A Chinese-language guide on GitHub entitled “HowToLiveLonger” is trending within the Chinese tech community. 

Why it matters: Despite its serious and scientific tone, the new “guide” appears to be a pointed joke, taking aim at ongoing overwork practices in China’s tech industry and their impact on employees’ mental and physical well-being. Its popular reception in Chinese tech circles reflects the community’s current mood. 

  • The Chinese tech community has long been plagued by brutal working hours, such as 996 – a work schedule of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week – and “big and small weeks,” which require employees to work every other Sunday. This new guide does not explicitly reference 996 or “big and small weeks,” however it has touched a nerve with those affected by such practices.
  • GitHub, the largest online developer community and code warehouse, has become a Reddit-like discussion board for Chinese tech workers to exchange and archive not just codes but also feelings and thoughts. 

Details: The project made it into GitHub’s Chinese language top trending list four days after it was published on April 16, according to Chinese news outlets. The project has won 13,000 stars on GitHub as of writing. By comparison, this week’s top project has 11,000 stars on the platform’s trending list.

  • The guide is serious in tone and written with the heavy influence of programming languages. It also references authoritative scientific papers from Nature, Science, and others to back its claims. 
  • The project aims to provide programmers with an exhaustive list of health advice so as to reduce their chance of death (or All-Cause Mortality as the guide calls it) by 66.67% and extend their life expectancy by 20 years. 
  • The guide contains six main sections and various subsections. The three main sections are called input, output, and context. Input refers mainly to what programmers consume, including their diet, medication, hours of sunshine, and others. Output refers to their activities, such as sports, chores, and sleep. Context includes their mood, wealth, weight, and larger social context, such as the current Covid-19 situation. 

Context: In March 2019, GitHub became more than a code-sharing platform for Chinese users after the publication of the now-famous project “996.ICU.” The project claimed that the 996 work schedule was against Chinese labor law and would cause workers to end up in intensive care units (ICU). The project quickly gathered global attention and kickstarted a widespread discussion on Chinese tech companies’ overtime practices.

  • The project helped trigger a raft of measures aimed at ending 996 practices in China, with the government stating last August that such a culture violated the country’s Labor Law.
  • Chinese tech giants such as ByteDance and Meituan have since canceled their overwork schedules on weekends, purportedly to migrate to more lenient work practices. However, there have been subsequent reports of Chinese tech workers dying from overwork.

Ward Zhou is a tech reporter based in Shanghai. He covers stories about industry of digital content, hardware, and anything geek. Reach him via ward.zhou[a]technode.com or Twitter @zhounanyu.