It's coming up on conference paper season, specifically for the Cognitive Science Conference. I love how deadlines like CogSci push research forward, giving us an intermediate goal to shoot for. But when lots of folks in the lab are writing papers separately, keeping track of all the drafts can get unwieldy very fast. My resolution this year is that no one will send me any more zip files of a directory called "CogSciPaperFinal." File naming practices like this one have been caricatured before,* but they get even worse when I'm constantly trying to track something like 6 - 8 different papers going forward at the same time.
Towards that end, our last lab meeting of the quarter was on version control software. In a nutshell, version control packages allow individuals and collaborative groups to work together on a project (usually a software codebase) and provide tools for keeping track of and merging changes to the project. It's painfully clear that we're late to the party: virtually no one in industry works on a large project without version control, but, as is frequently noted, scientists are not good software engineers.
We are starting a lab-wide push to keeping track of all of our writing and code using git and github. This transition will mean a bit of discomfort – hopefully not pain – but it's a far better method for storing our work and sharing it with collaborators. If you haven't played with git, I recommend looking at this nice tutorial by NYU's John McDonnell. I also found it very useful to do the TryGit tutorial. The lab's (currently very empty) github page is here. Hopefully in a couple of months it'll be substantially fuller...
* HT: Michael Waskom.