Github has put together a nice timeline of achievements to celebrate their first decade in existence.
For 10 years, you’ve shared, tinkered, and built on GitHub from all around the world. Before we head into the next decade, we’ve collected some of our favorite moments and milestones—just a few of the ways you’ve pushed software forward.
I have written about the usefulness of GitHub for academic users in the past. The platform’s commitment to education is not only admirable, but I suspect a part of their success in general. If you’re a student, and you’re looking for a way to get into coding in any capacity — even if it is only a passing interest — the Github student package is more than worth claiming.
Prof Hacker just posted a follow up to their reminder on the Github plans available to education users. The previous link made it into this week’s Show and Tell, but that is akin to burying a note in my back yard. Coming across this latest post prompted me to dig up that recommendation and dust it off a little. The Profhacker post is essentially a summary of a more detail ‘how to’ guide from the Storybench site. Their solution is a touch esoteric — they're using the statistical language ‘R’ for its value to certain kinds of academic work. But think of it as a case study for using Github Pages, the point is to illustrate the kinds of things you can do with Github in general.
Accessing Developer Tools and Building Static Sites
Github is useful regardless, but the student developer pack is a fantastic resource. It includes things like $50 worth of Digital Ocean hosting, credit for AWS, and a year of free Bitnami access. The GitHub part of the plan includes unlimited private repositories. Think of the freedom of not having to share your dodgy, cut-and-paste, hacked code with the world at large. Even if you’re doing little more than forking libraries and messing them up in an effort to learn (like I do), I would recommend signing up for an account.
There are some really intriguing uses for Github. One that should be of particular interest to readers of this site is using it for collaboration. It doesn’t have to be for coding either. Text is text, no matter what ends up parsing it; be that machine, or human. For example, by using Working Copy the folks at Macstories.net use Github as a weigh station for their editing process. For them, Github has been one of the building blocks of a complex iOS only workflow. While there are a couple of remaining considerations for an iOS only academic, but I see no reason that all student work can’t be done on an iPad. Github can certainly play a role, should you want it to.
Github Pages as a Blogging Platform
While the Profhacker example is probably only relevant to a subset of users, there are more accessible routes for prospective bloggers. Github is growing all the time as a blogging platform. Using Github pages and a static site generator like Jekyll, anybody willing to follow a few instructions can serve a super slick plain text based website. This brings together more traditional uses of code versioning with the drafting and editing process of web publishing. Static site generators have been supposedly catching on for a while now, but they remain a relatively niche solution that attract more technically minded users. Still, I can honestly say they are not difficult to use. Platforms like Netlify simply the process down to one-click deployment.
You don’t have to go far to find examples of interesting static sites. There are specific academic tools primed for use, whether you want to use Jekyll, or another generator like Hugo. GitHub is also being used to mitigate the difficultly of using a more complicated CMS with the touchscreen interfaces of iOS, with bloggers putting Workflow to good use. In fact, the entire process can be managed from an iPad these days. But, as I say, blogging is just one use for Github; albeit a very good one.
It’s not difficult to get started. Whether its for accessing developer tools and building static sites, or glueing your iOS workflows together. Take a look at Github Education and start breaking things!
Until Workflow created its own, Jordan Merrick was host to one of the best curated collections of Workflows one could hope to find. The directory was understandably taken down with the advent of an official version, which briefly included a mechanism for sharing workflows among the community of users. Apple’s acquisition of the Workflow team scuppered that initiative, insofar as they have kept open the official gallery within the app, but closed down the community aspect. Thankfully, generous users like Merrick have once again filled the breach. From JordanMerrick.com
In December 2016, I announced that I’d no longer be updating Workflow Directory. The Workflow team had made some great improvements to the gallery, the biggest of which was user submissions. At the time, it didn’t make sense to continue working on the site when the built-in feature was so much better.
Fast forward to March 2017 and the news broke that Apple had acquired Workflow. While the app continues to be updated, the gallery is not accepting user submissions. Since then, I had often wondered if it’d make sense to reopen Workflow Directory.
So I’ve decided to do just that, but in the process I’ve made a fundamental change. After testing the waters last week with a similar endeavor, Workflow Directory into a GitHub repository. Existing workflows have been migrated (with the exception of a few that are non-functional) and I’ve added a few new ones too. Each workflow has an accompanying README containing a description.
Workflow remains a glaring gap on this site. To be fair, I’ve not been at this too long, but the real reason is the art to doing the app justice. There are some ingenious users around creating incredibly inventive workflows. By way of qualification for the link to Jordan Merrick.com consider that every image posted on this site that is framed with an iPad or iPhone mockup has been created with either this Workflow, or its predecessor. Not only is it one of the best uses of the app I have come across, but it has saved me epic amounts of time.
There has been a lot of conjecture around the future of the Workflow app, but not only has the app continued to receive updates, the signs are good for some form of future integration into iOS [^ Perhaps even beyond, one can only hope]. The design language of visual automation hits the sweet spot between the über nerd and curious tinkerer, lowering the bar for entry by a remarkable degree. If you are worried that you might pour a lot of energy into something that is fated to disappear, I truly doubt that will happen in such a way that will render your learnings obsolete. The visual programming paradigm that has its roots in Automator has been so well refined for touch interaction by Workflow, that it is here to stay in one form or another. On the flip side, with initiatives like the Workflow Directory, if you swish to do so, you can get a fair amount of mileage out of the app without building any workflows of your own, or at least by adapting some to your own purposes. Of course, if you already have the chops, there is plenty of karma to be gained by pitching in to the directory with a contribution.