Friday, April 17, 2015

GitHub and Civic Hacking

As of April 2015, GitHub is the prefered code repository for civic hacks, with Code for America, US open data and open government, and US Project Open Data having repositories there, in addition to hundreds of individual coders having repositories on their personal GitHub accounts for civic hacks they're developing.

For readers not familiar with GitHub, its Wikipedia article says it "is a web-based Git repository hosting service, which offers all of the distributed revision control and source code management functionality of Git as well as adding its own features...GitHub provides a web-based graphical interface and desktop as well as mobile integration."

We'll figure out over time how to best use GitHub for the "DHMN Civic Hackathon/Appleton 2015" and for other northeast Wisconsin DHMN civic hacking code. For a code repository starting point, last night Mike Putnam set up a GitHub site for DHMN Civic Hacks and figured out how to point the DHMN Blogger website to the GitHub site. Then I added a GitHub tab to the Blogger site to let northeast Wisconsin civic hackers quickly jump to the civic hacking code. If you want to help build and improve the DHMN Civic Hacks GitHub site, contact Bob Waldron at bwaldron (at) gmail [dott] com.

As far as GitHub sites for other cities in Wisconsin, the main site is Hacking Madison. There is a Milwaukee Data Initiative GitHub site, but it shows only six repositories and one person active on the site, so there are likely to be other Milwaukee civic hack GitHub sites like BusTickr. There may be other Wisconsin city or regional civic hack GitHub sites, but a brief search didn't turn up any. If your Wisconsin city or region has a site, please send me a link.

Lead developers for many civic hacks may prefer to put the code for those hacks in their personal GitHub account, but here are a few additional centralized GitHub civic hack sites for US cities, regions and states:

  1. Philadelphia
  2. Durham
  3. San Jose
  4. Western Massachusetts
  5. Maine
  6. Nebraska
The Philly article "Why the City of Philadelphia is making GitHub part of its open gov outreach" gives one perspective on why it might be useful to have our region's civic apps on GitHub.
"Hiring Mark Headd as the first chief data officer of the City of Philadelphia was supposed to be a pathway to modernizing the open data efforts of one of the region’s largest IT teams. For technologists, one of the more memorable of those steps has been the local government team growing into the most active U.S. city on GitHub, the popular software sharing and collaboration platform that is a mainstay for today’s open source developers...The open data initiative’s primary audience is Philadelphia’s developer and civic hacking communities. The city shares data and, in return, the general public gets access to these third-party applications, visualizations and uses. There’s no precise way of determining whether visitors are dreaming up software or whether they’re just trying to obtain information. But GitHub recently introduced traffic analytics for tracking a repository’s referring sites and its popular content. “We want to know who’s using our data and how they’re using it,” Headd said, “because it helps us make the data better and helps us make the case that more data should be released."
Another GitHub-civic tech article is's "GitHub: A Swiss Army knife for open government."
"Every morning, the first waking task most humans perform is checking email or the latest updates on their social media accounts. For developers, that initial daily fix is GitHub, the social coding platform that has captured the hearts of millions of hackers and tech enthusiasts around the world. The social network for professional developers and everyday hackers aims to bring distributed, open collaborations to the world, one repository at a time, and it's beginning to find its way into government...With an ever-growing population of users, an aggressive expansion of features and more than $100 million in venture capital funding, GitHub is going beyond just a tool for the tech elite...In many ways, the rise of open source in government in recent years is a direct correlation with GitHub's growth and its attractiveness to influential early-adopter agencies, including NASA...Today, government and civic hackers' open-source accomplishments are synonymous with shiny new GitHub repositories."
If there is enough interest among northeast Wisconsin civic hackers, we can do a few workshops in the region to share tips and tricks of using GitHub. Those workshops might be especially helpful for youth and others new to coding, or experienced coders who haven't used GitHub before. Let me know if you're interested in that type of workshop.


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