What the heck is GitHub????

GitHub has gained a great deal of popularity in recent years, but it can be confusing at the same time. For most individuals, the GitHub repositories in use for the CDF project will serve as simple websites where one can download CDF specifications and view documentation.

A fuller explanation is that we are using GitHub repositories to store and make available 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


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


The name “GitHub” comes from “git”, which is a tool used for version control of software. The reason we are using it for the CDF work is, to some extent, because the rest of the world seems to be doing it :-). Seriously, there are other very 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.
As noted above, individuals can submit comments on the specifications and/or look at previous comments via the “Issues” feature (at the top of each repository’s main page), and their comments will be tracked and responded to by the specification developers. This is very important as it ensures comments will be tracked and not "lost" as sometimes can happen if submitted to individuals via email or verbally.

More information about GitHub is widely available from Wikipedia and other sources.

-- John Wack - 2017-07-22


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