Hacktoberfest 2020 Considered Harmful
Written by Sue Gee   
Tuesday, 06 October 2020

Hacktoberfest is Digital Ocean's annual initiative to encourage newcomers into open source. The incentive is the form of t-shirts, with having a tree planted as an alternative reward. This year, as the result of over-exposure, the month started with floods of spam pull requests, overwhelming OSS maintainers.


Even though Hacktoberfest 2020 is its 7th edition, you may never have heard of it before. It sounds like a really good idea for motivating people to get involved with open source projects. Or so Nikos Vaggalis thought when we first covered it two years ago, see Hacktoberfest 2018 - Celebrate Open Source! 

To quote from the Digital Ocean Hatoberfest site:

Hacktoberfest® is open to everyone in our global community. Whether you’re a developer, student learning to code, event host, or company of any size, you can help drive growth of open source and make positive contributions to an ever-growing community. All backgrounds and skill levels are encouraged to complete the challenge.

For 2020, total of 70,000 t-shirts (on a first come, first served basis) were on offer as a reward for making 4 pull requests between October 1st - 31st - with a tree planting option as a more eco-conscious alternating.


This year, however, as soon as the month of October started so did spammy pull requests, and even open source projects set up simply for the purpose of accepting them, as the idea of winning a Limited Edition T-shirt simply for submitting 4 pull requests to any open source project on GitHub proved irresistible to a large number of people with no real commitment to open source. In turn this led to an outburst of Tweets from angry and frustrated maintainers inundated with pull requests that were harming rather than helping their repos.

Digital Ocean and GitHub were quick to respond with an update the rules. The new rules, in effect from October 3, 2020 at 12:00:00 UTC mean that pull requests will only count toward earning a T-shirt or planting a tree if they are labeled as ‘hacktoberfest-accepted’ by a maintainer, or are submitted in a repository classified with the ‘hacktoberfest’ topic. Pull requests in repositories with the ‘hacktoberfest’ topic will also need to be merged, approved by a maintainer, or labeled as ‘hacktoberfest-accepted’ in order to qualify. The deadline for completions, merging, labeling, and approving is November 1.


What these changes mean for maintainers is that  they no longer need to opt out of Hacktoberfest, which was the original suggestion and not well-received. Instead, there's guidance on how to classify repos with the hacktoberfest topic and apply hacktoberfest-accepted labels to acceptable pull requests. 

DEV, one of Digital Ocean's partners for Hacktoberfest 2020 has posted Hacktoberfest Etiquette for Contributors with tips to help would be hackfesters make suitable pull requests, It also responds to what happened last week with this advice that clarifies the spirit of the rules:

It's important to remember that Hacktoberfest is about quality > quantity. Low-effort and spammy PRs are frustrating for project maintainers and require them to spend their valuable time and energy marking the contributions as “invalid.” These types of contributions don’t benefit the projects, and they won’t even count towards the 4 PRs required to earn a prize. Let's work together as a community to benefit the open source ecosystem this month for everyone.

Hackotoberfest has always been focused on open source communities and gathering together and attending meetups has been an important and valuable part of it. In order to keep that tradition going in 2020 when coronavirus precludes physical get togethers, Digital Ocean has partnered with OrganizerHQ by Major League Hacking (MLH), and Mattermost, to make it easier to organize meetups online. Over 500 such events are listed from all over the world. While some of these have already happened there are more throughout October.

So it seems there's good reason for open source projects to celebrate Hacktoberfest 2020 after all. hacktobsq

More Information

Hacktoberfest on DigitalOcean

Hacktoberfest Etiquette for Contributors

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Hacktoberfest 2018 - Celebrate Open Source!

GitHub Learning Labs Now Open For Newbies 

What Attracts Devs To Open Source

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 06 October 2020 )