How I AutoUpdate My Github README using GitHub Actions in 5 Easy Steps

Jay Miller

Jul 10, 2020 15:16 PM

A new phenominon in the developer space is now the 🌟secret🌟 README.md trick. If you have a repository with the EXACT (case-sensitive) name as your username, it will display the contents of that readme onto your GitHub profile.

Some folks have done really cool things with it, including setting up your own Myspace-esque top8 (including Tom!).

Inspired by Simon Willison's amazing self-updating profile, I wanted to do something similar.

Armed with the power of python (and anime on my side), I setout to do something similar. This is a look at the first steps of me automating my Github Profile.

Step 1: Rename the repo my website to a repo named after my GitHub username

This is easy enough. Just rename the repo (in Github) to your username. Remember this has to be exact and it is case-sensitive.

You can do this in the settings menu of your repo. You don't have to change the directory names or anything like that on a local machine. (I'm not sure if you are using a Git Client other than the cli).

Step 2: Create a copy of your existing readme as a template

My goal was to create my README using a Jinja2 and Github Actions. For that I would need a template to render. So since most of the data was the same I just copied my existing README.

Step 3: Add Dynamic Content using Jinja2 Variables

Starting out I wanted to show my latest blog post and my latest podcast episode from Productivity in Tech Podcast. We will create a python script that does this, but we needed to add the variables that Jinja2 would use for the dynamic data.

You could do something like a search and replace, but I feel like just rendering a template is much easier to edit and understand. Also, the compute time for Github Actions is free and this doesn't need to be the most performance conscious program. Also I like Jinja2, so there is also that 🙃.

# From README_template.md

You can see what he's posting about at <https://kjaymiller.com>.

**Latest Post - [{{latest_post.title}}]({{latest_post.link}})**

**Latest Productivity in Tech Podcast Episode - [{{latest_podcast_post.title}}]({{latest_podcast_post.link}})**

## Active Projects

Step 4: Build your script to get the data and write the up to date README.md

This script is pretty simple once you know what you're looking for. I'm using the feedparser plugin to parse the rss feeds and then returning the title and link for the latest episode.

def get_latest_post(rss_feed):
    f = feedparser.parse(rss_feed)
    latest_post = sorted(f['entries'], key=lambda x:x['published_parsed'])[-1]
    return {
            'title': latest_post['title'],
            'link': latest_post['link'],
            }

Then you set the template to the text of your template file. then write the rendered text to your README.

# update readme
template = Template(Path('./README_template.md').read_text())
Path('./README.md').write_text(
        template.render(
            latest_post=get_latest_post(rss_feed),
            latest_podcast_post=get_latest_post(podcast_url),
            )
        )

Step 5: Setup your Github Actions File

I'm not the best at Github Actions. Luckily for me, this action was super simple to setup.

You can look at the .yml file I'm not going to talk about the setup of this because most of it is prep stuff. Here's the important bit.

# in steps:
- name: Install Feedparser & Jinja2
  run: pip install feedparser jinja2

- name: Update Readme
  run: python ./.github/actions/update_readme.py

Basically it's installing the things I need and then running the script (I saved the script in that folder, but you don't really have to as long as its in your repo).

After that, you add some commands to update your repo and you're off to the races.

I have mine setup to update on a github push in that repo, but in the future I will probably setup the file on a schedule to also update when I push something new (Future Post...Probably).