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GitHub Got Silly Rich. Next Step: 'Make More Awesome' - Businessweek

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GitHub is bigtime into life automation, writes Ashlee Vance:

As the acting high priest of software, GitHub naturally builds a lot of its own internal tools. “Our finance people should have their own developers to automate the things that finance people do,” says Preston-Werner. “People shouldn’t be responsible for what we call ‘s––– work.’ We prefer to solve repetitive sorts of jobs with technology.” As for why it builds so many internal tools, such as a company directory, rather than just buying them, Preston-Werner explains: “We demand that the products we use be excellent. All those other products suck.”

On GitHub's love of booze:

There’s a full bar with dozens of bottles of booze and a wooden barrel of the company’s own Slow Merge whiskey. It all seems to say, “We’re nonchalant and playful—by design.”

More on the GitHub office:

GitHub monetization:

One reason Preston-Werner and his co-founders didn’t have to chase VC money is that they were making their own money immediately. Software developers were ready and willing to pay for good collaboration and project-management tools. “On the first day, we made maybe $1,000,” says Preston-Werner, a skinny, bearded fellow. “That becomes $1,000 every month because it’s recurring revenue. It was amazing.”

Today, GitHub lets developers working on open-source projects use its service for free. Individuals and companies wanting to use the GitHub tools in private must pay a monthly subscription for a cloud service that ranges from $7 to $200. And then there’s an Enterprise Plan for companies that want to take the GitHub software and run it in their own data centers for maximum control and security.

GitHub's about more than software:

GitHub plans to open its collaboration tools up beyond the software kingdom. The company has already seen designers, legal teams, and public relations pros using its technology. “It has not been optimized for those things yet, but it works for them,” says Preston-Werner. “Right now we’re optimized for software, but who knows?” He refuses to budge on exactly when GitHub for lawyers or chefs or city planners will emerge, instead remarking that those products will be ready when they’re ready.

A group of mathematicians wrote a 600-page book in 6 months using GitHub:

From that link, this is amazing:

Since spring, and even before that, I have participated in a great collaborative effort on writing a book on Homotopy Type Theory. It is finally finished and ready for public consumption. You can get the book freely at Mike Shulman has written about the contents of the book, so I am not going to repeat that here. Instead, I would like to comment on the socio-technological aspects of making the book, and in particular about what we learned from open-source community about collaborative research.

We are a group of two dozen mathematicians who wrote a 600 page book in less than half a year. This is quite amazing, since mathematicians do not normally work together in large groups. In a small group they can get away with using obsolete technology, such as sending each other source LaTeX files by email, but with two dozen people even Dropbox or any other file synchronization system would have failed miserably. Luckily, many of us are computer scientists disguised as mathematicians, so we knew how to tackle the logistics. We used git and In the beginning it took some convincing and getting used to, although it was not too bad. In the end the repository served not only as an archive for our files, but also as a central hub for planning and discussions. For several months I checked github more often than email and Facbook. Github was my Facebook (without the cute kittens). If you do not know about tools like git but you write scientific papers (or you create any kind of digital content) you really, really should learn about revision control systems. Even as a sole author of a paper you will profit from learning how to use one, not to mention that you can make pretty videos of how you wrote your paper.

But more importantly, the spirit of collaboration that pervaded our group at the Institute for Advanced Study was truly amazing. We did not fragment. We talked, shared ideas,explained things to each other, and completely forgot who did what (so much in fact that we had to put some effort into reconstruction of history lest it be forgotten forever). The result was a substantial increase in productivity. There is a lesson to be learned here (other than the fact that the Institute for Advanced Study is the world’s premier research institution), namely that mathematicians benefit from being a little less possessive about their ideas and results. I know, I know, academic careers depend on proper credit being given and so on, but really those are just the idiosyncrasies of our time. If we can get mathematicians to share half-baked ideas, not to worry who contributed what to a paper, or even who the authors are, then we will reach a new and unimagined level of productivity. Progress is made by those who dare break the rules.

Truly open research habitats cannot be obstructed by copyright, profit-grabbing publishers, patents, commercial secrets, and funding schemes that are based on faulty achievement metrics. Unfortunately we are all caught up in a system which suffers from all of these evils. But we made a small step in the right direction by making the book source code freely available under a permissive Creative Commons license. Anyone can take the book and modify it, send us improvements and corrections, translate it, or even sell it without giving us any money. (If you twitched a little bit when you read that sentence then the system has gotten to you.)

Software is eating the world:

What should be clear enough is that Andreessen Horowitz has identified GitHub as a crucial piece to its “software is eating the world” thesis. If software really is going to go out and conquer and retool just about every industry, then lots of people are going to need good tools to write and manage code for software-related projects. GitHub has without question come up with a methodology that appeals to developers, and if it’s able to carry this structure to other industries and more mainstream professionals, then the company will indeed be making plenty of awesome—and plenty of cash.

More about software eating the world is in early post #202: