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Cover image for Hacktoberfest - through a different lens. 🌳
Vaibhav Khulbe
Vaibhav Khulbe

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Hacktoberfest - through a different lens. 🌳

Setting the premise

There is an upcoming wave of (not coronavirus) young tech enthusiasts and geeks who are ready to learn to code. They can be some high-class students, fresh college graduates, or someone who doesn't get much chance to get a good junior-level job straight out of graduation "freshers". 🙃

All of these got to know about coding, be it via an offline bootcamp or through online degrees. They move on to create projects of their choice of tech stack. They learn various tools in between - how to work in the terminal, collaboration suites, and wireframing platforms, etc.

But when they were in a team of 4-5 individuals, they hear the term "open-source" for the first time. Maybe because they searched for various code snippets over Stackoverflow or GitHub. This intrigues them. They wonder how easy it is to make a software's source code open to everyone so that others are able to contribute!

Nice idea! This group of coders then make multiple repositories over time and make them open for anyone to contribute. They're excited to see the contribution graph over GitHub being filled with more green tiles. Over time they learn most of the features provided by the open-source platform. It's safe to say they're now "pro" at this.

Fast-forward to the onset of the fall season. A company named DigitalOcean announces Hacktoberfest - converting the idea of making Pull Requests (PRs) to a month-long celebration of open-source. A really great initiative! Coders, maintainers, and other people from the software industry can now come together and support some projects of their choice. They would immensely help small projects to grow, let newbies learn how to get started with contributions and in return, the company would give some gifts as an appreciation of the efforts made by each individual participation in this program.

Seeking this opportunity, one of the group members, let's call him var was intrigued when he fell in love with the following image:

Hacktoberfest heading1 image

He was quite clever and took a bad route. What bad route?

var quite cunningly told his developer friends, family members, and colleagues the following:

"Hey! Do you want to grab a LIMITED-EDITION T-SHIRT FROM ONE OF THE TOP DEVELOPER COMPANIES IN THE WORLD? I have a really cool way for you all to get this! Just make some PRs to my repositories (and NOT to our group projects) and you'll get it. THAT SIMPLE!"

And the rest is the h̶i̶s̶t̶o̶r̶y̶ present.

Hacktoberfest 2020

Now why I made such a story above? Everything in the story was cool and fine until the guy aptly named var thought of a bad idea and made this open-source event a joke, or should I say, an event where you will surely get a free T-shirt with no efforts.

What he failed to understand is that he didn't see this event through a new lens. Here's what I'm talking about:

Hacktoberfest heading2 image

Did you see what's new in the above picture? Yes, "or plant a tree."

Everyone’s talking about winning a tee but not planting a tree. 🌳

The Hacktoberfest Resources page clearly says:

This year, the first 70,000 participants can earn a T-shirt or plant a tree.

Here's a question for those who are reading this: "Are you opting to plant a tree through your Hacktoberfest contributions?"

How many of you can openly say, "Yes! I'm so grateful that this year, my contributions to the open-source community will go towards planting a tree!"

You see, whenever someone from the software industry gets to know that Hacktoberfest is about to begin, they immediately think of getting a T-shirt and stickers. This year, it's the same thing. To be honest, when it was first announced that the event is about to start in a month or two, I too thought of the T-shirt.

But I suppose, in 2020, when everything around us just looks so bad and tough, the DigitalOcean team who made the Hacktoberfest website did a commendable job of adding these words in their heading: "or plant a tree". This is so important. But why?

Why should you care about trees?

See before anything else, you and I are first humans. I know some of you are working at top organizations, earning thousands of dollars, some of you are just at the beginning of your developer journey, but what's fueling us all to write code?

How you're able to think, to type, to logically break down a problem, or even open a PR 🙃, all is happening because you have an adequate environment to work on, a balanced diet, and most of what your body needs is the air, water, and the food!

And guess what, since the beginning, trees have furnished us with two of life’s essentials: food and oxygen, the air we breathe.

Look around, the streets, parks, playgrounds, and backyards are lined with trees providing a peaceful and pleasing environment.

