Hacktoberfest 2017

Hacktoberfest is a month long event (in October as hinted by the name) organised by DigitalOcean and Github to encourage people to contribute to open source. Basically they ask to create at least 4 pull requests to public repositories within this one month to earn yourself a free t-shirt and do good for the community.

The 2017 edition has been the third Hacktoberfest that I participated in. In addition to the official rules I added some personal goals before the event started:

  • Contribute to projects which I never contributed to previously
  • Use four different languages (at least two of them should be unfamiliar to me)
  • Obviously this is not my call but I wanted to try as hard as I can to make sure that the PR will be accepted and merged by the maintainers of each project

Starting in Ruby

The plan for the first PR was to contribute in a language that I’m already very familiar with: Ruby. Via Github’s explore site I looked for projects which would be interesting to contribute to: They should have at least 100 stars, actively maintained and needed to have a fair amount of open issues. Because the project should be new to me I couldn’t just add a feature to an unknown project.

After some search I decided to try to contribute to the changelog generator. It seemed like a neat project and had an open issue which seemed important to a bunch of people to be fixed: skywinder/github-changelog-generator#555.

It took me a while to become familiar enough with the codebase to figure out what was going on but eventually I was able to come up with a patch which was accepted shortly after: skywinder/github-changelog-generator#566.

Hacktoberfest T-Shirt 2015

Off we go(lang)!

Now it was time to create a PR in a language that I haven’t used so far. I chose Go because I’ve been interested in that for some time.

Given I had very, very limited knowledge of Go I knew that I first had to learn some basic skills before being able to contribute some code to an established project. Googling for tutorials I ended up using the tour of Go on the official go website. It took me 2 or 3 evenings to work through it but at the end I felt confident enough to look for an issue on a go project that I could tackle.

Taking the same approach of finding a repo to contribute to as in my first PR I ended up with toxiproxy, which is a project from Shopify that helps in testing the reliability of distributed systems by disabling dependencies.

The issue I tried to tackle was about giving the CLI a better error message if an invalid URL was provided: Shopify/toxiproxy#174.

Jake, one of the maintainers of toxiproxy, provided some really good feedback to a Go noob like me and at the end also this pull request got merged and I was 2 for 2! 💪

Hacktoberfest T-Shirt 2016

All 🆕 in JavaScript

Having already submitted PRs in Ruby and Go it was time to use a third language. After my endeavour into Go I wanted to use a language again that I felt somewhat comfortable.

I chose JavaScript, because I knew it already but was nowhere near as confident in it as in Ruby, especially in regards to it’s newish features like ES6 and the entire npm ecosystem.

This time I didn’t look for projects via the Github explore site, instead I tried to contribute to a project that I saw a couple of times on my twitter feed: probot. It’s an automation tool that helps maintainers on Github with certain tasks like asking issue reporters for more information on their reports.

I looked through the recently update repositories on the probot organisation and I found a suitable open issue in the stale repository: probot/stale#52.

This project didn’t have tests yet but I felt unsure about my JavaScript skills from the good old jQuery days so I looked for other probot plugins within the same organisation that included tests and tried to replicate their tests.

This process taught me about modern JavaScript and tools like jest which I never heard of before but now used for testing my JS code. I was able to create a pull request and the maintainer was really happy with it so I quickly got my third contribution for the Hacktoberfest goal merged! 🙌

Probot pull request feedback


For the fourth pull request I wanted to contribute in an unknown language again. While I was still debating whether I should go with Rust or Elixir I realised that I had almost reached the end of Hacktoberfest and because I was also expecting guests for a couple of days I realised that I wouldn’t be able to learn enough in a new language before the end of the month to be able to contribute. I came to the conclusion that I should focus on a PR in familiar territory (aka “Ruby”) instead.

With that in my mind I saw in one of our Deliveroo slack channels that someone had reported an issue on our rails bootstrap project roo_on_rails.

It’s open-source so it was the perfect opportunity to help my coworkers while also achieving my Hacktoberfest goal: win-win! 🎉 It took me only some investigating into the ActiveSupport::Logger class from Rails and then I could submit my final pull request: deliveroo/roo_on_rails#77.


Overall even though I didn’t quite achieve my initial personal goal I am still really happy about this years Hacktoberfest. I got to know new projects, new languages and each maintainer seemed really happy about my contribution.

A few weeks ago I received the new shirt for achieving this goal which is always a really nice reward!

Hacktoberfest T-Shirt 2017

💖 to Github, DigitalOcean and all projects I contributed to this year! I am already looking forward to the Hacktoberfest 2018 edition!