How to get more than 3500 stars on GitHub in a week and why you need it

Original author: Diana Neculai
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We recently launched a new project called Froala Design Blocks . A few days later, we got to the list of the most popular GitHub repositories . A week later, we scored 3500 stars and over the next two we consistently collected another 500 per day.

Unlike Twitter or Facebook, where you can gain followers or likes through advertising schemes, only those who really impressed your project put stars on GitHub. Therefore, their number says a lot - this is a reliable indicator that arouses trust and affects the decision of people when they think whether to try a product.

Froala Design Blocks is not our first product, we have been on GitHub for several years. But I only recently began to realize the value of stars and delve into what rules need to be followed so that people set them. So I hope that both beginners and veterans will find here something new for themselves on how to fully use the potential of the stars to represent and improve their project.

Make a stunning README

A README file on GitHub is like the main page of a website. This is the first thing visitors see, so it’s important to make a good impression. It is possible that someone will click on the star simply because the pictures are cool and the project seems to be interesting.

A good README contains all the key information so that developers can immediately understand what the essence of the project is, why it should be used and how to do it. There are many templates, I would recommend this one from Billie Thompson .

Although README is usually written in Markup, try to make it beautifully. Good content is not enough, in addition to useful information, it should also have a design. Our brain reads visual information very well, but decoding the text requires more cognitive effort. I would even say this: what README looks like is more important than what it says.

How to make README beautiful? We have studied for this some excellent examples from the list that Matias Singers compiled . But if you do not have time for this, then here is a brief squeeze:

  1. Use labels - they inspire confidence and summarize the information that interests the developer in the first place.
  2. Use pictures or gifs - it could be a banner, logo, ideally something that would clearly demonstrate the essence of the product. But do not overdo it so that the attention of visitors is not scattered.

The fact that your target audience is developers does not mean that you can be lazy. We are people too, although here, probably, not everyone will agree with me.

Tell me directly what you need

Let people know if you want them to take part in the work, contribute or make suggestions. As the GitHub administration says, you must actively build cooperation yourself.

We took some ideas from our list of planned improvements and updates and added them to Issues. Issues on GitHub are not necessarily just “problems” in the sense that the word suggests. Among them, you can see not only bugs (that is, really problems), but also new features. In addition, we have some fragments in the code that are not written in the most optimal way, and we understand this; there are also some topics that we would like to discuss. All this is suitable to start a conversation.

Finally, we put tags like help wanted on our Issues., good first issue , enhancement and discuss ( help is needed , for beginners , improvement and discussion ). Some of the tags are not just for organization. GitHub advises those who want to have a hand in other people's projects to view issues and pull requests under the help wanted and good first issue labels . The latter indicate that the authors are interested in cooperation.

Get people to your GitHub page

Now that your page is ready to amaze people with beauty, it remains only to lure them there in any way possible. It all depends on your imagination.

We personally added a few buttons to the website that redirect users to GitHub. At the same time, we either asked visitors to express their opinion or vote for us, or simply used the button with an asterisk . Our site remains the main source of referrals, although the repository also has enough other referrals:

Search for Developer Concentrations

To begin with, developers are just sitting on GitHub, so put down topics for their repositories - this way it will be easier to find your project for those who specialize in relevant areas or are trying to find a solution for a specific problem.

Further, placing a project in popular package management systems is a great way to attract the attention of an audience. If your project is designed for front-end developers, pay attention to NPM and CDNJS . Choose a system depending on what programming language you write. Let's say Ruby developers use RubyGems , there is Composer for PHP, PyPi is suitable for Python , and .NET libraries are usually published onNuGet .

Be interested in community feedback.

Feel free to join new groups on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn and ask members to help you or share your opinions. Just be careful: if you don’t know the measures, it can turn into spam and give the opposite effect.

So do not spam. I advise you first to check whether the community rules allow such posts, and then to publish. In many communities that are related to our products, by the time of publication we have already managed to show ourselves as active participants. We also took into account the specifics of each group, customized the message text for it, and selected the most appropriate images.

Mailing list

If you have a website and people subscribe there for news, now is the time to remind them of your existence.

