LANGUAGE SHIFT

Four of the top 25 Github projects are written in Chinese, six contain no code

Obsession
China's Transition
Obsession
China's Transition

The language of code is English. Though, a quick glance at the top projects on code-sharing site Github this week might have made you think otherwise.

A peek into the four projects show that it’s not only the description field. All of the projects are written in Chinese. If you can’t read it, you’re out of luck.

While this may seem like an indicator of a shift in the people consuming open-source coding projects around the world, a closer look at the projects’ content shows otherwise.

Three of the four are set up to share knowledge; only one has executable code.

Sharing knowledge in Chinese on Github

architect-awesome This is a single text document meant to be used as a guide for a back-end architect—someone who designs the way servers are setup, connected, and interacted with. It’s about 30,000 words long.

architecture.of.internet-product Another knowledge-sharing project. It is a collection of information about how various Chinese companies architected their technology systems. The folders of text files are organized by company name and technical concept.

interview-notebook As its name indicates, this is a a collection of information related to job interviews. It contains solutions to frequently-asked interview questions, key concepts worth memorizing entering an interview, etc. So far, the project has 60 contributors.

Sharing code in Chinese on Github

RSSHub This is the only coding project of the four. It generates RSS feeds for a range of popular Chinese websites, like the video-sharing site bilibili.com, the micro-blog Sina Weibo and the book-and-movie review site douban.com. It is written in JavaScript.

Why Chinese speakers are turning to Github

Github has shown to be an easy way to publish to the web. A Github project is as much a webpage as it is a repository for code. (In fact, three of the top 25 projects are written in English and also meant as repositories of information and not collections of code.)

While China has blocked access to Github in the past, the restriction is usually temporary. At least one project has been blocked only to users in China.

In one project, a Chinese Github user documented the timeline of a sex abuse case related a professor at a prominent Chinese university. Chinese censors blocked and deleted information about the incident on Chinese websites. The Github project is still online. There was even a discussion of the allegations on a page of the project normally used for tracking bugs and organizing future work.

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