Trees hug GIF

Next time you're around a tree, give it a hug.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture,

“1 acre of forest absorbs 6 tons of carbon dioxide and puts out 4 tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.”

How amazing it is! I don't think I need to give you all a big paragraph on the importance of trees. Caring for our environment, or trees, in any way possible, should be our priority. No ifs or buts.

All the things we, as developers use are sadly contributing more to the harm of the environment. The servers, laptops, computers, the smartphone, and the internet, all account to increase the carbon footprint. Not convinced yet? Check out this infographic.

Shitoberfest 2020

Hi, I'm @shitoberfest. Do you maintain an opensource project?

Send a screenshot of bullshit drive by pull-requests caused by #hacktoberfest and tag @shitoberfest for curation and amplification.

— #shitoberfest (@shitoberfest) October 1, 2020

When everything is so wrong with this year, so why not Hacktoberfest too! On October 1, 2020, Shitoberfest was born. Just a new term to showcase the incoming wave of spammy PRs opened during the open-source month.

People have said about it already, that's a really good sign and look at how we are able to protect or inform others (especially newbies) that you don't really need to be a spammer to make PRs and win goodies.

Let me show you some spam/invalid examples:

Auto Hacktoberfest images

Talked to you about a wave, this is it.

We have a whole list of repos made only to automatically generate Hacktoberfest related issues and PRs!

Someone really wants to improve product.css @shitoberfest #shitoberfest

— Salil Naik 👉 (@__salil_naik__) October 4, 2020

How about that! And just when you thought this was the end, I have another one for you:

2020 🤝 @shitoberfest

Somebody added the song, Laal Bindi to deno repository -.- #Hacktoberfest

— Darshan Baid (@frunkad) October 3, 2020

Yes! An actual song file in PR to the Deno repository! 🤯

Also, note that it's not some automated bots and spam accounts who are participating in Shitoberfest 2020, we have genuine accounts of people who are just making PRs for the sake of getting a tee. Oh, a FREE TEE! We love free things, right?

Invalid PR in my repo

Just days ago, a person with a legit GitHub account, added such PRs. While there is no question on the actual code he shared, the thing is that there was no need for this repo to have a new PR for an already existing solution. It was not open for Hacktoberfest contributions! But still, I got such unwanted PRs with a slight modification of code.

It was again, a great effort by both DigitalOcean and GitHub to have their say in this issue. Much needed changes were done after they noticed a huge wave of spams.

Change the thought. Think differently.

It is completely fine for those who are new to open-source to participate in their first-ever Hacktoberfest event to get some swags (of course, with eligible contributions) as this is a perfect piece of attraction for newbies.

But if you have already participated enough, and are good at an open-source thing and still you're making invalid/spammy or not-needed PRs just so that you can get a free T-shirt, then I'm sorry you definitely need to change the outlook of your thinking.

Here are some points regarding the same:

  • Make a sensible contribution and ditch the mindset of getting a free tee.

  • Keep making contributions even after Hacktoberfest.

  • Report the spammy accounts or contributions (PRs, issues, etc.)

  • Aware others via tweets, articles, or images.

  • You get a full month to participate, use this time to take a new project of your favorite tech stack, learn how to work with this project, respect the rules and guidelines laid down by its authors, build on it, ask questions when stuck, iterate and make PRs which actually count.

  • Already got some tees prior to this year? Choose the "plant a tree" option.

Remember, it's all about making contributions, helping other developers with their open-source projects. If you think/see through this lens, then maybe, we will not have Shitoberfest 2021...

Let's make this a successful and positive Hacktoberfest! 🎉

Thanks for reading, I appreciate it! Have a good day. (✿◕‿◕✿)

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PS: From this year, I've decided to write here on DEV Community. Previously, I wrote on Medium. If anyone wants to take a look at my articles, here's my Medium profile.

Top comments (16)

sshine profile image
Simon Shine

Already got some tees prior to this year? Choose the "plant a tree" option.

What if I want the t-shirt and I already planted trees?

How many trees should I plant before I can legitimize getting new clothes?

vaibhavkhulbe profile image
Vaibhav Khulbe

That's up to you!

sshine profile image
Simon Shine

That's up to you!

