GitHub launched its new community forums this week as another way for the platform’s 24 million developers to stay connected. The company built them on top of the Lithium SaaS community platform, a popular choice for enterprise customers, including Sony, Cisco, HP, Skype, Barclaycard, Symantec, Google, and PayPal.
The first iteration of the forums includes a gamification aspect that rewards participants for interaction and contribution. Users can “rank up” by receiving “Kudos” and providing solutions to questions on the forums. GitHub plans to expand on these features in the future.
Naturally, this style of ranking and participation led users to be curious whether GitHub is aiming to have its forums become a StackOverflow Q&A platform alternative. When asked what the company had in mind when designing this feature, GitHub Community Manager Nadia Padzensky said the forums provide another avenue for open discussion on ideas and general questions unrelated to specific projects.
“Issues don’t always lend themselves well to these kinds of discussions; however, a forum presents a place designed specifically for these types of conversations,” Padzensky said. “In the past, we’ve not had a GitHub-owned space for users to engage with each other in this way.”
GitHub has also launched an educational section called GitHub Original Series with articles from staff on workflows and features, written on topics that users often ask about in private support emails. The team plans to build out this section of the site while adding more features to the forums.
“We are looking to add contests, polls, and better processes and tooling for taking user feature requests,” Padzensky said. “Additionally, the Community Forum will adapt to its members needs; Community Forum member activity and feedback will directly help inform what the Community Forum evolves into.”
The ability to keep in touch with its user base is perhaps the most important function the forums will provide to GitHub. It offers a space where users can discussion problems they are having with GitHub’s products and have those concerns heard by staff. This could potentially help the company avoid public relations disasters like last year’s when a group of open source project maintainers confronted GitHub with an open letter of complaints regarding issue management. The company admitted to having become disconnected from the needs of its open source community and promised to launch new features that would better serve community-led projects, as well as make it easer for developers to offer feedback on the products it is building.