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A new generation of development environments takes a radical approach to communication and coordination by fusing social networking functionality with flexible, distributed version control. Through these transparent work environments, people, repositories, development activities, and their histories are immediately and easily visible to all users. Developers quickly acquire the skill to interpret this rich information to find useful resources, connect with people, solve technical problems, and enhance their learning opportunities. This article presents the results of a qualitative study of users of one such environment, GitHub. It describes how transparency helps developers on GitHub manage their projects, handle dependencies more effectively, reduce communication needs, and figure out what requires their attention. Although transparency is not a silver bullet, the approach shows great promise for enhancing collaboration and coordination. The Web extra at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpGA2fmAHvM is a video of Joel Spolsky discussing the structure, software, technology, and culture of Stack Exchange.
Date of Publication: Jan.-Feb. 2013