Code collaboration and deployment tool (and GitHub competitor) GitLab has moved their entire development process to public issue trackers. Product Manager Job van der Voort writes in a blog post that “this means that anyone can view and comment on all of our discussion and work.” The move will affect development of all bugs, new features, performance issues and product releases.
The motivation for the move reflects the level of trust and authenticity expected amongst developers when working with open source projects. The new move by GitLab demonstrates the sort of expectations that open source users are increasingly demanding when working with open source projects. As more enterprises begin to create open source projects, developers are showing greater cynicism and expecting open source projects to prove their credentials in the way they manage open source.
It is a fair request. This year, for example, saw open source database provider FoundationDB acquired by Apple, with software downloads and support quickly turned off, leaving customers lost as to how to manage their open source projects. Customer.io, for example, had to look for a new database solution following the acquisition. It is a reflection of two issues that engineer Jason Searls told an AltConf audience earlier this year are concerning developers regarding open source (i.e., trust and communication).
Aside from GitLabs desire to prove their trust credentials, the move will also mean less duplication and more openness in how GitLab’s development team operates. Van der Voort points to the problems that arise in open source projects when the development team is working on private repos to manage and respond to issues. Bug reports and feature requests end up getting duplicated by multiple users, current issues are not clearly articulated so the community can follow along, and the community and customers are left in the dark around the team’s thinking and approaches to solving problems and to GitLab’s future roadmap.
To address community privacy needs as Gitlab moves to a more open structure, issues and features proposed by customers will be routed through internal tools so that logs and sensitive information are not shared via the new public repos. Security concerns will be handled internally.
The move will not impact GitLab’s core business model other than to reinforce their commitment to an open source approach. GitLab has an enterprise pricing model with additional features that enables them to provide the open source offering. For that, they allow the code to be viewable, but do not provide any open source licenses for it so as to reserve their income-generating stream.