GitHub doesn't show you many statistics related to a repository, aside from a repository's star count. When evaluating a repository on GitHub, I often find myself giving a lot of weight towards how many stars the repository has gained.
Repository owners especially love it when they receive a lot of GitHub stars as it provides them with a sense of accomplishment. There are articles written on how developers can get more GitHub stars for their repositories, using tips such as writing an attractive README and even using paid advertising to get more eyes on the repo.
The other day I stumbled upon a set of guidelines for recruiters that are trying to hire developer talent. One of the recommendations was to look for developers who have repositories on GitHub with 100+ stars.
Should we all be evaluating the quality of a GitHub repository based on its star count? Probably not, but it is an easy metric for people to look at. There are a ton of different factors that factor into a great GitHub project.
Here are some things to look at when trying to evaluate the quality of a GitHub repository:
- Pull Requests
Seeing recently merged pull requests is a good sign that the project is actively being maintained and improved.
Issues that are answered in a timely fashion by maintainers is usually a good sign. I wouldn't worry too much about the amount of issues in a repository, as large repositories are likely to have a bunch of issues. For example, at the time of writing, the VS Code repo has 3,925 issues, but their app is incredibly useful.
- NPM downloads
You can also look at the downloads a tool has in NPM to see how popular a project is within the community. There is a good article that talks about when Vue surpassed React in terms of GitHub stars, but React is still downloaded much more than Vue on NPM. If a project is highly downloaded from NPM, it means a lot of other projects rely on it so it hopefully has some good stable features you can take advantage of in your own projects.
If a project has little to no documentation, it doesn't matter how good the project is because you won't know how to use it. Having detailed and easily to understand documentation associated with a project is a good sign that the project can be used in all the ways described by their own documentation.
Overall, don't just rely on how many stars a project has when trying to evaluate an open source project. A good tool could solve a very specific need for a niche audience, but have a low number of stars on GitHub since it isn't a trendy or popular tool.