Thank you.

But my questions intend to challenge your opinion:

But if you have already participated enough, and are good at an open-source thing and still you're making invalid/spammy or not-needed PRs just so that you can get a free T-shirt, then I'm sorry you definitely need to change the outlook of your thinking.

When have you already participated enough?

When are you good enough at open source?

My first pull request this october was changing a "13" to a "17" here. If this were the only type of commit during Hacktoberfest, I would disappoint myself. In 2019 I received 9 PRs to my own projects. In 2018 (my first Hacktoberfest) I submitted over 20 PRs. This year, I don't know what my goal should be. I've contributed to some C# code for the first time. But the most important code I make this October is either in projects that are still closed, but will be opened, or committed to master, so no t-shirt trigger.

So how do I get a t-shirt to remind me of my month in Switzerland, which happened to coincide with Hacktoberfest? What if all I manage to show for my Hacktoberfest efforts is the bare minimum? Do I feel guilty over textile manufacturing? This would be the third t-shirt I have ever owned that contained print that I chose. I never bought or owned any "merch". Suddenly I find that I want to be part of this global community of people who give their work to each other for free, and I want to let everyone on the street know that it exists.

I am not "getting a free t-shirt". I am spreading the word.

In short, I think that guilt-tripping others over the economy is neither productive, conductive, inductive, or kind. :-)

As for planting trees, I already do that: via Ekofolio and via Isha Foundation. "T-shirt vs. tree" is just a case of whataboutism: You can actually get a t-shirt from Hacktoberfest and plant any number of trees you like without cynical, mutual exclusion. :-)

po5i profile image
Carlos V.

I was looking forward to an article like this (actually I got it from a Google search).

I got two tees in the past and this year I think I won't be getting any. But if I can decide, I was going to choose the tree.

Maybe the whole T shirt was a good idea at the beginning, but due to the recent spam, I think that planting trees should be the only prize for upcoming hacktoberfests.

vaibhavkhulbe profile image
Vaibhav Khulbe

Yes! This is why I wrote this article. I hope this reduces spam.

carlyraejepsenstan profile image

This is awesome! It's an undeniable fact of life that after us coders spend so much time in front of our screens, greenery is a nice change of scenery 🌸.

But, the ocean makes more oxygen than trees. I wonder if next year you can opt to culture plankton or fund the removal of plastic from the seas?

vaibhavkhulbe profile image
Vaibhav Khulbe

Yes! That's a brilliant idea and an undeniable fact that oceans are suffering so much! Thanks for putting this point forward.

yoursunny profile image
Junxiao Shi

I have received five tees so far this year but I would still get a sixth tee because it looks nice.
I've been removing plastic from local rivers so that they don't go into the sea.

vaibhavkhulbe profile image
Vaibhav Khulbe

Hell yes! That's exactly what we need to do 🚀

joelnet profile image
JavaScript Joel

Great article. I am hopeful that next years Hacktoberfest will be much better after all the lessons learned in this one 👍

vaibhavkhulbe profile image
Vaibhav Khulbe

Thanks, Joel! If you like it, then can you share this article?

joelnet profile image
JavaScript Joel


amansagar profile image

Okay, this was my first hacktober fest participation, was eager to choose plant a tree option, then my 4 pull requests got approved and passed the review period today. And then I thought of requesting a t-shirt, you know the craze of a hacktoberfest t-shirt, right? Then, i tried finding alternatives, found some, but then I thought of finding the some inspiration to plant a tree, I cam across your post, read it, and right away chose the plant a tree option.
Thank you for inspiring me to plant a tree!!!......

vaibhavkhulbe profile image
Vaibhav Khulbe

This is so good to hear! Thank you for caring about the planet. Hope you had a great Hacktoberfest. 🎉

vaibhavkhulbe profile image
Vaibhav Khulbe

Woah, already? On the first day of Hacktoberfest! Did you receive an email regarding this?

vaibhavkhulbe profile image
Vaibhav Khulbe

Great job then! I'll wait for mine to come :)