Open Source Information Overload

/ in open source

It’s as if daily, if not multiple times during the week I find some amazing super awesome new GitHub project and I hit that shiny watch button, hoping to later that day or someday come back and use the wonderful open source software that the creator provided. It all started for me when I got into Git and Github, one of my first projects was the famous Twitter Bootstrap, and from there it was history. I just recently realized that I have over 400 watched repos, now what?

I’m slowly coming to the realization that open source projects are sort of having the same issues as bookmarks. With bookmarks on your browser; you can search, tag and organize into folders to easily remember where the important ones are. Since I’m a software developer, I could have a folder for PHP frameworks, CSS frameworks, etc. GitHub has the searching down already, but there are some critical things that are needed in order to really get it done right.

Which project was it again? Request or HTTP? Repos as a Service!

When it comes to search and discovery for new repos, there is currently a big void in the user experience. Basically the only way I find out about repos is from Hacker News, Reddit, Twitter, or a friend. GitHub has social and sharing with your friends down really well, but what would be amazing is if they focus more on the repo discovery. Say a new front-end designer joins GitHub, they could start by watching Twitter Bootstrap, then when they go explore maybe they are presented with other similar projects like HTML5 Boilerplate, jQuery, etc.

The feed of updates is so complex and filled with noise that I generally dismiss it entirely, so much so I created an entire web app around GitHub’s APIs in order to extend their watched repos feature in order to know when one of your repos is tagged with a new update. Say new Twitter Bootstrap, MongoDB, PHP, Rails version, etc. This could probably be built in much better into GitHub with push instead of the app pulling the data, then there is a few issues where some repos don’t tag due to submodules, so possibly sending digest emails of the latest commits might be more appropriate, but it’s a start.

GitHub’s built a platform, they’ve raised FU money and the next couple years is going to be insane for the open source community, we just have to work on improving everything as a community, together. When I say that I don’t mean GitHub has to build everything, the platform is solid and we can extend it via their APIs, but then there is the issue of exposure for 3rd party apps such as my own HubNotify. Possibly there could be apps featured on the site which can really bring more features while letting GitHub handle their most important features.