A basic collaboration workflow on Gist

The main purpose of this post is to introduce a basic workflow to allow people to collaborate on Gist.

First of all gists are nothing more than git repositories hosted at https://gist.github.com. They are typically used to share snippets of code, but can be used also to write live code examples, posts, and text-adventures.

You can learn more about how to create a gist and about gists themselves on GitHub Help pages.

In this post I will focus on how to manage forks and remotes to easily collaborate on a gist with your coworkers.


You need a basic knowledge of Git and to have it installed on your PC.

Follow this guide to set up Git: https://help.github.com/articles/set-up-git/.

Follow this guide to learn Git basics: http://git-scm.com/book/en/v2/Getting-Started-Git-Basics.

Gists are git repositories

A gist can be cloned as any other git repository using its clone URL.

Try cloning the example gist at https://gist.github.com/potomak/49832b4426a5f093037d by running

giovanni$ git clone git@gist.github.com:/49832b4426a5f093037d.git hello-world

Now you can work on the gist as you would usually do with other git repositories. You can for instance update the hello-world.txt file, add it to the staging area, and commit your changes logging a commit message.

giovanni$ cd hello-world
giovanni$ echo "Foo" >> hello-world.txt
giovanni$ git add hello-world.txt
giovanni$ git commit -m "Update file"

If you run git log you should see two commits:

  1. the initial commit I made to create the gist
  2. the second commit where I updated hello-world.txt
giovanni$ git log --pretty=format:"%h - %an, %ar: %s"
b24c6d3 - Giovanni Cappellotto, 5 minutes ago: Update file
0927aec - Giovanni Cappellotto, 41 minutes ago:

To write your changes into the hosted repository push your local master branch to the default origin remote.

giovanni$ git push origin master

Note: after the push you can view the full list of commits also online at https://gist.github.com/potomak/49832b4426a5f093037d/revisions.

Forks and remotes

To collaborate on gists repositories your team mates can fork them.

As a different GitHub user you can fork the example gist, for instance https://gist.github.com/gmarenda/57c23d008b770b4904ba, clone it, and update it, following the steps:

giorgia$ git clone git@gist.github.com:/57c23d008b770b4904ba.git hello-world
giorgia$ cd hello-world
giorgia$ echo " Bar" >> hello-world.txt
giorgia$ git add hello-world.txt
giorgia$ git commit -m "Update file from fork"

Doing so Giorgia updated hello-world.txt and committed her changes on her local repository, associated with the remote fork.

After her changes, log on Giorgia’s local repository will look like this:

giorgia$ git log --pretty=format:"%h - %an, %ar: %s"
e5a386d - Giorgia, 47 seconds ago: Update file from fork
b24c6d3 - Giovanni Cappellotto, 48 minutes ago: Update file
0927aec - Giovanni Cappellotto, 84 minutes ago:

Now if she pushes her changes to the origin remote

giorgia$ git push origin master

I’ll be able to add her origin remote as a new gmarenda remote on my repository to merge her master branch with mine.

giovanni$ git remote add gmarenda git@gist.github.com:/57c23d008b770b4904ba.git
giovanni$ git fetch gmarenda
giovanni$ git merge gmarenda/master

In the local repo now there are

Giorgia’s commit has been merged from her master branch, that has been taken from the gmarenda remote based on her fork of the original gist.

Now I can push my updated master branch to origin to persist changes on the hosted repo.

giovanni$ git push origin master


The process is a little more manual than how people are used to do with pull requests from GitHub’s web interface, but I find it interesting and useful to use such a simple collaboration flow on Gist.