There is kind of a status to having your GitHub contributions chart covered in green. For those unfamiliar, it’s a calendar-like chart that shows how active you are on GitHub any given day. It’s assumed that the greener the better. I’m not so sure anymore.

From the start of May to the end of July, I tried filling it up. Do something every day. My conclusion is that this is a typical case of Goodhart’s law. Basically as soon as a certain metric (in this case turning that chart green) becomes a goal in itself, it ceases to be a meaningful metric anymore.

And indeed: when occasionally I’d get home from the gym at 11pm and realize I’ve still got to do something that day for the daily contribution, I’d just open a “goal-tracking” issue on one of my repos or check if any of my dependencies are out of date so I could make an update commit.

It’s of course nice to aim for a greener field, but in the vast majority of cases my productivity would focus on a few continuous days (where the fields are darker) and be full of mostly meaningless “cheating” described above.

My work account has a much flatter distribution where work holidays are obviously present. If this chart was unbalanced too, I think that’d be a significant problem. It’s also much better balanced with regards to the “kind” of contributions, having “only” 60% commits instead of 90%. (There was a year when it was a pretty 30/30/30 for code review/commits/pull requests.)

The “green field” can be a pretty achievement when it just happens along the way from active contributions to open source. Working full-time on open source projects is of course a huge help. Mine is not such a case, so I’d need to cram the GitHub contributions into the pretty limited free time in my days.

When it becomes a duty like that it stops being fun. Not to mention I have other interests too: staying healthy so I can go to the mountains for example. Having some degree of social interactions with people instead of AI.

Contributing to open source is nice, but considering the effort and trouble involved in organizing my contributions evenly along the calendar, I’ll just go back to focusing on stuff when I can focus on them.