Fred Wilson wrote a very good post today about trends in platform building that may require a bit of explaining.
Fred writes that he generally does not like “derivative ideas”. These are ideas that try to apply one idea into other concepts. Fair enough. But he makes a big exception for “GitHub inspired ideas”.
So, for the rest of us, what is GitHub? If you visit the site, you see immediately that this is not a site for everyone. It is designed exclusively for programmers to share their stuff. What do they do with it? From TechCrunch
At the heart of GitHub is Git, an open source project started by Linux creator Linus Torvalds. Matthew McCullough, a trainer at GitHub, explains that Git, like other version control systems, manages and stores revisions of projects.
So far, not very helpful. So what does Git accomplish that other sharing platforms cannot? This comes out more clearly when you understand how the exchanges work between programmers using the system. It works like this (1) you upload a programme into the database (2) another programmer can use that programmer by “forking it” – that means copying it into his own account (3) if that second programmer wants to make his changes public, he can send a “pull request” to the owner. (4) if the owner likes the changes, he can “merge” the changes into the document. And so it grows step by step, with older versions still accessible.
Git encourages granular recording of changes, programmers, be they absolute beginners or experts, can trace the steps of some of the greatest developers in the world and find out how they solved thorny problems.
It also enables programmers to get credit for code changes that improve the things that they work on. In other words, this is an automated market for getting to the next step in problem solving. This is what gets Fred excited
The power of the GitHub model is not just a repository of work and version control in the cloud. It’s the public nature of much of that work. And the reputation and identity effects for those who publish some or all of their work publicly.
It is a model that us non-geeks will need to get more comfortable with.