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How to be a Top Contributor this Hacktoberfest

· 4 min read
Bekah Hawrot Weigel
Developer Experience Lead

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that I’m a fan of redefining contributions. But during Hacktoberfest, there’s more competition for the magic four pull requests (PRs). If we think of it like Moneyball for engineers, except limiting it to Hacktoberfest, we realize it's not about hitting home runs; it's about getting on base consistently and making strategic plays that contribute to the overall win. So, how do you become a top contributor during Hacktoberfest?

Ham yelling play ball

Five Pillars of Hacktoberfest Contribution

  1. Deep Dives Over Quick Fixes Take time to look through the repository’s issues. It doesn’t matter if you get a PR in the first week or all four on October 31. Take time to plan your approach and to understand the repository. Look at issues with the help wanted tag or issues that are in the backlog. It’s also important to think about the time that you have to devote to Hacktoberfest. If you know that you only have time to dive deeply into one issue, then plan around that. Also, consider submitting to the same open source organization to reduce the cognitive load of navigating different contribution guidelines. Engaging deeply with a project and its codebase will make you stand out.

  2. Think Like a Maintainer Put yourself in the shoes of a maintainer. Your PR isn’t just code; it's work that someone else has to review, test, and integrate. Make their life easy by following the guidelines, writing documentation as necessary, and testing thoroughly before submitting. Consider making your PR a draft PR until you’ve thoroughly reviewed your contribution. I recommend taking a day away from your PR and then coming back to it with a fresh perspective, looking it over and retesting before asking for a review. As part of that, increase your communication with maintainers by providing clear commit messages and staying within the scope of your issue. Lastly, don’t nitpick your way into a PR. For example, don’t change the structure of part of the documentation or codebase just for the sake of getting a PR.

  3. Be Proactive, Not Reactive Don't wait for someone to tag an issue as help wanted. Remember, good first issues don’t exist, but writing your own can be the best solution. Before you do that, though, make sure you search existing issues to ensure that it hasn’t been raised before. Proactive could also mean that you’re answering questions in the community, triaging issues, and providing feedback on PRs if that help is wanted.

  4. Build, Don’t Break Avoid changing parts of a project just because you think they could be better. Instead, focus on building upon existing structures and improving them in a way that aligns with the project’s vision and current codebase.

  5. Broaden Your Horizon Contributing to open source isn’t just about code. Engage with the community, write insightful issues, or craft blog posts that help others understand the project better. Features like OpenSauced's highlights can help you showcase these broader contributions.

Your Soft Skills Checklist

If there’s one takeaway from becoming a top contributor during Hacktoberfest, it’s that it’s important to be thoughtful as a contributor. Take the time to understand, think through your process, and clearly communicate with maintainers.