I Am Always Amazed At How Little People Understand About Github

I work with some seriously smart people on a day to day basis, virtually across the web, and in person on some of the projects I'm working on in federal government. Much like APIs, Github is fast becoming a ubiquitous technology that people are using to manage their community, code, documents and much more.

Several times each week I encounter situations where Github is referenced as a potential platform for managing a new project, or cited wen talking about how to solicit feedback, engagement and participation across existing projects. I'm always amazed that in about 75% of these Github conversations, someone chimes in about how Github wouldn't be appropriate because of the barrier to entry for many users.

I find this barrier to entry perspective very interesting. Many of the uses of Github require no knowledge of, or the need to touch code. One meeting in particular, was about providing feedback on the next steps of data.gov, when a participant referenced that for users who weren't technical, but wanted to provide feedback, they should use a separate forum to submit feedback.

To understand this I pulled up the data.gov site, clicked on link to Github repository behind the project, clicked on issues tab, then submit new issue. A text box came up much like it would on Facebook or the proposed forum. In reality there are no technical hurdles for these users, except their own perception that Github is a social coding site for programming.

This type of perception is a holdover from the last 30 years of IT and developers making sure they were keepers of the knowledge and instilling fear in users, that treading in this realm is only for the brave, often male world of developers, database and IT folk. In the world of software as a service (SaaS) and APIs, this is no longer a reality, but the perception is still there.

As I work hard to evangelize API tools and resource, in which Github is a huge part of, one of my primary directives is to educate everyday business users about how easy it is to use some of these tools. You don't need to be a developer to use Github. You can sign up for an account, create repositories of HTML, markdown, text, PDF, images and other documents, and even participate, and contribute to other people's projects--without touching code.

In the last year I've seen numerous, very tech savvy users, who are exposed to Github managed projects daily, who have made their first commit, submit their first issue and realize how easily all of this is. I'm always amazed at how little people truly understand about Github, when in reality with a little education, it is a very powerful platform that anyone can use--no coding knowledge required.