This post comes from Abhishek Sharma, a Computer Science grad student at the University of Southampton and member of Bitbucket’s Student Amabassador team.
“Code collaboration on steroids” — this is how Atlassian describe Bitbucket on their site. And this is exactly what I experienced first-hand when I lost my Git virginity after being introduced to Bitbucket in September last year. I’ll tell you the story in a moment, but if you’d prefer to just cut to the chase…
Anyone can use Bitbucket for free. But university students and staff can upgrade to the premium offering at no extra charge (take that, student debt!). There’s a party going on over here, and you’re all invited.
So. On with my story.
For one of my Master of Science modules in the first semester, we were tasked with a group project. I know, I know… the dreaded group project. We had to create a trading agent that could perform the bidding strategy of advertising networks in the AdX TAC (a virtual platform for simulating an ad exchange marketplace) by automatically placing ad bids that would ensure the largest revenue and profits are generated by winning as many campaigns as possible – preferably big campaigns. We also had to minimise the costs incurred to fulfill said campaigns.
My group’s agent would then compete with 24 other agents in a 7-hour trading competition where, despite our best efforts, it would end up placing 14th. Simply because we opted for a rational strategy instead of exploiting the randomness factor in the competition… but that is a discussion better left for another day.
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Now, at the time, I was only familiar with GitHub and thought of it as just a means for finding similar projects to whatever coding assignment I may be working on at that point. Creating an actual repository and collaborating with others on a big project like this was the equivalent of walking into a department mixer where everyone knows each other’s names – except you.
Not to mention that I had never worked on a group coding project before, let alone use a Version Control System (VCS) to manage it. Not surprisingly, the whole situation so overwhelmed by my brain that I started second-guess my coding skills and even my decision to pursue a MSc in the first place. My teammates were doing the Git equivalent of drinking me under the table.
Thankfully, however, they were kind and patient enough to put up with my inexperience. They answered all the stupid questions I asked regarding Bitbucket, Git, and the project in general – thus helping me realise the importance of Git in the process.
Once the project was over and submitted, I realised just how insignificant my contributions had been thanks to my lack of experience with Git. It was around this point when I strolled across the Bitbucket tutorials. Through them, I finally learnt how to create a repository via the Git terminal rather than creating one directly from the Bitbucket site. Yes: despite having an undergraduate degree in software engineering, I had so little exposure to Git that even being able to use Git Bash to do simple things like clone, pull, and push commits was mind-blowing for me.
Fast-forward to today, and the tutorials have made me so confident using Git that the first step I take now before embarking on any coding venture is to create a repository. Not only does this allow me to make my projects available to potential collaborators, it also helps me direct potential employers to the coding projects I have worked on (or am currently working on). It’s nice to be able to prove that I truly possess the technical skills I claim to have on my resume.
Although it is through Bitbucket that I learnt (and am currently in the process of mastering) the wonders of Git, most of my projects are currently based on GitHub right now. But I’ve already started migrating these to Bitbucket and make that my primary tool for project management.
Why, you ask? Well, it’s simple. The free version of Bitbucket offers loads more features to play with than the free version of GitHub.
For example, Bitbucket have recently introduced a feature called code-aware search, which is an easy way to comb through large repositories and code bases. As a bonus, it forces you to get into the good habit of writing good, reusable code so that the semantic search algorithm used by the feature can return results in a ranked format. From what I know, GitHub does not offer this (or maybe you have pay for it).
Also, Bitbucket offers free academic licenses for students and professors, which lets you create unlimited repositories (both public and private) along with the ability to add an unlimited amount of collaborators. Seriously. It’s free, as long as you are a student at one of the academic institutions that Bitbucket offers these licenses to. And if your school isn’t on their list yet, you can get on the list here.
So that’s my story. I’d spent my entire undergrad career knowing that there’s this massive party called Git that everybody was going to, but too shy (and/or) busy to get myself invited to it. Thank you, Bitbucket, for pulling me in.
Calling all university students and professors! Learn how Bitbucket’s free academic license program can help your next project or class.
Also published on Medium.