May 21, 2013, 8:00 am
It seems like new online services for collaborative writing are emerging all the time. After a series of postings about the powerful collaborative capabilities of the GitHub platform, used for writing code by programmers around the world, I suggested that this opens up the possibility for radical new ways to engage in academic scholarship and explore ways of forking the academy. For this to even stand a chance though, we need writing platforms that work better for our needs than the steep learning curve and some of the other limitations of Github. I offered my own list of suggestions about what that kind of platform might look like and in the next few weeks I’ll take a closer look at some of new options out there to consider. I begin with Draft, a new writing platform created by the extremely talented Nathan Kontny.
Draft is designed for drafting and collaborative writing of text. It is…
May 6, 2013, 8:00 am
In my last posting, I imagined what it might look like to fork the academy, that is, to create a space within the world of academic writing and publishing where we could directly reuse, adapt, and expand each other’s work. I also discussed some of the most significant obstacles that stand in the way, both at the disciplinary level and the kinds of personal concerns I have seen raised from friends and colleagues I have discussed the idea with.
In an earlier posting I looked at some of the reasons why GitHub.com, which has led the way in making the practice of "forking" repositories of code and text possible, is not really an ideal environment for scholars to use for writing and collaboration. It works, but it has been developed more for building software, than for writing books, academic papers, syllabi, and other the genres of writing we engage in.
Over the next few weeks we will take …
April 30, 2013, 8:00 am
I recently wrapped up a series on GitHub. Throughout the series I highlighted what I thought were some of the most powerful innovations that software developers and writers can take advantage of in GitHub. In particular I looked at two of its collaborative features, the ability to "fork" repositories of text that retain a connection to the original and the issuing of "pull requests" as a way to enable outside contributions in an decentralized environment which leaves everyone with full control over the texts they work on.
The social and collaborative potentials that GitHub provides makes it easier than ever for anyone to contribute to an open source project or adopt and adapt a repository for their own needs and pursue their own directions. If something like this caught on in the academic world, if we could fork the academy, we might move beyond merely referring to the work of others …
April 16, 2013, 11:00 am
This posting is the last in a series introducing the text hosting and version control service GitHub (See parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). Up until this posting I have talked about some of the great features of working with repositories of text in GitHub and the ways in which it facilitates collaboration even without direct collaboration. It is, in its own motto, a "social coding" environment that allows anyone to "fork" code, issue "pull requests" to propose improvements on someone else’s work, as well as keep a history of changes and improvements on work over time. I have argued that these innovations have much to teach us in our own worlds of scholarship.
GitHub, in its current form, can serve the needs of writers and scholars, just as it currently serves programmers, and more recently, groups adding laws and government regulations as repositories on the site. For many reasons, however,…
April 8, 2013, 8:00 am
Over the past few weeks I have been taking a closer look at how to use the text hosting and version control service at GitHub: part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4. I have suggested that, in addition to being the most important hub of open source and free software on the net, its innovations also have powerful applications for any kind of collaborative authorship thanks to its distributed version control features, the process of "forking" repositories, and the social power of issuing "pull requests."
Anyone who has read my postings that already has some background in using the git version control system or GitHub is likely to have at least a one of the following critiques of what I have written:
- I have focused entirely on GitHub and its software client, and especially the features that are easily accessed through the user interface. Anyone who takes up GitHub after these postings will …
April 1, 2013, 8:00 am
This post continues a series here at ProfHacker on GitHub. The series began with the suggestion that this service, primarily used to host code repositories and facilitate collaboration between programmers, is also home to many innovations that offer powerful ways forward across the realm of academic scholarship.
As we saw in the last post, and several earlier posts by fellow ProfHackers, GitHub has a “social” element that ties a community of shared and replicated groups of text together through the process of a “fork.” Collaborators working together on a project can “push” and “pull” changes to a single repository, but GitHub also makes it trivial for complete strangers to find, fork, and then issue a “pull request” on, for example, a syllabus, an article, or other set of documents.
Unlike a wiki, where a single central “canonical” text usually dominates, GitHub is completely…
March 26, 2013, 8:00 am
Today we’ll continue our series of postings on GitHub. In the first posting I introduced GitHub, pointed to some of the previous postings here at ProfHacker that have talked about it, and went through the steps of setting up a basic repository. Last week, we looked at the most common workflow for working with GitHub as a version control platform for text, and showed how you could directly edit text files through the GitHub website, instead of in your offline copy of a repository.
From what we have seen so far, GitHub is a place to sync a repository of texts, publicly share these text files for free, and provides a complete solution for version control of text-based projects. I mentioned in a previous posting that private repositories require a paid account but the education liaison at GitHub, John Britton, recently pointed out to me that it is possible for students and educators to…
March 21, 2013, 8:00 am
In my last posting I went through the simple steps of starting a brand new repository on GitHub, the leading online service for hosting code and text based projects backed with the version control system git. At the end of the last posting our new repository had only a single file saved in the repository’s folder. Using the GitHub client software, we published the repository to our free online GitHub account. In this posting I’ll describe the most basic workflow of modifying or adding files in your new repository and look at an easy way you can, if you like, work with your repository directly on your GitHub account.
Basic GitHub Workflow
If you open the repository text file we created in your favorite text editor, make a few changes, save them, then return to the GitHub client, you will notice that any modifications will be revealed in the changes tab. When you are ready, you can "…
March 15, 2013, 11:00 am
If we look across the landscape of collaborative writing on the web, there are a few clearly discernible hubs of activity. Wikipedia and Google Docs might be identified as two of them, but one the most remarkable and unique is GitHub. This is the first of a new series of postings on GitHub, its limits, and some emerging alternatives for scholarship. GitHub is the leading hosting service for code that runs the powerful distributed version control software git (see Julie’s introduction for more on version control). While many outside the world of programming may never have heard of it, I think it is important to recognize it as a site of online writing and creativity as important as any other of our time. The phenomenal rise of GitHub in the world of coding has been described in the Wired feature, "Lord of the Files" and the authors even wrote the article itself in a GitHub repository. It …
March 8, 2013, 11:00 am
I met a Vim wizard for the first time in 1994. Two of them actually, a married couple. They really were wizards, at least in that mysterious internet gaming environment known as a MUD. That meant they had powers to build and transform the online world that the rest of us plodded through, one “north” or “south” command at a time. They had the power to bring objects into being and banish players from the realm. They told me that someday 3D graphics would allow us to wander through digital worlds without a keyboard, and talk directly into a microphone to other players around the world. Virtual reality was coming. “Ya, ok, whatever, so teach me enough C++ programming so I can see how you create rooms and stuff.” What followed was an attempt to teach a freshman philosophy major still working his way through elementary logic class how to fly before he could walk. Lots of gibberish about…