Government best practices

Frequently asked questions

How can your agency sign up for a account?

  1. If you don’t already have one, create a free, user account for yourself at
  2. Once logged in, you’ll want to create an organization account for your agency at
  3. Optionally, as part of the organization creation process, you will be prompted to upgrade your account. You can always upgrade later if you’d like.

You’ve got a GitHub account, now what?

Check out the project ideas document for some ideas on how to get started. The best advice, by far, is to start collaborating on something small, a low risk project, even if only internal to your organization (best places to get lunch near your office, chocolate chip cookie recipes, etc.) to learn the tools and go through the motions with stakeholders (legal, procurement, etc.) before embarking a larger, organization-wide undertaking.

What are some successful use cases and case studies you can look at?

Take a look at the government apps showcase or the case studies and agency examples within this repository.

What’s a pull request? If someone says something about forking, does that mean it’s lunch time?

Open source involves quite a bit of jargon. If you come across an unfamiliar term, check out the glossary or just ask.

You’ve got some open source projects, what’s the best way to grow a community around your code?

Open source is about more than just publishing a project’s source code. Successful open source projects focus on growing communities around shared challenges. Take a look at the community building best practices to ensure your open source community thrives.

How do GitHub Pages work?

GitHub Pages allows you to easily create collaborative websites for your organization and its projects. For more information, take a look at this overview of GitHub pages, some GitHub Pages basics, and the getting started guide.

Can I use it for things other than code? e.g. the White House Open Data Policy

The principles and workflows that drive open source software can also be applied to government open data or policy. Open sourcing data or policy on GitHub provides stakeholders with a forum to surface feedback, exposes the document’s change history, and can even allow for crowd-sourced open data/government efforts. For more information see the open data and collaborative policy making documents.

What the deal with open source licensing and government code?

In most jurisdictions, government created code is public domain, and in almost all situations, should be shared to the widest extent possible. For more information see the copyright faq and license guidence document.

Is GitHub secure? Can I trust it with my non-open source code?

Yes. See the security FAQ for more information.

How do permissions work? Does anyone have access to my code?

For public repositories (open source), anyone can read what you publish and propose changes (which only you can approve/reject). For private repositories (closed source), only those to whom you grant permission can view your content or make changes. For more information about the various access control levels, see permissions and ownership.

What is Git?

Git is an open source version control system that, at its most basic level, tracks who made what change when. It’s a command-line tool, often used by developers, to collaborate on software. For more information and resources for getting started with the command-line version, see the resources section.

Do I have to use command-line Git?

No. Most common operations can be completed entirely in the browser via If you’d like a more visual tool to interact with GitHub repositories on your desktop, take a look at GitHub for Windows and GitHub for Mac.