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20th October 2013 @ 03:26


'GitHub is a web-based hosting service for software development projects that use the Gitrevision control system. GitHub offers both paid plans for private repositories, and free accounts for open source projects. As of May 2011, GitHub was the most popular code repository site for open source projects.' 

Wikipedia article on GitHub

GitHub and OSM

The OSM project has been using GitHub for project organisation and management. Drafts for working documents like papers or posters are stored in open repostitories that can be shared with authors or editors. The GitHub hosted 'To Do List' is the central hub for the OSM project and details the project workflow by the creation of 'issues' that can be commented on or closed when a given task is completed. The 'To Do List' is synchronised with the project landing page and therefore keeps a record of project progress in realtime. 

If you would like to join the OSM team, obtaining a GitHub account would be most useful as we prefer to avoid the use of emails if at all possible and GitHub allows different members of the team to converse in the open about the project.

How to sign up

Go to and pick a username, enter your email and choose a password. Then hit 'sign up for GitHub'. Your email won't be visible to other users, but (depending on your settings) you will receive notifications from GitHub to this address.

'Watching' the OSM To Do List

Go to (you will still be logged in). Here you will find the OSM repositories. You can view any 'repo' by clicking on the link - feel free to play around and peruse the content. 

For now, scroll down the page until you reach OSM_To_Do_List and click on the link.

You will be able to see your username in the top right hand corner and now you should click 'Watch' so that you receive notifications for the 'To Do List'.

After selecting watching... the 'issues' link so that you can see the list and start to add your own issues.

Next, you will see a list that of all the 'issues' or 'to do items' for the OSM project. The issues are listed in date order, with most recent first.

The issue number is shown in grey in the top right-hand corner of the issue box. The image, beneath the number identifies the team member who opened the issue, and this is also detailed below the issue title. Each issue also features labels, which are used to categorise the type of issue. For example, some are non-science 'issues' which means that someone without expertise in biology or chemistry or without access to a laboratory could complete the task.

To comment on an issue, click the link to the issue and enter text into the box at the bottom of the comment feed. You can upload images, include links to blog entries etc. or even add in dropbox/ELN links in order to share data this way.

When commenting on issues, it is possible to @mention someone by typing "@' and selecting a name from a dropdown list that appears.

Everyone who is 'watching' the issue will receive an email notification when a new comment is added and this efficiently keeps the team up to date with progress or problems. A nice feature of GitHub is that you can either reply or comment using the GitHub web interface or directly from your email account.

Alternatively, to create a new issue, click the green 'New Issue' tab.

Type the issue/task in the title box and then enter a brief explanation of the issue so that other team members can read a quick overview. Then click "Submit New Issue' to add to the 'To Do List'

Issues can be filed together under 'Milestones' which are project goals with a set completion date. To add an issue to a milestone, click the dropdown link next to 'no milestone' and select the appropriate goal.
Similarly, labels can be added by clicking on the dropdown label tab and assigning the relevant label(s).

This is by no means a complete guide to GitHub, but hopefully it will serve as a useful reference for navigation around the OSM To Do List and enable participation in open discussion. Further updates will be added to this blog in the future. Please feel free to comment below.


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