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Open Source and the Role of a Good README

March 18, 2019 • ☕️ 4 min read

I spent the better part of last week working on a project I started almost two years ago.

The premise? Create a repository of books for web developers to read and open source it to GitHub.

I created the repo then and made it private; I didn’t have time to put in the work required to make it serviceable let alone great.

I watched as repos with resources being shared for developers became increasingly popular. I decided to try my hand at my reading list and another repo I have going. I spent 12 hours over three days creating the repo, gathering books I had read or that were recommended to me; articles I found that had an effect on the way I think about web development and those that were recommended to me.

Awesome list or not to Awesome list

Originally it was made to be an Awesome list. I was chasing that clout, of course; getting my repo in front of thousands of eyes was appealing. But as I worked on it I felt that the requirements left me very little freedom to make the list my own. So I scrapped it.

Awesome did give me something though

It taught me about having a header image for your repo. It taught me about having a Code of Conduct and Contributing guidelines and Table of Contents. I worked on that for days.

The first iteration in VS Code

Tweeting, DEV’ing and hoping for the best

I finished the repo last Friday evening. I tweeted about it:

Hashtagging made all the difference. I specifically targeted the most frequently used hashtags, throwing up a lob and hoping someone would come down for the dunk.

I also made a post on DEV talking about it.

2 stars become 40

I looked shortly after I made the repo public. I had two stars. By night’s end I had 40.

Not bad, not bad

I woke up and there were 235. I went out with my friends to celebrate one of their birthdays and while out I checked again. 394 stars.

I also gained another 22 followers on GitHub.

The stars kept coming

Four days on and I have over 1300 stars.

I also made GitHub trending:

Number 3 is not too shabby

I was a “popular” developer for one day

How did this happen?

I attribute this to a couple of factors.

  1. Riding a wave
  2. A README with personality
  3. Clear CoC and contribution guidelines
  4. Luck
  5. And good old marketing

Riding a wave

List repos are hot and I don’t see that slowing down any time soon. I simply rode a wave.

README has personality

I wanted it to look a certain way; to be welcoming and have all the emojis I wanted without overdoing it. The header image and ToC really helped.

Clear CoC and contributing guidelines

I won’t tolerate bullsh*t. I also have a clear vision for the repo:

  • Must be books or articles you’ve read and are good or thought-provoking, which is obviously subjective
  • Or books and articles recommended to you by other developers, most importantly ones you respect.

These are simple quality control metrics and so far the PRs I’ve gotten respect this.

Luck

See Riding a wave.

Good old marketing

This one is important. I made another tweet about it that made my skin crawl. I really, really dislike selling. But as someone on Twitter pointed out to me:

Introverted most of the time

Extroverted for a paycheck.

Indeed.

Here’s to the repo’s health and popularity

I have more to add and plan on doing it every weekend.

You can find it below.

The JavaScript Developer’s Reading List.

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Tiffany R. White Blog

Tiffany White

Blog of Tiffany White. Thoughts on React & web development. My stuff: /uses.