I had been thinking about the idea behind this post for a while now, but reading this post about getting newbies involved in open source just convinced me to write it down.
Being a concept developed in the Open Source world, it is no wonder that distributed revision control systems give their best in that context. There are many pros and cons, that other people described in detail better than I can do. Of all the features they offer, however, the one I prefer is the least technical one, and it is related to the way they encourage new developers to contribute to open source projects. In that perspective, git and mercurial are a lot more effective than svn, for example.
It all comes as a side effect of authors and committers being two different roles. This can encourage new contributors, who are approaching a new project for the first time, and individuals who may not have the time and energy to dedicate long periods of their time to a project, but may be able to contribute with just a few patches.
How GitHub displays both the author and the committer of a single change. Oh, and yes, there is something wrong with the dates. 😉 Think about that. Recognition is one of the most important drivers for Open Source contributors but, unfortunately, centralized revision control (subversion, CVS and the like) doesn’t help in giving credit to newcomers or occasional contributors.
That’s because, generally, sending a single patch (or even a few of them) is not enough to be granted commit access to a project repository (and rightly so) and the commit itself must be done by a project member with enough privileges.