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Using Github Issues to Hack Together A Feedback System

By Lane Wagner on Jul 31, 2022

Boot.dev has been my side-project for the last couple of years now. Being a learning path for backend developers focused on quality over quantity, I knew early on that it needed to have a really tight feedback loop from students. We had (and still have) a Discord server where myself and the students hang out, and that worked okay at first. Unfortunately, Discord channels have a couple problems when it comes to issue tracking:

The solution that has been working splendidly for me so far was to add a feedback box directly within each coding assignment! Now students can easily report issues with near-zero hassle. Unfortunately, running SQL queries to get at those submitted issues is a giant pain… The Github API has entered the chat.

Using Github issues to track user feedback

I have a private Github repo where I store all the content for the computer science courses on Boot.dev in markdown files. It would be really convenient if user reported issues automatically manifested as Github issues on that repository! After just a few minutes of digging, I realized it was quite easy to do with the Github API. Given that my backend is a REST-ish API written in Go, I decided to use Google’s Github API client package and the official Golang oauth2 package .

I you’re interested in following along, first you need is a personal access token with “repo” permissions.

Next, I created a githubclient package in my project to manage interactions with the Github API. It exposes a Client struct:

// Client -
type Client struct {
	githubClient *github.Client
}

// NewClient -
func NewClient(personalAccessToken string) (Client, error) {
	ctx := context.Background()
	ts := oauth2.StaticTokenSource(
		&oauth2.Token{AccessToken: personalAccessToken},
	)
	tc := oauth2.NewClient(ctx, ts)

	client := github.NewClient(tc)

	_, ghResp, err := client.Issues.List(ctx, false, nil)
	if err != nil {
		return Client{}, err
	}
	if ghResp.StatusCode > 299 {
		dat, err := io.ReadAll(ghResp.Body)
		if err != nil {
			return Client{}, err
		}
		return Client{}, fmt.Errorf("status code: %v, message: %v", ghResp.StatusCode, string(dat))
	}

	return Client{
		githubClient: client,
	}, nil
}

You’ll notice that I added some logic to list the issues. We don’t actually do anything with those issues, and you can remove that code if you want. For me, it was useful to test that the token is working on application startup.

Next, I wrote a simple CreateIssue() method on the client:

// CreateIssue creates an issue in the example-org/example-repo repository
func (c Client) CreateIssue(exercisePath, fromUsername, userComment string) error {
	ctx := context.Background()
  const repoName = "example-repo"
  const orgName = "example-org"

	summary := userComment
	const summaryLength = 20
	if len(summary) > summaryLength {
		summary = summary[:summaryLength]
	}

	title := fmt.Sprintf("exercise: %v, Summary: %v", exercisePath, summary)
	body := fmt.Sprintf(`
Comment: %v

From: %v
`, userComment, fromUsername)

	_, ghResp, err := c.githubClient.Issues.Create(ctx, orgName, repoName, &github.IssueRequest{
		Title:  &title,
		Body:   &body,
		Labels: &[]string{"course-feedback"},
	})
	if err != nil {
		return err
	}

	if ghResp.StatusCode > 299 {
		dat, err := io.ReadAll(ghResp.Body)
		if err != nil {
			return err
		}
		return fmt.Errorf("status code: %v, message: %v", ghResp.StatusCode, string(dat))
	}
	return nil
}

As you can see, given an…

…the CreateIssue method simply creates a new issue in the repo with a static label. I’ve split the inputs into a Github issue “title” and “body” that’s formatted to my needs so that I can resolve the issues as quickly as possible.

Why not use an out of the box solution?

I know there are a billion and a half issue tracking tools you can buy on the market, but I really liked this solution for a few reasons:

If you need a simple issue tracker for your app I’d recommend looking into using Github issues via the API, at least until it stops working for you!

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