Beeminder Forum

Can I use ratchet or autoratchet on whittle-down goals, and what happens?

I was wondering how this works. If I have a whittle-down goal trying to reduce the number of emails in my inbox, and I get ahead of the game and have a 10 day buffer, can I use ratchet or auto-ratchet? What exactly happens to my road and my goal when I do that?

Let’s assume I have some complicated road set up that is not a straight line.

I’m not sure why it wouldn’t work! Have you seen any evidence that it wouldn’t? Let’s dig into that, if so!

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I’m asking what actually happens, though.

Like, how does the road change.

That should be somehow documented somewhere…

I’m not really sure why you’re expecting it to be different to ratchets on other kinds of goals, or what level of detail you’re looking for, so it’s hard to get at what you’re asking, is the problem! So apologies if this misses the mark.

All ratchets put a road entry in the matrix which keeps the graph-to-date (since the last road entry) at the same rate, and then add a new entry which moves your road to whatever value makes the graph due again.

With your whittle down graph, it’s just the same. If your rate is -1/day, you’re at 8 total, and you want the graph to be due today so you have to enter 7 total, you set the ratchet to 0, and the line will drop to 7, like this:


…Which makes a road matrix like this:


The sole difference from how it works with a do-more ratchet is that the “value” column has decreasing numbers rather than increasing numbers, and the rates in the rate column are negative.

In practice, you don’t need to worry about the nitty-gritty. You should just need to ratchet to whatever date you want, and the graph will do it, so I don’t think we have documented anywhere user-visible exactly how it works from a technical point of view – just what it does, i.e. make the goal due on the day you ask us to make it due. I can totally be convinced to pitch that as something to add to the Help Docs, if you can explain why you feel it’s necessary to know how we ratchet? Or what you feel is missing from the current documentation? It’s really helpful to know what folks are looking for!


Sure, like say you have a whittle-down goal with varying slopes.

Like to make this concrete, say you have 50 balloons to blow up, and your rate is 3 the first week, then 2 the second week, then 0 the third week, then back to 3, and so on in the repeating sequence (3, 2, 0, 3, 2, 0, … 3, 2, 0, … ).

:balloon: :balloon: :balloon:
:balloon: :balloon: :rabbit:
:rabbit: :rabbit: :rabbit:

Now say that in a mad fit of huffing and puffing you blow up 14 balloons all at once, eating up the first 7 weeks of work, and 1 balloon from the 8th week. You now have nothing to do for over 7 weeks.

Now say you ratchet or autoratchet. Does your graph now start with the remaining 1 for the 8th week, then 0 for the 9th week? Or does it eat from the other end, as it were, and you go back to the (3, 2, 0) sequence? Hope that makes some sense…