Collaborative Writing on GitHub: A Case Study of a Book Project

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Abstract: Social coding platforms such as GitHub are increasingly becoming a digital workspace for the production of non-software digital artifacts. Since GitHub offers unique features that are different from traditional ways of collaborative writing, it is interesting to investigate how GitHub features are used for writing. In this paper, we present the preliminary findings of a mixed-methods, case study of collaboration practices in a GitHub book project. We found that the use of GitHub depended on task interdependence and audience participation. GitHub's direct push method was used to coordinate both loosely- and tightly-coupled work, with the latter requiring collaborators to follow socially-accepted conventions. The pull-based method was adopted once the project was released to the public. While face-to-face and online meetings were prominent in the early phases, GitHub's issues became instrumental for communication and project management in later phases. Our findings have implications for the design of collaborative writing tools.

Recommended citation: Pe-Than, E.P.P., Dabbish, L., and Herbsleb, J.D. (2018). Collaborative Writing on GitHub: A Case Study of a Book Project. In Companion of the 2018 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW’18), pp. 305-308.