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GitHub for non-programmers [Was: Re: Agenda: Verifiable Claims Teleconference - Tuesday, December 13th, 2016]

From: Steven Rowat <steven_rowat@sunshine.net>
Date: Tue, 13 Dec 2016 15:28:15 -0800
To: Christopher Allen <ChristopherA@blockstream.com>
Cc: Credentials Community Group <public-credentials@w3.org>
Message-ID: <a2dec180-f962-d7ac-1048-5168bd4d7a2c@sunshine.net>
On 12/13/16 10:44 AM, Christopher Allen wrote:
> Here is a GitHub tutorial that uses on using the desktop app, not
> command-line.
>
> https://github.com/tvanantwerp/github-for-non-programmers
>
> — Christopher Allen
>

Thank you Christopher...

Maybe I'm not really at the correct link, I thought, when I went 
there.  ;-)

That tutorial is hosted in GitHub, using the GitHub interface; and 
before you even can read anything explaining what to do, you have to 
understand the interface. It's a catch-22, from my perspective. And 
when I tried to go deeper in, it seemed to get ever more 
complicated....; and to assume that I want to do a large number of 
steps, and learn all about how GitHub works, in order to be able to 
handle multiple different optional processes....

It's sort of like being a person who knows no Turkish, whose plane 
gets forced down in bad weather on a small Turkish island for a couple 
of days. I can't read any of the signs or talk to anybody in the 
hotel, because it's all in Turkish. I get handed a book that tells me 
all about how Turkish works. The book is written in Turkish. I look at 
it. Where to start? I open it. A list of words I don't know. I try a 
chapter at random. More words I don't know. I close the book.

It's even worse than that, because looking at the GitHub interface 
it's not clear (to me) what's a file, what's a page; where the 
information might reside. -- which order the different pages or files 
should be accessed in.

I don't mean to be ungrateful. I need to step back a bit to explain 
the problem from my perspective.

What portion of the people who are working on Verifiable Claims at 
present are coders? A high proportion. In terms of people who are 
central to the effort, maybe all of them. So for the sake of argument 
let's say that 20 people are doing a lot of work on VC, and they're 
all coders. (I only need a ballpark estimate; there may be more or 
less than this.)

But it's turning out that just about everybody else on the planet is 
becoming interested in, and needs, verifiable claims. (Some don't know 
it yet, but a lot know they need something like it -- they just don't 
know official VC exists yet. If they did they'd be interested).

And what proportion of *those* people are coders? Minuscule. Let's say 
one in a thousand. Even that's pushing it.

So we've got a mismatch of 1 to 20,000, ballpark ratio, in terms of 
the VC working group members versus those who need to become *users* 
of VC, in terms of coding.

And I'm going to suggest that VC work will *benefit* from having more 
people who are not coders involved in understanding at least the basic 
architecture of how VC will fit into society.

But those 19,999 non-coder people are highly unlikely to be users of 
GitHub either, or care about GitHub, or want to care -- unless they're 
given clear instructions for a limited involvement in an important 
project (important to them). And even at that you're only going to get 
a handful of them who will be capable of using it.

I also understand that W3C likes to use GitHub now.

And that GitHub is a startup corporation based on venture capital, 
with all that that entails.

So...caveat emptor. ;-)

Rant over. :-)

Except to say: perhaps some *other* method of collaboration interface, 
in clear text, plain-English, without the multiple new terms and 
bifurcations of GitHub, might be valuable for the VC effort, in the 
long term; not for the coding per se, but for discussion and editing 
of the public statement documents.

But I have no suggestions how or where this might happen. And I did 
appreciate getting Daniel Burnett's Pull Request instructions Part 1, 
and I'm looking forward to Part 2, and if I hadn't gotten involved in 
this rant I probably would've already had all my GitHub PRs written 
and Issues closed and been able to get on with the rest of my life, 
sigh. :-)


Steven Rowat
Received on Tuesday, 13 December 2016 23:28:41 UTC

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