3 Lessons I Learned from Participating in Hacktoberfest

When I was in college, several of my fellow Computer Science friends would get excited when October would roll around because that meant it was time for Hacktoberfest. At the time, I didn’t really understand the appeal. Why would I sacrifice my precious time to contribute to someone else’s code? However, when I found out that ServiceNow took part in Hacktoberfest with their own set of repositories, I decided it was time to give it a try. After all, it might help me at work, right?

As a first-time Hacktoberfest participant, I jumped in with both feet! Within the span of three days, I had already submitted the four required pull requests, but I couldn’t stop there! I ended up making ten pull requests over the course of the month, landing myself in the top 5% of both this year’s leaderboard and the all-time leaderboard. Not bad for a first-year participant! Because I enjoyed it so much, I decided to share some of the lessons I learned throughout my experience.

1. Anyone can participate

As ServiceNow’s Hacktoberfest repositories were being advertised, it was mentioned several times that you didn’t have to be a pro-code developer to participate, and it’s true! There were tasks catered to all levels of technical ability. From adding a simple record to a table in the Plants app, to modifying the code for the Menu-Generating-Operations-Program-Widget-Custom-Component, there was something for everyone!

In addition to having tasks for our pro-code, low-code, and no-code friends alike, the community was also super supportive in getting individuals up and running. The #hacktoberfest channel in the SNDevs slack was a great place to go to get help with questions. A big thank you to all those who were active in that channel, answering the questions (including my own) that came in.

2. Source control is your friend

Ever since going through the ServiceNow Application Developer training as an intern at Yansa Labs, I’ve been aware that ServiceNow has source control capabilities. That being said, I’ve always been a little wary of it failing to track my changes and handle conflicts. Having spent some time as a traditional web developer, I was very comfortable with the way git allows multiple developers to work on the same project at the same time. My team has been slowly moving our traditional update set management over to source control, but because we’re a smaller team, it wasn’t until I participated in Hacktoberfest that I was really able to see ServiceNow’s source control capabilities in action.

When I initially looked at the Plants app repository, I was a bit overwhelmed with the number of pull requests that were coming in. The thought of dealing with all those potential conflicts scared me. Luckily, my fears didn’t stop me from participating. I read the README (always a good idea), forked the repo, imported the app into my PDI, and jumped in! After I made my first pull request and it was approved and merged, I realized how easy it really was to use source control with ServiceNow. It wasn’t long before I had submitted 5 different pull requests for the Plants app!

3. There is always more to learn

Because Yansa wants our apps (like YDS OneSearch) up-to-date with the latest ServiceNow features, I’ve spent a lot of time working in the Next Experience framework building custom components so that customers can use our apps with their configurable workspaces. I hate to admit it now, but I thought I knew just about everything there was to know about developing custom components for workspaces! Participating in Hacktoberfest humbled me really quick.

I decided I wanted to try my hand at contributing to the Menu-Generating-Operations-Program-Widget-Custom-Component repository. After cloning the component code to my machine and importing the sister workspace experience repository to my PDI, I realized that my previous approach to custom components was just one of many ways to tackle component development. Seeing the way Maria Gabriela and Jesalyn Smith had tied the component to the workspace experience through dispatched events was a bit mind-blowing for me. In the past, I had always handled most of the events from within the component itself. They handled the events in UI Builder so as to provide the implementer as much flexibility as possible. Neither way was wrong or even better than the other, but I definitely learned a lot from digging into code that Maria Gabriela and Jesalyn had developed. I look forward to taking what I learned from them and applying it to my own development.


Well it happened…I’m now a Hacktoberfest fan, just like my college peers! I’m grateful for the lessons I was able to learn through participating this year. I look forward to taking what I learned and applying it to the ServiceNow development I do every day!

And of course this article wouldn’t be complete without a HUGE shoutout to the AMAZING Hacktoberfest crew for all of their hard work and dedication. They are the true heroes responsible for the success of this year’s experience.

Let the countdown begin to October 1st, 2024!