Beeminder Forum

Does Beeminder use too much jargon?

I would like to convince you, Dear Reader, that names like “ratchet”, “autoratchet”, “road dial”, “mercy”, “weaselproofing”, “akrasia horizon”, “autodata”, “beemergency”, “rerail”, and possibly even “aggday” and “maxflux” (not to mention wholly uncontroversial ones like “legit check” and “pledge” and even “yellow brick road”) are important for Beeminder!


  1. Newbees nosecrinkle at them and think Beeminder’s like a freaking cult or something.
  2. Newbees will understand a descriptive phrase immediately; neologisms are opaque.


  1. Greppability / googlability. Like if @shanaqui or @justanotherjon mention something in support, you can grep for it. Or google it and land on or somesuch.
  2. Sheer convenience of having concise and consistent concept handles for common things.
  3. General joy of language.
  4. We can do it thoughtfully and get the best of both worlds. Concise concept handle followed immediately by concise definition.
  5. Dig a deep well” philosophy: the utility that superfans get from delightful esoterica outweighs newbee cost.

I know that last one is controversial and that every superfan started as a newbee, but this effect is not to be underestimated. Alienating users who aren’t quite your target demographic can be – even tends to be, at our size – a price very much worth paying if it attracts/endears those who are.

Related internal thing: Renaming “retroratchet” to “ratchet” … actually that needn’t be an internal thing. Stand by while I make another forum post about that and link to it here! PS, voila: Renaming "Retroratchet" to "Ratchet"


I think you’re being a little harsh on yourself with respect to what’s uncontroversial. In particular, “beemergency” is very descriptive/understandable, and while it sounded a little childish to each of the three newbees I introduced Beeminder to, they didn’t think it was particularly cultish, I think. And “mercy” is even more reasonable – it says what it does. Finally, “akrasia horizon”, while technical, doesn’t seem off-putting, in and of itself, (but I might just be acclimatised).

More generally, I think I broadly agree: most people who find Beeminder useful won’t have this be a deal-breaker. But this is just a guess. An open question: how might one investigate this more formally, randomised-controlled-trial-style?


What’s maxflux? It’s not listed in that glossary.

Max daily fluctuation. I’m not actually sure that one wants a neologism.

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That one no longer exists, right?

To actually address your main point, I think the technical names are necessary and pretty intuitive generally, and I don’t think they’re offputting or cult-like.

Wrong! You still need to set your max daily fluctuation when setting up a weight goal. I don’t think I’ve ever referred to it as “maxflux” though.


As somebody who is not a customer but hangs around here all the time, I’m some sort of datapoint. I feel like I have a surprisingly weak grasp of the terminology given how many blog and discourse posts I’ve read.

Let me see how many I can get right without searching or too much hard “what must that mean” thinking, a little bit stream-of-consciousness:

  • “ratchet”: does this just mean pretty much the same as its everyday use? i.e. every day you have more to have got done by now, never less?
  • “autoratchet”: I don’t remember seeing this before. Maybe it means what “max safe days” does?
  • “road dial”: The part of the UI you go to to increase your goal rate 7 days from now, or further out… verb too maybe?
  • “mercy”: Pass
  • “weaselproofing”: I think this is a flag you can set on a goal to make it so support will be extra harsh in some specific way if you want to beg for derail forgiveness? I can’t be more specific.
  • “akrasia horizon”: OK I know this one, it means you can’t change your goal rate (etc.) inside of 7 days from now.
  • “autodata”: Data that shows up magically without your having to enter it by hand, because you’ve linked your account to some data source.
  • “beemergency”: The day of your last opportunity to do a goal before it derails. Actually I guess it means the event of actually reaching that day.
  • “rerail”: I guess this means what happens on automatic recommit? But why would there be two words for the same thing?
  • “aggday”: Certainly screams ‘geek’. The function that aggregates all the datapoints for a day to give the single value that appears (in cumulative form) on the chart.
  • “maxflux”: no idea, don’t think I’ve even seen it before, can’t guess

PS: oh, reading your post again I see “ratchet” is the new name for “retroratchet”. I’m ashamed to say I’m not 100% I know what that means either: same as “recommit” or “rerail” again, basically? This is the “slide the road sideways” thing after derail, right?

Ah no I see retroratchet means… hm, the same as “autoratchet”? I guess autoratchet must mean retroratcheting every day or something? Isn’t that the same as “max safe days” though?

