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Tom Preston-Werner, GitHub Cofounder, wrote Ten Lessons from GitHub’s First Year in 2008. Though the lessons are still relevant, and the war stories behind each lesson are great, I can't help but wonder what a 2013 version would look like?

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Social code hosting service GitHub isn’t just a free, easy way to host and share your code; it’s also a huge CSS and HTML testing ground with experience writing a fast, scalable code.

So what has GitHub learned from running a hugely successful site? That surprisingly small changes to both HTML and CSS can have a huge impact on performance.

GitHub’s Jon Rohan gave a talk about some of the service’s performance problems and solutions at the CSS Dev Conference in Honolulu earlier this year. (The slides are available on Speaker Deck.) The whole video is worth watching, but the key takeaway is that the right small changes in your code can have a huge impact on performance.

Many of Rohan’s suggestions for faster CSS will be familiar to anyone who’s used YSlow and other performance tools — get rid of unnecessary tag identifiers in your CSS, i.e., div.menu becomes just .menu, eliminate ancestors where possible and avoid chaining your CSS selectors.

On the HTML side — and Rohan says it’s here that GitHub really saw performance improvements — he suggests reducing the amount of matched HTML on the page. That is, look at your pages in a profiler, figure out which tags are being matched and look for ways to simplify the layout to avoid bottlenecks. Among the more depressing things Rohan presents is how much the page load times dropped with switching from anchor links to a JavaScript solution that, while faster, is considerably less accessible.

GitHub is undeniably different than most websites — especially pages like the Git diff views, which involve considerably more code than most pages will need. But, while GitHub may be the extreme example, in many cases the same small changes can help speed up much simpler pages as well.

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GitHub’s new command-line-style search tools. Screenshot/Webmonkey.

Code sharing giant GitHub has taken the wraps off a new search bar that’s much more than just a search bar — it’s a command-line interface for navigating the website.

The new features are clearly aimed at those accustomed to working with Git via the command line. But even if you aren’t a terminal aficionado the new terminal-style tools in GitHub’s search bar are incredibly useful for quickly getting around the site — especially for keyboard navigation junkies since you can now navigate the site without ever taking your fingers off the keyboard.

To use the new command bar just type help and you’ll get a list of available commands. Most of the common things you’d want to do on GitHub — check in on a repo, view your notifications, create a new issue or see any pull requests on your projects — can now all be done from the search box/command line. Here are a few useful search operators:

  • View a user’s profile @username
  • Go to a repository user/repo
  • List a user’s repositories user/
  • List issues user/repo #
  • Search open issues user/repo #search term

As with any good command-line imitator, GitHub’s new search bar features tab completion, history and what the GitHub blog calls “smart filtering”. To browse your history for example, hit the up arrow key — just like you would working in the terminal.

For more details, check out the GitHub blog or head on over to GitHub and give the new command search bar a try.

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Git is in your browser, versioning your files. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey

If you’ve got 15 minutes to spare you too can learn Git, the distributed version control system that powers everything from NASA code to Wired articles.

That’s the promise of a new collaborative effort between GitHub and Code School, who have partnered to create Try Git — a way for new users to try out both Git and GitHub right in the web browser, no software installation necessary.

Much of Git’s success is due in part to its awesome documentation and numerous extra free resources — like Scott Chacon’s Pro Git book — which explain Git in great detail. But nice as those resources are they still require installing software before you can get to the hands-on learning.

Try Git skips the installation and puts a Git prompt right in your browser. It’s still a command line prompt, which might scare away some users, but it’s paired with step-by-step instructions and a visual representation of a Git repository, along with some tips and tricks for figuring out Git.

The Try Git tool also neatly integrates with GitHub. There’s no need to use GitHub — though it does offer some great hosting tools — but the Try Git site interacts with GitHub via OAuth and will push your tutorial repository to your GitHub account as a repo named try_git.

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Wired's Gitspective on life.

What’s far more interesting than what your friends are doing? What your code is doing, of course. That’s why we’re enjoying Gitspective, developer Zach Moazeni’s Facebook-style timeline for your GitHub events.

Moazeni’s code uses the GitHub API to pull in pushes, forks, gists, branches, tags, follows and comments, displaying them in a vertical timeline reminiscent of Facebook. If you’d like to try it out, just head over to Gitspective’s GitHub page and plug in your GitHub user name.

The Gitspective code is still a work in progress and Moazeni has already listed a few wish-list items over on the Hacker News thread. If you’d like to contribute, grab the code on GitHub.

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