We wanted to hear from you, the community, about what you love about Hacktoberfest and what could be improved as we plan 2024’s event. We sent a survey to everyone who signed up to participate in Hacktoberfest 2023 in an effort to gather direct, transparent feedback from the people who make Hacktoberfest what it is. We introduced the significant change this year of not offering a Hacktoberfest t-shirt to people who completed the challenge, and many of you had strong opinions about it. The results demonstrate some clear trends across all participants. Throughout our survey, respondents expressed genuine appreciation for Hacktoberfest because of its learning, connection, career, and project development opportunities. We also heard that without the t-shirt, folks aren’t as motivated to take time out of their busy schedules to contribute.
In the words of one survey respondent:
“This year’s Hacktoberfest was an incredible experience for me, as it marked my first time contributing to an open-source event. I was initially nervous, but the supportive community and abundance of resources quickly put me at ease. I ended up making [sizable] contributions to different projects, and I learned so much along the way. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of Hacktoberfest this year, and I’m already looking forward to participating again next year!”
Despite the changes in reward, of 1,237 respondents, 78% responded positively about the event.
However, many people were unable to complete the challenge or just one pull/merge request; the overwhelming majority attributed this to insufficient time between other work commitments and not being incentivized enough by the reward.
“As both a contributor and maintainer, the lack of T-shirts was a real bummer. I couldn’t promote HF to prospective contributors as an incentive to start contributing like I’ve done in past years. People really like quality free T-shirts.”
Note: We recognize that the change in rewards this year may have affected whether some folks participated in Hacktoberfest at all and so their feelings about Hacktoberfest 2023 (which we heard and take seriously) aren’t reflected by the answers to this survey question.
Self-identified Contributors made up 86% of respondents to the survey, while 22% identified as Maintainers. Only 3% identified as an Event Organizer, overshadowed by the 16% of people who responded to the survey but did not participate this year.
For those who identified as Project Maintainers, Hacktoberfest was considered beneficial to their projects. More than half—59%—agreed or strongly agreed with this statement, “As a maintainer, I find Hacktoberfest to be a valuable event for my project.” However, 31% were neutral, and 10% disagreed or strongly disagreed.
In response to this question, the ambiguity of those who were neutral is likely because Hacktoberfest attracts participants who want to “game the system” by creating spam PR/MRs to achieve the reward, overwhelming Maintainers with poor quality or time-wasting spammy PR/MRs. This is one of the key reasons we moved away from offering a free t-shirt, which has had the effect of fueling spam in the past. Additionally, we can’t track Maintainer actions at this time, making it hard to reward their participation outside of self-identification, which is also difficult to verify.
For those who identified as Event Organizers, 64% said lack of swag was the primary blocker to setting up events, followed by 46% who cited a lack of funds for food and beverages. 31% struggled to get participants, and 31% said finding venue options was difficult; 16% of respondents were confused about where to post and promote their event, which was useful information for us, and we’ll work towards improving the user experience for events on the Hacktoberfest website in 2024; 13% had trouble finding speakers, another area that the team at Hacktoberfest will focus on improving for 2024.
For those who identified as Contributors, most respondents were evenly split on what blocks them from contributing: difficulty finding projects to contribute to and difficulty finding issues at the right skill level. This is something that the Open Source Community as a whole could work together on to find a solution, such as more detailed tagging or labeling of issues. We also learned that many of you wanted to work on projects that didn’t opt-in to Hacktoberfest.
“Specifically about Hacktoberfest: many of the repos I use and would contribute to don’t participate in HF, and searching for projects that do yields spam projects rather than real projects.”
Completing the Challenge
Meanwhile, in the challenge completion question, we sought to learn what prevents participants from completing four accepted pull/merge requests. The two foremost reasons for these struggles were a shortage of time and motivation. A smaller group encountered obstacles related to their experience level, and some didn’t feel prepared or motivated to participate in the challenge this year.
“I do open source contributions all year round, the t-shirt was a motivation to concentrate more contributions in October.”
“Being a first-time contributor posed challenges in identifying suitable issues to contribute to. Most of the simpler problems were already assigned, and some of the more intricate ones proved difficult to comprehend within the available time.”
Overwhelmingly, participants leaned towards a free t-shirt or other item such as a hat, mug, or poster. Cash prizes edged out trees planted via TreeNation, certificates, and sticker packs. It was encouraging to see how many of you appreciate the tree reward, which had more votes than stickers or digital badges. Carbon offsets and provider credits were equally desirable, even more so than digital badges.
“I was really impressed with the digital badges, though it would be more exciting if there was a badge with our personalized name on it 😇.”
Many respondents, 62%, were enthusiastic about an in-person event, but only if the event were free; 17% would be willing to pay a fee to attend; 17% were undecided; 4% were a “no.” This question was helpful in gauging general interest. However, whether or not an in-person event will be held will largely depend on how much sponsor support Hacktoberfest receives and where and when it will occur.
As ever, the Hacktoberfest team is deeply grateful to the open source community for not only continuing to make Hacktoberfest one of the most well-attended open source events online but also for your candid feedback. As we work on Hacktoberfest #11, we’re taking your feedback into consideration and we look forward to making 2024 the best year yet. Thank you for your participation and your thoughtful responses!