Coding together at scale: GitHub as a collaborative social network

Antonio Lima*, Luca Rossi, Mirco Musolesi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputConference publication


GitHub is the most popular repository for open source code (Finley 2011). It has more than 3.5 million users, as the company declared in April 2013, and more than 10 million repositories, as of December 2013. It has a publicly accessible API and, since March 2012, it also publishes a stream of all the events occurring on public projects. Interactions among GitHub users are of a complex nature and take place in different forms. Developers create and fork repositories, push code, approve code pushed by others, bookmark their favorite projects and follow other developers to keep track of their activities. In this paper we present a characterization of GitHub, as both a social network and a collaborative platform. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first quantitative study about the interactions happening on GitHub. We analyze the logs from the service over 18 months (between March 11, 2012 and September 11, 2013), describing 183.54 million events and we obtain information about 2.19 million users and 5.68 million repositories, both growing linearly in time. We show that the distributions of the number of contributors per project, watchers per project and followers per user show a power-law-like shape. We analyze social ties and repository-mediated collaboration patterns, and we observe a remarkably low level of reciprocity of the social connections. We also measure the activity of each user in terms of authored events and we observe that very active users do not necessarily have a large number of followers. Finally, we provide a geographic characterization of the centers of activity and we investigate how distance influences collaboration.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 8th International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media, ICWSM 2014
Place of PublicationAnn Arbor, MI (US)
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)978-1-57735-659-2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014
Event8th International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media - Ann Arbor, United States
Duration: 1 Jun 20144 Jun 2014


Conference8th International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media
Abbreviated titleICWSM 2014
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityAnn Arbor

Bibliographical note

Funding: EPSRC Grant “The Uncertainty of Identity: Linking Spatiotemporal Information Between Virtual and Real Worlds” (EP/J005266/1)


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