I answered such a question on Zhihu a few days ago: How did GitHub get so popular?

The founders of GitHub once mentioned how they met at a Ruby developer meetup in the book Startups Open Sourced and why they value community engagement so much. Their GitHub Drinkup gatherings which started from Bay Area and later on spread over globally into cities with large developer communities has then became a popular event organized by local people. It is so influential that turned GitHub into a genuine developer community from just a source code management tool.

This is the reason. GitHub is not merely a code management tool, but rather a hacker community based on “Git”, one of the most popular technology in open source communities. This is super cool since building a high quality as well as active community is anything but a no-brainer, let alone ‘code’ is the only vernacular spoken in the community. Moreover, hackers, which I mean those who enjoy solving problems in “techie” ways here, often have broad interests, so it is hard to grab their attention for a long time. Paul Graham wrote in the beginning of one of his essays:

“I know a handful of super-hackers, so I sat down and thought about what they have in common. Their defining quality is probably that they really love to program. Normal programmers write codes to pay bills. Great hackers do this for fun, and which they’re delighted to find people will pay them for.”

Graham explains in this long piece all kinds of the characters he found in great hackers. And the aforementioned paragraph is exactly what I think best explains how GitHub gets so popular. GitHub turns Git, a technology originated from the developer community, to a social network, and allows all those passionate coders to communicate through code snippets. The excellent user experience and support from open-source community opinion leaders have helped this community to be far more competitive than others. It may look strange to outsiders that talking about codes can help forming a community. But this is who hackers are. This is just what they love. “Social coding” is the slogan of GitHub, and indeed.

Recently, founder of GitHub, Tom Preston-Werner, wrote in his blog that one of the most important core values of GitHub is “open source (almost) everything”, which makes GitHub a most important part of the open-source community. He exemplifies that when they recently open sourced Hubot, their chat bot, it had 500 watchers on GitHub and 409 upvotes on Hacker News within two days.

On Zhihu, some people are asking about whether there is something like GitHub here in China. There are lots of similar products about code sharing and version management before and after GitHub, like Sourceforge, BitBucket, and even Google Code. But none of those has achieved the leadership in coder communities as GitHub did. From the perspective of creating a high-quality developer community, there is indeed no parallel to GitHub in and out of China.

Now in a time when the market is paying more attention to developers’ value than ever before – be it out of hiring, investing or the purpose of serving developers like we do – Guohe Ad keenly hopes we can create a platform which is open enough for free communication, an effort mirrored in our offline meetups and product updates.

Sometimes I believe that developers understand what they want more than we do, because they are the most talented and diligent people in this world, and the passion they put into their codes and products are far beyond others. That’s also why an open community is far more important than any set rules, topics, or algorithms.

Maybe the situation in China is different from that in the States, but we are to follow the steps of GitHub and build up an energetic community for our outstanding hackers.

This article is written by Neo Zhang, co-founder of Guohe Ad.

Guohe Ad is the largest advertisement management and optimization platform for mobile applications in China, which offers professional solutions including mobile ad aggregation, optimization, management and data analysis for mobile developers.

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