Contributing to Open-Source: My HacktoberFest Experience

Contributing to Open-Source: My HacktoberFest Experience

First of all, I know it's probably a little late to say this, but still: Happy Hacktober!

It's the much anticipated HacktoberFest month, which means maintainers have spent a fair bit of time preparing their projects, contributors have spent time gearing up, and tons of communities and individuals have created content to make it easier for beginners to get started contributing to open-source.

For those who may not know what it is, HacktoberFest is a "month long celebration of open-source software", and it makes it much easier for new contributors to join the open-source community. During this period, the open-source community puts extra effort into putting beginners through making their first pull requests and even compiling lists of beginner-friendly issues. To complete the challenge, you must make 4 pull requests(PRs) to public GitHub repositories which must in turn be approved by the project maintainer(s). This year, if you're among the first 70,000 people to complete the challenge, you get a reward: either a free T-shirt or a tree planted on your behalf! That last part led to a few issues, as a lot of spam PRs from folks just looking to get free swag were recorded. Thankfully, the organizers came up with really effective ways to mitigate that.

Spam PRs aside, the challenge has proved really helpful, as I (and many other newbie contributors like me) made my first ever pull request during this period. In the last one week, I've contributed to five repositories, on topics spanning from accessibility to CI/CD to CSS and React. I've made the required 4 PRs for the challenge (and counting), but the experience has meant way more to me than counting contributions and earning a shirt (or a tree :-)).

With every contribution I've made, I've either learned something completely new or further developed a skill. I've discovered the open-source community to be immensely supportive and encouraging, and I've had a lot of fun working among them, even at the tiniest of levels. It's challenged me to stretch myself (I'm currently learning Gatsby to work on a project I'm contributing to) and communicate better (even when I'm afraid I'll sound stupid or ignorant). When working on my own projects, I find myself inadvertently implementing healthy practices I picked up from open-source projects I've worked on. It's amazing how much growth has stemmed from contributing a few, at times seemingly unimportant, lines of code. I've completed the required PRs for the challenge, but hope to continue contributing to open-source for a long, long time.

If you're also new to the community and are looking for beginner-friendly projects to contribute to, here are a few places you can find them:

  • This list of beginner-friendly projects for HacktoberFest

  • The official HacktoberFest Discord channel

  • This Slack workspace for folks who'd like to make accessibility-focused contributions. You can learn more about it here.

  • This list from Women of OSCA (Open Source Community Africa).

Some projects which I know to be super welcoming and beginner-friendly:

If you know of any more, feel free to drop them in the comment section. You can also let me know what you think. I hope someone finds this helpful. Thank you!