GitHub Spring Cleaning - the Deprecation Hack

2 minute read

Almost spring here! Birds are chirping and we start cleaning out our kitchens and backyards and closets and GitHub accounts. Let's trash some legacy!

Why? Because

  • We're ashamed of old code
  • We want to save money by having a lower (private) repo count
  • We want to improve the signal-to-noise on our profiles before a job interview
  • Spring

But wait, what if your co-worker wants to access some of those commits again? You probably don't feel like peeling archives from crashed backup drives in the basement of your previous building.

Renan and I faced this at and we started looking for simple solutions.

After going over several, we (ok, Renan) came up with the idea of storing every old repository's master branch to a self-named branch in a single deprecated repository.

Here's what it might look like on 3 sample repos: ->   -> ->

Hack? Yes. But the advantages of this method are clear. You get to:

  • Preserve paths, commits, users
  • Use GitHub's webinterface to quickly travese the archives and link to them
  • Make it very clear to people that they're looking at indeed deprecated code
  • Make the deprecated repo private if need be and enjoy GitHub's access control
  • Checkout a deprecated repo branch, force-push it to a fresh repo's master and be back in business

It's limited in that we only preserve the master branch, but we figured that would suffice for repos whose code history would otherwise just have been made inaccessible in far worse ways.

Starting is simple. You create a container repo on Github named deprecated, add it as an origin to existing repos, force push current master to a named branch, and done.

However, spring cleaning is no fun without automation, so we wrote a script to do this for you. Just change the repo_sources and repo_destiny variables.

If you don't understand what this does, please don't run it

#!/usr/bin/env bash
set -o errexit
set -o nounset
set -o pipefail

# Repositories to deprecate and their destination
repo_sources=(eggshell submin Elastica)

myTemp=`mktemp -d -t /tmp` && cd "${myTemp}"

# Iterate the commands below for every repository you wanna merge
for repo_source in "${repo_sources[@]}"; do
  git clone${repo_user}/${repo_source}.git || true

  pushd ${repo_source}
    git clean -fd
    git reset --hard
    git checkout master
    git pull -f origin master
    git checkout -B ${repo_user}/${repo_source}
    git push -f${repo_user}/${repo_destiny}.git ${repo_user}/${repo_source}

  todo="${todo}--> Feel free to delete the repository at${repo_user}/${repo_source}/settings\n"

todo="${todo}--> Saved ${repo_sources} as branches in${repo_user}/${repo_destiny}/branches\n"
echo -e ${todo}

Let us know what you think!

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