Signal-to-Noise, or why nobody cares about your GitHub project

Jan 23 2021

For a very long time, the thought of leaving GitHub and moving to another platform daunted me. Having more users on one platforms means that more people will contribute to my project, right? Wrong.

The problem with GitHub is that there's a lot of things going on around you. How many times have you discovered a cool project on GitHub, starred it and never heard from it again? In essence, this is the same phenomenon as with modern social media. A bombardment of positive stimulants makes the user crave for more, letting them forget about previously consumed content. Sure, if you just want to get your code out there, GitHub might be a great place, but if you are just starting out as a developer and you're looking for contributers and feedback, you will probably be very bummed to find out that nobody cares about your work. Many developers are using the platform because other developers are using it. Your project on GitHub is a drop in an ocean of other projects.

A few months ago, I decided to make the leap and switch most of my development over to Sourcehut, a free and open source code-hosting platform. Besides its great tooling (mailing lists, automated builds, etc.), it has the benefit of a high signal-to-noise ratio. Less developers are using the platform, but most of them are very passionate about their work. They care about collaborating with others and they believe in what they are doing, which probably lead them to sign up for this platform in the first place.

Of course, switching away from a platform like GitHub alone does not ensure more contributions. You might be trying to advertise your projects by spamming links on popular newsboards and forums, but this only generates noise. Instead, you should intentionally talk about your personal journey with the project in a smaller circle. If other developers in your niche see that you continuously give updates about the project and its improvements, they will eventually start to relate to it. Some of them will look at your project and give feedback, or even contribute patches.

This is post 006 of #100DaysToOffload.

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Garrit Franke

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