GitHub's new CEO: We're serious about the enterprise

In a few short years, GitHub has become the world's largest code repository. CEO Chris Wanstrath explains how GitHub is also helping enterprises revitalize their app dev efforts

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InfoWorld: What huge projects?

Wanstrath: We can't talk about them yet. What's important to us has always been: It's your first day at GitHub and if you have an idea, you should be able to say it. We want to hear all the ideas from everyone because it's the people using the software -- and we have some of the biggest users of GitHub in our company.

InfoWorld: This is a very competitive neighborhood. How do you attract and retain the best talent?

Wanstrath: That's a great question. I think one of the things we do is we don't really think about it that way. We're trying to build a great environment. We're trying to build a great product. We're trying to build a company that people really want to work for. We're trying to do something awesome together. That's really been the guiding philosophy in many ways.

InfoWorld: There are all kinds of elaborate ways of testing and screening people. But you don't believe in that?

Wanstrath: I mean, if we say we hire the best people, we have to be able to prove that. We know that. We have a system in place.

InfoWorld: How is the GitHub model extending beyond coding? I know you announced last year that your version control was being applied to legal documents.

Wanstrath: Believe it or not, government. Who would think that the government is forward-thinking and progressive and going open source? It's really quite inspiring to see that. But I think government is definitely the No. 1 noncoding group that's taking up GitHub.

InfoWorld: My last question, the thing that still flummoxes me: What about this collaborative model in particular makes it a success? It's not like this capability didn't exist before. It's not as if the technical hurdles are necessarily that high for versioning and code management.

Wanstrath: I know this sounds silly, but I think the thing that makes us different is that we think about people. It's not about the pull requests. It's not about the markdown. Those things can go away. In five years we might not have them. Who knows? But we're still going to be trying to help people work together. What is special about GitHub? It's all the people on it. It's open source. It's all the projects. It's being able to comment on code. It's being able to submit code to someone else and then clicking a button and merging it in so you just collaborated with someone across the planet. That's really magical.

You look at it on paper and it's like -- I don't get it. You could do this with email; you could do that with chat. You could do all these other things before, but there's this community aspect to it, with little things like seeing someone's avatars, seeing someone's face. It's very, very human. GitHub creates an emotional connection with people because that's what we wanted. We care about these people and we want them to enjoy using it. We want them to love it.

This article, "GitHub's new CEO: We're serious about the enterprise," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog. And for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

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