Web interfaces for source control

I came across two articles about web-based interfaces for source control. The first is a critique of GitHub’s UI. The second is an explanation of some of the design choices for Sourcehut, a new 100% free and open source software forge.

If you’re interested in interfaces, or software engineering tools, I highly recommend reading both. They are short, will only take a few minutes of your time, and maybe make you think about functionality you take for granted, or issues you’ve learned to ignore and live with.

Personally, I like GitHub’s general prettiness, but I agree that there’s a lot of unnecessary UI elements, and not enough of (what I would consider) key features for effectively browsing source. The above-linked article mentions the difficulty of switching between individual files, history and branches, while links to Enterprise pricing, or starring repos are on every page. Part of that can be chalked up to GitHub’s position in between a software forge and a social network (because  we’re still in the phase where we think everything needs to be a social network).

To be fair, Sourcehut is a bit too spartan for my tastes. If nothing else, I like good use of whitespace and nice fonts. (Aside: consider using Fira Code or Triplicate for displaying source code.) And I can’t tell how to easily move between code and history views on Sourcehut either. But at least its motivations are more clear, the appearance issues can probably be solved using user style sheets, and if you’re really peeved about its choices, you can fork it (though it’s almost certainly not worth the effort).

I haven’t really used similar tools (except for a pretty barebones code diff and review tool at a company I worked at briefly), so I wonder if there are other examples that can provide interesting lessons.

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Sunday Selection 2018-11-18

Around the Web

The Beauty-Happiness Connection

I’ve been living in Boston (or Cambridge to be more precise) for the past few months and it has been good so far. Boston is a quite attractive place to live, with all the universities and the museums, architecture and open spaces. Though there are certain deficiencies to my life here (I haven’t built a solid social circle yet), as this article says, being within easy rich of various forms of beauty has been quite enjoyable.

The Weightiest Question in the Smallest Number of Words: Retelling the Nietzsche Story

Since sitting down and actually reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra a few years, I have been a fan of Nietzsche (and one day I should really sit down and read all of his work). And over the years I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the intellectual webs that writers and thinkers find themselves embedded in (in no small part due to reading Brain Pickings). So of course I found this interview of Sue Prideaux about her forthcoming biography of Nietzsche very interesting. It’s only about Nietzsche, but situates his work in the context of his life and the people he knew and communicated with.

The Freedom to be Free at Work

Talking of things I have become interested in during the last few years, I have been increasingly concerned about how “work” and “productivity” should be situated in the broader frame of our lives. Of course, this is well-trod ground and in this case we get to see Hannah Arendt’s footsteps in this region as she ties together notions of work, labor, creation, consumption and humanity’s connection to the “metabolism of nature”. Hopefully a thought-provoking read on a Sunday afternoon before starting the workweek anew.

The Bodhisattva of Compassion

Yesterday I learned about Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. This particular bit about, Chenrezig, one of the forms of the bodhisattva stood out to me:

The bodhisattva vowed to clean up samsara once and for all. He put in a heroic effort. He thought he’d done it. But when he turned around again, the mess was back, unapologetically.

Chenrezig was so devastated by his failure to fix things that he shattered into a thousand pieces… What to do when even a bodhisattva of compassion can’t bear it any longer?

The story takes an instructive term. Amitabha, the Buddha of Boundless Light, comes down from his Pure Land and converts Chenrezig’s thousand shattered pieces into a thousand arms (plus eleven heads, so he can look in all directions). I find it hugely instructive that Amitabha gives Chenrezig a thousand tools and says, Hey, keep going.

Chenrezig’s thousand arms are a token expression of the patience and fortitude essential to the bodhisattva vow. As our world prepares to blow itself apart yet again, Chenrezig becomes more than just a symbol; the bodhisattva is an absolute necessity, a guide and refuge.