For some time now, Triangle at Michigan Tech has been on GitHub with a handful of other utilities that we use everyday within Slack. Over the past few months, some of the active members have been working on a new and crisp website using Bootstrap 4 and GitHub Pages. We decided to migrate to GitHub Pages and away from a privately hosted WordPress website for robustness, maintainability, and the learning opportunities that is provides. We’ve learned that WordPress is a nice framework, if you’re willing to put in the work into designing and maintaining it in the future.
So even though a website on GitHub Pages can also take fair amount of effort, there are a number of frameworks that can make things easy. This site, as well as many others, uses a framework called Jekyll. This “blog aware” framework allows us to create a easy to use website, and allows future members to write create Markdown files which get automatically generated into web pages. A number of other organizations on campus also use GitHub Pages for their website, including The Alley and the Open Source Club, so we were fully aware of all the features that something like GitHub Pages can provide for us.
One of the things that a GitHub Pages website provides is traceability. By having the website version controlled on GitHub, we can track important changes to the website over time and never lose any history. Changes are required to be made by people with a GitHub account. Students might see this as a burden at first, but free for everyone, and students can even get added perks when signing up with their school email through the GitHub Education website.
One of the issues with the previous website was exactly what one would expect when a website is managed by two different groups, the cohesion between different types of content and structure. This is another area where an open source website can greatly improve upon, openness and community building around a project or program. With an open source site on GitHub, both alumni members and active members can easily make changes to the website without any restrictions or fear of completely destroying some random server on the internet.
When it comes to version controlling your software, or anything that is important, companies have a variety of options for configuration management systems available to them. We find that is important that our members who graduate and go out into the real world seeking software or web developer positions, to know how to use some of these applications, Git being one of them. With it’s popularity among open source applications, GitHub has become a major player within many open source communities. We chose to use GitHub as it is a safe and secure way to making sure that our projects, and now our website, isn’t lost in the sands of time.
We wanted to make sure that out members are well prepared when they go out in the real world, we also needed to develop some internal tools to make some of the tedious tasks of our fraternity more manageable. We use Slack to help organize everyone and everything we do, and with it are some tools that we developed. To make sure that everyone is aware of both chapter dinner and sober drive, we have signups that go out early in the semester and periodically post who is responsible got each meal or driving shift.
Not only do we try to teach some of our members how to use Git, but some other online services as well. Majority of our tools are written in Python with Django, are tested using Travis CI, and then automatically deployed out to Heroku when all of the testing is complete. This continuous integration / continuous deployment style is very common is a number of software development roles; so it’s good to show people just how powerful it can be, and how much time it can save them.