GitHub is the dominant platform for hosting open source code. It’s hardly ubiquitous, there are other hosting services and many projects self-host. Nonetheless, it’s the go-to place for many FLOSS projects and has lowered the barrier to contribution. Arguably, it’s brought the barrier too low.
At least, that’s my interpretation of an open letter to GitHub published on Thursday. Signed by dozens of project maintainers, the letter identifies troubles that often arise on the GitHub platform and offer suggestions for fixes.
The issues raised in the letter are legitimate, and they’re expressed quite reasonably for something published on the Internet, but they highlight what GitHub is and isn’t. GitHub is a source code management platform, it is not a community management platform.
That’s not to say it can’t be. GitHub is great for what it does, but it could be even better. Managing code is easy; managing contributors and other community members is not. For GitHub to take the next step in promoting open source software development, it needs to provide tools that aid in community. That includes bug and issue tracking, communication (mailing lists?), and other features that turn a project’s users into community members.