Beeminder Forum

Hammertime: Bug Hunt!

I recently read Hammertime on LessWrong and—while I didn’t necessarily love all of the hammers—I loved the concept of being mindful of the hammers you do have to whack any nails being stabby little annoyances (or big annoyances) in your life. Especially since I’ve been looking for ways to find things that could benefit from a judicious beeminding!

The whole sequence is rather a lot to commit to, but I’m very interested in going through the Bug Hunt, keeping in mind that “make a beeminder goal for it” is proven to be a pretty good hammer for me. If anyone else is interested, I think it’d be pretty illuminating to see some of the bugs that other people find! I’ll be posting updates here about how it goes for me anyways—especially if I find any new goal-candidates I’d previously not considered.

I’ll be posting my first pass at a Bug Hunt on Friday, October 8th: if interested, keep an eye on this space!

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I did a bug hunt! Here’s my google doc if you’re particularly interested. I’m going to wait to make any goals until tomorrow when I difficulty-rate these and start in on the next Hammertime post, Yoda Timers, but here’s a handful of bugs that I think might be good early candidates for “solving via beeminder goal”:

  • I don’t meditate enough
  • I want to do more meal prep over the weekend so dinners are faster during the week
  • [my dog] doesn’t get enough exercise
  • Our raspberries are uncared for
  • I can’t keep plants alive
  • My beard is messy

Of course, these are all rather small specific bugs, but that’s why they’re easy candidates. I’m sure I can find some ways to use beeminder to help make progress towards the bigger ones!

On a meta note, doing the bughunt itself is something I put off without beeminder: I made a goal to draft the initial forum post, and my must-do entries for the past four days (today included) are “post bughunt forumpost”, “create bughunt spreadsheet skeleton”, “bughunt”, and “sort bughunt spreadsheet”.

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I’ve sorted my spreadsheet and solved a handful of them with yoda timers, or at least made progress. There being a dead spider in the hard-to-reach corner of my closet was particularly easy.

In the Yoda Timers post (above), alkjash asks

What external reward, punishment, or commitment can you set up in five minutes that will guarantee the thing gets done?

I rather suspect you can see where this is going.

In other news, check out my new goals:

I admit I cheated a bit and did a few of my not-quite-so-easy ones today too since I noticed they were good beeminder candidates.

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The next Hammer is TAPs. I already have a few, although I didn’t really know it by that name: I’ve already successfully installed “when I finish brushing my teeth, floss” (or, rather more concretely, “when I put my toothbrush back in its stand after using it, pick up the floss”), for example. @dreev mentioned one in Discord that I quite like:

When you find yourself torn between getting rid of something and keeping it, double check for the endowment effect by asking “what would I pay to acquire this?”.

I enjoy thrift shopping so this is particularly useful to me—since my sense of “what would I pay for this at a secondhand store” is fairly well calibrated—and I used it to say goodbye to four books that survived my last round of bookshelf Konmari.

I’ve attempted to install a TAP for my bug that “my beard is messy”, which I could also solve with a beeminder goal for “beard care”, but hair growth happens at a generally nonconstant rate, so it didn’t feel quite right. Obviously I could have a semiregular goal for “check in on beard status”, but instead I’m going to try out a TAP: “Just after turning on the water to shower, while waiting for the water to warm up, trim around the edges of my beard.

I’m not super confident in my sapience spell just yet, but my first attempt is “Whenever I scratch my nose or crack my knuckles, focus on the breath for two breaths and consider if I’m doing what I want to be doing in the moment.”. We’ll see how it goes!

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I have read rperce’s post with interest and tried out the Bug Hunt two days ago. I came up with about 60 bugs and have finished day 2 and 3 since. At this point, I am enthusiastic enough to commit to the whole program without knowing how much work it will be. It’s about the friends we make along the way.

Here is my Hammertime Beeminder goal with a slope of about six days per week to give me one rest day per week. I will start with a summary of the last three days.

Day 0

On day zero, we should think of ten unaccustomed uses of our favorite instrumental rationality technique. Well, I didn’t even know what the word unaccustomed means, let alone do I have a favorite instrumental rationality technique (or any at all for that matter). I go with the flow and trust my gut is my usual technique. (Okay, I didn’t give myself a point for this day.)

Day 1

Day one is the first actual day (for non-rational people). The task is the aforementioned Bug Hunt. I have tracked “worries” or “concerns” previously, but I was never thrilled with either of the words. Bug as a term for everything in life that needs improvement is catchy. I like it.

I have come up with 60 bugs that now reside in a Markdown document. I don’t feel comfortable sharing all of them, but several of them I will share in future posts.

