Ice, ice, code.

GitHub enters the next phase of storing code at the Arctic Code Vault

Sarah Schlothauer
© Shutterstock/  ginger_polina_bublik

The GitHub Archive Program has entered the next step of storing open source repositories in the Arctic for 1,000 years. On February 2, 2020 GitHub took a snapshot of all active public repos to archive in the fault and production is underway. Did your code make it into the archive? There is still some time to help out with the user guide, which will close on February 29, 2020.

In November 2019, the GitHub Archive Program unveiled its plans to preserve publically available code deep in the Arctic. On 02/02/2020 the plan shifted into action. GitHub took a snapshot of all active public repositories to archive in the vault.

Is this insurance against a doomsday scenario, an anthropological milestone, an art display, creative marketing or a bit of all of the above?

Let’s check in with the project’s recent developments and how you can help expand the user guide until February 29, 2020.

SEE ALSO: The trendy five: Starting the new year with the best GitHub repos from January 2020

Code review in the year 3000

Production has begun, and according to the GitHub Archive Program, it will take roughly two months to complete. In the spring of 2020, the team will return to the remote location in Svalbard and make their deposit in the Arctic Code Vault where it officially enters the Arctic World Archive.

How will this information remain accessible? While the project claims that the data can last up to 1,000 years, a lot can happen in a millennium. In the year 3000, we will we even code anymore? A number of professionals from a variety of scholarly fields have been discussing the tough questions, such as, how do you communicate with an unknown future?

The board identified that the three most useful themes to include in the archive are visual representations, metadata, and redundancy.

From the GitHub blog:

  • Visualization: Include visual representations within the archive content itself, such as showing scientific plotting code next to its results, and making the physical artifacts of the archive visually striking and aesthetically appealing.
  • Metadata: Include repository metadata (description, language, commit logs, associated wiki, etc.) and relevant larger-scale metadata, such as the last several State of the Octoverse and a snapshot of Wikipedia.
  • Redundancy: Particularly, creating smaller “fractional” deposits of the archive, with contents such as the 10,000 most-starred and most-depended-upon repositories, along with a small random sample of other repositories. We’re also donating copies of those deposits to prominent archives and libraries worldwide, such as Oxford’s Bodleian Library.

More information about this project will be unveiled in Paris at Satellite in May, 2020.

Lending a hand

You can help improve the human-readable index and guide. The guide will, in theory, help future generations understand what they have found, what software is, what open source means, and how to use the information.

It is currently open sourced and accepting pull requests. See if you can help; have a look and submit a PR or open up an issue before the deadline. At midnight on February 29, 2020, this guide will be finalized.

According to a blog post by GitHub author Julia Metcalf, the snapshot criteria included:

  • Any commits between the announcement at Universe on November 13, 2019, and February 2, 2020
  • At least one star and any commits from the year before the snapshot between February 3, 2019, and February 2, 2020
  • At least 250 stars, regardless of when their most recent activity occurred

Did any of your open source projects make it into the vault?

SEE ALSO: Red Hat fights for software freedom by filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court

Facing criticism

It is impossible to ignore the criticism against GitHub while searching for information about the current Arctic Code Vault project.

In response to posts about this archival project on social media, users are replying to the Microsoft-owned company, questioning them about their contract with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In 2019 GitHub saw employee resignations when the contract with ICE was renewed and currently faces scrutiny from its users and open source project maintainers.

Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer

All Posts by Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer is the editor for She received her Bachelor's degree from Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey. She currently lives in Frankfurt, Germany with her husband and cat where she enjoys reading, writing, and medieval reenactment. She is also the editor for Conditio Humana, an online magazine about ethics, AI, and technology.

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