Hacktoberfest is done and dusted and I wanted to do a quick recap on my experience. Reflecting on this month has helped me appreciate the hard work maintainers put into their projects. I've also found myself surprised by the open source world, and I've learnt a big lesson along the way. In the end, I created five pull requests (PRs) over four projects. Only three of those PRs were counted towards Hacktoberfest. One was pending, and the other occurred during the opt-in transition. While I'm a little sad I didn't complete, I'm mostly happy that I was able to contribute at all. First off, I wanted to share what I appreciated the most when working on my open source contributions.
- Detailed Contribution guides. It was helpful knowing what the maintainers were expecting in terms of making a contribution. These guides also helped me understand the process of making PRs which can vary a lot between projects.
- Getting started guides. Bouncing around different projects meant that I was doing a lot of setup. Having an up-to-date getting started guide was an absolute lifesaver. When I was looking for projects to contribute to, this guide was definitely something I was looking for.
- "Good first issue" labels. These labels were a great way to provide visibility on what issues I could actually help with.
- Active maintainers. All of the projects I worked on had an active maintainer presence or a separate community for questions. These maintainers helped unblock me and kept me engaged in the project.
What surprised me most about open source was how much it felt like actual work. When contributing to a project you had to communicate with people, and create meaningful well tested PRs. This is something I do every day at work. Serious props to maintainers. I don't know how they maintain an open source project on top of their full time job. I felt drained after my five PRs. It ended up feeling like a second job. And working on that many projects was not sustainable. Again, I don't know how maintainers do it. Which leads me to my big realization.
Have empathy for maintainers. Over this month, I realized how much time and effort maintainers put into open source. I can't imagine what it would be like for them to have to sift through the many (sometimes spammy) PRs from Hacktoberfest. Ultimately, Github added a way for maintainers to limit interactions. But there's still some serious sustainability issues with open source. For example, some maintainers spend their free time working on a tool for others without getting paid. I'd love to discuss ways to make open source more sustainable. But as a start, lets give maintainers as much empathy and compassion as we can.
Hacktoberfest for me was a jumping off point for contributing to open source. Moving forward I want to sustain these efforts. I'm setting a goal with myself to do 1-2 open source PRs a month. Don't let the end of October mean the end of contributing to open source. It feels damn good getting a PR merged! Especially, when you know it's going to help a project that you're passionate about. I've really enjoyed being a part of the open source world and I hope you have (or will) too!
Good "new contributor" repositories
Here are a few projects which I thought had a great Contributing doc, Getting Started guide, and awesome maintainers. If you're new to contributing to open source I recommend taking a look at them.