50 Shades of Open Source
Development

50 Shades of Open Source

Because sometimes losing control means source control.

After attending my first ever GitHub Universe (yes, it was awesome) as Axosoft’s evangelist for GitKraken, I learned that open-source is super sexy. And, well…closed-source is delightfully naughty too! So, basically, two spaces that are supposed to be mortal enemies are now friends with benefits.

CEO of GitHub, Chris Wanstrath, kicked off GitHub Universe with this message:

“It’s not an open source/closed source world — it’s more nuanced. Some of the biggest companies today are using open source. The world is much more gray today than black and white.”
Chris Wanstrath, GitHub CEO

You could hear a collective gasp from the audience, like someone just said, “Guess who’s running for president? Octocat, Mona Lisa, and she’s winning!”

So, let me try to explain some of the shades of gray around open and closed source:

  • GitKraken is built on an open-source framework, Electron, but it is not open-source.
  • Nodegit is open source and one of our developers is a core-maintainer even though he, himself, works on a closed-source project, GitKraken.
  • GitHub is not open-source, although it does support and facilitate open-source projects and communities.
  • Yes, the octocat is a girl named, Mona Lisa! Totally makes sense, right?!
github universe octocat

Ok, I was more confused than when I started this blog, so I asked one of our GitKraken developers, Kyle Smith, what he had to say about the open/closed-source situation.

“I think open-source is great. One of the most mind-blowing things for me when I started working on GitKraken was realizing how easy it was to contribute to open source; that you could talk to and work with your dev heroes online and make significant (or tiny) contributions to tools you use.”

He goes on to say, “I don’t understand the sometimes harsh reactions people have over closed-source. People have to make money to eat.”

Ok, this was starting to make sense! Hang tight for the metaphor, kids: Open-source is like volunteering, right? You collaborate with a bunch of people, share ideas, skills, etc. to create something larger than the sum of its parts, and your payment is the satisfaction of knowing you have contributed to a necessary community.

Closed-source is like going to work, right? It’s when you collaborate with a bunch of people, share ideas, skills, etc. to create something larger than the sum of its parts, and you get a paycheck and the satisfaction of knowing you have contributed to a necessary community.

Basically, open/closed-source are two sides of the same coin, both (potentially) allow for diverse people to work collaboratively and make a difference in the world!

An astounding example of this is GitHub’s Social Impact team, lead by Nicole Sanchez. Her day-to-day duties include meeting and training every person at GitHub on what diversity and inclusion mean, so they can create a vibrant community online and off.

So, really, GitHub is using some of their closed-source dollars to support the most open-source idea of all: community building.

github ceo
GitHub CEO, Chris Wanstrath addresses the audience at GitHub Universe.

And so, it seems fitting, that the last word of this blog goes to the king of open-and-closed source, Chris Wanstrath.

Open source isn’t just about libraries. It’s about people making a real difference in the world.
Chris Wanstrath, GitHub CEO

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