Hacktoberfest 2023: Beyond Green Squares




7 mins read


You’re more than your green squares. There, I said it. Green squares capture only a small portion of the developer journey. Green squares alone won’t get you hired. But do you know what will? Having a well-rounded skillset, being a good communicator, and showcasing your abilities. Let’s make this Hacktoberfest different. Let’s make this year about impact, growth, and relationships, about setting a standard for new contributors and open source overall. Let’s reject green squares as the marker of our success. Because this is only the beginning.

A New Approach to Hacktoberfest

a multi-colored contribution graph

The goal of Hacktoberfest is to get four pull requests to participating repositories in between October 1 and October 31. Participating in open source in a meaningful way goes beyond pull requests. Supporting the needs of projects and maintainers include answering questions, providing mentorship, triaging issues, writing blog posts about projects and your involvement, reviewing PRs, pair programming, writing issues, and sharing your own story. Instead of trying to find the fastest way to four PRs, look for the most meaningful path to four PRs and grow your skillset by providing support as you make your open source contributions.

The Open Source Hacktoberfest Journey

Imagine you’re on a journey, and you have a map that shows your starting point and an X that shows your ending point with a big treasure chest. To make it to the ending point, you’re going to need to gain skills because you start at the beginning of the jungle, but as you move forward, the terrain gets increasingly difficult. Sometimes you have to navigate through water. Sometimes you are climbing mountains. You grow with each of these experiences.

But, what if, instead of pushing forward and forging one path to the treasure, you decide to keep starting over once you were faced with a new challenge. You never get stronger, you never make progress, and instead you find yourself at the beginning wondering why you feel like you haven’t accomplished that much. The truth is, that building credibility is a lot like making your way through that path.

Build Your Credibility with Open Source

Fixing white space on four repos is not going to gain you credibility. In fact, it will negatively impact your credibility. The key to building credibility is that you don’t stop when things get hard. You grow skills on your journey and continue to build on them as you move to harder challenges. Showcase your expertise and growth throughout October. I highly recommend keeping track of your progress publicly. I’ll be using my Highlights to showcase the growth I’m most proud of.

If you’re new to open source, that’s ok! There are issues out there that fit your skill level. You can check out my Hacktoberfest Repos for Beginners list to help you get started. These repositories are aimed at practicing skills like forking, cloning, committing, and creating PRs for text updates. Get started with projects like those and build a relationship with the maintainers and community members of the open source organizations.

Tips for Growing Credibility in One Month

It can be much more efficient to grow your skills in one project or open source ecosystem than in four different organizations.

To build credibility, consider each part of the path as building a skillset you can talk about and demonstrate. That might looks something like this:

  • Continuous Learning. Start where you’re comfortable and build from there. If you’ve never contributed to open source before, I recommend our Intro to OSS course followed by a PR to our guestbook.
  • Transparency. Your contributions are open for everyone to see. Don’t let that scare you. Use it to your advantage. Ask good questions when you need to.
  • Feedback Reception: Receive feedback with an open mind, ask clarifying questions as needed, and be respectful in all interactions.
  • Collaboration and Teamwork: Review PRs and answer questions of other contributors to demonstrate your communication skills.
  • Leadership Skills: Remember, you’re one step ahead of the person who started today. That means you have the ability to mentor, encourage, and identify the strengths of others.
  • Showcase Expertise. As you grow in your contributions, you’ll be able to demonstrate your skills and expertise. Whether it’s coding, documentation, community management, or something else, your journey should serve as a snapshot of your experience during the month of October.

Remember, it's about the quality of your contribution, not just the quantity. No one is going to care about many times you’ve added a period to the end of the sentence. But they will notice if your journey is a progression of growth. This is why I like to look specifically at people’s highlights, because it provides a much better story of the growth journey of contributors. Let’s take a look at a journey that demonstrates growth:

  • First PR: you added a period to the end of a sentence.
  • First Issue and Second PR: you created an issue to add a section to documentation to clarify installation instructions and created the PR to do that.
  • Third PR: you took on an issue that built on your current skillset.
  • Blog post: You wrote a blog post about how you contributed with your third PR.
  • Fourth PR and blog post: You found the treasure. You demonstrated that you understood a project, you contributed with purpose, and you knew how to make a meaningful contribution to the project. You shared that in your blog post to bring visibility to the project, show that you’ve communicated throughout the process, and now you’re encouraging others to contribute as well.

Be the Standard for Open Source

Don’t just participate in Hacktoberfest 2023. Lead by example and set the standards for contributions. I’m a big believer in the idea “We share our stories to invite others to share theirs with us.” Share your story this Hacktoberfest. Let other contributors know about your progress, why the PR you made was meaningful, and how you’re pushing yourself to grow.

Setting the standard doesn’t stop at your own contributions. It’s about uplifting others, sharing what you know, and fostering an open source community where everyone is encouraged to bring their best to the project. Like and share the highlights of other contributors. Leave them positive comments are their posts. By setting the standard, we can cultivate a community where everyone sees the importance and value in contributing meaningfully.

Setting the Standard: babblebey

One of the most recent examples I’ve found of a contributor who’s set a great standard is the story of @babblebey.

@babbley has been a consistent contributor to OpenSauced repositories, as evidenced by this list of merged PRs. But if you look deeper into his contributions, you’ll see that he fills out the PR template, provides context and clear descriptions, and receives feedback well from his PR reviewers.

He’s highlighted some of the important parts of his journey, communicating the impact of his work to others.

babbleybey's highlight I’ve been fortunate to have chatted with him when he attended some of our OpenSauced Office Hours in Discord as well. I can truly say that I’ve been motivated by the energy and enthusiasm that he brings to the work he’s doing. His journey showcases his growth, collaboration and communication skills, and the strong skillset that he’s developed. He’s made meaningful contributions both in code and in community. Setting the standard for open source contributions has lead to new opportunities, and I couldn’t be happier for him:

image Link to post

Continuous Contribution: Beyond October

Hacktoberfest is the beginning of the journey. It’s the hero accepting the call to adventure. The goal should be to feel empowered by the end of the month and to take the momentum you have to continue contributing to open source.

Leadership doesn’t stop at the end of October. Open source projects don’t stop at the end of October. Take the time to look at the next path, the next adventure that challenges you in new ways. If you’re committed to continuous contribution and growth, stay engaged, provide consistent value, and champion the open source projects that you’ve grown with.

BekahHW profile picture


Bekah graduated from a coding bootcamp in May of 2019 and since then has spent time as a frontend developer, started the Virtual Coffee tech community, spent time in DevRel and has continued to mom her four kids. She currently co-hosts the and Virtual Coffee podcasts, lifts heavy things in her free time, & works as the Developer Experience Lead at OpenSauced.

Recent Posts




5 mins read

Explore the lifecycle of Facebook's Create React App (CRA) and understand the significance of open-source insights into issues and pull requests.






5 mins read

Feeling overwhelmed as a new open-source maintainer? Learn the skills and gain the support you need to succeed with our "Becoming a Maintainer" Cours...