Thinking about Git

A collection of thoughts about git.

I caught news, somewhat late in the game, about a project called "Flashbake" which is a tool to make git use-able for non-programmers to take advantage of git without needing to bother too much with thinking about how to use git. (Which is needed because git is incredibly complex). I think this (and tools like and derived from this) is really cool, and a train of thought that I think we'd really benefit from enjoying. Here are some thoughts:

  • What if, in combination with text converter tools, we had a tool that could: Take a text file written in markdown, and convert it to HTML and LaTeX and insert the output along side the source file in the repo.
  • What if the LaTeX or HTML template was customizable
  • What if it could also generate PDFs.
  • What if it could do all this compilation from a GUI or a text-editor plug-in as well as (or in addition to the current cron-like interface).

I guess the inspiration for some of these features would be to make git version-control work, totally without the command line interface.

I suppose (heh) that I should work on hacking some of this together, the flashbake code is on github, of course.

I have another brief coding project to deal with before I get to deal with this, but I think I think I'll take a stab at integrating some of the automatic conversion stuff, and talk to some people about GUI layers. My branch will be there, if you're ever so inclined.

Second thought about git, is about github. The truth is that I don't use it that much: I can host my own git repositories, I've not yet gotten to a point where I'm working on things that I might publish things with git. But, it's not hard to notice the impact that git hub is having on development communities and code. I think there's clearly some research that's needed on the topic, but something is changing as a result of this site. Thoughts, in no particular order:

  • There are, I think, legitimate, concerns about the openness of github itself. Why are we trusting our open source projects to hosting that isn't open? At the same time, the openness of git itself mitigates this slightly, as well as the fact that github's business model is one of hosting-services rather than one of data lock-in.
  • The fact that there isn't a bug-tracker built in means that people with a problem are, I think more likely to look for the bugs in the code and hack on problems them-self rather than simply provide bug reports and feature requests. Not that bug tracking systems are problematic, but I think presenting users with code and the opportunity to easily publish their own branches without needing permission, increases involvement and connectedness to the code.
  • I saw mojombo post a link to a specific revision of the change-log to a (really awesome) ruby-based git library. Really awesome. But the cool thing, I guess, was that the link to the code was similar to the way that people post links to their latest blog posts. This isn't revolutionary, I suppose, but I think that git promotes a different sort of publishing style for code, that I think is pretty cool/interesting/important.
  • I suspect, though I don't have data to verify this, that github promotes people to publish things that would have previously been too trivial to publish. Flashbake, as above, people are posting repositories of their config files, of the odds and ends scripts that they use to make their computing experience easier. These are the kinds of things that I don't think people have (very frequently) stored in version control, and even less frequently published. The fact that both of these things are happening is very cool indeed.

That's all. What are you thinking about?

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