Two years ago I started working on steem, it’s a really cool blockchain where your upvotes are worth actual money. There are quite a few decentralized apps tha run on Shortly after a startup called utopian.io launched where open source contributions were rewarded. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try and it was the extra motivation I needed to finally start working on open source.
I’ve been wanting to work on open source software for quite some time so I opened my github account and started coding, I mostly worked on my own projects releasing a ton of code snippets to help future developpers work on steem. But I also open sourced some of my personal libraries for instance https://github.com/drov0/python-imagesearch a python library to easily perform image search for automation. (I mostly used it to automate games at the time).
The plan was never to code every day at all but then, Github has one feature. One feature that made me work on it rather than, say, gitlab or bitbucket :
The contribution graph is a simple thing, whenever you do a commit, open an issue or a pull request it’ll add a green square for the day. And the more actions you do that day the darker the square. You can’t really say “oh the square is super dark so you did a lot that day” but it’s a good rough metric.
I didn’t really take much attention to it at first, but the more I looked at it the more it was talking to me, it said
“Can you code every single day, for an entire year ?”
It was daunting at first but then I took on the challenge. And started coding. Around the same time I was launching as a side project my startup SteemPress, a plugin to connect wordpress and steem. And since I love programming it wasn’t hard for me to come home from 8 hours of programming (I was a software engineer working on embedded software) and then sit on my computer to work some more.
Little by little the squares started to fill and I felt prouder and prouder about my ongoing achievement. And this is where I learned my first big lesson
Consistency is hard
Coding every day sounds ok in a week, or even in a month. But then there are edge cases that you didn’t really thought about when you started in this whole endeavor :
- What do you do if there’s an after-work party right after work and you know you won’t be home before midnight ?
- What do you do if you get sick ?
- What do you do if are on vacations ?
- What do you do if you don’t want to work ?
This is where you are at a point where you think of the rules, a green square is just one commit, does adding a bit of documentation on a README on your phone count ? Does adding a line of comment count ? What is cheating and what is not ? In the end I decided that it was okay to edit readmes or adding comments as long as it was
- Relevant (adding an useless line or fixing a typo is cheating)
- Not too often (once every two weeks top)
The x effect
There are studies that show that if you do something every day for 30 to 45 days it becomes a habit. And that effect is greatly amplified if you have something physical like a box to tick if you did your daily habit correctly. There’s even a subreddit dedicated to that. At the time I wasn’t aware of it but Github and the graph sure as hell had that effect on me, over time consistency wasn’t as hard as before and became more of a habit, I was longing for my daily side project programming. It was thrilling. I learned a ton, taught myself a lot of new technologies and contributed to the open source community (and earned a few bucks while doing so).
But after a year and a half I decided to quit. Why you ask ?
I recently had a falling of motivation (it shows on my Github graph around march to may). During that time it was a real hassle to do my daily programming tasks, I didn’t want to do it but I still wanted my green mark so I was cheating more and more, making minor edits, making comments that aren’t really necessary etc. Finally I said “Stop, if you’re gonna cheat you might as well not push anything”. Also Github only adds things to the contribution graphs if you push to master, so I was sometimes working with bad practices because I didn’t want to use branches. (The contributions are counted when you merge the branch to master but it means not having green boxes for quite a while if you work on that branch for weeks). So I realized that this habit was doing more wrong than right. For me at least.
This was a great experience, if you go to my Github you can see that even though I said I “quit” I still push things very often and rarely miss a day, the difference is that I don’t push myself to program every day, I just let it happen. I definitely recommend that you check out steem and utopian.io and follow the same path as I did, it teaches you a lot, it’s also a good way of selling yourself and your skillset to future employers. It’s no longer “hey I love programming, trust me, I do” it’s “look at my Github, see how I code, see my skillset” and if the guy know what he’s talking about he’ll know.
Especially if you have good open source projects to show. In my experience people rarely check your Github but when they do it’s big plus to show your dedication.