At Box UK we’re familiar with GitHub’s Pull Request (PR) feature through our code review workflow and Open Source contributions, but Wednesday saw one particular PR take on added significance.The patch in question was from my colleague Ben for a library by Artem Genvald (username fre5h) that adds ENUM support to Symfony2 applications using the Doctrine library, and was solid like all of Ben’s code. What was exceptional was the response from the author:
This isn’t a common reply to a pull request (in my experience, at least) so I thought to share it on Twitter:
— Craig Marvelley (@craigmarvelley) January 22, 2014
At 613 retweets and counting, that’s at least 612 more than my previous record – with many more mentions and favourites in addition. Following its appropriation by other users shortly afterward, the story got a lot of coverage very quickly. I was fascinated by the way it was picked up and extended by others on the internet. Here’s a graph (courtesy of wdmyg.com) of the reach my original tweet had:
A nice feature of wdmtg.com is it enables you to see how your tweet travelled – here, thanks to @janl’s retweet, we can see 42 subsequent retweets occurred
My initial humor at Artem’s reply quickly gave way to concern; I’d not even realised that anything untoward was occurring in the Ukraine, nor had many of my co-workers. We weren’t alone either; there were numerous individuals for whom this was breaking news. GitHub describe themselves as a social coding platform, but here they played the role of a rolling news channel as the tweet gained momentum; driving sympathisers and the curious to the PR thread where many left messages of support and concern for Artem’s safety:
At this point it was obvious that there was real human interest in the story, particularly from those familiar with GitHub, so my colleague Ian posted it on HackerNews, where it quickly made the front page and eventually rose to be the top story. From here it spread on to Reddit and other tech forums, and has now even made the transition to web news outlets. The link to the PR is still being tweeted on a regular basis, and comments are still being left on the PR message thread. Many of those commenting on Hacker News said that this was the first they’d heard of unrest in the country, and it took time to get significant coverage amid stories like the targeting of campaigners via mass text messaging. As interesting as all this may be to users of social media, the real story lies with the people in the Ukraine who are fighting for their beliefs. Hopefully the standoff will be resolved soon.
Andy Lester put it perfectly: sometimes open source software isn’t the #1 priority in our lives.