Should you care about GitHub stars?

A gold star ornament on a field of out-of-focus red lights.

When I read Emily Omier’s post “I don’t care about your GitHub stars“, my first response was total agreement. Dopamine doesn’t show up on the balance sheet, after all. Of course, Emily is looking at it through a lens of building a company. It’s a perfectly valid perspective, but it’s not the only one.

In (I think) a LinkedIn comment, Heather Meeker said “Stars are great, but they don’t tell the story by any means. I like to see contributors.” Stars aren’t directly connected to contribution, so forks are a better metric there.

But the more I think about it, the more I feel like maybe we’re all being very Productivity Brain, for whatever value of “productivity” applies to us. If GitHub stars give you dopamine, then care about them. Dopamine is great! So much that we do in open source is thankless labor. Take the thankings how you can get them. Don’t try to draw any conclusions from stars, just bask in their glory.

But please don’t use stars to gatekeep fixing issues.

This post’s featured photo by Dorin Moise on Unsplash

Ben formerly led open source messaging at Docker and was the Fedora Program Manager. He is the author of Program Management for Open Source Projects. Ben is an Open Organization Ambassador and frequent conference speaker. His personal website is Funnel Fiasco.


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