The Octagon

Using Github to break a tie between plugins.

If I come to a tied between two gems/plugins, and assuming I’ve decided not to build my own, there are a few guidelines that help break the tie.

Keep in mind, this assumes I’ve already weighed their benefits and costs without a clear winner. A recent example from our team at New Story is for tracking system changes. With the number of people interfacing with and managing mission-critical information, we needed a way to rollback mistakes. We were at a stalemate between Audited and Paper Trail. João Rosa writes a great comparison but it left us without a clear winner (which often happens when balancing tradeoffs).

So, instead of engaging in endless debate or inaction, I break it down into an objective Github battle: The Octagon.

Rules of Engagement

  • Thorough Documentation. Though the idea of thorough is subjective, there is often a clear difference.
  • Last commit. How recently has it been maintained? Measuring in days or weeks may not be as helpful but months or years can tell a compelling story.
  • Open pull requests. The number of open pull requests can be a positive if they’re fresh and actively being reviewed. That denotes a thriving community of supporter and managers. A large number of old, unreviewed pull requests typically denotes neglect from the owner.
  • Open issues. Much like PRs issues tell a story of the manager and the community around a plugin. Open issues with dialogue, not cause for alarm. Open issues without dialogue, not great. Open issues without pull requests reflects more negatively on the supporting community than the individual maintaining the software.
  • OT1 (if tied): Community Momentum. How many watches, stars, and forks does the repo have.
  • OT2 (if tied after OT1): WWBD. What would Ryan Bates do? Is there a rails cast on it. (His disappearance from the rails community has made this challenge a bit obsolete but still helpful as he often compares alternatives)
  • OT3 (if tied after OT2): The Name Game. If you can’t decide on a winner after 6 rounds, perhaps you’re thinking too objectively. To break the tie, which has the coolest name?

The Name Game?! That’s right, you’ve reached the end of the road. Without a clear winner after thoughtful research and performance tracking, it’s safe to say the options don’t matter. So, just pick one and get started.

Originally posted on Medium.

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