How Wired gets it wrong on the problem of code forking
February 21st, 2012 by ravi

GitHub is for very good reasons immensely popular these days. So it is understandable that Wired decides to shine a light on the service, but lamentable that they chose to do so under the link bait headline “How GitHub Tamed Free Software“, because it is arguable that Free Software is in need of taming and  even more tendentious that Git or GitHub is the solution for this imaginary problem (interestingly, Wired’s thesis is the converse of that of Adam Martin — to wit, GitHub is killing Open Source! — discussed earlier on this blog). Let us dig in.

First, the problem as laid out by Wired using as example of the large number of Linux patches received by Linus Torvalds that withered away in his Inbox:

This was the dirty little secret of open-source software. With the average free software project, large amounts of code — maybe even most code — never actually got used. It was often just too hard for casual users to show developers the changes they’d made and then easily merge those changes back into the open-source code base.

True. The core contributors, often a very small group, have little time to wade through all proposed patches. They have neither the time nor often the inclination. Poring through other people’s code is annoying, especially, I am guessing, when you are an ace coder yourself and could be solving more interesting problems. Visit Mozilla’s Bugzilla bug database for a sampling of the number of bugs with posted patches that those with approval powers have flat out ignored.

How to solve this?

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