Beeminder Forum

Feature request: Warnings for Do-Less goals *before* crossing the bright line

I have a Do Less goal for the number of times I check my phone and spend more than 30 seconds on it. I only get warning notifications from Beeminder once I have already crossed the bright line. That’s too bad, because once I’ve crossed the bright line, there’s nothing I can do.

For Do Less goals, I recommend:

  • Add an extra field to the “Emergency day notifications” screen on Android for each Do Less goal for a “Warning threshold”
  • If the hard cap reaches the warning threshold, send a push notification

I only use Android notifications so I’m not sure exactly how this should carry over to the email warnings configured on the website.

4 Likes

Hmm, I’m pretty sure I used to get reminders before I crossed the line when I had a do-less goal with notifications. I’m going to experiment with that today and make sure I understand what’s happening!

3 Likes

I’m not positive since I’ve only experimented today, but I think once you’ve entered data, if you’re not across the line, you’re treated as safe… because the reminders trigger based on what the PPR might do to you. Does that sound correct to everyone as a summary of the current situation?

(Perils of the fact that I don’t use reminders at all anymore. I’m out of touch!)

2 Likes

Oh my, we have an overwhelming amount to say about this but it’s out of all proportion with what we’re actually ready to do about it…

First a few questions for @katriel before launching into philosophy:

  1. Are you manually entering a datapoint each time you check your phone and spend more than 30 seconds on it? I think you must have automated this, which is super cool and I’d love to hear more about how you did that. Tasker?
  2. If you could turn on some other reminders for a bit (email, slack, whatever) to compare, that would be super helpful for us. We’re working on revamping the Android reminders and hearing this case study of if it’s the Android reminders specifically that are just all wrong would be edifying.
  3. Do you have PPRs turned on for this goal? Probably not if it’s automated.
  4. Do you have experience with manual do-less goals? (Or whatever kind this one isn’t.)

Philosophy and Wolf-Crying

Let me repeat what I said in a daily beemail about this a few weeks ago in the context of anti-wolf-crying.

The principle we’re aiming for (again, as distinct from the status quo) is that zenos on a do-less goal should happen for exactly two reasons:

  1. You need to add data to a manual goal to keep from derailing (currently that would be due to PPRs but the principle generalizes).
  2. You just moved dangerously closer to your hard cap on an autodata goal. (We have ideas for how to define “dangerously closer” in a spec we’re writing. We’re trying hard to avoid adding any extra fields or options or settings.)

The only time we should nag you (i.e., send repeated reminders saying the same thing) is like with do-more goals: “OMG DO THE THING WHY HAVE YOU STILL NOT DONE THE THING”.

We never want to be like “DON’T DO THE THING ARE YOU STILL NOT DOING THE THING OK HOW ABOUT NOW??”. That’s wolf-crying.

(See blog.beeminder.com/zeno for a refresher but roughly, zenos are reminders that repeat more and more frequently as your deadline approaches. For a do-more goal we keep zenoing as long as it’s a beemergency. Nice and Simple. For do-less it’s … not simple. The whole definition of beemergency is pretty fraught for do-less goals. But the status quo is all wrong and we’re groping our way to something righter.)

We’re definitely eager for more feedback about this. I know some of you very much do want Beeminder to keep bugging you, even on a manual do-less goal. Maybe it’s a nail-biting goal or something and you need Beeminder’s help to maintain the awareness to keep refraining from doing the thing. But my contention is that trying to do that backfires.

Of course in the meantime we have the worst of all worlds, with some do-less goals reminding you too much and others too little.

  1. Are you manually entering a datapoint each time you check your phone and spend more than 30 seconds on it? I think you must have automated this, which is super cool and I’d love to hear more about how you did that. Tasker?

I’m automating it. I use Automate, following Using Beeminder with Android Automate. I think the key point from your perspective is that Automate submits a data point every time I keep my screen on for 30 seconds, instead of providing batched data at some regular interval.

  1. If you could turn on some other reminders for a bit (email, slack, whatever) to compare, that would be super helpful for us. We’re working on revamping the Android reminders and hearing this case study of if it’s the Android reminders specifically that are just all wrong would be edifying.

OK, I’ll enable email reminders and report back if they do anything different than Android.

  1. Do you have PPRs turned on for this goal? Probably not if it’s automated.

No.

  1. Do you have experience with manual do-less goals? (Or whatever kind this one isn’t.)

No.

2 Likes

Thanks also for sharing the philosophy–the anti-wolf-crying principle seems like a good one.

For a do-more goal we keep zenoing as long as it’s a beemergency. Nice and Simple. For do-less it’s … not simple. The whole definition of beemergency is pretty fraught for do-less goals. But the status quo is all wrong and we’re groping our way to something righter.

Naively, here’s something that seems like a fine definition of a do-less beemergency to me:

  • Fit a distribution of the units done per day for the goal (you’ll need to posit a prior that gets used for new goals, and gradually the estimated distribution will get updated as more observed data accumulates)
  • If according to the distribution, there’s more than an X% chance of derailing, it’s a beemergency.

I think it would make sense to start with a Poisson distribution, since a Poisson “expresses the probability of a given number of events occurring in a fixed interval of time or space if these events occur with a known constant mean rate and independently of the time since the last event” (Wikipedia). But maybe it wouldn’t fit real data that well–you could find out.

EDIT: Ah, but I see that even if it’s a do-less beemergency, it would violate the anti-cry-wolf principle to send Zeno reminders. Why are you attached to reminders being Zenos? Do-less reminders should maybe be one-offs if you are not going to allow the user to customize how often to get them.

1 Like

@dreev: Update on email reminders: After enabling email Zenos for my “phone30s” do-less goal, I got two email reminders at 2:34pm and 2:35pm IST. I didn’t get corresponding Android push notifications.

1 Like