The explosive growth of Hacktoberfest and the t-shirt redemption

Since 2014, we’ve been supporting Hacktoberfest – one of the largest global tech events. To encourage open source development, DigitalOcean and Dev put on the event, where the first 50,000 participants to complete four public coding requests receive a t-shirt and sticker.

It’s no small feat shipping a t-shirt halfway across the world, especially to this scale of recipients. Imagine handling stacks and stacks of shirts, while trying to collect sizes and shipping addresses, providing customer service, and dealing with shipping and customs. DigitalOcean leaned into Kotis’s experience – they handled the coding while we handled the swag.

Hacktoberfest didn’t always take on the massive, global scale it commands today. In 2014, we were sent a Google sheet of 515 participants who had completed the coding requests. Each year, this number ballooned – from 515 to 5,500 to 10,000 to 32,000 to 48,000 and now finally 50,000 shirts a year.

With this type of scale, DigitalOcean couldn’t rely on a simple spreadsheet to capture all customer data accurately. Enter our program service, where users would receive a code to redeem on our site for a free shirt and stickers. No more spreadsheet, no more headaches. Our system recorded sizes and shipping addresses, so DigitalOcean’s attention could remain 100% on what mattered most – quality, open source coding.

The Offset

It’s no small feat shipping a t-shirt halfway across the world, especially to this scale of recipients. Imagine handling stacks and stacks of shirts, while trying to collect sizes and shipping addresses, providing customer service, and dealing with shipping and customs. DigitalOcean leaned into Kotis’s experience – they handled the coding while we handled the swag.

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Stickers: More than a Finishing Touch

Swag that gets used and seen is called sticky, seems like a perfect way to describe stickers. Each year, Digital Ocean includes a collection of fun stickers, ranging from their superhero shark Sammy to sponsors of the annual event. These stickers, more often than not, immediately end up on the laptops of their top users. Visible in office buildings and coffee shops alike, these stickers last long after the event, and will keep Digital Ocean top of mind for years to come.