From Collaborative Coding to Wedding Invitations: GitHub Is Going Mainstream

Wired: “With 3.4 million users, the five-year-old site is a runaway hit in the hacker community, the go-to place for coders to show off pet projects and crowdsource any improvements. But the company has grander ambitions: It wants to change the way people work. It’s starting with software developers for sure, but maybe one day anyone who edits text in one form or another — lawyers, writers, and civil servants — will do it the GitHub way.
To first-time visitors, GitHub looks like a twisted version of Facebook, built in some alternate universe where YouTube videos and photos of cats have somehow morphed into snippets of code. But many of the underlying concepts are the same. You can “follow” other hackers to see what they’re working on. You can comment on their code — much like you’d do on a Facebook photo. You can even “star” a project to show that you like it, just as you’d “favorite” something on Twitter.
But it’s much more than a social network. People discover new projects and then play around with them, making changes, trying out new ideas. Then, with the push of a button, they merge into something better. You can also “fork” projects. That’s GitHub lingo for then when you make a copy of a project so you can then build and modify your own, independent version.
People didn’t just suggest changes to Lee’s Twitter patent license. It was forked 53 times: by Arul, by a computer science student in Portland, by a Belgian bicycle designer. These forks can now evolve and potentially even merge back into Lee’s agreement. The experiment also inspired Fenwick & West, one of Silicon Valley’s top legal firms (and GitHub’s law firm) to post 30 pages of standard documents for startups to GitHub earlier this year.”