Github worries me

I’m not that keen on git (for mostly aesthetic reasons although I suspect I’ll have to get over this soon), and github makes me jump through a couple of hoops too many to get up and running for the first time, but those aren’t things that worry me.

I’m worried about github going away.

Specifically I’m worried about it going away because so many people I actually know use it. Of course, github reminds me of this every time I log in because the social network features that allow you to follow people, as well as projects, has a constantly updating stream of their activity; something that, as far as I know, Sourceforge and Google Code have never allowed you to do. For me, this changes the dynamic of a hosted version control system quite drastically, because you’re suddenly being shown, very clearly, all the changes your friends are making, and how much they’re investing in this system.

What I really want to know is – where else are they hosting their code? I mean, this is the kind of thing a distributed version control system makes easy, right? But as far as I know, none of these people are hosting their code themselves so that if github went away I’d have no way of ┬ákeeping track of what’s going on nor of accessing their code at all.

This kind of thing never seemed like an obvious concern on the centralised code-hosting services, and if it was then it was localised to “me and the projects I’m interested in”. By spreading that more obviously to my network it seems like a much more important problem.

7 thoughts on “Github worries me

  1. I don’t really see the lose of a convenience mechanism like github as a major threat. One of the inherent benefits of a DVCS is that all the change information exists in every repo. So the disappearance of github would be deeply inconvenient, but not fatal. The members of projects would just regroup and find a new way to share changesets.

    The argument you are making seems akin to suggesting that a hammer is scary because someday it might break and then you would have to go back to using a rock to drive nails. The ease of keeping track of my friends, and projects, activity and making minor contributions to open source projects using github would be hard to live without. However, much of the information displayed by github is embedded in the repos. The information that is not in the repos, by and large, provides the most value when utilized in the present, or very near future. (The activity of your social network, for instance.) Those things combined seem to reduce the systemic risks of github’s potential disappearance. Even if it disappeared tomorrow most of the value it provided will have already been internalized into the developer repos of the projects that have used it.

    It would be nice, philosophically speaking, to have a more distributed version of the features provided by github. But, honestly, that probably a more effort than it is worth.

  2. Er, Peter, I’m don’t think what I’m saying is quite as dramatic as you suggest although I get what you mean :)

    I’m saying “hosted services can go away and github is the first hosting service for code with a significant social networking side to it, thus raising personal investment and the sense of worry about it in general” – I never cared if places like sourceforge disappeared because I knew the code would resurface elsewhere, but how do I recreate that social network that github maintains and displays so well? As you go on to say, this is more philosophical than practical, but then, I wasn’t offering any solutions!

    Jeff – I knew you could star projects but didn’t realise you could do the same with developers; I’ll take a look, thanks.

  3. Now that is an excellent idea, and one that hadn’t occurred to me. I do keep forgetting that gitorious exists – probably because the few times I tried to use it in Jan sometime it was down!

    The interesting thing about running your own of course, is that you could have scripts that just mirrored existing repos. A problem still exists for when a centralised, non-personally hosted repo goes away (like github) but at least you have an idea of who you were following and what their code was and thus somewhere to start piecing things back together (in a worst case scenario).

    Every couple of years I write some code to pull my Flickr photos, metadata and some stuff from friends/contacts there so I’m not dependent on them (especially since they’re now dependent on Yahoo!) but it’s never very good :(

  4. Pingback: tecosystems » Forking, The Future of Open Source, and Github

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