On github as a social network

June 3, 2022 on Eric Bower's blog

Ever since I became jaded by social networks, I’ve been examining the sites I visit and why I continue to visit them. We all know the addictive behavior driving social networking “engagement.” Ever since I first discovered facebook I have been fighting against the constant drip of accumulating social currency. Slowly I began to realize that these social networking sites were echo-chambers that really didn’t mean much at all. When you talk to people in person, there’s a sense of restraint. In person, people have manners, can read the room, and understand what they should vocalize to their listeners. Perhaps most important of all, they know when to keep thoughts to themselves.

It was only on these social networking sites, where people have a podium, that I noticed quite a change in discourse. All of a sudden, you could read family and friends' thoughts on all types of subjects that are never uttered in person. Through these sites, I learned that some things are best left unsaid. And so I left.

However, there’s still a few social networking sites that I use. There’s one in particular, that is cloaked under the guise of productivity. Hidden behind both my personal and professional life. It’s one of the first pages I open during the day, and one of the last ones to be closed before bed. Notifications from this site are important because they could be a ping from a colleague who needs me to review what they wrote. Or it could be a new question raised on one of my projects. Github is the worst kind of social networking site. Like a virus, it has infected my mind and is constantly getting me to engage with it. It’s a social networking site that I have to use for work. Software engineers stand no chance against github. How did a site with such good intentions turn into one that preys so easily upon our weaknesses?

“Github is the software engineer’s resume, it will help you get a job” That’s what I have convinced myself is true. Is it actually true, though? I imagine it’s true for the people who have accumulated a lot of social currency. However, it has been my experience that many companies do not even look at your resume. No, these companies have a rigid process for potential employees and they rarely deviate from the norm.

Now, with github sponsors, it’s easier than ever to become popular and get paid to work on open source projects. Popular, being the operative word. There’s even more reason to use github because the platform could help suppliment your income.

Why do I get so excited when I receive stars on my projects hosted on github? I am constantly trying to come up with new projects to build, but do I actually want to build them? Or do I just want social currency? I’m not sure I can tell the difference anymore.

Github isn’t just a code repository, it’s a social networking site. The network effect makes it really hard to host other open source projects anywhere else. I catch myself typing in a somewhat generic phrase, looking for a OSS project, and append the search with “github.” Ultimately, github makes it easier for people to discover your work. People that want to share their work and have people use it gravitate towards github. No other code repository site has as much mindshare as github and it’s all thanks to the human desire to accumulate and compare with peers. Humans yearn for social clout and recognition.

Why was my judgment so clouded?

I really like sourcehut and will be moving everything there. There are no “engagement” features like stars or trending projects. Drew, more than anyone, has made me realize that you don’t have to participate in social networking in order to have people use your projects.

For now, I’m going to maintain a mirror on github of my popular code repositories, but I think I need to start distancing myself from the most addictive social network in my life.


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