Day 1 also asks us to share our strangest bug-fix story.

My strangest bug-fix story is when a customer’s program sporadically had significantly worse performance. It turned out that the compiler would sometimes… Ah, that’s the wrong story.

My strangest bug-fix story is how I managed to get my snoring and mouth breathing under control.

People and my sleep app have been telling me that I am snoring for years. Also, I have had difficulty breathing through my mouth and regularly caught myself with an open mouth, even while doing physically non-demanding tasks, like working on the computer.

My fix was taping my mouth every night, effectively forcing myself to breathe through the nose while sleeping. It was challenging the first couple of nights, but eventually, my brain got used to it. The soft tissues in your nose are malleable, so that also makes it easier over time. That’s my experience, and the guy who wrote that book about breath recently says the same.

Day 2

Here are my Yoda Timer results. The main bullets are the difficulty rating and bug. The sub-bullets explain the respective bug and the solution I came up with within the five Yoda minutes.

  • 1 | I am unsure how to start my day: procrastination in bed.
    • I have created a Beeminder goal with a precise sequence. There is one rest day every two weeks.
    • morning | felixm/morning goal page
    • The sequence is: get up and brush teeth, drink water, lay back down, do affirmations, get up and do Yoga, shower cold for two minutes, done. Each item has a defined time slot.
  • 1 | My beard gets long.
    • I had already trimmed it when I wrote the bug down.
    • In general, I wait too long every time and it gets messy. A more permanent solution would be a goal to trim it every two weeks.
  • 1 | I don’t like logging in to save links or notes.
    • The issue is that sometimes I would like to save links or take notes on my work PC, but I don’t want to log into my private Google account.
    • I found the following page that allows you to have a private notebook. In theory, I could use that to notes and then extract them on my personal PC.
    • https://www.protectedtext.com/
    • In reality, this is way too tedious. I use Shaarli, and it is easy to use, but it requires you to log in to save a page or take a note. Ideally, I would hack Shaarli to allow anonymous sharing. Alternatively, I could write a simple PHP application. I have recreated this bug with a higher difficulty rating.
  • 1 | My affirmations are outdated.
    • I have written new affirmations. It took way longer than five minutes, but I wanted to continue once I had started. I still have to record them, so I created a bug for that.
  • 2 | I consume mindlessly.
    • Two seems like a too low rating for this bug. I think think I rated it this low, because I use blocker apps on Windows and my phone, and that works great.
    • However, I haven’t found a Linux app that I like, so currently, I only block the worst of the internet via my /etc/hosts. Still, I would like to have more configuration options, like blocking YouTube during specific times.
    • The solution is to write my own program for Linux. This bug shows how to turn a level 2 bug into a level 5 bug: implement a better Cold Turkey for Linux.

Day 3

This was the next item on my list:

  • 2 | I don’t track sleep consistently.

That makes for a straightforward TAP (I forgot what that even stands for): whenever I put on my mouth tape, I turn on my sleep tracking app. I have created a reminder for today in two weeks to count how well that worked.

My sapience spell is: Whenever my attention falls on my glasses, I think “I am loving, I am calm, I am kind”. Once I say that my meta-cognitive awareness kicks in, and I automatically observe myself for a couple of breaths.

By the way, rationalists are funny. Basic beaches like myself would call that an affirmation, but that’s probably not scientific enough. JK. Sapience spell sounds super cool. Inventing new words to avoid older terms that carry baggage is a super power that I would like to have. Kudos to whoever came up with that.

Okay, that’s it for now. I have respect for this challenge, but I am also looking forward to the coming days. Thanks again for sharing, rperce.

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Day 4

Day 4 was about Design or tidying up, as we non-rationalists call it. We set two Yoda timers. During the first, I noted things that I wanted to change in my living room, and during the second, I would fix as many as possible. Of course, five minutes wasn’t enough, so I spent additional time working through the list.

The main bullet is my original note, and the sub-bullets are the fix.

  • Some frames stand on shelves instead of hanging on a wall.
    • I have moved them to the correct locations and placed command strips next to them.
    • I have added hanging them up to my must-do list. (I was running out of items anyway.)
  • The laptop case that covers the LEDs on my router was so that the zipper is visible.
    • I turned it 180 degrees. Easy peasy.
  • My black table has a bunch of stuff on it.
    • I put the things into a box and hid some cables.
  • Dust covers my shrine.
    • I have added cleaning it to my must-do list.
  • The camera and tripod are on the wrong shelf.
    • I put them into the closet.
  • My kindle holder is lying under the table.
    • I let it there, for now. It’s where I want it to be when I need it.
  • There are some papers and an unprocessed letter on the shelf.
    • I threw the papers away and created a must-do goal for the letter.
  • There is a sweater on the table.
    • I put the seater into the closet.

