Exploring GitHub Actions through EGAD: An Experience Report

Published in International Workshop on Smalltalk Technologies (IWST 23), 2023

Recommended citation: Pablo Valenzuela-Toledo and Alexandre Bergel and Timo Kehrer and Oscar Nierstrasz, Exploring GitHub Actions through EGAD: An Experience Report, IWST 23: Proceedings of International Workshop on Smalltalk Technologies, 2023. https://scg.unibe.ch/archive/papers/Vale23b.pdf

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GitHub Actions (GA) is an automation and workflow orchestration platform that facilitates the execution of software engineering tasks. GA supports automation through YAML workflow files, the main component for action integration. The workflow files are a valuable source of information, for example, to understand how automation actions have been orchestrated. To conduct GA studies, researchers use batch (non-interactive) tools for analysis. However, this approach ignores the context of the GA domain and hinders understanding of the intricate pieces that revolve around workflow files. We present our experience developing and using EGAD (Explorable GitHub Action Domain Model) and share valuable insights we gained. Our focus is on three key areas: (i) onboarding of Glamorous Toolkit (GT), (ii) creating a comprehensive and explorable domain model of GA, and (iii) highlighting the potential of EGAD as a research workbench. To facilitate takeaways from these lessons, we provide details that showcase our learnings, which researchers can apply in their future endeavors. We aim to make this a valuable resource for researchers investigating GitHub Actions.