Beeminder Forum

Ice Cream Truck Loopholes

[repeating from a weekly beemail]

Sometimes Beeminder goals have loopholes, like you could dehydrate yourself to get your datapoint on your weight loss road (please don’t!). There are plenty of things like that and I probably shouldn’t think too hard about more examples. Sometimes loopholes like that can ruin a goal. But other times, ironically, such loopholes can be so blatant that they’re in no danger at all of ruining the goal. I call the latter ice cream truck loopholes. As in a loophole so big you could drive an ice cream truck through it. Could but won’t. You know that your Beeminder goal would be ruined the moment you exploited it, and so you’re not tempted to.

The original example of such a loophole was from the first incarnation of the Beeminder commitment contract back when we thought we needed an elaborate, literal commitment contract. We suggested that, to avoid fuzziness around the definition of “going to the gym”, you could simply beemind touching the door of your gym’s building. If you were legitimately injured or something and shouldn’t exercise, the loophole would be there for the taking. But otherwise you’d never be so lazy that you’d actually get yourself all the way to the door of the gym and then not go in. I mean, some people might. It depends on where exactly the akrasia is. Is the workout itself hard to make yourself do or is it just overcoming the inertia of getting out the door?

STRAW POLL: Have you had a Beeminder goal ruined by exploiting loopholes? Have you noticed any ice cream truck loopholes, ones so blatant that you weren’t ever tempted to exploit them?


Here are paraphrased excerpts I got when I asked that in the beemail:

  1. I’m writing a book and get an automatic +1 via RSS for each chapter. The ice cream truck loophole is breaking it up into ever-finer subchapters.
  2. I’ve used my gym check-in (vs. actual workout) loophole once in all of two years; it hasn’t tempted me otherwise!
  3. Fake data is the obvious ice cream truck loophole.
  4. My metric for my to-do list goal is touching the item in question. For example, I could just move my laundry basket and get a +1 for doing the laundry. I’m not tempted to exploit it because I do actually want the laundry done, but if there’s a reason I can’t do the laundry (like not enough hot water) then I’m happy to use the loophole.
  5. My “spend time on X” goals tend to get ruined by loopholes.
  6. I’m all about building consistency with mini-habits so I have absolutely touched the door of the gym, called it a +1, and not even thought of it as exploiting a loophole. Getting to the door of the gym was in fact the habit I was building [except more complicated than that in my case].

And my own addendum (thanks to @danlucraft for helping me think it through): I technically do kinda dehydrate myself slightly when trying to weigh in on my yellow brick road but I have a personal rule that I can’t ever get to the point where I actually feel thirsty. Basically the actions I can take to weigh in low enough are eating less and moving more and so despite a bit of gaming it, like not drinking water as a weigh-in approaches, the Beeminder goal is making me lose actual weight rather than exploit loopholes that defeat the point of the goal. (Also I beemind pushups and things so hopefully I’m losing fat not muscle.)

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