OK I guess I’m fairly confused by some of the terminology.

Now going and reading your justification for renaming ‘retroratchet’ to ‘ratchet’, I do like the term ratchet, and I think maybe if I hadn’t been fuzzy for a long time about what ‘retroratchet’ referred to, I’d find ‘ratchet’ fairly easy to guess at.


Nice topic. You know my opinion on this @dreev: Yes but No.

Your audience is obviously nerds. Supernerds who bet money on and against themselves that love tinkering. Having your own vocabulary is important to form a loyal ingroup. Is it hard and poorly explained? Absolutely, but that’ll just make it juicier as pay off and it will ensure nerd buy-in. It’s all how you build a cult following. It’s not just once that I’ve gotten the answer “Oh that feature is explained in this epic blog post”. Beeminder is for the people that do the Krypt puzzle and wish it had more pieces and less symmetry. Those who buy three Ikea desks mix together all pieces and throw away the instructions. It’s for those that read Thomas Mann and would like more detailed and longer sentences.

Others merely adopted the jargon; Beeminder was born in it, molded by it. Beeminder didn’t see a glossary until it was already a Beemium app, by then it was nothing to the bee but a children’s fable!

Sorry I got carried away.

It’s funny how “yellow brick road” is uncontroversial. You know… If you’re culturally US American. But you entirely miss mentioning the half-plane in the first post or whatever it’s called that is mentioned in every mail but I still have no idea what it even is.

You could solve all this by actually caring to explain the jargon in place in the UI, but you prefer people to leave the app and google to maybe find the explanation. Maybe after reading a philosophical primer or finding the blog post. Maybe.

Or you’ll do it like me, you’re a power-user of Beeminder and you just give up on the never-ending onslaught of jargon and non-intuitive explanations. Especially, if English is not your first language. And just use it and push the retro-ratchet button because you now know what it does, but get slightly annoyed, when a new email with a non-explained jargony word introducing some kind of feature comes along that you’ll have to figure out without any actual concise explanation, but a 1000 word blog post you have to dig through. Well… if you’re lucky. More likely, you’ll probably have to find it on the forum “where it has been discussed”, you know “in the thread”, which you won’t find because it probably doesn’t actually mention the thing until way later. Then you’ll have to read and understand the entire conversation in the forum, which will reference (but not link) at least two other forum threads and possible a blog post.

“Precision of language” is a bit bollocks, isn’t it? I set up weaselproofing in the beginning. You know because I know myself, I’m a weasel. I thought it meant I couldn’t edit data points retroactively like a weasel. But it meant you actually wanted proof at support from me, which was explained to me after several support cases. Reminds me of taking over the code base from people that think their code is self-explanatory. Also, precision of language… why does retroratchet then need to be renamed? It’s all made up language and subject to interpretation, there are no two ways about that.

I’d put on the cons list, that jargon is often used as a proxy of superiority. You mention several times that “competitors have strayed from the scientific path” in the forum. So jargon is a cheap way to virtue signal your science-iness. This is of course easily seen as a “better than thou” attitude (big con) and even worse, could be used to mask hamfisted explanations. Yellow Brick Road? That’s a children’s book! Now “half-plane” that’s a mathematical concept! It has a maths name! Of course it’s better! Is it though? (I wouldn’t know of course. I stopped reading.) Is it easy to then prefer the jargon-y over the intuitive, if you have set this as your image? Yes. May it be used to cover up decisions that are half-explained? Absolutely.

Let’s have a look only at your words and see if I can explain any without fancy jargon:

  • “ratchet” - Reduce Buffer
  • “autoratchet” - Max Buffer
  • “road dial” - Not a singular dial. After the half-plane it’s not a road anymore.
  • “mercy” - What is this, it’s not in the glossary
  • “weaselproofing” - Increased burden of proof on derail
  • “akrasia horizon” - Commitment week (see what I did there? it has week in it so you don’t have to google how long your akrasia horizon is!)
  • “autodata” - Makes sense
  • “beemergency” - I like it. It’s punny.
  • “rerail” - Is this getting back on track after a derail or is it rolling back a derail?
  • “aggday” - possibly? Not in glossary! It has the description, but then the jargon to link to the explanation of each aggregation method, so it’s literally just to have jargon it does not add precision.
  • “maxflux” - Flux is flow in Latin not fluctuations. This isn’t even the right word! It’s not in the glossary! Googling it does NOT put beeminder on page one. Is it the biofuel reactor or is it this chemistry paper

How many of just the jargon you mentioned is not in the glossary?

