by Maribel Duran

Hacktoberfest: My Gateway to Open Source

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”
— Ryunosuke Satoro

Last month I set out my intention to start contributing to open source. And thanks to the annual Hacktoberfest challenge, I submitted 5 pull requests. I also found a really cool project that I am still actively contributing to.

I wrote this post to share my journey of how I found beginner friendly open source projects. I was nervous to share this on social media, but it actually gave me motivation to look for ways to begin.

At first, contributing to open source can be very intimidating. But being able to collaborate with others on projects that are helping communities is such a reward on its own. Not to mention all the skills gained from reading other developers’ code and all the awesome people you meet along the way.

My Motivation to Start Contributing

My mission as a developer is to contribute to applications that empower and motivate lives. Instead of waiting for a company to hire me, I decided to take action and find ways to start living my dream as I work on strengthening my development skills.

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” — Booker T. Washington

Every month I kept listing “Contribute to Open Source” as one of my career goals, but kept pushing it back.

I used to think that contributing to open source was way out of my reach and that I had to be an experienced developer to even be able to contribute.

But I kept hearing from many seasoned developers that contributing to open source was a great way of gaining skills. They told me that it provided opportunities to work on something that many people would use regularly and benefit from.

Steps I Took to Find Open Source Projects

My first step toward contributing was to read over a few blog posts about Open Source and how to get started.

Below are a few posts and resources that I hope are helpful to you as well.

Resources to help find beginner friendly open source projects

Hacktoberfest

I was also fortunate to stumble across Hacktoberfest, a virtual event where DigitalOcean and GitHub offer swag to encourage contributions in open source software. The goal was to make 4 pull requests (anytime in October) in any GitHub-hosted repo or project. If you accomplish this, they’ll mail you a free t-shirt!

The most helpful part of this event was that many open source maintainers applied the label ”Hacktoberfest” to issues in their GitHub project that were ready for beginner contributors to work on.

There are still a huge amount of beginner-friendly issues you can contribute to even though October has ended! Check it out: Hacktoberfest labels on GitHub

Meetups

The most important step that I took along this journey was attending meetups where I could find local open source projects that were helping the community.

I signed up for both Code for San Francisco’s Weekly Civic Hack Night and Write/Speak/Code’s Open Source Hours.

Code for America Brigade’s are volunteer groups that work on local issues to help make government work better for everyone. Browse their website to find a Brigade near you: https://www.codeforamerica.org/join-us/volunteer-with-us.

I met the maintainer of If-Me. I also found an open source project that I have now been working on since mid October with a like minded team that is trying to help the SF community. Cool stuff!

Skills and Values Gained

At first I was overwhelmed at all the issues that were available, but realized that I should start somewhere — even if it was simply updating an about README file.

When I found my first potential issue I was so nervous and excited! I communicated with the maintainer to take on the issue, forked the repo, updated my node version, installed Yarn and Jest (two tools I had never used before), made a fix, and submitted a pull request! In a few hours, my PR was merged!

I almost forgot to mention how helpful Git-it’s guide was when trying to remember how to use commands for forking, cloning, creating branches, and submitting pull requests! I am so much more in love with Github now ❤

By working on other’s projects I gained a few skills that I would not have been able to do alone:

  1. Learned from reading other’s people’s source code
  2. Communicated with open source maintainers
  3. Created git branches (wasn’t necessary before because I was always pushing to master on my own projects)
  4. Opened my first git issue
  5. Learned the importance of good README files (and motivated me to start writing more descriptive Readme files for my projects).
  6. Worked with a team that is excited as I am about working on projects that are empowering communities.
  7. Expanded my network

What’s Next?

I am currently actively contributing to a longer-term open source project: a Resilience Map, which will help the city of San Francisco prepare for a natural disaster.

I’m also really excited to continue contributing to open source projects that I found throughout this journey :)

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” — Henry Ford

Get out there and start contributing! You will be hooked :)

If you have any questions about how to get started with contributing to open source projects please reach out to me on twitter!

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Let’s be friends on Twitter. Happy Coding :)