Konstantin, thanks a lot for your elaborate answer!
I found a way to utilise local and remote repos in coordination with the 
project owners.

On 10.7.2012, at 19:14 , Konstantin Khomoutov wrote:

> On Tue, 10 Jul 2012 08:55:57 -0700 (PDT)
> "Michael." <temp4for...@gmail.com> wrote:
>> I'm trying to contribute some documentation to a larger project for
>> which I created a git account and forked from the project's master
>> via the github web page.
>> Via the local github mac-application I created a local copy where I
>> can work on.
>> In order to avoid to work on outdated documents, is there a way where
>> I can update my fork from the master with showing me possible
>> conflicts? I.e. in case I already altered a file locally and/or my
>> online fork while somebody else also worked on the same document.
> First of all, Git does have remote tracking branches and your local
> branches.  Supposedly you cloned the project so that the github repo is
> now the single remote named "origin" in your local repo and the remote
> branches are stored as "origin/master" and so on (you can look at them
> by running `git branch -a`).  Most probably, after you cloning and
> created your local branch, it was forked off one of those
> remote-tracking branches which were created automatically by
> `git clone`.
> Now you can just run `git fetch origin` to get those remote-tracking
> branches (named "origin/whatever") be updated without disturbing your
> local work.
> After that, you can simply review what's changed by running something
> like
> $ git diff master origin/master
> and
> $ git log origin/master..master
> and so on.
> The next step is to try to integrate your own developments with
> upstream's developments.  There are two ways to do this--merging and
> rebasing--and which one to pick depends on the project's policy and
> your personal taste.
> Supposedly you will want to rebase your work; this is achieved by
> running something like
> $ git checkout master
> $ git rebase origin/master
> Now you have to read up on the concepts: 
> http://git-scm.com/book/en/Git-Basics-Working-with-Remotes
> http://git-scm.com/book/en/Git-Basics-Working-with-Remotes
> http://git-scm.com/book/en/Git-Branching-Basic-Branching-and-Merging
> http://git-scm.com/book/en/Git-Branching-Rebasing
> and better the whole chapter 3 in that book.
> Even better--the whole book except the bits which might be of no
> interest for you, like "Git on the server" or "Git and other systems".

"... ok, let's do Panning!"
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