Managing collections of bibliographic references is something that all people trying to learn anything need to do, whether it is a simple list of bookmarks in a web browser, a file with some notes in it, or something more formal like a bibtex or bibjson file. In order to store and share those files with others, whilst making and tracking changes, some form of shared version control system is required.
Solution – distributed version control systems
Luckily, these already exist – they were created for software development projects. So let’s use one to manage some files. There are various types of distributed version control systems available, and for this example we are going to use git. It is possible to install and run git yourself, on your own computer, or on a shared server – but we don’t even need to worry about the complexities of sharing our service, because http://github.com does it for us.
Viewing a repository
Viewing the content of a github repository is easy – just go to the URL of the repository, which in this case is at http://github.com/cottagelabs/bibliofiles. There you can see all the files and folders in the repository (which at the time of writing is just one file called README). Clicking on the name of a file will show you the file in the browser, but you can also get at the file directly, which is nice.
- the README file in the browser: https://github.com/CottageLabs/bibliofiles/blob/master/README
- the README file directly: https://raw.github.com/CottageLabs/bibliofiles/master/README
You can get at the file directly from the browser version by clicking the “raw” link.
Getting an account
sign up to github. You can start creating your own repositories if you want, but I have already made one for this project. So, email me with your github account name, and I will assign read and write privileges for you on the account I have set up.
Setting your public key
You should have a public key assigned to your account, so that you can authenticate when you want to edit files. When logged in, go to “ssh public keys” in “account admin” – https://github.com/account/ssh. Follow the instructions, and view the “help with public keys” section if necessary.
Once you have permissions, you can edit files directly in the browser on the github website – for example, click the “edit” button when viewing the README file.
But the real purpose of git is that you can pull the files down to your local computer, make changes, and push them back up. You do this using git directly from your own PC.
To do this from a linux command line:
sudo apt-get install git
copy the repository to a local folder
git clone firstname.lastname@example.org:CottageLabs/bibliofiles.git
enter the directory
edit files as you see fit
NOTE: if you create new files in the repo, you must tell git about them
git add .
update the status of your local repository version by doing
a commit, and include a message explaining your recent changes
git commit -a -m 'some explanatory message'
check if there are any changes on the remote repository
you can do this any time to update your copy with other peoples changes
push your local changes back to the repository to share them with
other people. do this regularly
git push origin master
Things get more complicated when other people are making lots of changes – you may find there are conflicts. Then it is time to learn about merging… http://book.git-scm.com/3_basic_branching_and_merging.html
Doing this with windows
There will be some way to do this on a Windows machine, but I do not have the details. But here are some links I have found about the subject:
By doing this, we can share updates to files. We will also have a revision history and remote storage. Plus, we can use a raw file from within the repository on github as the source for a bibserver collection!