Without my must-do goal, it would have been a busy evening, but now I can rest assured that it will get done over the coming days. I feel especially relieved about the letter. It was bothering me every time I looked at the shelf.

The challenge for today was to go over our bug list and see how many we could fix by rearranging physical objects.

I haven’t found anything obvious to me. I could improve some bugs with primers (post-it notes) at different locations in the apartment, but nothing made too much sense.

I also looked at this bug:

  • 6 | My phone controls me.

And I thought about buying one of these kitchen timer lockers. It turns out that my lock-me-out app can block the phone for arbitrary amounts of time. Who would have thought that?

I guess the trick will be that I have a routine to lock the phone for the designated amount of time whenever I start a work session.

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Day 5

Day 5 is about expanding our comfort zone. I have spent a fair amount of time becoming comfortable being uncomfortable, but I have also grown somewhat skeptical of the idea over the years.

See, in every great vision, there is a piece of the ego merely trying to get attention, but there is also a spark of the soul trying to bring love in our shared consciousness.

One time I read this blog about a guy doing twelve challenges over twelve months or something like that. One of his challenges was to learn a standing backflip. I wasn’t in a great emotional state at that time, and I thought this was a great idea to prove myself or something. I found a movement gym whose instructors were willing to teach me a backflip. I won’t go into the details, but I ended up with a broken foot, two months with crutches, and a solid four-figure hospital bill. (Fun fact: I later watched the guy’s video, and he couldn’t land a clean backflip even after thirty days of practice.) (Fun fact 2: I was also into JBP at that time that the author of the Hammertime challenge quotes. Don’t judge me. I have developed some self-awareness since then.)

It could be hindsight bias, but I leave it up to you to decide whether this was an authentic desire or just something I did to be a cool kid. Should we never do extreme things? That’s not what I am arguing at all. Someone can have a deep and authentic desire to go base jumping, but someone else might only go skydiving because all their friends think it’s cool. My point is, I have done far crazier things then learning a backflip, but I know in my heart what I did it for. That’s the difference.

Anyway, I consider sharing this story on the internet going far enough outside my comfort zone for today. Here are the other items I came up with:

  • I have never made a code contribution to an open-source project.
  • I have never made a feature request to an open-source project.
  • I have never done a chemistry project.
  • I have never sold subscriptions to one of my software projects.

I have an idea for a feature request, so I put that on my must-do list.

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I’m holding off on Day 4: Design for now, because I’m already pretty good about this sort of thing, and I know that the next steps I want to take all involve buying little bits and bobs, and just about all of my personal spending budget for the month is already earmarked. I’ll come back to you, Design!

I don’t feel like Comfort Zone Expansion will be particularly useful to me, since “The goal is simply to become the kind of person who automatically tries new things if they’re nonthreatening.” and I think I already am that kind of person. That said, spending 10 minutes trying it is obviously rather nonthreatening, and I’ve never specifically tried before, so… sure.

I’m struggling to come up with “non-stupid” things I haven’t done before, honestly. Like, sure, I haven’t sprinted to my fence in the backyard, but I’ve sprinted plenty of other places; is it meaningfully different? I guess maybe part of the point is to find out. I spent a full 5-minute timer thinking of things, and couldn’t come up with anything that I’d never done before (in a meaningful way) and that I actually had any interest at all in doing. I haven’t sprinted to my fence and back, but I know what sprinting feels like, and also it’s raining right now and I don’t feel like being in the rain today.

I had plenty of ideas for things I’ve never done that I’m quite happy about (gotten arrested, killed someone, etc) and things I’ve never done that I can’t do anything to change right now (had a wedding, visited Africa, etc). I mean, I could probably start looking into flights to Nairobi, but… I have neither the time budget, nor money budget, nor covid-exposure-budget, nor any actual desire to do that.

I’m not sure if I’m just not the target audience for this one, or if I’ve Done It Wrong, or what, but that was a miss for me.

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On an aside, thanks for joining, @felixm ! I’m super glad to see that I’ve inspired you :smiley:

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Thanks, @rperce. It’s funny because this morning, I thought about sending you a PM to ask if you are okay with me contributing to your thread, so I am glad you don’t mind it.

Day 6 is about mantras. Aphorism might be a better term to refer to the examples the author mentions. Aphorisms convey a certain truth, and if they have a positive connotation to us, we might want to repeat them to ourselves regularly. In that way, the aphorism becomes an affirmation.

