GitHub doesn’t think you know how open source works, and it may be right. The company has introduced some ‘guides’ to help us all navigate some of the confusion around open source, and provide some subtle ground rules for its platform.
‘Open Source Guides’ (we’re done with clever naming schemes, evidently) is comprised of 10 forums where GitHub attempts to explain fundamental concepts. It’s actually a pretty comprehensive list, spanning things like contributing to projects down through the legalese of open-source projects. Here’s the full list of topics:
- How To Contribute To Open Source
- Starting An Open Source Project
- Finding Users For Your Product
- Building Welcoming Communities
- Best Practices For Maintainers
- Leadership And Governance
- Getting Paid For Open Source Work
- Your Code Of Conduct
- Open Source Metrics
- The Legal Side Of Open Source
Each guide features sub-topics, with a table of contents in case you need to avoid things that don’t interest or relate to you (but we suggest reading all the way through nonetheless).
It’s an interesting stance for GitHub to take, but not a surprising one. Though it tends to remain hands-off about what goes on between managers and contributors via the site, GitHub is widely viewed as the de facto open-source service. So it’s nice to see it actually grab the wheel and steer the ship.
But that doesn’t mean GitHub has actually taken full control. The guides are just that; some of what’s discussed within is tied directly to the open source code of conduct, while other topics are strictly enforced by licensing, leaving GitHub as the guiding hand and not the authority. Still, Open Source Guides serves as better documentation of what GitHub expects from us.
It’s the right time for a set of lightly enforceable rules, too. After Dash for iOS went open source, some rushed to judgment about how the code was compiled and maintained. Similarly, a spat between Wix and WordPress may have been avoided with a clear explanation of open source licensing (which is covered in the new guides, thankfully). If we had these guides back then, it would have been easy to point to them as a means of quieting some of the storm.
With so many huge entities hosting projects on GitHub, the synergy of open source has never been greater. It’s actually refreshing to see GitHub take a step back and temper our enthusiasm with a dose of ethics.