All the Fitbit activity badges

Fitbit has discontinued their Fitbit One step trackers, which seems like a good opportunity to step back and reflect on wearing one for the last decade or so. I’ve enjoyed using Fitbit trackers, but the One devices seemed like they broke down way too often.

I’m pretty proud that I ended up earning all the activity-related Fitbit badges though:

100,000 steps and 800 floors in one day

In 2013, I ran a 50 mile race and I took 110,472 steps that day. I think I did some extra steps late that night just in case Fitbit ever increased their top step badge from 100K to 105K or 110K steps. The lifetime miles badge took care of itself as long as I wore my Fitbit. The same applied for the lifetime floor badge: I’ve climbed 73,383 floors in the last few years, and that badge tops out at 35,000 floors.

But the Rainbow badge was a little harder: 700 floors in one day. Climbing up Half Dome in Yosemite only got me 500 floors or so. At some point, I found myself in Washington, DC missing only a couple badges: Mountain (600 floors) and Rainbow (700 floors).

DC isn’t known for its high buildings. I researched the Washington Monument (897 steps) and the National Cathedral (about 333 steps), but access was tricky and I’d need to climb either many times. Ultimately I decided on the New Executive Office Building, which I have access to because of my job at the US Digital Service.

That’s how I found myself on a Sunday morning in July 2018. I started a podcast as I walked up the steps to the 10th floor of the NEOB (pronounced like “knee-ob”). Then I took the elevator down, and started walking up the steps again. And again. Every so often I took a bathroom break or ate a snack, but mostly I walked while listening to podcasts. I ended up climbing 818 floors, which is basically walking up to the 10th floor about 82 times. Fitbit claimed I burned 4000+ calories that day.

Wait a second–the badge is only for 700 floors, so why did I climb 800+ floors? It took me about four hours and forty-five minutes to climb all those steps that day. Just in case Fitbit added a badge for 800 floors, I didn’t want the temptation to do re-do several hours of climbing.

Overall, Fitbit’s badges have probably pushed me to walk more, along with a goal to get 10,000 steps a day. As my current Fitbit One gets more and more creaky and unreliable, I might explore a less quantified self though. I’m finding myself posting less on social media. Maybe not every single thing needs to be observed and tallied.

Halloween 2018: Crab claws!

Do you need something to cheer you up? You got it:

Matt Cutts wears a crab-like Halloween costume

I should explain this costume a little bit. At the US Digital Service, we do a thing called “crab claws.” Crab claws is like visual applause–you pinch your fingers up and down to say “great job” or “congratulations” or “way to go.” We do it because actual applause would be annoying when there’s someone on the phone. The love for crabs goes deep at USDS.

So when I thought about what I wanted to be for Halloween, the answer was pretty simple. Lobster, crab–I wanted to share the crustacean love. One thing I love about the costume is that the shell has a hidden compartment. You could use the shell as a backpack for candy or goodies.

So no homemade costume this year, but I figured people would enjoy this:

Matt Cutts wears a crab-like Halloween costume more

Hope you had a good Halloween!

Some terrible personal news

Cindy Cutts, my wife and best friend, passed away earlier this week. While I was traveling for work recently, Cindy went to visit her family in Omaha, Nebraska. On Sunday, while enjoying time with family, Cindy started having trouble breathing. Her family quickly called 911 and paramedics took Cindy to the hospital, but Cindy lost and never regained consciousness. She passed away on Monday.

Cindy didn’t want any callouts on my blog, so I always just referred to her as my wife. But I’d like to tell you something about her. She loved her family and her cats, Emmy and Ozzie. She danced in the Bay Area with a fantastic troupe of kick-ass women for years. She ran a half-marathon once and then decided that she never needed to do that again. She sang in show choir in high school and could still rock a karaoke room with an Adele song. She wrestled with anxiety and depression at times, as so many people do. We should all talk about mental health more to lessen the stigma for other people who think they’re alone when they’re not.

Cindy enjoyed falling asleep to Parks and Rec. She liked re-reading William Gibson’s novel Pattern Recognition. Cindy made quilts for her family and crocheted scarves. She kept me healthy and on track and moving in the right direction, and I paid her back with occasional head rubs. Cindy was whip smart, with a particular gift with languages, from French to Chinese. I tackled small details like paperwork and license plates and paying bills, but she was the one who looked at the big picture. Cindy was the person who said “Let’s go try this Google thing for a while.”

Cindy and I knew each other for 23 years and we were married for 18 years, which is no small thing. I’m unmanned and unmoored without her. I’m just going to tackle the details in front of me and count on time and family and friends to pull me back on course at some point.

If anyone wants to send flowers, the service is at Heafey-Hoffmann-Dworak-Cutler at 7805 W Center Rd in Omaha on Saturday, March 10th, starting at 3pm.

For the people who didn’t get to meet her, Cindy looked like a movie star:

Cindy movie star

She loved hanging with her family, like her sister and niece and nephew:

Cindy with her family

She had the best smile and amazing green eyes:

Cindy smiling

And her cat Ozzie adored her as much as I did:

Cindy and Ozzie

Please give your friends or family a hug for me. We never know how much time we have with someone, and sometimes it’s all too short.

Talking to Mr. Money Mustache about the US Digital Service

Last week, I passed my one year anniversary as head of the US Digital Service (USDS). So when Mr. Money Mustache asked for an interview, I was delighted to talk about some of the work that the USDS does. If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Money Mustache, he writes about a philosophy of badassity in which people make better life choices like biking to work or saving a higher percentage of their paychecks.

I remember discovering Mr. Money Mustache and immediately reading through most of his site, so it was a pleasure to do an interview with him. And if you haven’t heard of the US Digital Service before, this interview is a good chance to find out more. The US Digital Service is still here, still working on projects that matter, and we’re hiring.

Staying with the US Digital Service

A few months ago, I took a leave of absence from Google to do a stint with the US Digital Service. A lot of people know about the US Digital Service because they helped rescue the healthcare.gov website. But you might not realize that the US Digital Service has helped veterans get their health benefits, brought bug bounties to the federal government, and helped the IRS protect taxpayer info.

USDS logo

When I joined the US Digital Service, I only planned to stay for three months. That quickly turned into six months after I saw the impact of the USDS. In the last month, I made a big decision. On December 31, 2016, I resigned from Google. I’m currently serving as director of engineering for the USDS. Mikey Dickerson, the first administrator of the USDS, is a political appointee, so he’ll step down on Inauguration Day. When that happens, I’ll serve as acting administrator of the USDS. The work that the USDS does is critical to the American people, and I’m honored to continue that tradition.

If you’re reading this blog post, odds are that you might be a tech geek yourself. I’d like to ask you to review what the US Digital Service has accomplished in just a few years. If you’re a more visual person, you might enjoy this short video:

Working for the government doesn’t pay as well as a big company in Silicon Valley. We don’t get any free lunches. Many days are incredibly frustrating. All I can tell you is that the work is deeply important and inspiring, and you have a chance to work on things that genuinely make peoples’ lives better. A friend who started working in this space several years ago told me “These last five years have been the hardest and worst and best and most rewarding I think I will ever have.”

If you have experience in the tech industry, there’s a decent chance that you have skills that can benefit the American people. If you’re considering joining the US Digital Service, please fill out an application.

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