The New York Times
Monday, December 31, 2012
GitHub Has Big Dreams for Open-Source Software, and More
By QUENTIN HARDY
Software is not merely about automating every aspect of our lives anymore. Some of its makers want to change the way we all interact, spreading their supposed egalitarian excellence.
Whether this is liberation into a new and better mode of being (and yes, the people thinking about this take it to that scale) or the folly of an industry in love with its success is one of the more intriguing questions of a world rushing to live online.
GitHub is a San Francisco company that started in 2008 as a way for open-source software writers in disparate locations to rapidly create new and better versions of their work. Work is stored, shared and discussed, based on the idea of a "pull request," which is a suggestion to the group for some accretive element, like several lines of code, to be "pulled," or added, to a project.
"The concept is based around change: what is the right thing to do, what is the wrong thing?" said Tom Preston-Werner, GitHub's co-founder and chief executive. "The efficiency of large groups working together is very low in large enterprises. We want to change that."
Mr. Preston-Werner's own company is something of a proxy for how he sees the world. GitHub has no managers among its 140 employees, for example. "Everyone has management interests," he said. "People can work on things that are interesting to them. Companies should exist to optimize happiness, not money. Profits follow." He does, however, retain his own title and decides things like salaries.
In his blog Mr. Preston-Werner has written about how important it is for companies to expose as much of their inner workings as possible. Another member of GitHub has posted a talk that stresses how companies flourish when people want to work on certain things, not because they are told to.