I recently asked a friend which source control system he was using for his personal software projects. The seemingly innocuous question led to the admission that he wasn’t using any versioning system; rather his backup strategy involved sleeping next to a USB drive with a saved copy of the daily source, lest there be a fire at night, he could quickly grab his code (along with family members, presumably) and run for the exit.
But this little trip to the confessional also spurred him research the best source control system for his scenario. Some time later and after thorough analysis he excitedly presented his decision to me, including feature run downs, hosters, pricing, reputation and more. The clear winner for him: GitHub. Even though it meant paying a monthly fee, where other options were free. He felt good about paying for the right product. And then, almost as a second thought, decided to send his findings on to GitHub, using the Web form submission on their Support page. He included the detailed analysis, and why he was wiling to pay for it. He thought someone there might find it interesting. They did.
Almost immediately he received an email response from customer service, graciously thanking him for his input. Within 24 hours he heard from the CEO, who thanked him and granted him his first year free (ironically my friend commented, "I came to the emotional decision this was worth paying for…now I almost want to insist!").
What did I learn about GitHub through my friend’s story?
- They put first things first, which is to build the best product they can for their customers. Want market share? Build the right product. Want brand reputation? Build the right product. Too many companies spend their time trying to find the right customer (social media will cure cancer after all), instead becoming the right product. They know where it begins.
- They have a cultural of sharing and celebrating "wins." Too often internal communication at companies emulates the local news channels, with a 20-1 ratio of negative to positive messages. Clearly GitHub has an environment where people notice, and share, motivating evidence that reinforces how they are doing with point one.
- Customer loyalty is prioritized over short term gain. They may have "lost" a year’s worth of fees. But they gained a customer for life. They have a good long term perspective, focusing on achieving better than average customer satisfaction.
I haven’t used GitHub (though several of our developers do), nor do I know anyone who works there. Maybe it’s all just a fine façade, and I’d be frightened to know the truth. But I suspect there’s a whole lot that is right behind the scenes. Perhaps even worth paying for, if they let you.