Beeminder Forum

Do you want a nannybot?

I took a straw poll in a recent daily beemail and the responses were pretty funny/fascinating, seeming to alternate between “oh hell no” and “dear god yes please”. So I thought I’d repeat it here and give people the chance to elaborate on their answers and talk about what the implications are for the long-term future of Beeminder.

The background is that I’ve often described, like in “Between Lion and Ladybird, or Figuring Out What Works”, the holy grail or end state of Beeminder as like a nannybot that tells me minute-by-minute what I should be doing for optimum happiness/fulfillment/awesomeness (and enforces it, of course).

(Fun fact: I had no idea where I said that until I googled “beeminder nannybot”.)

So, first of all, what’s your reaction to that? Do you want a nannybot?

A less philosophical/academic version of that question is about your relationship with Beeminder reminders. Do you rely on them heavily or do you set up redundant systems (in real life or elsewhere) so that Beeminder can still be effective at cracking its whip without also nagging you all day long? Or is the continuous nagging part of the point?

Here are excerpts from the beemail replies:

  1. Yes I rely on notifications
  2. No nannybot as described but not ruling it out
  3. I would love one!
  4. Hell no, but I do rely heavily on reminders and want more control
  5. Yes I rely on reminders
  6. YES
  7. Absolutely no nannybot for me
  8. I hate being nagged and try not to edge-skate
  9. No nannybot, no reminder overload, I don’t rely on reminders
  10. Yes nannybot, and I have a love/hate relationship with reminders
  11. Reminders can be useful but mostly I just always have an eye on the app
  12. No nannybot, that sounds way too inflexible
  13. I want a compassionate, non-rigid nannybot
  14. Yes please
  15. No nannybot but I want a HUD (Complice’s dashboard with Beeminder integration helps here)

One of you was very grateful to be reminded of and dove in on setting that up. Highly recommended!

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I don’t rely on reminders. They just get annoying and I am pretty good about using my dashboard as a quasi-todo list for my personal projects each day (that and Wunderlist).


I’m of two minds when it comes to the Beeminder notifications. Some I find annoying and/or easy to ignore, others I rely on to actually do stuff (in those cases I talk about the permanent notfication icon on the phone (which I kinda find annoying doesn’t disappear when I update the goal)).

As for the nannybot, I want it when it becomes a HUD, or even better, a sassy AI that lives in my brain and can tell me “Oh, so you’re going downtown? Remember to bring that phone for the repairshop.”

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Response #16.
Please, no nannybot. I beg of you.

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Hi all,

let me dig this topic out after some time.

I hate Beeminder notifications. Once in a while I turn them on back again and after a few days I notice the same pattern: I learn to ignore them pretty fast, and I turn them off again.

The reason is simple: they are too simplistic. I’ve had an elaborate “ladder” of goals with different deadlines for some time now, though I don’t rely on that now anyway, since I devised my own nannybot. Currently it is also quite simplistic (it’s only a paper-and-pencil solution for now), but I plan to make it into an app (though this is a big project and will have to wait). In fact, my solution is pretty elaborate even now – here are a few highlights.

  1. It is pretty tightly integrated with Beeminder, on two different levels.
    A. I have a bunch of ongoing projects (“creative writing”, “coding (for side projects)”, “studying” and “translation work” are the main/most time-consuming ones). They all have a rate of 20 minutes per day and max safety buffer of 4 days; some of them are weekends-off.
    B. I have a Beeminder goal called “ps” (as in “productivity score”), with a rate of 8 “productivity points” per day.

  2. Every day (almost) I prepare a list of 12 bullet points - tasks for the next day. There are a few kinds of those tasks, but most of them fall roughly into these two categories:
    A. “do X, any time next day”. Obvious.
    B. “Spend some fixed timespan (usually one «tomato», i.e. 25 minutes) of work for some project, though not necessarily in one go, until some fixed time”.

  3. I have a weekly schedule, crafted so that I can actually manage it and it matches my wife’s schedule (she’s a teacher, until recently we’ve had only online classes in Poland, soon it will be part online, part offline, so I’ll have to modify my schedule). For instance, on Mondays I do coding from 515 to 615 (two “tomatoes”), then creative writing (from 645 to 715 and from 745 to 815). And yes, these are AM hours :wink: . Notice how I have a 5-minute buffer for things like making myself some tea, a visit to the “debugging room” (a.k.a. bathroom) etc. (I can also start at e.g. 505 to have a larger buffer, and I sometimes do it.). Notice also two 30-minute breaks – the former one is for groceries and the latter one is for preparing the room for my wife’s classes (our bedroom doubles as her workspace during the working hours). Then I have an unplanned chunk of a few hours (breakfast, caring for my 4.5-yo son etc.), then again: 1100–1130 coding for my day job and 1130–1200 translation work. When my wife finishes her classes (about 1330), I have some time to prepare to work and I leave for the office. There, I have three tasks: doing 90 minutes of work until 1700, another 90 minutes until 1900 and 45 minutes until 2000. (Incidentally, this means that I work less than average on Mondays.) These make for 9 tasks, so on Monday I have 1 free slot for whatever comes up. (Two slots are for special everyday tasks: closing my laptop for the day until 2145 and going to bed until 2215. Since I can’t enter a Beeminder datapoint after I closed my laptop and phone, these tasks go formally to the next day’s batch, so if I manage to close my laptop until 2145 and go to bed until 2215 on Monday, I get 2 “productivity points” on Tuesday.)

So, here’s why Beeminder could not work as a nannybot for me:

  1. These tasks are different per day of the week. On Tuesdays I don’t do creative writing (I’d love to, but there are only so many hours in a day!), but I devote some time to studying instead.
  2. The precise hours also change per day of the week – my wife’s classes start at 800 on Mondays, but 850 on Tuesdays, so I plan my timeboxes accordingly.
  3. All these tasks are flexible – sometimes we have a doctor’s visit or something else comes up, so I need to change the schedule for this day. And I can’t really do that on a week’s notice (like I’d do in Beeminder), since these things sometimes come up with 1–2 days’ notice only.

This system also has some shortcomings. The idea of 12 points per day is nice, but the number really should be variable – but my brain’s computing power is limited and I decided to go KISS with this analog solution. Also, the number of productivity points per task probably should vary depending on the effort needed (although not in a linear way) – see above why I haven’t implemented it. Also, I’d love to gamify this even more with bonus points for completing tasks ahead of time (by some amount decided earlier). Again, a bit too complicated for now.

So, does anyone like this solution? Any suggestions? Also, any volunteers to try out a nannybot-type app supporting such a use-case if/when I actually start working on it?