Commonly Used Tools

18 August 2017

I’ve been shopping this idea around to some people because I don’t want to build it myself.

If someone wants to make a tool that’ll parse all of the dependency files in a set of github repositories, for example, all of the repositories in the Stanford HCI group’s github page, and generate a list of the packages, tools, etc… that are used by the group, as well as sets of people who use various dependencies, and render a page with all of the common tools that people in that group use.

So, for example, if you looked up AngularJS, you might find that Niloufar and I have both (independently) worked on projects where Angular was listed as a dependency.

This idea has come to light because our Slack organization has a channel called #slack-overflow where people can drop in with a question about any random thing. We’ve fielded questions about tons of different topics, but we’ve also failed pretty badly in a lot of cases.

a question about TensorFlow I have, almost literally, no idea what she’s talking about.

My hunch is that the problem with this setup — a slack channel for tech support — is that you’re in this catch-22 where you can’t notify everyone naively to ask for help (I sure as hell don’t know anything about TensorFlow, and I don’t want to be notified about these kinds of questions), but I do want to be notified about questions that I at least might know something about.

As a technical solution, this is kind of clever, but as any social scientist could probably tell you, it’s not especially clever. There’s a lot of knowledge that’s being overlooked and ultimately lost here, but I would argue that this is a good way to bootstrap something. We could use it to pre-populate a database with seeded information about a person. For example, here’s the output from running a quick analysis of package.json files on some of my projects:

So in the above snippet you see that I’ve used express a lot and body-parser and morgan and some other things.

So if you’re interested in building something like this, either have at it or just contact me or whatever. I don’t really feel like going and building it unless at least some other people think they (or their groups) would benefit from this.

If you have something to say about this post, email me or tweet at me.