Of late, I have been involved in a number of F/LOSS hack days. Most of them have been based around my own F/LOSS project (Gitano) and over the years several have been related to NetSurf. One thing which characterises all these hack days is that they have been small (the largest was around six people).

Another thing which characterises them is that they were done on a shoestring budget, with donated venues, donated tea and biscuits, and most attendees paying their own way there and back; and yet, without exception, they helped us get stuff done; often stuff which had been floundering for a while.

Many hackers find it much easier to hack on their own. From time to time I find that I do my best work when I can focus and not be distracted by anyone else; but most of the time I find that I do my best F/LOSS work when there's others on the project nearby to chat to about the problems we face. Often-times the hack day is perhaps better named a 'design day' where we get a lot of useful discussion and design done (e.g. the day when Richard and I did the Gitano I18n design) and that's fine too. There's no hard and fast rule about what you get up to on a hack day.

If you're involved in a smaller F/LOSS project then often there's no resources for big flashy conferences, or perhaps not enough clout to swing a dev-room somewhere like FOSDEM; but that doesn't mean there are not options available to you. Naturally the smaller hackdays work best when the potential attendees are physically colocated, but that need not be a showstopper if it cannot be met. Simply arranging a time when everyone involved in a project will agree to be on IRC, TeamSpeak, or any other communication tool which might be appropriate can result in an effective way to improve the state of a project.

If you're involved in a somewhat larger project, then a resource such as the Hackday manifesto may be of use to you; and if you happen to be part of a huge project then perhaps there'll be dedicated conferences for you to attend, such as Debconf.

The moment there's more than you on a project, even if all you have for contributors are people who will try new versions and let you know how they work for them, you can make use of some level of hackday from time to time.

Your homework is to go over your inventory of F/LOSS projects which you count yourself as at least somewhat involved with, look at where they might have had hackdays in the past, and where they might be planning them in the future, and then either get yourself along to a hackday, attend one on IRC, or if you're feeling super-enthusiastic, then propose to organise one yourself.