A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Hacktoberfest

Hacktoberfest completed banner.

Hacktoberfest is a tradition in the open source community or at least that is what I have been led to believe.

Every October, programmers and developers from around the world spend the month collaborating on open-source projects. In return, Digital Ocean and GitHub reward them with a free t-shirt.

As soon as I heard about Hacktoberfest I wanted in but there were two problems.

As a new programmer, I wasn’t sure if I had the knowledge needed to contribute to a project. I have a very limited skill set at this point. What are the chances that an experienced developer would need “help” with something as simple as HTML and CSS?

You also have to know how to use GitHub well enough to find open projects, contribute to said projects, and then submit pull-requests. I didn’t know how to do these things and I really didn’t want to distract myself yet again by starting another side project just to get a free t-shirt.

Despite those concerns, I decided to go ahead and give Hacktoberfest a try after reading this article from Quincy Larson.

I needed to learn to use GitHub at some point anyway and I was already dabbling with it as part of the #100DaysOfCode challenge. Hacktoberfest seemed like a good excuse to learn more about GitHub and Quincy made it sound so easy.

A look at the Hacktoberfest registration screen.

After reading Quincy’s article I was able to register for Hacktoberfest and complete my first pull-request. It wasn’t much, just some punctuation changes to the freeCodeCamp guide, but it felt good to contribute.

The next day I accidentally learned the tip that I am going to share with you now.

You get credit towards your Hacktoberfest goal by submitting pull-requests for any project, including your own.

I mentioned that I had been working on the #100DaysOfCode challenge. Part of that involves uploading your work to GitHub. Since I wasn’t sure how to do pull-requests, I had been editing the original file whenever I needed to add changes. After learning how to do pull-requests I decided to make my changes the “right way”. That meant using pull-requests and merging the changes.

Later, I went back to the Hacktoberfest page to look for available projects and I noticed that it showed I had completed two pull-requests. One for the fCC guide and one for my Tribute Page project. This was a pleasant surprise.

Whether you are an experienced developer or someone just starting out, you should be uploading your projects to GitHub. If you aren’t, this is a great chance to remedy that and take part in Hacktoberfest at the same time.

Hacktoberfest is over at the end of October but there is still time to join the fun. Sure, you can complete the required four pull-requests by working on your own GitHub projects, but you should try to contribute to other projects as well. As important as it is to keep your own GitHub updated, it feels way more satisfying to help on someone else’s project.

Not sure where to start? The freeCodeCamp guide still has several projects up for grabs, there are thousands of projects available that are listed under the Hacktoberfest tag, and people looking to complete their first pull-request can check out projects listed with the first timers only tag.

Regardless of which projects you choose to work on, being able to navigate and use GitHub is a valuable skill and there is no better time to start than during Hacktoberfest.

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Author: Lee

Hi, my name is Lee and I am a 40-something who recently made the decision to become a self-taught programmer. This site was set up to chronicle that journey and my experiences along the way. Feel free to contact me with any comments, questions, or suggestions.

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