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How One Guy Ruined #Hacktoberfest2020 #Drama

JavaScript Joel
Cofounded Host Collective (DiscountASP.net). Cofounded Player Axis (Social Gaming). Computer Scientist and Technology Evangelist with 20+ years of experience with JavaScript!
Originally published at joel.net ・4 min read

Hacktoberfest

If you aren't familar, Hacktoberfest is an annual event that occurs every October. It is held by Digital Ocean and encourages developers to submit Pull Requests to Open Source repositories and as a reward you get a T-Shirt.

There's almost no limits, so if your request is merged into any Open Source repository, you qualify. Amazing.

The Fallout

Twitter starts going nuts. Not soon after October begins, we see many popular open source maintainers taking to Twitter complaining about low quality PRs bordering on SPAM.

Some more honest than others

Even a Covid19Tracking Repo is under attack

A whole new Twitter account @shitoberfest was created to track this

The Cause

This flood of low quality PR spam appears to come from a YouTuber with an audience of 672K where he demonstrates how easy it is to make a Pull Request to a repo.

Where he went wrong was demonstrating a low quality PR, thus setting the bar low for his viewers who went on to copy exactly what he did.

To avoid linking to his YouTube and giving him views, I'll link to this Twitter of the action moment:

The Response

The response from CodeWithHarry was weak at best. It offered no apology and instead links to many instances where he avoids responsibility by linking to areas in the video where he encourages quality PRs.

A humble request to everyone to not open spam pull requests on GitHub repositories!
Some people think that I am hurting the open source community.
The purpose of this video was to encourage participation in the events encouraging open source participation and to teach people what a pull request is and how a pull request works!
People understanding Hindi can watch the video but for people who are non Hindi speakers and for some reason think that I am requesting people to open spam pull requests, all I have told throughout the video is to make legit contributions to the open source.
I have said nowhere in the video to open spam pull requests.
I have made it clear in the video several times (for instance in the video at 00:55 - that you have to earn it by making contributions that count, 07:51 - Make legit contributions, 10:58, 11:10, etc).
Also at 05:33 - I avoided an actively maintained project and instead opened pull request on a project which was not being maintained just to demonstrate how contributing to an open source repository actually works.
I have not encouraged spam pull requests in bulk!
I also agree with the fact that events like hacktoberfest can be made better by making only the legit merged pull requests count. But that has been a topic of debate since years when hacktoberfest was launched.
I would also like to mention that many people opened their GitHub account, learned to make pull requests and made some amazing legit contributions to the open source too! I am proud of them and would like the entire developer community to act in a responsible manner.

Thanks,
Harry 🙏

But this pinned comment is the least amount of effort he could have done to slow this shit storm.

How Do You Know CodeWithHarry Was Really The Cause?

Here's a screenshot of some pull requests from the repo micromtn.

image.png

Every request looks something like this:

image.png

This looks remarkably similar to the PR that was demonstrated in the video.

A search for "improve docs" shows 319,251 issues.

image.png

A search for "Amazing Project" is now showing 21,177 issues.

image.png

CodeWithHarry

CodeWithHarry is not a bad guy, I don't want to cancel or shame him personally. After all, we're all human. With a following that big, he's definitely helped a lot of people. But he made a mistake here and he's going to have to be responsible for the outcome, which so far isn't looking great.

At the moment of this writing, his GitHub is 404. Was it taken down? Made private? Renamed?

It's only day 1.

Digital Ocean

Even Digital Ocean has chimed in on this fiasco.

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.

Wait and See

So Lots of drama today. I guess all we can do is wait and see.

Hello HN 👋

This article hit #1 on HN. Go read the comments there for more.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24658052

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Cheers 🍻

Update

Response from GitHub:

Response from Digital Ocean:

Discussion (22)

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vaibhavkhulbe profile image
Vaibhav Khulbe • Edited

Thanks for writing this. People need to understand that if you are into open-source contributions, then do it throughout the year or whenever is the need. Hacktoberfest should not be the ONLY reason to make PRs or raise issues. Sad thing is, people will still spam or make bad PRs just to get the tee or stickers. I mean how many times will you do this and show yourself as a cool open-source contributor?

I will soon be writing an article this week (releasing this Friday) on a similar topic. I hope it will help people understand more.

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joelnet profile image
JavaScript Joel Author

Post your article here when you are done, I'd love to read it! Cheers 🍻

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vaibhavkhulbe profile image
Vaibhav Khulbe
Thread Thread
joelnet profile image
JavaScript Joel Author

Will read now 👍

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jmau111 profile image
Julien Maury

Unfortunately, open-source does that from time to time. Some moron decides his opinion is the truth or wants to make a statement, the "clever" way. It could be due to his frustration if you decline some of his PRs.

Sometimes, it's even more stupid. It's just because it's possible, murphy's law. I'm glad there are now means to mitigate those "contributions".

Big shout out to every single organizer and contributor!

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joelnet profile image
JavaScript Joel Author

I'm hopeful with Digital Ocean's new opt-in approach, open source maintainers won't be in hiding now. I feel like this whole drama has made Hacktoberfest better!

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zoedreams profile image
☮️✝️☪️🕉☸️✡️☯️

personally speaking incentivized volunteering is not really volunteering. I never accept gives for donations, actually that is a form of bribery. And undermines the entire point of volunteering.

vol·un·teer
/ˌvälənˈtir/
verb
gerund or present participle: volunteering
freely offer to do something.

I wish github banned organizations that do stuff like this, but its such a big eco system its almost impossible to groom it all.

thank you for sharing

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michaelandreuzza profile image
michael-andreuzza

The worst part?
We are grown butt people and a a T-Shirt is causing this...

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joelnet profile image
JavaScript Joel Author

🤣

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danieljsummers profile image
Daniel J. Summers

Hard to believe people are that hard up for a simple T-shirt. I guess the shirt may convey some programming prowess, but still...

(or maybe these are people from AWS and Google Cloud, trying to bankrupt upstart cloud vendor (and DEV sponsor) Digital Ocean - LOL. It's 2020 on the Internet - who knows?)

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darkwiiplayer profile image
DarkWiiPlayer

Relevant

This isn't a new problem and it was almost certainly not caused by one single youtuber with a few thousand active subscribers at most. The blame for this is on Digital Ocean, not on some dude on the internet.

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joelnet profile image
JavaScript Joel Author

It was a problem in previous Hacktoberfests though it was amplified because of this video.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Ooof

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joelnet profile image
JavaScript Joel Author

Ooof indeed

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defman profile image
Sergey Kislyakov 🇷🇺 🇺🇸

Opt-in was an obvious (and good) solution. Good they did that.

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joelnet profile image
JavaScript Joel Author

It probably took this event to make Hacktoberfest better. So in the end... it was a good thing?

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defman profile image
Sergey Kislyakov 🇷🇺 🇺🇸

Yeah, though I find it strange this wasn't the case in the previous Hacktoberfest. I guess everyone wants a T-shirt in these hard times.

Thread Thread
joelnet profile image
JavaScript Joel Author

It was a problem in previous Hacktoberfests though it was amplified because of this video.

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zoedreams profile image
☮️✝️☪️🕉☸️✡️☯️

ha i wrote about this last week here. The dark side of hacktoberfest
dev.to/zoedreams/the-ugly-side-of-...

sigh....

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nektro profile image
Meghan (she/her)

Hacktoberfest was and is a mistake

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joelnet profile image
JavaScript Joel Author

It's improving 😁

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arvindmehairjan profile image
Arvind Mehairjan

This is why aliens are still not visiting us.