Git is to GitHub as P0rn is to P0rnHub: why this is problematic and some alternative comparisons that work

If you live in Twitter-world like me and are part of the tech community, you’ve probably seen a number of tweets or retweets all of them in some degree stating the best way to explain the difference between Git and GitHub is that they’re the same as P0rn and P0rnHub.

For those new to the terms:

Git is a distributed version control system

GitHub is a hosting service for Git repositories, but it adds many of its own features like team collaboration and work organization.

Note: I will not properly spell or link p0rn or P0rnHub for fear of attracting bots.

Until yesterday (day before original publish date of this post), I thought it was a great comparison. But then I was in a situation, professionally, where I needed to explain the difference between Git and GitHub and I *did not* use the p0rn-P0rnHub analogy. Which lead to this tweet:

After some self reflection, usage of terms like p0rn and P0rnHub at the workplace is problematic for a variety of reasons. These are some in no particular order:

  1. Not good for career – Dropping the p0rn comparison in a conference call with various high level execs featuring the employer and/or the customer is a pretty solid way to end up on their wrong side. Avoiding COBOL-based unemployment benefit systems should be high on everyone’s list.
  2. America is (and many other nations and cultures are) far more hesitant to discuss sex openly – I also come from India, where sex or p0rn references in public discourse are frowned upon. While this may be acceptable in certain countries, casually dropping these references could potentially make people from these two countries uncomfortable.
  3. Not suitable for a diverse workplace – Going back to item 2, if you’re working in a sufficiently diverse workplace, the likelihood of someone being uncomfortable with these terms increases – it could be unacceptable in their family, religion, country of origin. Discussing these topics with a different gender also makes people uncomfortable.
  4. Risk breaking the Overton window – Now let’s say you have a workplace with limited number of employees and your colleagues appear to be perfectly comfortable with sex/p0rn references in public discourse. The problem with that is 1. you never know if all are really comfortable or just playing along to avoid an unpleasant situation. 2. by making certain terms acceptable, you’re moving the Overton Window and once moved it’s very hard to reset as we’ve experienced over the last 5 years in the public sphere.
  5. Git is not p0rn – P0rn indicates titillation. While I’m a git fan, it is simply one of the many tools I use to achieve my goals at work.

None of this is to say, we should place restrictions on freedom of speech. On the contrary, we should have open and public discussions on topics that impact society and individuals like sexual health, sexual violence, discrimination based on sexuality or sexual orientation and even exploitation of workers in the sex and p0rn industry. On the other hand, I don’t want to hear about my coworkers’ sexual escapades in college or last night. I certainly don’t want to know about what what their p0rn preference is or who their favorite p0rn star is. All I’m saying is be mindful of what you say in professional settings.

Now for the fun part, the alternatives to p0rn-PornHub. My tweet got a bunch of response and I picked out some that worked.

Git is to GitHub as grub (food) is to GrubHub – this works on multiple fronts 1. generic item (grub) versus brand (GrubHub) 2. GrubHub delivers grub-as-a-service 3. most people (at least in America) know these terms 4. names (kinda) match

Git it to GitHub as video is to Hulu/Netflix – this works 1. generic item (video) versus brand (Netflix/Hulu) 2. Netflix/Hulu deliver video-as-a-service 3. name recognition. However, video is not part of the names Netflix and/or Hulu.

Same arguments for video and YouTube. This one is slightly better even without name match because you can create and upload content to YouTube similar to how you can create and upload code to GitHub.

Git is to GitHub as pizza is to Pizza Hut. This works on various levels 1. generic item (pizza) versus brand (Pizza Hut) 2. Pizza Hut may deliver pizza-as-a-service 3. most people (at least in America) know these terms 4. names (kinda) match

Git is to GitHub as email is to Gmail. This one is my favorite 1. generic item (email) versus brand (Gmail) 2. Gmail delivers email-as-a-service 3. almost universal name recognition of Gmail and email 4. names (kinda) match

To conclude, by using terms like p0rn in a joking manner in professional settings, we (not excluding myself from this criticism) risk normalizing the usage of terms and cheapening the context of conversations in the workplace. What I’m arguing for is self restraint and not normalizing the usage of certain terms in a diverse workplace.

To get more alternatives for better options to compare Git and GitHub, just read the responses to my original tweet linked at the top of this post and pick one or even multiple ones that work for you. How would you explain the difference between Git and GitHub to the layperson?

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