHOD!

You need to send the object with the variable name that's going to be used in the backend, just like when calling a REST API.

myData: "YOUR DATA"

2. Where are my functions when I try to call them?!

You need to do two things in order to access your smart contract calls on the frontend.

  1. Defining the methods you intend to call in your contract, and making sure they are public. (You're probably good on this one)

  2. Declaring the methods that you want to call during the initialization of the contract on the frontend. (You probably forgot this one.)

// Initializing our contract APIs by contract name and configuration.
window.contract = await near.loadContract(config.contractName, {
// View methods are read only. They don't modify the state, but usually return some value.
viewMethods: ["hello"],
// Change methods can modify the state. But you don't receive the returned value when called.
changeMethods: [],

3. How do I save data to the blockchain?

You can use storage or collections. These are pretty raw in terms of documentation because they are under heavy development.

For most cases, you can use collections. For instance, where you would think to use a map for in-memory storage in trivial applications you can use collections.map to create a persistent map.

There are currently four types of collections. These all write and read from storage abstracting away a lot of what you might want to add to the storage object.

  • PersistentVector

    • Acts like a persistent array

    • You can create a vector like this:

      • let vec = new PersistentVector<string>("v");

      • vec[0] = "egg salad"

      • See the full implementation here

  • PersistentMap

    • Acts like maps you'd find in most languages

    • Yau can create a map like this:

      • let m = new PersistentMap<string, string>("m");

      • You can use the map with m.set(key, value) and m.get(key)

      • See the full implementation here

  • PersistentDeque

    • Implementation of a deque (bidirectional queue).

    • You can create a deque like this:

      • let d = new PersistentDeque<string>("d");

      • See the full implementation here

  • PersistentTopN

    • Used for creating ranked lists

    • You can create a TopN collection like this:

      • let t = new PersistentTopN<string>("t");

      • See the full implementation here

The letter passed in as an argument (e.g. "v" in the case of the vector) is the key that gets assigned as a prefix to distinguish the collections from each other (precisely because they're persistent).

NOTE: if you're coming from JavaScript, you might not be familiar with the type declaration in the two brackets <>. In TypeScript, need to declare the types that any collection is going to take.