How to add an “improve this content” button to your GitHub Pages site

At the bottom of this page (and every other page on the site), you’ll notice a subtle plea to help improve the page’s content. That edit button is no dark magic. If you host your site on GitHub or GitHub Pages, collaborative content is simply a matter of linking to an easily predictable URL.

The difference between publishing with say, WordPress, and publishing using Jekyll and GitHub Pages is more than a choice of framework or platform. When you treat content as code, when you give prose the same respect that developers have for building mission-critical software, you suddenly unlock collaborative workflows whereby content can be transparently versioned, discussed, and improved. Like any other open source project, members of the public can see each line’s history, how it came to be, and propose improvements for the author to review.

If your site’s content is hosted on GitHub (either with Jekyll/GitHub Pages or something like wordpress-github-sync), it’s easy to provide readers with a link to submit changes. You simply need to add a vanilla HTML link to the following URL (if you’re using another framework, you’ll need to build the URL yourself):

https://github.com/{{ site.github.repository_nwo }}/edit/{{ site.branch }}/{{ page.path }}}

Luckily, GitHub Pages has a nice helper to build that URL automatically:

{% github_edit_link %}

Or, if you wanted the helper to build the link as well:

Please {% github_edit_link "Help improve this article" %}.

Which would output something like:

Please <a href="http://github.com/benbalter/benbalter.github.com/edit/master/_posts/2015-09-13-github-pages-edit-button.md">help improve this article</a>.

If a user clicks the link, they’ll be prompted to login or signup for a GitHub account if they haven’t already, and will be provided with a web-based editor to edit the page’s content. From there, they simply click the big green “propose change” buttons, which will silently submit a pull request to your site on their behalf, no Git or GitHub knowledge necessary.

Give it a try by clicking the edit button below (suggested improvements to this post welcome), and I encourage you to follow these steps to add a “help improve this content” button to your own site.

Edit (8/28/17): Updated to use the github_edit_link helper.

benbalter

Prior to GitHub, Ben was a member of the inaugural class of Presidential Innovation Fellows where he served as entrepreneur in residence reimagining the role of technology in brokering the relationship between citizens and government. Ben has also served as a Fellow in the Office of the US Chief Information Officer within the Executive Office of the President where he was instrumental in drafting the President’s Digital Strategy and Open Data Policy, on the SoftWare Automation and Technology (SWAT) Team, the White House’s first and only agile development team, and as a New Media Fellow, in the Federal Communications Commission’s Office of the Managing Director. His paper, Towards a More Agile Government was published in the Public Contract Law Journal, arguing that Federal IT Procurement should be more amenable to modern, agile development methods. More about the author →

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