[Quick edit: Yes Weaselproofing is now better explained. Not back then. Don’t @ me for that one.]


not a newbie, or averse to jargon - I think it helps explain things without needing sentences of explanation each time - but some of these still confuse me, and i’ve never bothered to look up what they mean. I tried to explain them as I understand them without reading the messages above or the glossary.

“ratchet”, “autoratchet” also retrorachet: All to do with changing your commitment to give yourself less leeway but I’m never sure how or why they differ except auto means it happens by itself if some other criterion is reached. (Reading rest of post: yes, just use ratchet for giving yourself less leeway, and auto ratchet for doing that magically if you get to what you’ve already declared to be too much leeway).

“road dial”: a more general version of changing your commitment to other than straight lines, I know there’s a web interface for this but have never used it. (post glossary reading: ok, it’s the name for the normal straight line editor too, I hadn’t realised this).

“mercy”: can’t think where this is used, except in relation to no-mercy if you are weaselproofed. (post glossary reading: yes, only “no mercy” is covered but it’s for the no safety buffer recommit,)

“weaselproofing”: setting yourself up so you can’t easily renege on a commitment, this is one I feel makes perfect sense, but I’m a native English speaker and I’m not looking bemusedly at a search page full of woodland animals.

“akrasia horizon”: my favourite beeminder concept, the idea that current-you can tell future-you to not do things next week but current-you has to abide by what past-you decided was best last week. I think “akrasia” is the core concept of Beeminder and it’s the one new word worth learning (I know you didn’t make it up but you introduced it into my vocabulary).

“autodata”: data added to beeminder from a third party source by magic, no manual entry required.

“beemergency”: really nice neologism that describes you needing to do something as if it were an emergency, but just because beeminder says so.

“rerail”: actually not sure, is this like getting back on the road, in which case, transport system oxymoron? opposite of derail I guess, which has never occurred to me as being an odd thing to do from a road before now though! (Reading the glossary, yes, derail and rerail are obvious opposites now I think about it, but rerail didn’t mean anything to me by itself.)

“aggday”: all the numerical data points you add in one day get added up to make the total of how much you did today, they don’t overwrite each other.

“maxflux”: don’t recall seeing this before and can’t think what it means

“legit check”: beeminder’s email to check that you really didn’t do the stuff you said you would, before you get charged.

“pledge”: how much $$$ you will give to beeminder if you don’t do the stuff

“yellow brick road”: the yellow part of a beeminder graph where you are fulfilling your commitments. I understand it,I think it’s a cute name but I still don’t really like it or think it really fits but I think it’s probably too ingrained to change now.

“getting stung” didn’t get mentioned, which I like a lot.


What happens when Beeminder starts allowing the akrasia horizon to be a different amount of time than a week?

(@mufflon I thought your post was a bit harsh and unfair/uncharitable, but I agree that these things need to be better explained for newbees as part of the interface. @dreev is pretty much the opposite of a virtue signaler :honey_pot: :heart_eyes: and the whole point of yellow brick half-plane over yellow brick road was to make beeminder simpler and easier.)

Mercy is the number of days that it gives you after you derail.

Good point - I never noticed that either! Beeminder is a bag of mixed metaphors.

Aggday determines how those data points get aggregated - depending on what aggday you set, they could get added up, or combined in some other way. Like aggday “first” means only the first counts, and there’s also “last,” “min,” “max,” and more complicated functions.

Good news - it’s being gotten rid of in favor of “yellow brick half-plane.”


Sorry at came across that way to you, I was trying to add humor to it, but that of course can be very subjective. Especially, when you are of the complete opposite opinion as you stated before.

I realize now that I wasn’t clear in separating @dreev from Beeminder as a thing. Then again he is a main decision maker and writes a lot of the communication, so it can be hard to actually separate them conceptually. In fact @zedmango your critique is that I am attributing something to @dreev. He was openly asking for feedback on jargon and I wanted to add these to the Cons list. This is not a personal attack.

Yellow-brick half-plane is then a Wiz of Oz reference, but not, paired with a mathematical concept, which makes Beeminder easier. That’s great, but now you’re talking about the concept making Beeminder easier. The jargon being implemented means you now have to understand the reference of the yellow-brick road, the implications of “staying on it”, and then transfer it to the half-plane, which is a mathematical model.

