GitHub is Making Me Lazy But I Like It

(This is a repost from the HipChat Blog)

Open source projects depend on community cooperation. Successful projects have a healthy group of individuals and companies submitting code, writing documentation, and testing new features. Unfortunately it’s not always easy to contribute because different projects will use different bug trackers, version control systems, and approval processes. Package maintainers also have a hard time handling all the incoming patches in a timely manner which frustrates the contributors.

In 2005 Linus Torvalds created the Git version control system in order to solve problems he was having dealing with patches to the Linux kernel. A few years later GitHub came along with a nice web interface on top of Git, making it trivially easy to fork, patch, and contribute to projects hosted there. The standardized wiki and issue tracker features mean that many projects are setup in the same way. Once you learn how to contribute to one project on GitHub you know how to commit to all of them.

Unfortunately GitHub makes it so easy that I’ve found myself becoming lazy. It feels a lot harder to contribute to non-GitHub projects because it often requires signing up for their custom bug tracker, learning the patch process, and waiting longer before the patch is accepted. That extra friction is sometimes enough to prevent me from submitting a fix, and that’s not good for the project.

Ease of contribution is clearly an important factor for open source and other community-driven projects (just look at Wikipedia). As GitHub continues to grow, are more projects going to feel pressure to switch? I think they will, and I’m looking forward to it. Better software is good for everyone.