How One Guy Ruined #Hacktoberfest2020 #Drama

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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.


Every request looks something like this:


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

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


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



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.

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Response from GitHub:

Response from Digital Ocean:

Prafull Gururani's photo

I dont think Harry is at fault, He clearly said to his viewers to not pull fake PRs . He politely asked them to contribute legitimately.

All he showed was an example of how to do a Pull request (that too on a not maintained project, He himself refrained from doing PR on a live project).

You clearly misunderstood him and I dont blame you for that because of the Language issue. In the near future do consult someone who is a native speaker or knows the language

Show +5 replies
Joel Thoms's photo

Digital Ocean is also being blamed

Mohammed Ali Zubair's photo

you can say what you want but if you deny the cause and effect, and especially the intent of the original video then you're as much part of the problem as he is. Would have been better had you not said anything because the writer of this article is trying his best not shame him more than required. Having said that however I'm not gonna sit by and let you drag this BS any more than necessary.

P.S: if his video really was for a good cause for all intents and purposes he would not have made it inaccessible (which is currently the case.)

Ankit Suda's photo

I don't think this is Harry's fault, JUST PEOPLE ARE STUPID 😐

Show +3 replies
Peos's photo

some stupid people tend to be named harry, though. he actually bribed a bunch of third worlders to raid github.

Vikram Sharma's photo

Peos And you my dear sir are a racist.

Ilango Rajagopal's photo

IMO, Harry is not at fault. There were spam PRs last year too. DO is putting the blame on him.

Sreekanth's photo

First Getting a T Shirt in hactoberfest is something that given of motivation for OSS. You don't need to guide young followers to get a T Shirt Free. So he essentially made them to do a gaming or cracking a system which was intentionally for a good purpose.

Peos's photo

Moral of the story: some people are immoral, yet we are forced to treat everyone equally. I don't blame digital ocean or any other around them for that. The self called "progressives" have low to zero perception of reality and they should be treated like every low IQ individual. It's OK, you did the best you can do.

Emily Boston's photo

Hacktoberfest is a bane to the OSS community. Github is full with spam now.

Joel Thoms's photo

I'm hopeful that next year will be better. I have seen the "opt in" idea thrown around. I would be for that.

Peos's photo

github is like facebook but for soy consumers even before ms jumped in. ...or in other words, github was already a designated street.

Skay's photo

Thanks for sharing... Good to know how things spiraled out of control!

I generally stay out of controversial topics, but, even I had to say something about what's going on!!

Having said that, to organize anything at a scale is a challenge, and 'Moderation' a key element in anything that's public and I hope this feedback can be taken up by the organizers and they can respond in a manner that's truly encouraging and keep the spammers at bay!!

Once again, thanks for sharing the post!

Margaret Goldman's photo

Hey Joel, you should tag the article with ”general programming” to appear on Hashnode feeds.

Joel Thoms's photo

Done. Cheers 🍻

Victoria Tomzik's photo

I don't think it's Harry's fault that people are stupid. He has nothing to apologize for.

Show +4 replies
Joel Thoms's photo

He did make a video titled "get a free t-shirt" and then demod the exact PR thousands have copied. He's not blame free.

Peos's photo

so, if I have a few thousand t-shirts on my hands, I could order a raid somewhere in exchange of some t-shirts and not be accountable of the consequences? instigator is the word you are looking for.

Vatsal N's photo

This is not TRUE, if you went on to watch the complete video (not available now), you would actually realize that he did not want people to spoil the open-source rather he wanted people to join and make Quality pull requests. He wanted to keep the video short and informative and hence he made such a P.R. (he also asks people to not to make FAKE P.R. and requests them to deliver quality content). It depends on the viewers whether they deliver right content or not. To be honest, I am 13 y/o and I did not know anything about Hacktoberfest. It was Harry's useful video which helped me to know about Hacktoberfest. I greatly thank Harry for the same. After knowing what Hacktoberfest is, I submitted 6 Pull Requests (not FAKE)


th3r00t's photo

Its so much easier then all that... Create your own repo, and make 5 pull requests, then accept said requests. Youve got a free shirt, and didnt bother anyones repos.

Abhay Koradiya's photo

only one fault he was made, He need to show a git links which is provided by #hecktoberfest on that site for making PR.

Charles Brown's photo

Next time take away the free crap and just have people do it to do it the shirt is something that you just happen to give to the winner, maybe.

Mohammed Ali Zubair's photo

People saying it's not his fault, his viewers are stupid. Here's an idea, why not apply your logic to the 2016 american election. "It's not trump's fault he won, stupid people voted for him. It's THEIR fault" Yeah, the fact that he was able to garner an audience large enough to end up in that position is not to be blamed at all. Suuuuure.

Sean Ramey's photo

Little late response, but, yeah it IS the American People's "fault". They voted him in. They DO have a choice. The fact that his audience was that big was because people supported what he was saying. And for the record, everybody that voted for him still absolutely support him.

Skay's photo

Thanks for sharing... Good to know how things spiraled out of control!

I generally stay out of controversial topics, but, even I had to say something about what's going on!!

Having said that, to organize anything at a scale is a challenge, and 'Moderation' a key element in anything that's public and I hope this feedback can be taken up by the organizers and they can respond in a manner that's truly encouraging and keep the spammers at bay!!

Once again, thanks for sharing the post!

Anupama Dissanayake's photo

this is some sort of a social engineering attack or something. I guess we should name this kind of attack "Expelliamus" since harry is the founder of it.

Peter Thaleikis's photo

Really sad to see a well-intended program used to gain cheap advantages. A simple rule such as "resolving an GitHub-logged issue that existed prior to start of Hacktoberfest" would could help to address it.

No's photo

Majority of this spam has its roots in the land of the „highly skilled“😂