Some of the intuitive words are great! The entire thread seems to love Beemergencies! (I do too and said so.)

And honestly, I think voicing my rather strong opinion in one direction is both valid and important in this discussion. Beeminder has a certain market fit, which I tried to allude to with a bit of humor. I stand by it, that right now the market fit is a very small circle of hardcore nerds. That’s a choice you can make, niche and all. Beeminder does definitely not have wide appeal, despite the Bee and Beeminder and Beemergency being the cutest branding I’ve seen and I love it. But when you set up your first goal, you put money on the line (with minor acceptable jargon. Pledge is a word I knew and immediately understood). To then figure out, what the yellow-brick road, akrasia, akrasia horizon are. You scroll down on page 1 of your newly created goal and have to figure out what (retro)ratchet, autoratchet, weasel-proofing (better explained now and I like it with the explanation) are. The akrasia explanation in the glossary confuses me every time I look at it.

I hope they adjust all the mentions in blog posts and the glossary that mention the week.

This thread was asking if Beeminder uses too much jargon. I argue yes and sometimes to its detriment.


Yes, and that doesn’t seem to make any more sense.

“Half-plane” seems needlessly mathematical and (even as a mathematician who does understand it really) I find an image of half an aeroplane pops into my head first (plus the graph is already a quarter-plane, so it’s an eighth-plane you want to stay in?

The “yellow brick” bit relies on knowing a film reference that I think means it’s a good thing? I find it all a bit of a stretch. If it had been a half-plane rather than a road to start with would it ever have been compared to yellow brick?

Stay on the land and don’t fall in the sea would make more sense, or perhaps stay in the sea because the bees will sting you if you stray on to the land, or stay in the honey-zone to keep the bees happy, these are definitely not serious suggestions for a replacement but just food for thought that “yellow brick half-plane” seems a bit over jargonificated to me.


Ok, I have to ask… which half of the airplane :us: are you visualizing?

I don’t think the graph is a quarter-plane. For one thing, you can have negative data, which is meaningful for some goals, so it’s at least a half-plane. You can also add data to the past. For another, the road divides the plane into two half planes, even if some regions of both half-planes are in the past and not part of the region we’re concerned with.

It’s really a literary reference. But no, I doubt the half-plane would have been called that otherwise - especially because the whole half-plane isn’t even colored yellow! @dreev what’s up with that?! And of course you can’t really “follow” a half-plane since it doesn’t lead you in one specific direction.

Love your suggestions about land, sea, and honey zone! I personally think of it as the Half-Plane of Death, or the Half-Plane of Doom, because you die upon crossing the line! I suppose we could call it “wrong side of the tracks” as well but that might not be politically correct.


I assume that’s the project name rather than language that will be used on the website.

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Why would you assume that?

As a normal person—not a super nerd, not a mathematician, not a software engineer—I’d say @mufflon is essentially correct.

Do you want to be cultish, or do you want to be accessible? Clearly, thus far, you prefer to be difficult and cultish, which is a legitimate choice.

I find it interesting that @dreev is now asking this question.


Because “yellow brick half plane” is such an obviously laughably horrendous terrible name. Imagine encountering that as a newbie!


Because it seems quite opaque, unless you both frequent this forum and remember that much mathematics? I suppose the “yellow brick” part would make sense to some existing users, though.

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I don’t know why the region that’s yellow needs to have a mathematically correct name. Just referring to yellow (or yellow brick if you must) seems like it ought to be enough? I’m not sure there are that many outside-the-forum accessible-to-newbies references to it?

Looking through the FAQ most of the references are to something like “keep your datapoints on the yellow brick road” which could just be “keep your datapoints in the yellow”. The ones that refer to “the steepness of your yellow brick road” need more of a rewrite anyway.

By the way, I looked at which still refers to yellow brick road and keeping your dots on it, but the weight loss graph right above it clearly shows the dots wandering away from the yellow bit. The explanation will make more sense when that graph has been changed to a half-plane version.

Overall, I’m inclined to think that just sticking to calling it the “yellow brick road” even when it’s only technically got one side is probably more newbie friendly.


I agree.

  • Yellow-brick road is okay for US folks that grew up with the movies and for legacy reasons.
  • Yellow-brick half plane is a laughably bad name that is jargon-y obscure for its own sake.

However, I just don’t know how Beeminder can resist calling it the sweet spot. :honeybee:

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