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Remembering Shawn Pearce

by Jeff King on January 30, 2018

The Git project and Conservancy mourn the passing of Shawn Pearce, a long-time developer and member of the Git community.

Shawn joined the Git project in 20061, and over the past 12 years wore many hats.

He is the third most prolific contributor to Git by commit count, with over 1200 patches. His credits include many fundamental systems, such as the Git-over-HTTP protocol, the fast-import system (a format which has been adopted by many other version control systems!), and the concept of reflogs (including the beautiful hack of their @{} syntax).

Beyond individual technical contributions, Shawn had a knack for seeing what the greater ecosystem needed and wasn’t afraid to jump head-first into a new project. He wrote git-gui, the first graphical Git client. In order to provide Git support in the Eclipse IDE, he wrote JGit, a from-scratch Java re-implementation of Git. He also started the Gerrit Code Review project, which is used for all Android development.

But most of all, we will remember Shawn for his leadership in the project. He organized the first “GitTogether” of project developers in 2008. He served multiple tours as interim maintainer over the years. He was instrumental in getting the project involved in Google’s Summer of Code program. And since Git joined Software Freedom Conservancy in 2010, he has served on Git’s project leadership committee.

Shawn exemplified the kindness, patience, and technical excellence required of an open source contributor. And also the stubbornness and determination it takes to reimplement the entire project in Java, when that’s what’s called for. We’re grateful for his many years of service to the project, to the open source community, and to the field of programming.

We also know that his work on Git was just a small slice of who he was as a person, and our hearts goes out to his family. There’s a memorial fund, and his family has encouraged people to donate to cancer research in lieu of flowers.

Mostly, I really want people to understand the profound impact of the work Shawn did. There are many “unsung” heroes of open source, people who work behind the scenes that users never know about. A vast number of people use Git and without Shawn, Git would be really different. We will miss him.

1Shawn’s very first email to the list was the announcement of an alternate user interface for Git. The project ended up folding, but I’ll give him credit for ambition.

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