Distributed Workflow Management

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Clay Shirky:

"Computing is such an inflexible system, he reminds us, that the canonical system of version control for software was developed to ensure that people didn’t inadvertently (or deliberately) screw it up. Only those with permissions could change things; even they could only change small areas at a time. It’s feudal, a system of one owner and many workers. And it’s totally appropriate for the commercial software industry, the Microsofts and the Adobes. But one programmer decided to try something different. Linus Torvalds, who created Linux, wanted a new way of dealing with version control. He wanted all people to have access to all of the source code all of the time.

The result is Git, distributed version control, which Shirky is here to explain to us. It’s a distributed workflow that brings chaos back into the system. Yet there’s a beautiful innovation to ensure that said chaos doesn’t promptly override said system: a signature that creates a unique identifier for every single exchange. This enables cooperation without coordination. “I tell you this not because it is great that open-source programmers now have a tool that supports their philosophical way of working,” Shirky says. “I tell you all of this because of what it means for how communities come together.”

What it means is that Git’s communities are enormously large and complex. “This doesn’t look like an org chart,” he says, showing us a complicated swirl of lines. “It looks like a ‘disorg’ chart.” (http://blog.ted.com/2012/06/29/in-praise-of-cooperation-without-coordination-clay-shirky-at-tedglobal-2012/)