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Nevo David

How to get contributors to your repository

August 12, 2023

Nevo David

Growing your open-source library is not only about stars. If you can’t build a natural, sustainable community around your product, there’s a low chance you even get stars. Today I will present a way to grow to hundreds of contributors with multiple to-do steps - REAL TACTICS HERE.

Here are the topics I am going to touch on today:

  • Preparing your library to accept new developers

  • Perfecting your personal file

  • Creating issues

  • Lead-gen contributors

1. Preparing your library 📕

No matter how many stars you bring, if people just hit your GitHub library and run out - you’ve got a dead funnel. Stars are a vanity metric to measure growth, but you'll have slow growth without building a community around your product - mainly contributors/collaborators.

Perfect your library readme file - your readme file should be super clear about what you do:

  • Don’t put a “one-liner” of what you do. Try to explain it for babies’ use as many words as you need - avoid things like: “We make it better” or “We are an open-source alternative to Y,” not everybody knows what Y is unless it’s an alternative to one of the biggest tech companies.

  • Show a video of what you do (without scrolling the page). It would give excellent context if somebody didn’t get it from the headline.

  • Add feature bullets. It provides a much easier way to read.

  • Ask for a star that’s super important in the early days.

  • Link to the issues page.

2. Perfecting your personal README file 😻

This is a simple step, and it’s literally taking your library README file and
reflecting it to your personal README file just in the context of a person.
Make sure you also add "looking for contributors."

Send a link from your README file to the library that’s super important.
You will learn why on the Lead-gen step.

You know a lot about technologies, and you might be a super exciting person - but if your main goal is to grow your library, try not to list your technologies and knowledge it creates a confusing page.

3. Creating issues ⚒️

Open source is free, but let’s face it, features are not a democracy - if somebody contributes features you don’t need - you will not merge it.
And that’s why you usually don’t see contributors open “features” requests on the issues page (separate community members from customers)

Make it easier for contributors - open as many bugs and issues as possible, and be super detailed about how to solve them. It’s much easier for contributors to get into context than to look for a context.

If you are starting - try to add easier features with the “good first issue” tag:

  • Providers integrations

  • Typos

  • CSS fixes

  • Interface creations

A good first issue tag is excellent because many website aggregators use it to display issues for juniors to come and solve.

You need to start collecting contributors.

3. Lead-gen contributors ✏️

Now that you are ready to accept new contributors, let’s find them.
I have talked about many stars strategy before that brings contributors, but today, something different. Getting contributors from other libraries.

Let’s face it, your library is incredible, but there might be many similar libraries, more successful, with many contributors that can easily contribute to your library - maybe even some are remotely closed.

For example - Novu is an open-source notification infrastructure; I can definitely reach Twilio contributors even though it’s just a provider; it’s related to notifications.

Head over to that repository and click on the pull requests page - you will find (hopefully) some contributions from different community members.

Go to the contributor page and hit that “follow” button.
Once you do that, they will check your README personal file, and if it’s interesting, they will go to your library page and contribute to you. I saw that happening a lot of times.

Another option that I like more is shooting an email. If the contributor has an email, instead of following, send a super personalized email:

Hi [name],

Super happy to meet you,

I have noticed your pull request in [library name],

I love what you did with [what you did]

I have a library that do a similar thing

[Present the library]

I thought about reaching out and see maybe you can help us a bit with our issues 😃

Here is the link: [link]

Please let me know what you think,


Of course, you can play with it the match your style/taste.

You can’t even imagine the response rate I got for those emails.

Please make sure you make it unique and research the person you email.

Open-source stories

Do you have a GitHub library with more than 1k stars?

Can I interview and feature you in the next newsletter?

Please reply to this email, and let’s schedule a call!

Do you need help?

If you are building something and are serious about it, feel free to schedule a call with me here (it’s free). I might give you some “aha!” moments. Who knows 🙇🏻‍♂️

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See you next week!