Blog logoMatthew Lang


A 4 post collection

Exploring alternatives to GitHub

 •  Filed under Posts, Github, Tools, Web Development

I've been a user of GitHub for a long time now. Ever since I started my career in Ruby on Rails I've had a GitHub account.

I'm looking again at alternatives to GitHub mainly out of curiosity. There's been some improvements to GitHub over the last few years and new features are gradually coming out but there are other options out there.

I did move some private repos to BitBucket a few years ago, but due to the lack of any extra features I moved these repos back. BitBucket just didn't have anything of added value that would keep me using it.

I tried GitLab a few months ago but I didn't really give it a fair go. I spent a couple of weeks using but I didn't really dig into it too much. I created my account there again to give it a try. I've been using it now for a week and I've moved a number of private repos over from GitHub. The nice thing is that as well as my repo GitLab has moved over my issue list for each repo. Another thing I don't have to worry about moving it across.

It's still early days to make a final decision on this but I've been impressed with not only what GitLab does at the moment, but the pace in which they are releasing new features.

The best thing and worst thing about GitHub is its community size. A lot of developers use only GitHub for source code hosting and although some people might see this as a good thing, it's like saying that Facebook is the only social network platform out there. Yes, there are a lot of people using GitHub but there are alternatives to it and I'm always willing to explore the alternatives to any development tool that I use.

Once I've spent another few months using GitLab I'll probably have a final decision on where I'll be hosting the bulk of source code. I won't be closing down my GitHub account if I do decide to use GitLab for hosting my source code. I still need a GitHub account for client work, but that's all it will be used for.

Hello Atom!

 •  Filed under By Me, Dev Life, Atom, Vim, Github

About a year ago I made the jump to Vim. Having finally mastered enough of the keystrokes to muster through a single coding session, I made it my default text editor for programming. In the last couple of months though I've been using Atom for most of my programming. The reason for the move? Just for a change. Atom does have a number of niceties that encouraged the switch.

Good Looking

Vim is simple and productive but let's be honest, it's not exactly an eye-opener as development tools go. Sure you can cut and splice code like a keyboard armed ninja, but its look begins to get a little dull when you're using the same development environment for most days of the week.

Atom, like Sublime Text is it's own application and doesn't run within your terminal. The plus side to this is that it isn't restricted in the way the user-interface can give feedback to me through elements like auto-complete suggestions and notifications.

Atom is easier on the eye and maybe that's a cop-out reason for making a change in your development tools, but my eyes start to strain staring at a two-pane terminal session for most of the day. Maybe it's an age thing, but coding with Atom is much easier on the eyes than writing code within my terminal app.

Keyboard Friendly

Atom, just like every other development tool on the planet has a list of keyboard shortcuts that eliminate the need for a mouse. Not only that but there are some keyboard shortcuts from Vim that I can take with me to Atom. Also, like Sublime Text it includes a command palette to allow you to lookup and select the right command for the job.

Atom is keyboard friendly but more importantly for me, it's familiar in that most of the keyboard shortcuts I use are either from Vim or similar to shortcuts that I previously used in Sublime Text.

Switching to Atom wasn't prompted by it being a more productive editor, its growing community of packages or the fact that it's made by Github. The reason for the switch was just for a change. Sure I'm just as productive with Atom as I was with Vim or Sublime Text but sometimes you just need a change of tools to keep things interesting. A simple change like this can stir things up for the next few months or even years. At least until they perfect a text editor in the browser.

GitHub is not My Resume

 •  Filed under Github, Dev Life, Freelance, By Me

I've been searching through various contract opportunities over the last few weeks. Client work is slowing down and I have some availability over the next few months. Might be a good idea to look around then! One common feature of each ad is that most of them have included is this:

Include a link to your GitHub profile.

For the non-developers amongst you, GitHub is a web based source code repository service where developers and organisations can keep copies of the code they are working on and have worked on. To this end, it's often referred to as a resume for developers. Not every developer has a GitHub account though (there are alternatives like BitBucket) and certainly not every developer has an active GitHub account.

Are recruiters (both agencies and companies) basing their candidate search on developers who have active GitHub accounts?

Does my GitHub account reflect the capabilities of myself as a developer?

I certainly hope not.

In the past I moved my repositories over to BitBucket to give it a try. I left my GitHub account open but there was little on it. Now, I'm back to using GitHub and I make use of it by keeping some projects I'm working on there. Most of them are private. They're ideas that I would rather keep to myself. For little projects and other stuff, I throw them up on my GitHub account as public. Not as bragging rights to my capabilities as a developer but to share my code with other developers.

If most agencies were to look at my GitHub profile at the moment and make a decision based on that alone, they would skip right over my application. The problem is though that my GitHub profile is one facet of my career as a developer. I have a good history as a developer and a variety of experience. I have a couple of recommendations on LinkedIn and an up to date CV there. I'm running my second attempt at a product with DailyMuse after I killed the failed Journalong product.

I'm certainly not a developer that lives and breathes code. Once the work day is over, I might hit the trails on the mountain bike, take my son to the golf so he can practice, or just go for a walk with the family. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There's so many other things I do outside of work that doesn't involve writing code. Yes, I have a number of little side projects on the go. Most developers do, but they're low on my priority list.

While my career is important, it's also important to get the balance right between what you do for your career and what you do elsewhere. I do write code outside of work, but most of the time I'm doing other things like spending time with my family, riding one of my bikes or something else that isn't writing code.

GitHub isn't my resume though. It's one aspect of my resume. It's something to consider yes, but the real value in a software developer isn't the amount of code they write. It's in the way they approach problems, present solutions and communicate with others. And I think I do that rather well.

Transforming Journalong

 •  Filed under Dev Life, Products, Github, Journalong, By Me

Journalong has been limping along for a few months now. With almost no interest from myself in rolling out anymore features and a lack of activity from those users that have accounts there, I made the decision a few weeks ago that I would kill the Journalong service off completely and transform it into something else. There were two main factors that influenced this:

  1. Lack of Interest & Activity - Journalong started off well with and managed to accumulate over 100 users in the first couple of months. The next few months weren't so great. A couple of users signed up to the service every month since then but in the last few months there has only been two sign ups. From those people that signed up, just a few accounts used Journalong on a monthly basis. Not exactly a busy service you could say.
  2. Being Free - In the beginning Journalong was free, then it was paid, then it became free again. If anything from this, I've learned that products and services like this should be paid right from the start. Yes, it can be a hassle coding the payment processing for a web site, but even just a basic monthly subscription should be there if you want the product to become a sustainable business. Once something has been free, it's almost impossible to convince all users of the product or service that they should pay for it.

So that's the reasons for killing Journalong as a service so what next for Journalong? Well I did want to remove myself from managing a dead service, but I think there's still value to having a Markdown journal for your Dropbox. So, over the last couple of days I took the source code for Journalong apart and repackaged it as an open source Sinatra application that you can run on your own computer.

The great thing about this is that I can keep Journalong going at my own pace. Being open source I can make any changes I need or others need in my own time and accept changes from others.

Building and marketing products isn't for me. I prefer to be neck deep in code rather than marketing tools.