Growth Hacking Killed GitHub Stars




5 mins read


In 2023, I had a chat with Max Stoiber, CEO of Stellate, on a podcast to learn about his early success on GitHub. His first open-source project, react-boilerplate/react-boilerplate, gained a whopping 10k stars in just one weekend after appearing on the homepage of Hacker News. This success led Max to drop out of university and create several other popular open-source projects, including styled-components. This library accelerates the process of building styles in React components.

Nowadays, the number of projects hitting 10k stars is more common, inflating the overall number of GitHub Stars. Presently, GitHub has over 100 million users, but back when React Boilerplate started, GitHub had fewer than 10 million users. Getting 10k stars on a project seemed impossible, but with 10x the amount of users, the value of the GitHub Star has suffered from inflation.

Looking back in 2023, the biggest projects with the highest star growth can attribute these star events to intentional marketing. Landing on the front page of Hacker News is still challenging, but tweeting your project's social card can return similar results. The industry has changed a lot in the last 10 years, and where there was a time when open source was driven by weekend code sessions, today open source is fueled by sustainable sponsorship and venture capital. This is not entirely a bad thing, as it provides a sustainable future for the biggest projects we get to use and love.

The challenge in this new reality is defining what is worth looking at and whether GitHub Stars are still relevant for discovering projects worth your time. Correlating the best metric to identify projects to invest your time in depends on who has the biggest reach in a community. This seems contrary to how open source started and marks a shift in how we think about success in open source moving forward. These high growth moments are now indicators of big events like appearing on a subreddit or getting mentioned by a developer influencer on YouTube.

A popular site to see your star growth is star-history and it has become a standard for sharing your GitHub Star growth hacking journey. They also link a post on "how to get more github stars."

Some notable projects with Star events in the last year include godot, daytona, plane, and zed.

Growth Hacking With GitHub Stars

godot/gotengine capitalized on the Unity announcement on September 12th, of 2023, with their own announcements. At that time, they had been working on their tool for some time and already had a community they tapped into to share their open source alternative game engine.

godot stars

(note this chart is available on

zed-industries/zed, the successor to the atom editor built in rust, coordinated the launch for their repo with friends and trusted acquaintances to create a star event that registers as the edge of the graph. That, indeed, is a vertical line if I ever saw one.

zed data

daytonaio/daytona, a self hosted cloud developer environment, learn from its predecessors to become the most starred project for a few days.

daytona data

Finally, makeplane/plane came into some heat when they posted their chart with unnamed competitors. The stars are valid, and the result of conscientious growth hacking.


The open source community does not like to be sold and asking for a star is a low effort way for makers to grow and engage a community through open source. With that said, there are still a lot of open source maintainers and contributors who prefer not to participate in the process of growth hacking to gain GitHub Stars, and a lot of pushback came from engineers who built their careers on growing open source differently.

The Plane team wrote up outlining their growth hacking journey in a follow up post to the original tweet.

(Read about their journey to 20k stars here.)

The Problem with Open Source Star Inflation

Now that we have established that stars are the metric for growth hacking, what is the metric for showing the project's health? In our opinion at OpenSauced, there is not one metric but a few and you can start aligning alongside stars.

There is no doubt that thanks to growth hacking we are seeing GitHub Star hyper-inflation. Now, with currency inflation, it is encouraged to find alternative places to store your assets. Still, with GitHub being the home for open source, I don’t imagine a new stargazing like currency showing up anytime soon.

Stars are not quite a representation of adoption, but if we look closer, we could correlate a combination of metrics to tell a bigger story:

  1. Commit velocity is a quick way to see a project’s activity.
  2. Stars are a quick way to see early interest, but there is no correlation.

commits and stars

_Above is a star and commit velocity charts in grafana for the makeplane/plane project. _ There is a shift happening in open source, and I think it would be unfair to not recognize the folks that built projects that made this ecosystem, the same ecosystem that makes it so easy to become an overnight (over a few months) success.

In a conversation with Brendan Burns on that same podcast, I learned that early Kubernetes used issue counts to measure interest and pull requests to assess adoption. Taking it a step further, you can see a correlation from forks to stars.

stars and forks

The chart above is the correlation between stars and forks.

Based on my conversation with Brendan this correlates to adoption and when you really dig in you will find that with plane being so new, their contributions made exclusively form plane from employees, with the exception of one contribution from a developer member of the French Government. Perhaps a sign of adoption starting with them.

contributors for plane

The logical next step is to examine contributions from organizations and determine if there's a solid star-to-PR pipeline. If you're keen on monitoring your star-to-PR pipeline, consider setting up a workspace on OpenSauced to begin uncovering valuable engagement insights.

growth hack workspace


As the open source landscape evolves and GitHub Stars continue to inflate, it's essential for developers and contributors to consider multiple metrics when evaluating the health and success of a project.

engagement metrics

By looking at commit velocity, issue counts, pull requests, and forks alongside stars, we can better understand a project's adoption and overall value. Let's continue to support the open-source community by focusing on meaningful contributions and nurturing authentic engagement, ensuring that we maintain the integrity that makes open source so special.

If you are interested in seeing better metrics for measuring open source success, consider creating a workspace.

bdougie profile picture


Chief Sauced Officer for OpenSauced.

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