We have compiled a list of more than 2,000 addresses - we sent all these people letters with news about the launch. It is better to use special tools for automatic mailing, so that there are no unpleasant surprises.

Add the share button on Twitter

Twitter is one of the best channels for spreading information among developers. However, if they themselves have to write some kind of explanatory text, the process will stretch to an extra step.

Help people easily tweet - add the Share button next to the README heading and compose your message in advance.

Below we give the code that was used for the Twitter button; adjust it by changing the parameters text , url , via and hashtags :


Do not get carried away by advertising

Advertising is an additional channel through which you can attract people to the repository, if, of course, you have money for it. But do not forget: stars are not bought. Even those who come to your page through an advertisement will only give a star if they like the project. If the channels that I mentioned work well, the ad just makes no sense.

Our advertising costs amounted to $ 3 per day for a campaign on Facebook. Its duration was 5 days, respectively, it cost us $ 15. This was only necessary in order to start the business and collect the first few hundred stars. The first two days, she probably really worked for us, but the remaining three we threw money to the wind - the project already began to gain momentum.

I plan to invest more in the next project on GitHub, but only in the first couple of days to start the process.

Free and open source

This is of great importance. People often put stars on free projects simply as a sign of respect or gratitude, but for paid ones some users will not vote purely from the principle.

Froala Design Blocks is a free open source project, and it helped us a lot. For comparison, our other project , which is distributed for a fee, but has earned the attention and approval of leading IT companies, has not received such popularity.

List of the most popular repositories on GitHub

Getting there is extremely difficult. You will compete with the most powerful developers from around the globe. To break into the top of a particular language is a little easier, but not everyone succeeds in taking the first position. The advice I gave before this should help you get your way upstairs. If possible, you will see a lot more people, which will lead to organic growth. First, early followers usually look at these lists. Secondly, GitHub will write about you on Twitter, and the news will fly around.

Take negative feedback

All people are different, our needs and preferences are very different. If your project has gained popularity, be prepared for unflattering reviews. Some of them can help you improve the product, some can be considered as a matter of taste, and some are clearly left simply out of a desire to find fault.

Do not turn away from the negative, try to understand where it comes from. There will always be people who simply do not need what you do in principle. If you can extract something from a negative review that will improve the product, then take a note. If not, do not enter into disputes.

Be careful with the weekend

Over the weekend, traffic on GitHub always drops. But the decision whether to publish your project on weekdays or at the end of the week should be based on who you are targeting.

Traffic drops for all projects, not just yours. Publication at the weekend will not have a negative effect, but may slow growth.

However, freelancers and early adopters, by contrast, are becoming more active over the weekend. If you expect to attract their attention first of all and are sure that you will succeed, then this can give you a head start in trying to get on the list of popular products.

But why?

The question is fair, because all this will require a lot of work, and for the sake of what - some stars on GitHub? Below I tried to summarize what benefit we have received from this and, possibly, you will receive.

Traffic GitHub now leads the list of referral sites for Froala Design Blocks. No matter how brilliantly you conduct search engine optimization, it will still be difficult for your site or domain to compete with GitHub traffic.

An opportunity to learn something new. GitHub is one of the main channels for those who want to develop their programming skills. Nevertheless, for some reason they are often neglected; their potential is not appreciated highly enough. As a developer and founder of a startup, I am of the opinion that popularity among developers is a source of an almost unlimited amount of information you need.

We learned a lot of new concepts, technologies and ways to refine the source code, thanks to the feedback received from other users. This helped us to make the project better, and to enrich our knowledge in the field of IT.

Community. “Do not forget: we always stumble sometimes. That’s why it’s easier to go hand in hand. ” - Emily Kimbrough Audience

Growth. Users will start subscribing to you and on social networks. Accordingly, the next time you decide to publish a project, more people will see it.

The trust.If you leave aside the early followers, developers are usually guided by popularity when choosing products that they plan to use. Stars are one of the reliable indicators of popularity, as well as the number of Issues and users interacting with the project.

Satisfaction. In addition to practical benefits, we as developers will experience a sense of deep satisfaction when we see that thousands of people use our product and vote for it.

Good luck with your project!

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