Kenny's Blog

03 Feb 2015

Github as a Platform for Writing

I talked a little before about thinking beyond real-time collaborative systems such as Google docs. It’s been a few months since my last post but I’ve seen plenty of other use cases on Github where people have used Github as a platform for non-software collaboration.

The most interesting of which is this repository. It’s essentially a small story where the author is accepting pull requests. Here is the procedure that he posted:

Writing a story with github pull requests. Here's how:
    Fork this repository and clone it
    Edit the README.md file (this file) with your changes
    Commit and push the changes
    Create a pull request of your fork
If we like your changes, we'll press the green merge button.

Although it looks like the author is crowdsourcing editors around the internet; this is an interesting use case for writing teams who have traditionally been using Microsoft Office or Google Docs for their collaboration. Natural writing after all, is essentially code that humans use to communicate with each other.

Instead of emailing files back and forth with tracked revisions, what if you took advantage of git’s version tracking features and Github’s collaborative environment (pull requests) to develop your writing instead? The collaborative yet documenting environment that Github provides is incredibly powerful. Look at how long this discussion on upgrading OpenSSH for msysgit is:

![Github Thread](/assets/github_example_thread.png)

The advantage of doing things with the pull requests is that you have an easy way of tracking the discussions that go on with those merge requests. If there are any particularly fiery discussions about a change it won’t just disappear.

I don’t pretend to be a professional (or even an amateur) writer, but the collaborative workflow for writing reports and such seems to be eerily similar to how I’ve been using Github. I’m absolutely sure technical documentation and writing is suited to this format. We’ve had success with this running the Electrical Engineering Student Advisory Board website at UH Manoa.

I wonder then, how well would creative writing such as fiction fit into this workflow? I’m not a creative writer at all, so I won’t know enough domain specific knowledge to provide some insight on this. Has anyone attempted this before?