Open-source for New Developers

I was scrolling through Twitter the other day and saw a post about an event going on called “Hacktoberfest.” Hacktoberfest rewards Github users who contribute to open-source projects during the month of October. The thought of making a contribution to an open-source project as a new developer sounded daunting, if not impossible.

I had always heard and read online that employers like it when interviewees talk about their open-source contributions. How is a new developer supposed to make a significant impact when their own code is horrid? I wanted to give it a try. Surely I could find some project that I could impact.

I signed up for Hacktoberfest, and I lurked through the issue board. There were thousands of open issues on Github ranging from easy tasks like writing a README file to harder ones such as rewriting an entire application using a different framework.

I found one an issue that I thought I could help with.

I need a script to be able to download and install everything in this repo from the command line.

I can do that, I thought. I opened a text editor and wrote a Bash script. I forked the repo, added the script, and opened a pull request. I thought that my contribution didn’t entirely solve the user’s problem. I thought my script wasn’t good enough. It’s not slick like other scripts I’ve seen. It doesn’t pop up cool ASCII art in your terminal like other install scripts. I doubted my efforts. Surely someone else will come along and write a shorter script that has more thought put into it. I doubted my own abilities.

I got a Github notification.

Merged #16.

I checked the original repo. The issue was closed. I made a contribution to an open-source project.

One out of four contributions for Hacktoberfest accomplished.

It was a crazy feeling. Some code that I had written is now in a complete stranger’s project. I wondered how it felt being on the other end of an open-source contribution. I went through an old project of mine and noticed that it didn’t have a completed README. I opened an issue, tagged it with the “Hacktoberfest” tag. Within an hour and a half, I had a completed PR from someone in another country.

The next day, I woke up to another PR submitted from the same person adding a feature that I wasn’t even mentioned in the original issue.

The power of open-source is amazing.

I convinced a few other friends at Nashville Software School to join me this Hacktoberfest. After showing them how easy it was to find an easy-to-solve issue in the list, I keep seeing notifications in my feed of my friends forking repositories to make contributions.

Hacktoberfest is great. It is a great way to introduce people to the world of open-source. It’s extremely easy for new developers to get onboard.

I’d like to say thanks to Github and DigitalOcean for sponsoring this event. Without it, I don’t know when I would have started contributing to open-source projects.

If you haven’t signed up for Hacktoberfest, check out the official website. Once you start making contributions to someone else’s code base, it’s hard to stop wanting to do the same for others.

Written on October 8, 2016