“Building and Maintaining a Project Community with Github”, my talk at OSCON 2011

Here’s the OSCON page link to add to your schedules.

github.com has taken open source by storm, but it’s more than just a code repository with the latest hot source control system. It’s a new way of working with open source projects.

The web-based social aspects of github can change the human and technical dynamics of working on open source projects. Some of the issues I’ll discuss include:

  • Easier access to code means lower barrier to entry means more people submitting patches. This is a boon, and brings challenges.
  • People seem to expect patches to be accepted because of the ease with which change sets are created. These expectations may clash with project goals.
  • Watching the github fork network lets you see what other people are doing with their forks. It allows me as a project admin to see what people are doing with the code.
  • New workflows are required. A branch and merge strategy for development is crucial.
  • Projects need a guidemap to tell people what to do, because people may think it’s just a simple matter of creating a fork, making a change, and saying “Here’s my work, now integrate it.”
  • Project branches can easily become large, hard-to-handle change sets. Less care and thought is put into change sent back to the project because merging is so easy. Contributors still must work together to coordinate work.
  • Discussion of patches has moved from the mailing list to the change request itself. This can diminish visibility and discussion.

I’ll discuss these and other aspects of community and project management and give examples from my own experiences migrating existing projects to github.

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