Spamtoberfest October 1, 2020 on Drew DeVault's blog

As I’ve written before, the best contributors to a FOSS project are intrinsically motivated to solve problems in your software. This sort of contribution is often fixing an important problem and places a smaller burden on maintainers to spend their time working with the contributor. I’ve previously contrasted this with the “I want to help out!” contributions, where a person just has a vague desire to help out. Those contributions are, generally, less valuable and place a greater burden on the maintainer. Now, DigitalOcean has lowered the bar even further with Hacktoberfest.

Disclaimer: I am the founder of a FOSS project hosting company similar to GitHub.

As I write this, a Digital Ocean-sponsored and GitHub-enabled Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is ongoing, wasting the time of thousands of free software maintainers with an onslaught of meaningless spam. Bots are spamming tens of thousands of pull requests like this:

Screenshot of a spam pull request on GitHub which adds garbage to the README.md file

The official response from both Digital Ocean and GitHub appears to be passing the buck. Digital Ocean addresses spam in their FAQ, putting the burden of dealing with it entirely on the maintainers:

Spammy pull requests can be given a label that contains the word “invalid” or “spam” to discount them. Maintainers are faced with the majority of spam that occurs during Hacktoberfest, and we dislike spam just as much as you. If you’re a maintainer, please label any spammy pull requests submitted to the repositories you maintain as “invalid” or “spam”, and close them. Pull requests with this label won’t count toward Hacktoberfest.

via Hacktoberfest FAQ

Here’s GitHub’s response:

The content and activity you are reporting appears to be related to Hacktoberfest. Please keep in mind that GitHub Staff is not enforcing Hacktoberfest rules; we will, however, enforce our own Acceptable Use Policies. According to the Hacktoberfest FAQ… [same quote as given above]

via @kyleknighted@twitter.com

So, according to these two companies, whose responsibility is it to deal with the spam that they’ve created? The maintainers, of course! All for a T-Shirt.

Let’s be honest. Hacktoberfest has never generated anything of value for open source. It’s a marketing stunt which sends a deluge of low-effort contributions to maintainers, leaving them to clean up the spam. I’ve never been impressed with Hacktoberfest contributions, even the ones which aren’t obviously written by a bot:

Screenshot of a pull request which needlessly comment a CSS file

Hacktoberfest is, and has always been, about one thing: marketing for Digital Ocean.

This is what we get with corporate-sponsored “social coding”, brought to you by Digital Ocean and GitHub and McDonalds, home of the Big Mac™. When you build the Facebook of coding, you get the Facebook of coding. We don’t need to give away T-Shirts to incentivize drive-by drivel from randoms who will never get any closer to open source than a +1/-1 README.md change.

What would actually benefit FOSS is to enable the strong mentorship necessary raise a new generation of software engineers under the tutelage of maintainers who can rely on a strong support system to do their work. Programs like Google Summer of Code do this better. Programs where a marketing department spends $5,000 on T-Shirts to flood maintainers with garbage and clothe people in ads are doing the opposite: hurting open source.

Screenshot of a friend’s notifications, 9 out of 11 of which are spam

Check out @shitoberfest on Twitter for more Hacktoberfest garbage.

Update 2020-10-03: Digital Ocean has updated their rules, among other things asking maintainers to opt-in, to reduce spam.

⇒ This article is also available on gemini.

Have a comment on one of my posts? Start a discussion in my public inbox by sending an email to ~sircmpwn/public-inbox@lists.sr.ht [mailing list etiquette]

Articles from blogs I read Generated by openring

Status update, May 2022

Hi all! This month’s status update will be shorter than usual, because I’ve taken some time off to visit Napoli. Discovering the city and the surrounding region was great! Of course the main reason to visit is to taste true Neapolitan pizza. I must admit, th…

via emersion May 24, 2022

What's cooking on SourceHut? May 2022

Hello everyone! We’re back at it for another month of news in the SourceHut sphere. Of our now 29,036 users, 630 are new this month: please offer them a warm welcome, and your patience, as they learn about the new platform. todo.sr.ht Comprehensive GraphQL-na…

via Blogs on Sourcehut May 16, 2022

Summary of changes for April

Hey everyone! This is the list of all the changes we've done to our projects and apps during the month of April. We'll also be reporting in our on position in the world, and on our future plans. Summary Of Changes Bicycle, released an Uxntal pla…

via Hundred Rabbits May 1, 2022