We need to talk about your Github addiction

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by Ploum on 2023-02-22


Listen my fellow geeks in code, we need to have a serious conversation
about Github.

At first, Github was only a convenient way to host a git repository and
to collaborate with others. But, as always with monopolies, once you are
trapped by convenience and the network effect, the shitification process
starts to try to get as much money and data from you.

First of all, let’s remember that Github is a fully proprietary service.
Using it to host the development of a free software makes no sense if
you value freedom. It is not like we don’t have many alternatives
available (sourcehut, codeberg, gitlab, etc). It should be noted that
those alternatives usually offer a better workflow and a better git
integration than Github. They usually make more sense but, I agree, it
might be hard to change ten years of suboptimal habits imposed by the
github workflow.

One thing that always annoyed me with Github is the "fun factor". Emojis
appearing automatically in messages I’m trying to post, intrusive
notifications about badges and followers I earned. Annoying, to say the
least. (Am I the only one using ":" in a sentence without willing to
make an emoji?)

But I discovered that Github is now pushing it even more in that
direction: a feed full of random projects and people I don’t care about,
notifications to get me to "discover" new projects and "follow" new
persons. They don’t even try to pretend to be a professional platform
anymore. It’s a pure attention-grabbing personal data extorting social
networks. To add insult to injury, we now know that everything published
on Github is mostly there to serve as training data for Microsoft AI

Developers are now raw meat encouraged to get stars, followers and
commit counters, doing the most stupid things in the most appealing way
to get… visibility! Yeah! Engagement! Followers! Audience!

Good code is written when people are focused, thinking hard about a
problem while having the time to grasp the big picture. Modern Github
seems to be purposely built as a tool to avoid people thinking about
what they do and discourage them from writing anything but a new
JavaScript framework.

There’s no way I can morally keep an account on Github. I’ve migrated
all of my own projects to Sourcehut (where I’ve a paid account) or to my
university self-hosted gitlab.

But there are so many projects I care about still on Github. So many
important free software. So many small projects where I might send an
occasional bug report or even a patch. For the anecdote, on at least two
different occasions, I didn’t send a patch I crafted for small projects
because I didn’t know how to send it by mail and was not in the mood to
deal with the Github workflow at that particular time.

By keeping your project on Github, you are encouraging new developers to
sign up there, to create their own project there. Most importantly, you
support the idea that all geeks/developers are somehow on Github, that
it is a badge of pride to be there.

If you care about only one of software freedom, privacy, focus, sane
market without monopoly  or if you simply believe we don’t need even
more bullshit in our lives, you should move your projects out of Github
and advocate a similar migration to projects you care about. Thanks to
git decentralisation, you could even provide an alternative/backup while
keeping github for a while.

If you don’t have any idea where to go, that should be a red light in
your brain about monopoly abuses. If you are a professional developer
and using anything other than Github seems hard, it should be a triple
red light warning.

And I’m not saying that because grumpy-old-beard-me wants to escape
those instagramesque emojis. Well, not only that but, indeed, I don’t
wanna know the next innovative engagement-fostering feature. Thanks.

The best time to leave Github was before it was acquired by Microsoft.
The second-best time is now. Sooner or later, you will be forced out of
Github like we, oldies, were forced out of Sourceforge. Better leaving
while you are free to do it on your own terms…
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