Hacktoberfest or Spamtoberfest?

By: Jason Gutierrez

To Hacktober or Not to Hacktober?

So in light of some recent events, mostly from a Youtuber with a large following, there was a "wave" of "spammy" PRs (Pull Requests) where "contributors" would add some text without much context and would be considered valid PRs.

I sympathize with the Youtuber, and I believe they had good intentions, but I believe this lines up with the overall mentality of Imposter Syndrome which many of us, including myself, share. The concept of contributing to an open source project is noble and exciting. Some projects are only alive because of a community that enjoys the service or project that has postively impacted their profession. (Rust). However, I think there is an underlying barrier that can scare off would be contributors.

These contributors instead only "contribute" by correcting READMEs. Generally, PRs should address issues raised by others contributing to the project. Corrections to a projects' README is warranted but should impactful to the reader rather than a 👍 reaction / comment for the sake of only making a PR. Maybe the results of the "spam" PRs is due to some unintentional intimidation that even some more seasoned developers have experienced.

In light of these outcomes and sentiments I believe that the open source community shouldn't suffer because of this but rather "inform" would be contributors and follow a sort of "honor" system. It should be considered a "given" or even an expectation that open source projects would be subject to being "spammed". Perhaps if these projects were more prepared and prefaced with a more "beginner" friendly set of instructions, they could reduce the "contributor" learning curve. Maybe, create a CONTRIBUTING.md to a project to help other open source contributors. 😉

Recommendations to contributors

If you are looking to contribute to an open source project, be mindful of your contribution. You may only interact with this project once in your life, more specifically only during Hacktoberfest. Imagine you are a "tourist" in France and you would like to add your "Lock of Love" to a particular chain-link fence. Your contribution may not seem like much, but as a city employee that might have to "maintain" said fence, it can be overwhelming.

The city employee(s) that maintains the fence of locks is aware of these contributions and should provide guidelines to would be "romeos" about the Do's and Don't of adding a lock to the fence. Order and community rules allow for a more enjoyable experience for all who chose to contribute.

As a contributor, don't be afraid of rules or for that matter, contributing. It is an experience that many don't get the chance to take part of. It is an act that allows us to become an active member of our tech community and even grow as a developer.

Maybe your first PR is editing a README, that's okay. Challenge yourself to make more "meaningful" contributions to the open source community and projects.