What’s wrong with Hacktoberfest

What do you think of Hacktoberfest?

source: https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/

When it started...

  • Started 2014
  • ~700 participants
  • Rules are simple - The honor system
  • Get a T-shirt
source: @kevashcraft on Twitter

It gets popular... 

  • 169,886 people signed up (2022)
  • GitHub or GitLab PR tracking
  • Rules are more complicated: opt-in rule
  • Tee or Tree
source: @tannerdolby on Twitter

Ideally, it's good, isn't it?

In theory, it could...

  • Draw awareness to the open-source ecosystem
  • Promote contribution to open-source
  • Everyone is welcome to contribute
  • Exploring new open-source projects
  • Gamification - it's fun

But, things take a down turn...

Stats in 2022...

  • 621,104 pull requests were made
  • 166,057 pull requests were merged
  • 1,043 pull requests were approved
  • 102,231 pull requests were labeled hacktoberfest-accepted


  • there were 34,595 pull requests not accepted by a maintainer
  • and 9,598 labeled as spam or invalid

Spammy PRs

  • Meanless changes - usually in the docs
  • e.g. adding punctuation to the doc
  • Some of them even said in the comment they want a free T-shirt 🤦‍♀️
source: @ilopmar on Twitter

Maintainers are angry

"It's a DDoS attack to open-source"

How the organiser reacts...

  • Asked maintainers to mark spammy PRs
  • Projects have to opt-in from the year after
  • More complicated participation rules

We’ve traced the majority of this year’s spammy contributions back to a participant with a large online audience who openly encouraged their community to take part in spammy activities, including ideas on how to game the system. However, we know the spam issues go beyond this one example.

But that won't solve the problem completely...

What can be learnt...

  • Gamification may not be the best way to encourage contribution
  • The quality of contribution is hard to measure
  • Quantity is not everything
  • Swags may not be the best rewards to give out

How to encourage contribution...

  • Contribution mentorship program
  • Workshops to teach new contributions (Sprints)
  • Encourage positive attitudes towards contributing to open-source projects (benefit is not getting swags)
  • Work with maintainers to listen to their opinions and gain their trusts

What’s wrong with Hacktoberfest

By Cheuk Ting Ho

What’s wrong with Hacktoberfest

  • 324