Who Needs Wikis When You Have Github?

A new taco recipe library highlights something interesting about the nature of spontaneous collaboration on the web.
More
Ron Dollette/Flickr

Updated, 4 p.m.

This weekend, on a blustery evening, his tummy full of steak and apple tacos, journalist and technologist Dan Sinker embarked on a spiritual journey.

Which is to say, he made Tacofancy: an online, collaborative library of taco recipesAnd how he made it reveals something about collaboration on the web works now: it’s increasingly wiki-free.

Debuted at 7 p.m. Central on Saturday, the library took off. Now boasting more than 50 recipes, it includes details on how to make slow-cooked salsa verde chickendrunken green beans, and chipotle sauce. It has directories for all the various taco elements—base layers, mix-ins, condimentsseasonings—and what they come together to make, “full tacos.” It even has recipes for “like_tacos,” or taco-esque foods that resemble, but are not exactly, tacos. This category includes roti, gua bao, and smørbrød, as all satisfy the ingenious definition penned by programmer and Taco Fancy-contributor Max Ogden*:

tacos are a category of food that are relatively small in size and are served on a open platform of thin carbohydrate filled material. things that make you want to sleep after eating or are sealed off when served are not tacos (see instead: burritos, pizza)

So there is now a repository of free, community-created taco recipes on the Internet. It’s text-based, collaborative, and anyone can edit it.

And—unlike how a “text-based, collaborative” project likely would’ve been half a decade ago—it’s not a Wiki.

Rather, it’s hosted on Github, a web service used by developers to organize and maintain large code bases, images, and data. Instead of presenting a singular if collaboratively-written text—as most wikis do—Github allows for a more complex structure. Like a Wiki, it saves the editing history of the files it manages. But a Github creates a kind of family tree of files: A story of how a project started, of different changes made to the project, of entire offshoots of the project. It lets different users propose changes to the project’s main text, and a few centralized leaders integrate those changes.

Wikis, in other words, usually impose a set of precise rules on their users, all toward the creation of one ur-document. Github bakes the rules into the software (and it has a more widely understood set of norms), and the final product is a set of texts with a common lineage. They’re two different ways of structuring knowledge.

And, to boot, many more people have Github accounts—and visit the site everyday, for work or play—which makes creating a taco library there easier than creating a user account for a new, random taco wiki. 

But perhaps this is more tech than you want with your taco. If you’re interested in making any of the tacos in Tacofancy, its authors have created a plain, easy-to-read index of its recipes and taco delights.

* The original version of this article failed to credit Max Ogden with writing the very useful and brilliantly categorical definition of “tacos.”

Jump to comments
Presented by

Robinson Meyer is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where he covers technology.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Saving Central: One High School's Struggle After Resegregation

Meet the students and staff at Tuscaloosa’s all-black Central High School in a short documentary film by Maisie Crow. 


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where Time Comes From

The clocks that coordinate your cellphone, GPS, and more

Video

Computer Vision Syndrome and You

Save your eyes. Take breaks.

Video

What Happens in 60 Seconds

Quantifying human activity around the world

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In