With over 10 million git repositories, GitHub is becoming one of the most important source of software artifacts on the Internet. Researchers are starting to mine the information stored in GitHub's event logs, trying to understand how its users employ the site to collaborate on software. However, so far there have been no studies describing the quality and properties of the data available from GitHub. We document the results of an empirical study aimed at understanding the characteristics of the repositories in GitHub and how users take advantage of GitHub's main features-namely commits, pull requests, and issues. Our results indicate that, while GitHub is a rich source of data on software development, mining GitHub for research purposes should take various potential perils into consideration. We show, for example, that the majority of the projects are personal and inactive; that GitHub is also being used for free storage and as a Web hosting service; and that almost 40% of all pull requests do not appear as merged, even though they were. We provide a set of recommendations for software engineering researchers on how to approach the data in GitHub.