Erik Romijn wrote a really fascinating piece April 1 of this year1 about GitHub’s longest streak data point that appeared on members’ profiles:

Stepping away from our work regularly is not only important to uphold high quality work, but also to maintain our well-being. For example, I personally do not generally work in the weekends. That’s completely healthy. […]

When I see someone with a 416 day streak, it means they haven’t taken a break for a single day in over a year. […]

Any mechanism in our community that motivates people to avoid taking breaks and avoid stepping back, can be harmful to the well-being of contributors and is thereby harmful to open source as a whole.

Completely oblivious to Erik’s article, I wrote this 4 days later, in which I gloried in my weekend work:

I am making a more conscious effort to make weekend contributions, which is usually the period of the week that causes streaks to end.

This was unsustainable, of course, and just days later I broke my streak. In the back of my mind I felt like I’d let myself down, even though it was the right thing to do. In hindsight, it’s a good thing that GitHub removed this feature. Just because you can show a data point doesn’t mean you should. That’s a counterintuitive concept to a lot of developers and site owners but it’s really true. Showing the longest streak was causing me and others to engage in a behavior that wasn’t a good idea. Individually we all already knew this, but GitHub was creating a groupthink nudge in the opposite direction so strongly that it was altering our reality.

That said, I disagree with Erik’s overall claim in his headline that “Contribution graph can be harmful to contributors.” The longest streak can be harmful, but it’s not clear to me how the overall graph is harmful. It’s never created anxiety for me. Monday through Friday you should be getting a lot of work done as a developer! Maybe your pull requests tend to be large and therefore infrequent, but still, overall there should be a pattern of progress on your graph.

I especially like the new feature that GitHub introduced in May that allows you to set your contributions to show both your public and private activity:

Visitors to your profile will see your public and anonymized private contributions.

Here’s what my profile looks like. I don’t contribute to public repositories that much, but thanks to this feature you can see that I do have a lot of private stuff going on.


  1. In case you’re wondering why I’m thinking about this 4 months later, that’s because I’m only just now noticing that the longest streak feature has been removed. I guess that proves that while its removal is interesting, it’s also not that big of a deal. ↩︎