Phillip Smith

Help us bake tasty GitHub cupcakes at MozFest

Let's put on our chefs' hat & make some prototypes this weekend!

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We’re at Mozfest this weekend, and we have a plan. Our aim: turn our Getting down with GitHub session into an “idea kitchen” and, over the course of the weekend, engage MozFest participants far and wide in an effort to bake some tasty “cupcakes” – new bite-sized prototypes, products or tools built on top of the world’s largest co-creation platform.

The essential ingredient, of course, is you. Whether your work focuses on participation or education, whether you’re a “hack” or a hacker, and no matter your expertise or passion – as long as you’re obsessed with or intrigued by GitHub – this session is for you.

After the session, we’ll move the recipes out of the kitchen and into the “idea bakery,” where we’ll make some tasty cupcakes for MozFest participants to sample. A cupcake is hipster-speak for a demonstration or minimum-viable prototype that’s still very small, yet refined enough to be a proxy for something bigger and more polished. We’ll work on these prototypes throughout the weekend in the “Building Participation” space, and then get some user feedback at the demo party on Sunday.

Over the past few weeks working on the session outline, Matt and I came up with a handful of potential cupcake ideas that we’re excited to explore with you. Or: come up with something entirely new together!

GitHub magic “edit this page” button

Making it ridiculously simple for anyone to edit and update webpages. Now that so many public-facing community websites are hosting on GitHub using GitHub Pages, it should be easy for any project to add an “Edit this page” or “Suggest improvements” button to their site and have it “just work(tm).”

More than just opening up the file on GitHub – a confusing interface for many users – this tool would make the typical “fork, edit, send a pull request” process smooth for all users and without requiring the user to sign-up for a GitHub account. The raw material for making this experience smooth and awesome is at our fingertips, we just need to mix it all together, bake it, and add some icing.

GitHub Magic Carpet Ride

Making GitHub easier and more welcoming for non-techies. GitHub positions itself as the place “Where software is built.” So it comes as no surprise that there are often hurdles for new, non-technical users. Even when a new user can be convinced to create an account, the first screen they see after logging is often described as “confusing,” “overwhelming,” and full of technical terms that don’t make much sense.

That’s where this potential cupcake comes in. Likely a Firefox Add-on, this tool would transform GitHub to be optimized for new users, or potentially a specific category of new users like writers. It would do this by providing a step-by-step tour of relevant GitHub features and by hiding a lot of the more technical aspects of the site.

After installing the add-on, a new user could visit GitHub and be walked through the account creation process, as well as the typical steps for setting up a personal blog. The add-on could be modular, so that new tours could be added by the community and chosen by the user.

GitHub Levitation

Make writing in GitHub as easy as WordPress or Medium. The objective of Levitation is to “make it easy to publish beautiful writing on GitHub.” Right now, the process of setting up GitHub Pages is not immediately obvious for new users and, once installed, they’re still required to edit HTML. Also, the provided “themes” for GitHub pages are built to highlight software projects. The power of GitHub Pages is obvious, and we would like to unlock that potential for people with big ideas and something to say.

The aspirational goal of Levitation is to make a beautiful reading experience for great writing, and to connect those reading experiences together into a “small pieces loosely joined” ecosystem of ideas.

What else?

Got a cupcake idea of your own? Let us know using #mozfest #github.

Get involved

Join us! Here’s some of the links we’ll use to hack together. Even if you’re not at MozFest, please feel free to contribute or follow along.


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.

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