Working from the Outside In

This post is second in a series, beginning with Automating Web Site Updates.

Let’s start searching for a solution by starting at the edges, then filling in the middle. That is, “where does this process begin, and where does it end up?”

Well, it begins by contributors uploading their content in markdown format, and ends up with a web pages delivered to readers. Here’s a vague picture:

Contributors to ? to Readers

That picture looks kind of familiar:

"Then a miracle occurs" Cartoon by S. Harris. Copyright ScienceCartoonsPlus.com, used with permission.
Copyright ScienceCartoonsPlus.com, reprinted with permission.

We need to fill in the middle of this picture, ideally with services that require little or no customization or coding on our part.

Let’s start with the contributors. They produce markdown files with their content, and need to send them somewhere where they can be reviewed, commented on, possibly changed (by them or others) before they can be used. That sounds like a Git repository. We could set up our own git repo on a server somewhere, but remember: we want to use existing services whenever we can. And GitHub is just such a service (there are others, too, like GitLab, that would work fine, too).

We will use GitHub for this first step. The contributors are all at least somewhat technical so they should have little trouble forking the main repository, adding content, and creating a pull request (PR) from their fork. If they need help there’s a lot of documentation at the site, in books, and on StackOverflow. And the editors can use regular GitHub tools and processes to manage the contributions, eventually resulting in a merged PR.

So, we’ve started to fill in the picture:

Contributors to GitHub to ? to Readers

Next time we will continue to work from the outside in by jumping to the other side and deciding on how to deliver web content to the readers. Then we’ll jump back to see where we go from GitHub.

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