Thoughts on GitHub's contribution calendar

22nd October, 2019

I've been using Git for around 5 years, 4 of those on GitHub and love pretty much everything about the service and what it continues to provide to teams and developers. It's an invaluable tool in so many ways. But there's one thing that’s bugged me since the beginning up until this time, that i've kept quiet about, that sits on the front page of every users profile page. The contributions calendar.

GitHub's contribution calendar - detailing activity overtime

Before I go-on , if there’s any mis-understanding on my behalf, please forgive me and let me know. Github released Contributions to the public in Jan, 2013. Included in this update was the Contributions Calendar. It's purpose "To show how frequently you've been contributing" Now, I'm not entirely sure what the impact GitHub thought adding this to users profiles would gain, but my initial thoughts were - this is going to open up a whole new world of "Must. Fill. Up. My. Calendar. So. That. I. Look.busy” And with that thought, where's that likely to lead? Burnout and quite possibly, a whole manner of mental health issues. Which, from what I've been reading lately, seems to be a very apparent. Thus the reason why I decided to express my thoughts.

Don't get me wrong, I can understand why GitHub thought that this would be of interest to contributors. And in some ways, it's also a good thing. But weighing up the pros and cons, the cons far out weight the pros.

One massive Inaccuracy

It's common practice for developers to use their GitHub profiles as their portfolio. It's a good way to show the real source to what they've been working on. With it though, comes a disadvantage to the interviewee.

I'll take a high flying bet, that some employers use the calendar system as a major factor in validating their potential employees. Basing their findings on how active they've been on projects. The higher active rate (so the darker the green square is) the more appealing and true to the word the candidate “could” be. And if the calendar is appearing to be less active, well, what has the developer been doing, are they legit???

Well you see, this is where the inacuracies set in. The calendar doesn't depict at all what the developer has been up-to. GitHub state: "Contributions are only counted if they meet certain criteria". It's unlikely employers are going to take this into consideration, nor will they understand that the calendar doesn't take into account, that, for example, the developer could have countless commits on their system, and not pushed those to GitHub in a long while, for unbeknown reasons, yet this doesn't mean they've not been working just as hard on a project, that someone with a very active calendar, has. Yet I can't help but feel that the one with the less active calendar, would be at a disadvantage. While this does say something about the employer themselves, it still puts a large blame on the feature itself. And in turn, could be detrimental to one's progress in their career.

As you can see from this open ongoing discussion, it's been quite a hot topic since 2016. I encourage you to get involved if you have strong opinions on it.

I love GitHub and think it's fantastic at what it offers and will happily continue to use it. This isn’t an attack at GitHub. I just felt I needed to get it out of my head and move on.

My wish is for GitHub to re-consider this feature, but I’m convinced it’ll be sticking around for quite sometime despite my rant.

Tweet me your thoughts 😊