CSCCE Open-Source Tools Trial 2 Recap: Using GitHub and HedgeDoc to organize and support community events

For the second Tools Trial in our series focusing on open-source tools, we invited staff from The Carpentries to highlight some of the tools they use to support community events like CarpentryCon. Toby Hodges (Directory of Curriculum) and Maneesha Sane (Deputy Director of Technology) took up the challenge, with Toby sharing the tool HedgeDoc, which supports collaborative note taking in markdown, and Maneesha demo-ing two different ways of setting up a GitHub repo (one to host a website, the other to solicit conference session proposals). 

In this blog post, we’ve curated the video recordings of Toby and Maneesha’s presentations, as well as CSCCE staff member Emily Lescak’s introduction to the session, the resources that were shared during the session, and a brief overview of some of the key themes and discussion points. 

We’re working on a series of tech tip sheets to complement this series of Tools Trials, in which we’ll compile more of the technical do’s and don’ts covered in our sessions together. We’re working on these sheets in collaboration with our expert presenters, and you can expect to see them released on CSCCE’s Zenodo community later this fall. 

Our next trial will focus on different ways of using OpenReview to support community activities. PI Andrew McCallum will be joining us to share more about the platform and Emily will walk us through some examples of OpenReview in action. We hope you’ll join us on Thursday, 28 September at 11am EDT / 3pm UTC


To start this session, Emily Lescak (Project and Community Manager at CSCCE) gave an overview of the current Tools Trials series, and offered a recap of keep learnings from Tools Trial 1. In the first trial, we focused exclusively on GitHub, so if you’re curious to learn about more use cases on that platform, head over to the recap blog post

You can watch Emily’s presentation in full below: 

Then, Toby and Maneesha gave an overview of the Carpentries’ community, which is focused on delivering trainings on essential data and computational skills. With more than 2,000 trainers around the world sharing more than 4,000 open-source lessons, it’s a large community comprising multiple member types that convenes lessons, activities, and events both online and in-person. 

How The Carpentries use HedgeDoc, a collaborative markdown tool

Toby focused his presentation on HedgeDoc and how useful it is when you are collaborating with others to build a webpage, or otherwise want to capitalize on the utility of markdown. Markdown is a relatively lightweight computer language (compared to other languages like HTML) that identifies content and formatting. For example, in markdown, **bold text** becomes bold text or [a link to the carpentries homepage] ( becomes a link to the carpentries homepage. In the demo below, you can see what this looks like on screen: 

HedgeDoc isn’t the only tool for doing this, and during the call participants had a great time turning on markdown recognition in Google Docs (the platform we use for shared notes during calls and lessons). (As an aside – we all also learned that Google Docs now supports line numbers, in case you would like to use that function!). 

Toby’s demo is highly accessible for anyone interested in using HedgeDoc at a community co-working session or other event. He also covers options for self-hosting, a careful comparison of features in other shared notes tools (such as Etherpad), and demos how to easily add cat pictures to your next website project!

Using GitHub to create a website and solicit session proposals

Building on some of the topics covered in the first Tools Trial of this series, Maneesha then demo-d two different ways of using GitHub. As you may know, or remember from the first tools trial in this series, GitHub is a version control system based on Git. There are other, similar tools (e.g. GitLab) but GitHub is probably the most widely used, especially in the open-source software and hardware development space. While GitHub is commonly used to write, maintain, and update software, it can also be used for other tasks, including various aspects of community management. 

Maneesha started her presentation with a short refresher on the basics of setting up a GitHub repository, and then focused on how you can use a repo as the “backend” of a static website using a template. This has a number of advantages over a content management system like Drupal or WordPress in that it can be public – anyone can submit an issue if they find a typo, for example, or suggest places to add instructions or scaffolding to make using the site easier. However, there’s a very steep learning curve, and as Maneesha noted she regularly offers day-long workshops for getting started with GitHub!

Using GitHub to source conference session proposals, on the other hand, is more straightforward. Instead of hosting all of the files needed to run a website, this time the repo is “a bucket of issues.” Proposers submit an issue using a template created by The Carpentries, and then conference organizers can comment, label, and iterate as needed. Watch the video below for more details, and watch this space for our tech tips sheets that will cover various ways of using GitHub to support community activities!

Trying things out together

CSCCE Tools Trials aren’t all the same – not all tools lend themselves to live demos or playing around in real time – but we thoroughly enjoyed how hands-on this Trial felt! If you’re just finding out about CSCCE Tools Trials, we encourage you to come along next time and see what it’s all about. We’ll be taking a closer look at OpenReview with project PI Andrew McCallum, and exploring some of the varied ways STEM community managers are using this open-source tool to support a range of activities from reviewing grant and conference proposals to supporting mentoring projects. 

Join us on Thursday, 28 September at 11am EDT / 3pm UTC to learn about OpenReview, meet other STEM community managers curious about open-source tools, and join the discussion around innovating new ways to use online tools in your own communities! More information about next week’s call is here. 


More about the use cases we featured today

More about The Carpentries

For new GitHub users

For new HedgeDoc users

Related tools