Adding +1 buttons made them look better, so yes they did it. Doing something about unlicensed projects makes the ecosystem better but makes Github look worse: my contention is that they will therefore not do it; they will not be prepared to make themselves look worse, even if the reason for it benefits the ecosystem and even if it's their fault in the first place.
I agree with this. However, just because the ecosystem really needs it does not mean that Github really have to provide it! If Github could help there be clearer licensing of code and look good by doing it, of course they'd do it! But they can't; all they can do is benefit the ecosystem while making themselves look worse.
(yeah, my fault there, I thought they'd IPOed already, @stephenrwalli pointed out my wrongness as well)
You're misreading my sentence, possibly because it wasn't well-worded Full context:
The chances of them doing something detrimental to themselves because it benefits the community they ostensibly serve are slim and none
This does not mean "doing this thing makes the community better and therefore it is bad for Github, because things that are good for the community are bad for Github".
It means "there are things that Github should do because they are a good thing for the community. Some of those things, despite being good for the community, are bad for Github themselves. I, Stuart, think that if Github were a Christian saint of some kind then maybe they would do things which are good for the community and bad for themselves, but they are not a saint and therefore are very unlikely to do this thing, and the reason they are very unlikely to do this thing is that it is good for the community and bad for Github themselves."
Let me try explaining this a different way.
Stuart's Proposition: "Github will avoid doing anything about unlicensed projects for as long as they can, because anything they could do will make themselves look worse, regardless of whether it would be better for the larger open source ecosystem for the problem to be fixed".
Arguments that I'm wrong take, I think, one or more of the following forms, or maybe there's another:
Fixing the problem will not make Github look bad because there is a way of fixing it you didn't list in the post above: cool, I'd like to hear that way, because I can't think of one
Fixing the problem will make Github look bad but that doesn't stop them doing it, because they are so invested in the open source community that they are prepared to do a thing which is good for the open source community even if Github themselves take a reputation and monetary hit by doing so, i.e., they are a saint. I believe this to be bullshit, but if someone can make a credible-sounding argument that it's the case, I'll listen.
Fixing the problem will make Github look bad but that doesn't stop them doing it, because fixing this will provide enough good PR about "Github fixes unlicensed software problem" that it outweighs the hit they'll take, i.e., they think that looking like a saint makes you look good enough that it's OK if you actually get a kicking while doing so. I would like to believe that they aren't this rankly hypocritical, and besides I don't think it'd work because the PR bounce they'd get is short term and the hit is long-term.