What is GitHub??

The CDF specifications are stored on and made available to the public via “GitHub repositories.” You may be wondering, what the heck smile is that??? GitHub has gained a great deal of popularity in recent years, but why it is used can be confusing.

Fortunately, for most individuals who just want to view or download CDF specification material, the GitHub repositories can be thought of as simple websites. There is a README file displayed at each repository that should describe the contents of the repository as well as other related information, and one can download files just as with other websites.

A fuller explanation is that we are using GitHub repositories to store and make available and permit easier commenting on various versions of CDF specifications, including the documentation, the UML models, the XML or JSON schemas, and other items such as example files or validation tools. Each CDF specification has its own GitHub repository, one per specification. For example, the repository for the NIST SP 1500-100 CDF for Election Results Reporting Specification is

https://github.com/usnistgov/ElectionResultsReporting

and the web-based version of the documentation is located at a NIST website linked to the repository:

https://pages.nist.gov/ElectionResultsReporting

The name “GitHub” comes from “git”, which is a tool used for version control of software.

So, why use GitHub repositories? There are a number of good reasons:

  • NIST and collaborators can store various versions of CDF specifications on the repositories and make them available in a variety of ways such as publicly for completed specifications or privately to collaborators for specifications in progress.
  • Anyone can comment on aspects of the material by using the “Issues” feature on the repository and their comments are thus tracked and easy for others to see and respond to.
  • Changes can be made in a controlled and organized way even when multiple people or organizations are involved at the same time.
More information about GitHub is widely available from Wikipedia and other sources.

-- John Wack - 2017-07-22

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