What is the difference between a hackathon, hack day, hackfest, codefest or jam?

Some people use these terms interchangeably, however, you may find others use them a bit more specifically, or they have prior expectations as to the activities or format for an event:

  • Hackathons: focused on coding and hardware rather than business, and usually competitive (hackfest and codefest are generally synonymous)
  • Hack days: often used to refer to company innovation days occuring during working hours, with a focus on collaboration rather than competition
  • Jams: non-technical hackathons with a greater focus on design, and often not competitive

Special mention should be made to "app jams", which sit somewhere in between a hackathon and a jam, and a Startup Weekend®, who are an organisation that organise volunteer run startup jams.

Some organisations prefer the term 'codefest' or 'jam' due to the negative connotations of 'hacking' and 'hackers'. However it should be noted that within the technical community itself, 'hacking' tends to be used as a positive term for idea development, or coming up with novel uses for technology.