August 17, 2017

Why GitHub Can't Host the Linux Kernel Community

A while back at the awesome maintainerati I chatted with a few great fellow maintainers about how to scale really big open source projects, and how github forces projects into a certain way of scaling. The linux kernel has an entirely different model, which maintainers hosting their projects on github don’t understand, and I think it’s worth explaining why and how it works, and how it’s different.

Another motivation to finally get around to typing this all up is the HN discussion on my “Maintainers Don’t Scale” talk, where the top comment boils down to “… why don’t these dinosaurs use modern dev tooling?”. A few top kernel maintainers vigorously defend mailing lists and patch submissions over something like github pull requests, but at least some folks from the graphics subsystem would love more modern tooling which would be much easier to script. The problem is that github doesn’t support the way the linux kernel scales out to a huge number of contributors, and therefore we can’t simply move, not even just a few subsystems. And this isn’t about just hosting the git data, that part obviously works, but how pull requests, issues and forks work on github.

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