Facilitating community activities using Github – CSCCE Open-Source Tools Trial 1

In the first Tools Trial of this new series exploring open-source tools that support community building in STEM, we’re going to take a look at three use cases for how Github repositories can be used to facilitate community collaborations.

Github is one of THE platforms for open-source software developers, a place where they share code, fix errors, and suggest new features. However, you don’t need to be an expert developer to reap some of Github’s benefits as a place to manage distributed collaborations “out in the open.” – and indeed many OS community managers have found ways of using the platform to meet their coordination needs, and meet their members where they’re already working.

In this Trial, we’ll start with a short intro to Github in case you’re new to the platform. Then, we’ll hear how three different communities, Data Umbrella, The Turing Way, and rOpenSci, are connecting and collaborating in Github to create a community-sourced blog, organize community events, and plan engaging community calls, respectively. There will be plenty of time for Q&A and discussion, so come prepared to engage with our speakers! 

Tools Trial Info: 

Repos and commits and markdown, oh my!!

Before we tell you more about what to expect at this Tools Trial, we want to reassure you that even if you aren’t familiar with Github (and the jargon that goes along with it) but you want to learn more, we will begin the call with an overview of Github’s main features. We’ll take some time to go over what various words mean, and how the platform can be structured and designed to be user friendly even to those who don’t regularly use it. 

You may want to create a (free) Github account (help with getting started) to check out the resources shared on the call in more detail, but this is not required to gain value from the discussions.

Also, while scientific open-source communities have some specific norms and features, they are still STEM communities. Even if you’re not working with open-source communities, we encourage you to consider joining the call for inspiration or to add a new virtual platform to your “tool belt!”

Using Github for community collaboration 

By design, Github allows users to upload editable files, comment on each other’s content, and up and down vote ideas. It also uses a hierarchical folder structure, making it straightforward to organize content and point people to what they are looking for. 

In this week’s Tools Trial, we’re going to learn more about how to capitalize on this functionality to facilitate collaboration on community blog posts and documentation as well as crowdsource ideas and feedback for community calls. We’ll consider additional ways that these strategies could be mobilized within a community, and if other online tools exist that can do similar things. 

Sharing what we learn

For each Tools Trial in this current series, we will be working with our expert speakers to prepare a Tip Sheet that summarizes the use cases discussed and brief instructions and tips to implement something similar in your community. 

We’ll also be recording the presentations from each call, and making them available on the CSCCE YouTube channel. 

You can expect recordings to appear within one week of the call, and tip sheets within one month. 

Staying connected after the call

If you are already a member of the CSCCE Community of Practice, make sure you join the #open_source_sig channel to continue the conversation after the call ends. You can request to join the CSCCE Slack workspace here, or watch this space for a new community of practice we’re building for leaders in open-source software, hardware, and data to connect over questions of scaling from projects to ecosystems. 

Please contact info@cscce.org if you have any questions! 

About CSCCE Tools Trials

CSCCE Tools Trials began in the summer of 2020 as a way of testing out new online tools. It was a response to the rapid pivot to online convening necessitated by the COVID-19 pivot. We’ve since hosted a number of Trials, and you can find recap blog posts about each of them here

Tools Trials are intended to be practical and participatory, so we encourage you to come with questions or use cases that you’d like to talk to the speakers about, or share with the other community managers or OS specialists who join the call. 

Calls last 90 minutes, however all of the presentations and demos will take place in the first hour. We will record presentations and demos, but we will turn off recording during the Q&A session. 

As with all CSCCE-hosted events, we expect anyone attending to abide by our Community Participation Guidelines and respect our Core Values.

If you have any feedback on CSCCE Tools Trials, or would like to suggest a topic or platform for future calls, please email info@cscce.org


Please note that by hosting and presenting in these trials neither CSCCE nor any of the participants (or their organizations) who attend these trials are endorsing the platforms.