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InfoQ Homepage News GitHub State of the Octoverse 2021 Highlights Trends and Predicts Good Practices

GitHub State of the Octoverse 2021 Highlights Trends and Predicts Good Practices


GitHub's latest State of the Octoverse research highlighted three major trends towards writing and shipping code faster, creating documentation, and supporting developer communities. It also includes three predictive models to help organizations identify what they can action to achieve success.

GitHub's research combined telemetry data from over four million repositories with direct survey from over 12,000 developers to identify current trends among software development companies and open-source projects.

Overall, the research is concerned with how to improve developer experience along a number of dimensions.

A great developer experience is on everyone’s mind. At work developers, managers, and organizations want tools and processes to be fast, delightful, and easy. In open source, project leaders and maintainers look for ways to make communities welcoming and sustainable.

The research shows the software development community is coming back to pre-pandemics levels of productivity, but with a major turn in workplace organization towards remote collaboration. In fact, only 11% of respondents said they were expecting to go back to a fully collocated workplace and almost 50% said they were expecting to work in hybrid teams. A fully remote workplace seems to be the way to go for 38.8% of respondents, with an increase of 12% in comparison with pre-pandemic times.

The trend towards faster coding is substantiated by a number of findings, including the importance of automation, software reuse, using pull requests as the basis for coordination, and merging pull requests faster.

Automation is especially important for larger organizations, with a direct effect on the number of merged PRs per day. Merging speed seems to be greatly affected by the number of reviewers assigned to PRs, with most PRs having just one reviewer being merged within the workday. The number of PRs merged within the workday goes down by 17% with each additional reviewer. The importance of PRs is further confirmed by their value as a means of coordination for teams.

When it comes to software reuse, the key word is frictionless. Friction in software reuse is increased by entitlement procedures and access restrictions or information fragmentation.

The benefits of frictionless code reuse are striking for open source projects too --projects see 2x performance compared to those with more friction, like slow processes or multiple approval layers.

Documentation is another dimension explored by GitHub research, which hints at the value brought by open-source practices like READMEs, contribution guidelines, and issues management. Those practices can be beneficially replicated within enterprises. In both environments, good, reliable, and up-to-date documentation can boost productivity by 50%. Needless to say, though, the research also confirm documentation is often under-invested.

As a final note, GitHub research shows community building as key to success. Practices like mentoring, fostering trust and respect, creating safe and welcoming communities and others can help grow stronger communities both in the enterprises and in open-source.

As mentioned, GitHub used telemetry data among other source of data. Development tools that use telemetry to collect data about developers' behaviour are often criticised by a minority of developers, while others find it a reasonable compromise between privacy and tool improvement. For this reason, InfoQ reached out to GitHub to clarify this matter. According to a GitHub's spokesperson,

As mentioned in our site policy, we share certain aggregated, non-personally identifying information with others about how our users, collectively, use GitHub, or how our users respond to our other offerings, such as our conferences or events.

As for the new survey component we added this year, survey responses do not contain PII, and are not linked to any particular users’, company's or repositories’ telemetry. The survey results analyzed and encompassed an aggregate view and followed the SurveyMonkey privacy terms.

GitHub's State of the Octoverse is rich in insights and valuable findings, well beyond the limits of what can be covered here. So, make sure you do not miss the full research, which can also be downloaded as a PDF.

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