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Hacktoberfest Comes to Lambda School

Dominick Bruno
A life long learner, I enjoy challenging tasks that push the limits of my knowledge and skill sets. I am particularly motivated by projects that promote the commonweal of society.
・3 min read

Coding academies and open source software aren't typically a first connection in people's minds. The common perceptions of both are polar opposites: one sees coding academy students as superficially educated on the one hand, and open source software as the arcane realm of super hackers on the other. The reality of both, of course, is something quite different.

As a long time supporter of FOSS (Free and Open Source Software), I love to see the enthusiasm of new contributors and the sense of community in developing software. Heck, if not for the fact that I snuck into a presentation by Bradley Kuhn of the Free Software Foundation to the Rutgers University Student Linux User Group years ago while I was homeless, I might be dead (that's another story for another time, though). Even when I edited the first edition of "Programming from the Ground Up", I traded any claim to royalties or proceeds for it to be released under the Gnu Free Documentation License. To put it mildly, I'm a believer.

I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when my fellow Lambda School Team Lead Zac Smith mentioned that he was planning to implement a program to support FOSS at Lambda School using Hacktoberfest as a vehicle. How would we bridge the perceived knowledge gap? Would there even be interest?

Zac anticipated much of this, though. With repos such as lambda-react he laid the ground work for n00bs as well as more advanced folx. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I jumped in on his efforts. This is the spirit of Open Source - seeing a need and doing what you can to fulfill it. Someone else might do it better later, but they aren't here, now, and it needs done, so let's handle it.

Even as a seasoned friend of Open Source, I learned much from reviewing the existing code in lambda-react, for example. Despite all my backend work, shell.js was new to me and even though I was only working on templating pull requests and issues, I was exposed to new technology and did a little bit of a dive into it.

I shouldn't have been surprised though - Nadia Eghbal's excellent publication, "Working In Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software" was such an overwhelming hit at Lambda, that Stripe scheduled a special brownbag lunch session for her to speak with Lambda students. Our orientation to Hactoberfest itself drew over 20 participants across a number of cohorts despite the hectic schedule of full time Lambda students. Recordings of the session were even more popular.

Dev students are often eager to contribute in meaningful ways not only out of ethical considerations but to make their names more known. Zac's efforts, though one might say are overly focused on Lambda School, demonstrate nevertheless an important and essential aspect: open source is about devs coming together to make meaningful apps to make their lives and jobs easier. If that means a community-sourced rendition of create-react-app, then so be it, the community decided this was worthwhile. There's no imposter syndrome to be had, no need to compare to anything else. A dev thought this project would be cool & potentially make their lives easier and they contributed in the best way they know how.

And that my friend, above all the t shirts and rules and regulations about PRs, is the most important thing: devs as a community working together on something cool. Everything else is just gloss and ego. Happy hacking to all this Hacktoberfest!

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