GitHub Activity Guilt and the Coder's FitBit
I got an interesting email today from Corey P., reprinted in part here, with permission.
I’m curious, how you feel about GitHub’s activity graph? I’ve found myself getting increased levels of guilt/stress over that graph. So much so I’m considering not using GitHub for personal projects (only use it for contributing pull requests, reporting issues, etc.).
I can’t help but feel like others judge me by it (phony syndrome?). I have this gnawing feeling that I need to do something in the open so I can have some sort of paper trail or else I’ll be looked down upon by people (perspective employers? colleagues?).
This is a great question. Let's look at my GitHub Graph.
Yikes. Is this good or bad? It's pretty spartan over Sep-Nov, although I was travelling a lot.
Maybe Damian Edwards? He leads ASP.NET, although he isn't technically a dev (as far as HR is concerned). He's got me beat by double.
OK, what's a serious contender look like? Here's Monica Dinculescu, Googler and dev on Polymer:
or David Fowler, architect and dev on ASP.NET
What's our takeaway here? That I suck and Monica's amazing? (True, though, I do suck, and please have a listen to Monica as she explains Web Components to me on a recent podcast episode)
Here's what I think about charts like this, and I'm interested in your opinion.
- GitHub's activity chart shows public repos, not private activity.
- I have a lot of small projects I work on during the week in private or local repos. and sometimes I don't make them public due to (slight) embarrassment at my works in progress.
- It's not always healthy to measure yourself against others, particularly if it makes you feel bad or is somewhat unhealthy.
- Jobs vary. Being a manager does take you away from coding sometimes.
- If it bothers you, set a reasonable goal and work towards it, but do it for a good reason. (See how Reason and Reasonable factor in greatly there?)
Will I ever be as prolific as Monica or David? Likely not, but it's cool to know what the top of the bar is. Also, we have different jobs. Monica is working actively on a public open source project, while I'm not currently committing code to ASP.NET Core. Even Damian, a Lead PM on ASP.NET Core gets caught up in the "management" of it all. I doubt he gives his green chart a second thought.
My job currently doesn't have me committing to public repros as often as I'd like, but I'm not going let this chart dictate my value to the team. I will use it as one of many measuring sticks and I'd encourage you to as well. Perhaps set a goal to commit to an OSS project a few times a week?
GitHub Acitivty as it relates to Hiring
Sasha Laundy brought up a number of important points on Twitter about your GitHub Activity graph. She says:
If GitHub commits are only side projects, what kinds of people have time to put towards that? and if you can be silently discredited in hiring because of your public profile, how does that impact equity & diversity?
She has a great point. It's worth arguing that given the GitHub Activity Graph shows only public activity, making judgments based on it would naturally skew towards:
- The already skilled vs. the codenewbie
- People with more spare time, e.g. young, single, etc
- Folks who work on OSS full-time (their company pays them to commit publically to code)
To her point, if your GitHub Activity page is given similar weight as your LinkedIn, how will you ever know if you've been quietly excluded from a job based on this chart? If you're just getting started or if you're a 20 year Enterprise software developer you may end up with an empty graph and find an uninformed recruiter glossed over your potential or experience based how much "green" they see.
What do YOU think of this? Does your GitHub Activity Graph stress you out like getting 10,000 steps on your FitBit? Or do you just roll with it? Sound off in the comments.