One of the quieter announcements at the recent GitHub Universe event was GitHub Blocks, presented as an experiment by Kyle Daigle, VP Strategy, though the project is sufficiently advanced that developers can sign up to a waitlist.
The idea was presented as primarily for richer documentation. “Blocks are components that customize how you interact with your content,” said Daigle at Universe, adding that a block “could be as powerful as a live code sandbox for a WYSIWYG editor” – or in other words, a way of running and demonstrating what the code in a repository does, within the repository itself. You can think of Blocks, said Daigle, as “little apps that you deploy by pushing to GitHub.”
Documentation for GitHub repositories is most often formatted with Markdown, a simple way of adding markup that is intended to be easy to author and easy to read as plain text, while also providing essential formatting such as headings, lists, images and code examples.
Markdown has a number of variants and GitHub’s version, which is called GFM (GitHub Flavored Markdown) is specified here, a superset of Markdown.
Blocks is a GitHub-specific feature and if developers rely on it, it will make it harder to switch to a different code repository, another aspect of the experiment that may prove to be a benefit to GitHub. More information and waitlist application is here.