Joel Thoms
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How One Guy Ruined #Hacktoberfest2020 #Drama

How One Guy Ruined #Hacktoberfest2020 #Drama

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Joel Thoms

Published on Oct 2, 2020

4 min read

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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.

news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24658052

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Update

Response from GitHub:

Response from Digital Ocean:

 
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