Hacktoberfest is one of my favorite times of the year. Thousands of developers from around the globe join forces to help benefit the open-source community by creating lots and lots of pull requests, resolving issues, and just helping in general.
If you’ve been maintaining open-source projects for a while, you probably already know how hard it is to get your users to help by adding pull requests to your repositories. Instead, people tend to complain about issues, ask for the impossible, and demand you to do the legwork. Not cool.
Hacktoberfest can be an excellent boost for your open-source projects. Getting people to contribute good pull requests is easier than ever and should be something you want to consider. To maximize the benefits you can get from Hacktoberfest, you should do a few things.
This article will give you a few pointers on how to get your open-source repositories ready for Hacktoberfest in no time!
Remember to opt in!
Back in the day, anyone could create a pull request for any repo and get points for it if it was accepted. That was a bad experience for many maintainers, who got a bunch of unsolicited pull requests in their lap without any warning whatsoever.
Today, repo maintainers have to opt in to receive Hacktoberfest-related pull requests. This lets contributors know that their work is welcome, and maintainers get to ask for help where it’s welcome!
To opt in to Hacktoberfest, tag your repo with “Hacktoberfest”, and you’re good to go.
Create good onboarding documentation for new contributors
One of the biggest issues stopping your users from contributing is getting to know your codebase. Even if your project isn’t big, grasping how it’s all put together or how you should get things running locally could be more than enough to lose a potential co-maintainer before they even start.
Open a CONTRIBTUING.md file in your repo, and try to answer the following questions in as much detail as you can muster:
- How to get the project running locally
- What code style rules to follow
- How to structure pull requests
- How to tell people you’re working on a feature
- How to name your branches and commits
- Etc., etc., etc.
Doing this will make it much easier for people to do the right thing when contributing to your project. They won’t break any unwritten expectations because, well, they’ll be written.
Create a quick guided tour of your code
Wrapping your head around a new codebase is challenging. People tend to use different strategies to structure code, and figuring out what belongs where can be a time-consuming task.
To alleviate this overhead, give your contributors a guided tour through your code, visiting the different folders and discussing what you’ll find in each. You can write a document outlining your architecture or even do a quick video on YouTube where you walk through the code and what it does.
Adding this kind of documentation is a great way to boost inbound contributions – especially in a Hacktoberfest setting.
Add a good pull request template
Writing good pull requests is hard, especially when you haven’t done it a lot. You don’t know what to put in there, what level of detail you should include, and how your code will be reviewed.
To make it as easy as possible to understand these requirements, you should create a good pull request template! Creating one is straightforward, and filling it with some relevant questions should be a piece of cake for a maintainer like yourself.
Create some easy-to-fix issues with a good description
If you’ve been maintaining open-source software for a while, you’ve probably had a mental list of things you want to do with your codebase that you’re never going to get around to. They might not be important enough, they might slip your mind whenever you’re working on your project, or you just can’t prioritize it over other work.
Hacktoberfest was made with these simple issues in mind. But for people to fix your issues, you need to make them actual issues on GitHub (or GitLab). Please write down your issue, give them a good description, and tag them appropriately.
Examples include: Proofreading documentation. Rewriting old React classes to function components. Adding test coverage. Fixing a few pesky browser bugs.
Add some more significant issues for people to tackle
While Hacktoberfest is excellent for fixing minor bugs and adding smaller features, there are some great contributors out there ready to help with some more considerable lifting as well.
Make sure to create a few issues for larger feature requests, such as creating a documentation website, adding a new CLI tool, or translating your documentation. There might not be a huge chance that people will finish their work, but at least you’ll get a good start for your work later on.
Be an active, responsible maintainer
To get the most out of Hacktoberfest, you must be on your “A” game as a maintainer during that particular time of the year. People will have questions, they’ll want feedback on their pull requests, and they might even create new issues based on how they experienced their onboarding. Make sure to give your new contributors feedback as soon as possible, and you’ll get much more enthusiasm.
Knowing this will be a lot more work for you as a maintainer, make sure you don’t sign up too many of your projects for Hacktoberfest at a time. Be a great maintainer to a few projects instead of spreading yourself too thin! That’s not good for your mental health or your contributor’s experience contributing.
Hacktoberfest is not only an excellent experience for the contributors participating in it, but it’s also a huge opportunity to get a lot of stuff done for maintainers. If you follow the steps outlined in this article, you’ll hopefully get a lot more bang from this wonderful yearly tradition.
If you have some other tips and tricks to get more out of Hacktoberfest as a developer, please let us know in the comments!
A TIP FROM THE EDITOR: If you are just getting started with open source, check our Getting Started With Open Source At Hacktoberfest article.
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