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Why I'm keeping my code on GitHub

A storm of controversy erupted last month following the announcement of engineer Julie Ann Horvath’s departure from GitHub and the Tech Crunch tell-all describing the circumstances leading up to her exit. I’m not going to discuss Horvath v. GitHub directly. While I read the Tech Crunch article when it broke, and I read GitHub’s official statement and their follow-up, I haven’t otherwise been following the discussion in detail, and so I don’t have a full enough picture of the situation to add any comments of my own.

However, over the past few weeks I have thought over the question of whether to move the code for my personal open-source projects off of GitHub, as I know some people who have done or are doing this out of a desire to distance themselves from GitHub and thereby avoid any implied support of the organization’s behavior. In this post I’d like to explain my personal decision not to do the same.

So. I’m keeping my code on GitHub. Why?

  1. The community for the projects I care about most is on GitHub. This is the community of “diabetes hackers”. There aren’t that many of us (although the community is growing and making progress in some exciting ways), and from a purely practical standpoint moving my code elsewhere would make it much more difficult to interact with this group of people. This is in some sense “just” a practical reason, and it’s a compromise I might have made for the greater good if I didn’t also believe my next point, but as it stands, it’s hardly even a compromise.

  2. https://github.com/ is not the same thing as GitHub, Inc., and using the former does not necessarily imply support of the latter. In essence, I believe https://github.com/ is a reasonably neutral space that’s open to participation by developers of all genders. Nothing about https://github.com/ inherently provides a different experience for women than what it provides for men, at least not in its abstract Platonic form. As instantiated in the real world, it’s true that there’s evidence of offensive language in code hosted on https://github.com/ that is hostile to women, people of color, and the LGBT community. GitHub, Inc. does, in my opinion, have some work to do to make their real-world instantiation of https://github.com/ as neutral as it could be. Adding features to flag inappropriate content and ban harassing users would be good steps in that direction.

But all of this is, at least for me1, orthogonal to the question of whether to remove my code from GitHub following Horvath’s exit. To me, that just doesn’t make sense, although I can certainly understand the impulse, and for those who don’t have other reasons (like the first I outlined above) to stay, I think it’s entirely reasonable to walk away and choose another host.

In other words, I can be disappointed in the behavior displayed by GitHub, Inc. (and I am, if many or even some of the allegations are true) and still use https://github.com/ in good conscience. In fact, I might even get a certain satisfaction out of it. If it’s true that some majority of GitHub, Inc. does not wish to support women coders, but I’m spending a very large amount of time there, both working for my paycheck and working on personal projects, then that’s just sticking it to them a little bit, isn’t it?

And that’s it. Two reasons why me and my code at staying put.

  1. I really, really am only speaking about myself and my own decision here.