4 Register a GitHub account

Register an account with GitHub. It’s free!

4.1 Username advice

You will be able to upgrade to a paid level of service, apply discounts, join organizations, etc. in the future, so don’t fret about any of that now. Except your username. You might want to give that some thought.

A few tips, which sadly tend to contradict each other:

  • Incorporate your actual name! People like to know who they’re dealing with. Also makes your username easier for people to guess or remember.
  • Reuse your username from other contexts, e.g., Twitter or Slack. But, of course, someone with no GitHub activity will probably be squatting on that.
  • Pick a username you will be comfortable revealing to your future boss.
  • Shorter is better than longer.
  • Be as unique as possible in as few characters as possible. In some settings GitHub auto-completes or suggests usernames.
  • Make it timeless. Don’t highlight your current university, employer, or place of residence, e.g. JennyFromTheBlock.
  • Avoid words laden with special meaning in programming. In my first inept efforts to script around the GitHub API, I assigned lots of issues to the guy with username NA because my vector of GitHub usernames contained missing values. A variant of Little Bobby Tables.
  • Avoid the use of upper vs. lower case to separate words. We highly recommend all lowercase. GitHub treats usernames in a case insensitive way, but using all lowercase is kinder to people doing downstream regular expression work with usernames, in various languages. A better strategy for word separation is to use a hyphen -.

You can change your username later, but better to get this right the first time.

4.2 Free private repos

GitHub offers free unlimited private repositories for all users. These free private repositories support up to three external collaborators, making them a perfect place for your personal projects, for job applications, and testing things out before making your project open source.

Go ahead and register your free account NOW and then pursue any special offer that applies to you:

  • Students, faculty, and educational/research staff: GitHub Education.
    • GitHub “Organizations” can be extremely useful for courses or research/lab groups, where you need some coordination across a set of repos and users.
  • Official nonprofit organizations and charities: GitHub for Good

4.3 Pay for private repos

Anyone can pay to have private repos with support for unlimited collaborators. A personal plan with private repos supporting unlimited collaborators is $7 / month at the time of writing, and includes several advanced features. See the current plans and pricing here:

Go ahead and register your free account NOW. You can decide later if you’d like to upgrade to a paid plan.