The GitHub Revolution

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Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash

When most people hear “open-source”, they think democratic, distributed, egalitarian: everyone building things together for everyone else to use.

But that hasn’t actually been the case. Most open source software has been created and maintained by a privileged and protected class of people — professional developers — who interacted with other developers that were a lot like them (though were just different enough to have a good argument with).

The workflow for using GitHub is very personal. A person has an account, and everything they publish exists one level below them. If someone else wants to fix something, they “fork” it, which puts a copy of it under them.

This workflow is very empowering: It encourages individuals to fix things and own those fixes just as much as they own the projects they start. It also gives all users an identity in the new open source culture; GitHub is actually the number-one identity provider for peer-based production over the internet in more than just code.

The first versions of GitHub did one thing very well: they made it much easier to publish — than to not publish — your code. This was enough for many notable projects, including Ruby on Rails, to move to GitHub almost immediately.

Today a vast landscape of simple and understandable software is accessible to a creative class of people who did not have the depth of technical knowledge necessary to participate in the large open source projects of the past.

This blurring of relationships between producers, contributors, and consumers naturally values smaller and more easily understood projects — and has led to a long tail of contributions, which will only keep growing.

Let’s all of us be part of the “GitHub revolution”!

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