Taking Github Projects for a spin

Today I started a new project on Github, setting up the initial boilerplate, the README, hosting, and project management.

Normally I would use Trello for something like this, but I saw that Github had a Projects tab now, and I like most of what they do, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

There’s not a lot of customization here, which I view as a good thing personally. Trello can get pretty noisey pretty quickly. You can make new columns, add new cards, and import existing issues as cards, and that’s about it.

When you make a new card, it has its title text and that’s it. No labels, no description, no checklists, nothing. It doesn’t even appear to parse GFM, because I tried to put a checklist by typing - [ ] at the beginning of each line. The only thing you can do is promote a card to a proper issue.

I thought at first that issues or bust would be a bad thing, but now I’m pretty sure it’s the best way for Github to have handled it. Issues already act as the primary place to track details related to a bug or multi-step process. There’s already a defined syntax to referencing and even resolving issues from a commit message. Within a few minutes it felt comfortable and natural.

When assiging someone to an issue or including a checklist, the changes are reflected on the board. However, there’s no way to assign users or check off items from the projects tab itself, you do have to actually click through. Reasonably minor, but worth bringing up.

Letting you put existing issues on the board or promote things to an issue straight from the board itself is quite nice. Even when using the Github powerup in Trello, it’s still a few more steps to accomplish something like this. If you’re already on Github this is probably the killer feature.

One of my largest gripes thus far is that newly created cards go to the top of the column. When you’re working on kanban style boards, it’s really helpful to have a card at the top of each column, or at least the first one or two, that describes the flow of the board. If every new card pushes that one out of the way, it’s less likely anyone will notice it. New cards at the bottom would be far more intuitive IMO.

The other major gripe is that apart from the board history, individual cards that aren’t tied to an issue have no apparent history. You can make everything an issue in order to get that, but I feel as though it’s overkill to go through that process for each individual item if you’re breaking things down appropriately. It’s just another added bit of exactly the kind of friction these systems are supposed to avoid.

Overall I think if you’re a Trello power user, you should stick to that for now. But if you just need a quick board or two for a project on Github, keeping the board on Github reduces friction for you and potential contributors. If you’re not using anything similar right now, give it a try at least. Because everything is stored in issues you won’t lose much if you delete the board itself later.