Beeminder Forum

How important are accurate graphs? Is there a case to be made for fake data?

This is what I’m pondering right now: Are accurate graphs worth the trouble? Are 98% accurate graphs good enough? It seems I’m fine with having some fake data in there… and I have been beeminding for years at this point.

I think I know about the bright lines argument: If you are (too lenient) with yourself and cheat Beeminder, Beeminder will lose its power as a commitment device. So do not do it.

The only exception to the rule is for those people who use Beeminder (more) as a data visualisation tool. But those people don’t see or use Beeminder as a commitment device. So they don’t count.

I think the argument is pretty good. But my question is how important are accurate graphs in this? In Beeminder circles akrasia is thrown into the ring as soon as there could be a discussion about productivity resources like time and attention.

It’s true, I could call not legit on all the goals that would’ve been made impossible (impossible? really?) by having spilled a glass of water on my laptop. I would get emails I would have to archive, work up the nerve to write the damn non-legit email answers, maybe have to retroratchet some goals (which would have been impossible with some), etc. A kind of a lot of maintenance to keep bright lines in an area that shouldn’t occupy that much of my time and attention.

So I’m asking myself if my focus is not “being the ideal beeminder user” and also not “doing meta work is my hobby”, but instead “I have life goals for which I’m using Beeminder and doing some meta work”, then isn’t it more sensible to use my time and attention on my actual goals (which can mean not going over my “attention budget” for Beeminder and Co., or at least not as much…) instead of having perfect graphs?

To me, this aligns better with my actual priorities while still being truthful to the bright lines idea in spirit: Fake data is just a quicker method of dealing with non-legit derails, for which I pay by having somewhat less accurate graphs.

As an illustrative example: I could see having a Beeminder goal to not spend more than this many hours a month dealing with Beeminder in total. Something like the water spillage happens at the end of the month. Would I go with two minutes of fake data or 15 minutes of non-legit derails?


Whatever works for you, really. I also see Beeminder as a tool. And looking back I think I am mostly doing ok with that. What I am struggling with is not so much when to call non legit (that debate was more of an issue for me when I was new), but how to not procrastinate dialing up goal rates. And I am constantly struggling with the akrasia horizon. For me 7 days is a long time. That is the actual issues I have that make Beeminder less effective for me than what it could be (I think, and strictly for me). Especially the first.

Regarding the “tool” aspect: I got this huge goal phi/spiht and it is a time based goal. On that particular goal I keep track of the time akin to how I would write down my hours at my work place. I actually wrote that down in the description even.
Short story long: On days where I was ill I’d “call in sick” basically and log my amount of work I would have done on that day together with #headache in the description. If I really wanted I could still get a “100%” accurate graph just by filtering out data points with that label.

How would I know how long I would have worked on that day truthfully? Glad you asked! The goal was constantly red with basically next to no safety buffer so this matched the daily rate pretty much spot on every time.

Eventually I stopped doing that after I learned that “not legit!” emails are not a burden at all for support. And I thought I ma try doing that instead. And I have been doing that ever since.

I am not completely sold on either of both approaches. What I don’t like about the latter is that if you worked harder than necessary and built up buffer all this buffer will melt away in an instant when you are ill and can’t work on the goal.
The specially labeled fake data method does preserve your buffer. On the other hand this is “clearly” not how Beeminder is “supposed to be used”.

So far my personal takeaway is: The way people use Beeminder and how well they can tell when they are fooling themselves varies very wildly. That became clear to me after reading about the infamous sleep detector mat in the bed that was locked into the power socket with a key stored in the car.

So, do whatever works for you :slight_smile: I can say that for me it doesn’t really make a big difference either way. Writing a non legit email is also a nice opportunity to reflect. And when you have multiple goals you can just copy pasta. Also you miss out on @shanaqui’s and the others’ insightful comments when you do fake data instead of crying to support :wink:

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And for me it’s how to not pour every drop of creative energy and drive into productivity for the sake of productivity. How to not crank too much, to use an old term. A productivity-life balance problem, if you will.

But do you really care? Even when doing a yearly review (which took about 4 weekends in total) I did not need that data. What I do need is the kinda good feeling that I did the thing and will continue doing the thing.

At least for me, that’s not as relevant as if I feel they are a burden. I understand that there can be some feedback looping going with one’s own hesitation to send out not-legit emails and the thought that other’s might think receiving those is a burden to them, but for me it’s just more about my own not wanting to do it, because I would like to have better things to do (like drying my macbook or doing a thing I actually care about) and so I try to do things that I think are better things to do instead.

I agree with that wholeheartedly. But I’m torn also. (Is that even possible?!) On the one hand this is exactly how I feel and I always, if I’m completely honest, squirm a little when we oversimplify the breadth and especially the possible breadth of ways to use beeminder. On the other hand I like to theorize about beeminder as a thing that makes a difference in people’s lives and how we could get a grasp on some of what the existence of beeminder might mean. :thinking:

To be honest, although it’s easier to just deal with not legits, it is also pretty easy for us to just put a break in (unless you have a wildly complicated graph that you’ve planned out months ahead). So if you’re ill and you don’t think that’s a legit use of your hard-earned buffer, then shoot us a line.

(Personally, my buffer is for use when I’m having mental health issues, but physical health issues don’t need to use up buffer and I ask for a break. Which considering I don’t believe in body/mind dualism – if there’s something wrong in my brain, there is something physical wrong – is kind of hypocritical, but then I’d be asking for a lot more breaks if I asked for breaks for mental health stuff. :thinking:)


I’m a little confused by this. Why does sending a non-legit email take so much longer than fake data? My emails certainly don’t take near that long. They’re usually something like this:

This isn’t legit, didn’t have internet, so rule 4. Reset the road? Thanks!

Seriously, they’re rarely ever much longer than that. And I’m replying to the legit check email, so I don’t even have to bother remembering support’s email address.


The question you quoted was just an exaggerated hypothetical. Even though I still think that having to remember to call non-legit later is harder (at least a little bit) than just entering fake data right then and there. My point is: It’s a little bit easier to do it the fake-data way and you actually don’t hurt your beeminding that much.

P.S.: My non-legits are rarely more complicated than that either.

Sounds like a good amount of the friction you are feeling would be ameliorated by an uncle button.


Fair enough.

I guess a small amount of friction to keep my graphs accurate and avoid the chance I’ll slip into cheating feels to me like a reasonable price to pay.

@adamwolf Yes! An uncle button would make things so much nicer. Especially if you could include a note when you cry uncle. Imagine being able to call uncle and say it isn’t legit at the same time. :drooling_face:


@adamwolf @narthur

I’m not understanding how an uncle button would help here - I thought the idea of an uncle button was that it would instantly derail you, and you’d still have to reply to the email to call non-legit. The only advantage of an uncle button is that it stops reminders, right?

Oh man - that seems dangerous. If it were that easy I think people would do it all the time.

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