Repos Beyond Code: A Collection of Creative Uses of GitHub

One of my secret hobbies is following all manner of cool GitHub repositories. My chops as a developer are limited, but it’s always fun to learn about new technologies and poke around the READMEs to get a sense of how various apps, libraries, utilities, toolkits, and side projects are used.

GitHub is mostly used for projects based on code, so it’s these that make up the large majority of the projects I’ve starred.

But I’m particularly interested in how GitHub, and its underlying protocol Git (about which more below) can be used for things that are not based in code. So for a while I’ve been maintaining a separate list of fascinating projects on GitHub — to date over 60 repos across a wide variety of topics and forms.

I’m calling this collection Repos Beyond Code — right now it primarily lives on, and you can find the whole thing embedded below.

While GitHub is a proprietary platform, it’s built around the open-source software tool “Git”, which has become the de facto standard for version control. If you’re not a developer: version control software is what enables things like tracking line by line differences in text files, collaborating with a team and resolving conflicts when multiple people are editing a document at the same time, and restoring earlier versions of files when needed (if a recent change caused a bug, for example).

It’s one of the main mechanisms used for collaborative, tracked creation and sharing of text — specifically and most often code, but in practice (and potential)…almost anything! And I think the fact that Git is almost always used in the context of writing code makes it all the more exciting to see uses that break that mold and demonstrate its wider applicability.

Some of my favorite use cases, to name a few I see repeatedly:

  • Would-be-blog-posts
  • Resource lists
  • Guides and handbooks
  • Documentation (of code or otherwise)
  • Books and zines
  • Curricula and syllabi
  • Reading lists
  • Open data sets

Why do I find these projects so interesting? And why does the fact they’re found on GitHub contribute to that?

Part of it is a fascination with the diverse ways we can use technology to both create and share. First, it’s interesting to see how version control software and “working in public” can enhance the processes of writing, editing, and collaborating, helping to bring about all kinds of interesting work. And second, I love how the ethos of open source and the tools (like Git) that power it can extend the ways such work is shared, archived, branched, remixed, and made all the more valuable by being both publicly accessibly and malleable.

Here are a few of my favorites from the collection so far:

If you like opening lots of new browser tabs a little bit I’d start with the links above. If you like opening new browser tabs a lot, go ahead and click each item below!

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