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.

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.

How to install a Chrome extension from GitHub

I recently had a web page with a long list of Twitter names that were not linked, like @mattcutts. I thought that someone has to have made a Chrome extension that would “linkify” names so they would be clickable like @mattcutts. And with a little bit of searching, I found twlinkfy.

It looked like a great extension, but Chrome (at least in Windows) can only install Chrome extensions from the Chrome Web Store in order to protect against malware.

So how would you go from source code on GitHub to an installed Chrome extension? Here’s how I did it: download the extension as a .zip by looking for the “Download ZIP” button on the right-hand side of the project page on GitHub. Now extract/unzip the code somewhere. Then in Chrome go to Menu (the three lines)->More tools->Extensions. Click the “Developer mode” checkbox and then click the button labeled “Load unpacked extension…”.

Now navigate in the resulting file dialog box until you are in the directory with a manifest.json file. For me, it was in the twlinkfy-master/ext directory. And that’s it! The extension loaded, and when I loaded the page with a long list of @names as text, they turned into clickable links.

You can even modify the local source code and reinstall or reload the extension. For example, I changed line 10 of twlinkfy.js to point to a different destination page on Twitter for links. I uninstalled and re-installed the extension and then the links went to a different page on Twitter.

As always, be careful of extensions/code that you install in case someone is attempting something malicious.

The Seinfeld Calendar Trick

One trick that I’ve discovered pretty recently for my 30 day challenges is based on advice from Jerry Seinfeld.

The idea is that you get yourself a cheap calendar and a red pen. Every day you complete your daily challenge, you can cross that day off with a satisfying swipe of the red pen. Once you get a chain going, you’ll work even harder to avoid breaking your streak.

Here’s what my calendar looks like so far for my “write something everyday” challenge this month:

Showing a streak in the calendar

The ritual of crossing off a day–and the visual indication of success or failure–is a pretty good way to stay motivated and keep tackling your challenge. Little things can make a difference, like a routine or ritual about completing your daily challenge.

I also like that my red pen is held up with red thumbtacks. Sometimes it’s the small things that make you happy.

I’m matching funds for cancer research!

I’ll keep it short: this week when you donate for cancer research, I’ll match your donation (up to a limit of $5000 total for all donations). We’ve already raised almost $8,000 dollars to help stop cancer, but I’d love to get to $10,000 or even higher.

If anyone has ever wanted to take money out of my pocket, now’s your chance! Donate for a great cause and I’ll match you dollar for dollar. 🙂

Thanks in advance if you can donate to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute this week. And if you do donate, remember that many employers will match charitable donations! I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who has donated, and I’ll be thinking of you on my multiple-hours run in Boston this spring.

Donate to cancer research!

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