I was highly skeptical of affirmations for the longest time, but I have become a believer over the last two years. My unscientific intuition is that our brain synthesizes our five sensory experiences plus our internal thoughts and feelings into a model of the world. By choosing positive inputs, we create a positive model of the world, leading to us seeing previously hidden opportunities.

Our own attentional goals determine what we notice. It’s hard to see something that is truly unanticipated [1].

Anyway, I have about 50 affirmations that I repeat daily, but those are too personal to share publicly. I will pick one of my aphorisms instead.

Every situation is inherently meaningful.

For me, that means that there is something to learn in every experience, no matter how annoying it seems on the surface.

[1] What You See Is What You Set: Sustained Inattentional Blindness and the Capture of Awareness

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Wait wait wait, their compiler would sometimes what? Hashtag nerdery lol

We were working on an embedded application running on an Infineon AURIX microcontroller. We noticed that parts of the software occasionally would run significantly slower after making changes to other, unrelated parts of the code. Via tracing, we were able to show that a short but frequently executed loop seemed to cause the additional runtime. It turned out, and that’s where the compiler (or the linker, I should say) comes into play, that depending on the alignment of that loop, it would or would not fit into the flash prefetch buffer of the microcontroller. The latter case would then result in many additional wait states resulting in a longer execution time. By forcing a specific alignment for that code section, we got rid of the issue. (Note that we would have never encountered that problem if the global program flash had been turned on, which it wasn’t for some reason that I don’t remember. Most likely, we didn’t know what we were doing. Haha. I don’t mention that part during job interviews.)

Day 7

Day 7 is called Aversion Factoring. The idea is to dissect why we don’t engage in certain habits, even though we know they would benefit us. The reason might be aversions. The author differentiates between aversions that are a legitimate concern like “I want to program this great software, but I don’t know how to code,” and aversions that spawn from self-doubt or fear, like “I want to create this great software, I know how to code, but I am afraid of being critized.”

The goal today is to analyze three bugs for the underlying aversions.

I will share my first bug in detail: I don’t have a good process for taking notes when reading books. That gives me this annoying feeling of forgetting stuff I would like to remember. I would like to have a smooth way of transferring my Kindle highlights and notes into my knowledge base. There is an additional aversion here because I don’t have a knowledge base that I enjoy using. There is a huge underlying issue here: The compartmentalization of data in tech and the lack of clean interfaces is something I think about a lot, and I cannot figure out how to solve it. I will just be content not taking notes for now. Haha.

The other two bugs are ones where I have the capabilities to form the habit, but deep insecurities prevent me from getting started. These are habits that I should start by getting slowly outside my comfort zone, as discussed on Day 5. I have mentioned some bugs in the post for that day.

Day 8

I am adding day eight as an edit because I don’t feel like I fall into the sunken cost fallacy fallacy too often. When I quit projects halfway through, it’s mostly because I encounter inner resistance for a part of the project, as explained in the previous posts.

I still like the exercise of doing a useless activity for five minutes daily for a week. I am going to practice headstands because I cannot think of anything more useless right now.

Day 9 - Time Calibration

A day that does not resonate with me. For as long as I can think back, at least since Middle school, I always had a good intuition for how long something takes. Rare are the occasions where I err too far in either direction. Either I am fooling myself, or Parkinson’s law strongly applies to me.

To get something out of this day anyway, I want to share this thought that I had at the back of my mind for years: I should get back into the habit of doing things that I am good at fast. I had great fun solving homework correctly and quickly in school, to the point where we had competitions for who finished an exercise first. (I apologize to all current and former students who had to suffer under pretentious classmates like us. I can only imagine how annoying we were.)

In contrast, work teaches you the opposite. If you are too quick, you might get overloaded with more tasks instead of getting some extra free time as a reward.

Something like a Project Euler speed challenge would be fun. You are only allowed to work on each problem for 30 minutes, and then you have to move on to the next one. Only after twenty more attempts at different problems can you move back to the first one.

Edit:

I had this additional thought that the tasks that stress me out the most are the ones I cannot estimate because I have no idea how I even want to approach them. Do I need a Bash command-line tool, a GUI written with PyQT, or a ReactJS app with a Rust backend?

How do I approach this problem? It’s my project, and I can do what I want. Maybe that’s why I do better in school and at work, because there is a rigid framework that I am operating within?

So the first part of future personal projects is to decide on a stack and then commit to it instead of rewriting everything in the next shiny language that comes along?