October 11, 2016

Life, Work, Tools: Musician, Teacher & Coder Briana Swift’s Reliance on GitHub

What is your tool—the one that helps you 
do the things you do?

GitHub! It’s where I do most of my interaction for my job, but it’s also a tool I use to plan other things—like my wedding.

How has this tool helped you?

GitHub is my email, especially when I’m planning something. It’s easy to have conversations, “@” mention people, have HUGE amounts of visibility, update and share information, and respond to multiple people in a logical way and place.

GitHub is known for being a place to develop and talk about software, which is awesome, and it’s GitHub’s main user base. But after getting to know GitHub professionally, it became frustrating to use anything but GitHub to do larger-scale planning.

A few months ago, I got married and moved. This is a pretty common life transition. At the time, my life had a lot of moving parts. My husband and I got married eight hours away from where we lived, and we didn’t have a wedding planner. We needed to keep organized!

This started with an Excel document, but after time, that didn’t offer us enough flexibility while we were planning. We wanted to keep track of important deadlines for our move, contacts for the move, contacts and deadlines for our wedding, and family correspondences like RSVPs—all in one place. Too many documents to track made it too complicated.

If anyone has planned a wedding, and maybe this is just true for me and my husband, one of our struggles was that if one of us started planning on one item, if the other wanted to help, there was no easy way to see what steps had been taken, needed to be taken, or the contact information for parties involved. This made it extremely frustrating to try and work together. When one of us was overwhelmed and needing help, having to go back and explain every detail necessary to get the other up to speed would take more time and stress than just moving the task along themselves.

Also, remembering that GitHub was made for code, I built a website for our wedding to give details to guests and give them a place to RSVP. This was version-controlled on GitHub, linked with Heroku, to automatically deploy my code to my site.

One day when I was exceptionally frustrated with how many puzzle pieces I needed to keep track of, I created a tracking issue within my wedding repository. It started small, with a brief overview of each vendor or other planning chunk we needed to keep track of. This simple list had contact info and general steps for planning.

I convinced my husband to get a GitHub account and we started commenting on the issue. We quickly realized that there was too much information for one issue thread. So I opened issues for each vendor or item that needed more planning and collaboration. I had an issue for the pianist, one for the piano tuner, one for getting gifts out at the end of the night—anything that needed decisions to be made and people to be contacted. Then I updated the original issue to include links to these more detailed issues.

Using GitHub as a planning tool resulted in an open conversation where all parties could see other parties’ involvement.

I continue to use GitHub to plan with my husband, and it allows us to plan and focus on things when it works for us, asynchronously.

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Images courtesy of Briana Swift.

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Explore these other Design Feast series: Designer’s Quest(ionnaire) / Blogger’s Quest(ionnaire) / Makers / Side Projects

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