Helping developers to simply deploy any applications they develop to their desired environment is our core mission. It was a no-brainer to participate as a project to the key open-source event of the year when we were able to engage with other developers. Hacktoberfest will be helpful for us to provide the best developer experience to our users in the long run.
Open-source software changes lives. It was no different to our community this Hacktoberfest either. We hardly imagined contributors would come to us but to our biggest surprise, we doubled the stars on our GitHub repository and the feedback is clear: the community loves dyrector.io.
We talked to some of our 11 contributors who made 19 commits in total. This might not sound like a lot, but as a project at the starting line, we weren’t expecting any of it. We made issues mainly related to Kubernetes, Golang and Typescript. Our goal was to help first time contributors and be as supportive as we could be with the people who chose to devote their free time to work on improving the platform.
One of our contributors, Ritvik highlighted our helpful approach to contributors. “I really liked how helpful you guys were during the entire time. I honestly had no idea of Docker or Golang before contributing but I somehow managed to do the required task with your help”, he said. “I was really worried that you guys would doubt my competency judging by the kind of work I did but it all worked out just fine, I guess”, he added explaining he participated in Hacktoberfest while his university exams were going on.
“I’m glad to have contributed in this ambitious project”, said Kit, another community member of ours.
“With modern tech stacks and continuously improving documentations, the developer experience is enjoyable.
You guys created a very friendly environment where help is prompt and with patience. I believe more and more contributors will be attracted here after this Hacktoberfest. I’m also looking forward to making more contributions in the future”, he explained.
Based on this feedback, our advice for other open-source maintainers is to be supportive and appreciative of the efforts of others. You never know what difficulties others face in relation to your project or outside of it. Going out of your way to help people to help you will leave a positive impression and increase the chance of them coming back to the project.
Our main channel to promote the project was the official Hacktoberfest server on Discord. It was the easiest way to point contributors to our server, where we could directly engage with them. We also made a channel on our server for them where they could ask questions or notify us about issues. At the same time, we promoted the issues of our GitHub repo on Twitter and other channels.
While the feedback and the experience of our first Hacktoberfest was positive, we still found things we can improve.
Guide contributors who need it: One of the main problems we experienced with less experienced contributors is that they didn’t sign their commits. We shouldn’t assume that everyone understands the importance of commit signatures.
Issues with more context: We made sure the issue descriptions are as detailed as possible, but similar to commit signatures, we shouldn’t expect users to have the same context as we, who work on the project every day have. More context is required in the future. It might be useful to break down larger issues into smaller pieces to help contributors.
One major talking point of our Hacktoberfest retrospective was when we discussed how we should treat contributors. For more context, it’s a more nuanced topic because the main incentive of Hacktoberfest is to get 4 pull requests merged to win the swag or the opportunity to plant a tree.
There was one issue which was stalled for more than 10 days. We reached out to the contributor to see what’s up, they replied and unassigned the issue from themselves without completing it. We assume one of the two following scenarios might have taken place:
We came across as a-holes: While our intention was to ask the person assigned to the issue if we can help, we might have come across as pushy to them unintentionally. We understand most contributors hack things in their free time, so we can’t expect prompt or on-demand activity from them.
They no longer needed the issue: The incentives of Hacktoberfest make some contributors take on more issues than they’ll need to complete the challenge, which they’ll abandon once they reach the required number of PRs merged. They forgot about this particular issue and didn’t come back to unassign it from themselves.
While the ticket itself wasn’t urgent or that important, stalling it took the opportunity from other contributors to complete it. This might have been the difference for someone from completing Hacktoberfest. We can’t be sure but there’s a chance. Our lesson to learn from this is to fine-tune our communication with contributors based on the importance of the ticket they get assigned to so we can make sure it’s not our mistake if we lose a contributor.
A very interesting situation was when one contributor went missing and another one stepped forward asking if they could work on the issue instead. So, we can see how the community itself can resolve this type of situation, but we’d rather avoid this.
Another thing we were aware of, but it was also fascinating to see happen is how some contributors take the absolute least effort to commit something. An example of that was when someone opened a PR for adding a period to a readme file. We did have a good chuckle when we witnessed it.
Hacktoberfest was an absolute banger for our community. We doubled the fans of the platform on GitHub and made some new friends. In fact, we enjoyed Hacktoberfest so much we’re considering ways to make long-term open-source incentives around the project in the future.
This blogpost was written by the team of specialists at dyrector.io. dyrector.io is an open-source container management platform.
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