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!

Getting things done with Google Tasks

Someone recently asked me how I manage my to-do list, so I thought I’d write up the software that I use. Fundamentally I use Google Tasks as the backend, but with extensions and apps that improve on the basic functionality in Google Tasks.


I use a couple different extensions for Chrome:
Better Google Tasks is a great Chrome extension. Just click a button in Chrome and you have instant access to all your todo items. I like the extension so much that I donated some money to the author, Chris Wiegman. You can get the Better Google Tasks extension from the Chrome Store.

– I also noticed that on the New Tab page of Chrome, seeing thumbnails of my most visited sites (Techmeme, Hacker News, Nuzzel, Google News, etc.) every time I opened a new tab inevitably led me to click over to those sites. The result? I was wasting more time surfing than I wanted. The solution is a great Chrome extension called New Tab to Tasks. It changes Chrome’s new tab page to be your todo list. That way, I get a nice little signal every time I open a tab: “Hey, remember that you’re supposed to be working on stuff, not goofing off.” Thanks to Scott Graham for writing this Chrome extension.

Oh, and one last Chrome recommendation: if you don’t want *any* distractions on Chrome’s new tab page, consider installing Empty New Tab Page, which makes the Chrome new tab page completely blank.


For Android, I use an app called Tasks. It costs $0.99, but there’s also a free version that starts showing ads after 10 days. I like the Tasks app for Android because it syncs with Google Tasks, has nice widgets, you can easily move tasks up and down, and you can indent tasks underneath each other. I only keep a few todo lists (Home, Work, Grocery, etc.), and to switch between lists you just swipe left or right. Tasks works great for me, but if you have tons of different todo lists then swiping between those lists might get old.

I can already imagine someone asking “Okay, but what about Google Keep?” I’m not opposed to Google Keep, but at this point I’ve found various third-party solutions that interoperate with Google Tasks and work well for me on Chrome and Android. Plus I already have my data in Google Tasks, so for the time being I like these solutions for Google Tasks.