Supplement Classroom Learning with Open Source Textbooks

The Data 8 course supplements every lecture with a corresponding few chapters in it’s open source textbook, Inferential Thinking. Written by Ani Adhikari and John Denero, every new semester of Data 8 utilizes its interactive capabilities to help cement topics of the class for all students. The decision to make the book open-source was a conscious choice made by the founders of the course to provide it as a resource to each and every student. This message of diversity and inclusion is a prevalent message spread across the data science program at UC Berkeley.

The Book’s Software

Inferential Thinking is built upon several software libraries which are actively maintained. The main library used to build the book is called Jupyter Book, which is also the same software used to create this Zero-to-Data-8 guide! The language used to teach the course is Python, and is supplemented using a library called datascience, which is a library authored by John Denero, David Culler, Alvin Wan, and Sam Lau. The library’s source code can be found at the attached link here.

Customizing your own Data 8 textbook

The Data 8 textbook should be suitable for most courses. However, in the event that you wish to customize some parts of the textbook for your own course, follow the instructions on this page.

Message the Data 8 textbook instructors

The Data 8 textbook is licensed CC-BY-ND. The last clause means “No Derivatives” unless you are given approval. If you’d like to make any edits to the textbook, please contact the Data 8 team first. You can find contact information at the Data 8 course information page.

Prepare your computer

First off, take these step to prepare your computer for adapting the Data 8 materials:

  1. Create a folder for your data 8 deployment. We’ll deal with a few repositories for textbook content, so it’s easiest if they all exist under one folder. Change directories into this folder. e.g.:

    cd data8/
  2. Make sure that you have git installed on your computer.

  3. If you’d like to preview changes to your site locally before pushing to GitHub, install Ruby and Jekyll by following the Jekyll install instructions

Now you’re ready to set up your textbook!

Prepare your textbook repository

You’ll use a tool called Jekyll to host your textbook content. Jekyll is a static website generator - meaning that you can use static files (like markdown) to generate the HTML needed for a website. Jekyll is used by GitHub pages, which means that you can automatically host a website online using GitHub and Jekyll.

To get your own version of this textbook site, take the following steps:

  1. Fork the data-8 textbook repository on github.

  2. Clone this fork to your computer.

    git clone<YOUR-USERNAME>/textbook/
  3. Change directories to the root of your data 8 template repository

    cd textbook
  4. (optional) If you’d like to build the site locally before pushing to github, install the dependencies needed to build the site.

    bundle install

Configure your textbook site for your JupyterHub

You should now have all of the dependencies needed to build your textbook site.

  1. In the textbook/ repository, there is a file called _config.yml. This contains the configuration for your textbook site. You can modify many things in here, such as the name and URL of your textbook website. Update all of the relevant fields for your textbook. In particular, see the following step…

  2. Update the fields for your JupyterHub and textbook repository. These are the following fields:

    • hub_url is the URL for your JupyterHub. It should be a string.

    • textbook_repo_org is the organization for the textbook you’ll be using. You should update this to <YOUR-USERNAME>.

    • hub_type determines whether interact links point to, a free web service to host temporary user sessions, or to the URL of a JupyterHub. Since you’re hosting your textbook with a JupyterHub, set this parameter to “jupyterhub”

Update these fields, and you should then be ready to build the site.

For more information on options for configuring your Data 8 website, see the Jupyter Books guide

Push changes to your site

Now that you’ve configured the site, take the following steps to see your changes in action.

  1. Commit and push your changes to your fork of the repository.

  2. Confirm that gh-pages site-building is enabled.

    From your GitHub repository, click Settings then scroll down to the GitHub Pages section. You should see the message Your site is published at <YOUR-URL>.

  3. Go to the URL listed at <YOUR-URL> and you should see your live site.

Preview your built site (optional)

You can also preview your built site using Jekyll on your computer. To do this, take the following steps:

  1. Ensure that Jekyll and Ruby are installed.

  2. Ensure that your notebooks have been converted to markdown, there should be a collection of them in _chapters

  3. Run the Jekyll site preview command:

    bundle exec jekyll serve

Jekyll will then build your textbook, and start a server that runs its content. Wait for the following text to appear:

Server address:

This is the location of your local demo for the textbook. Go to that URL in the browser, and you should see a functioning textbook website. The textbook interact links should point to the JupyterHub URL you’ve specified in _config.yml.

Update your textbook with the latest version

If you believe that the Data 8 textbook has been modified, and you’d like to incorporate these changes into your own version of the textbook, take the following steps:

  1. Add the data-8 repository as a “remote” on your local git repo:

    git remote add upstream

    This will fetch the latest version of the data-8 copy of the textbook. To update your local copy, you have two options:

    • Pull in the latest changes from the remote repository into your local gh-pages branch:

      git pull upstream gh-pages

    This will attempt to pull in all changes from the remote repository, and shouldn’t be a problem as long as you haven’t changed too much in your local repo.

    You might get merge conflicts, in which case you should address them if possible! In general, the only files that you should need to update are those in _chapters/ and notebooks/. If there is too much in the merge conflict, try the following step:

    • git cherry-pick new changes. If you know exactly which changes you want to incorporate from the “master” version of the textbook, you can use git cherry-pick to only apply the changes from a specific commit into your repo.

    Once you know the commit hash that you want to apply, simply run the following command:

     git cherry-pick <COMMIT-HASH>

    Here’s a list of the latest commits in the textbook for reference.

  2. Push changes to your github repository:

    git push

Note that the branch on which the textbook exists is gh-pages, not master. This should be the same for your copy of the textbook as well.