"Isn't that stressful?"

Last week in a rationality forum I mentioned that I should probably read “The Elephant In The Brain” and, that being a should statement, created a Beeminder goal then and there to actually do that: bmndr.co/d/readelebrain. Someone followed that link and noticed that I had 15 goals in the red and asked if that was unusual for me and if that wasn’t stressful.

My answer:

Not unusual! Basically I wake up every day and work my way down my Beeminder dashboard.

I see how it seems like it might be stressful! i think it’s just the right amount of stressful. Note that most of those beemergencies on my dashboard are just-keep-swimming things. Like read 2 more pages of “elephant in the brain” or write one more sentence of a blog post. Overall I’d say I’m trying to replicate the amount of stress I might have at a day job.


I treat my dashboard similarly in terms of working my way down my dashboard. Or maybe I take it way further? I touch absolutely everything (even the permanently-flat goals) every day, where “touch” means I check whether I need to do anything and then do it if need be; that’s why I diligently do and enter data on (say) my YNAB goal even though I don’t have to do it because I have a ton of safety.

I essentially “check off” my goals using zzq’s browser extension to collapse them to the bottom, so for me it becomes a to-do list with the addition of my lovely graphs.

(I’ve just realised re: having a ton of safety that part of the reason I don’t just ratchet is partly that I don’t like the way ratcheting looks. I’m now tempted to manually ratchet some of my goals by editing where the red line was in the past to match the data… then there’d be a kink in the line, but not an unsightly step. I’d also get an idea in the process of the real rate I’ve been managing, which might prompt me to change my current rate. On the other hand, getting so much safety buffer feels like the carrot where the sting is the stick. Look at me overachieving! It’s like bragging rights only I’m the only person who looks at it much and I’m bragging to my own brain.)


Ah, this is the perfect pitch for a true retro-ratchet feature (and maybe it’s now been long enough since we heinously abused the term “retroratchet” to refer to non-retroactive ratcheting that we can call it that without confusion?).

In any case, I totally agree that discontinuities in the bright red line are unsightly and that retroactively steepening the red line both avoids that as well as giving helpful guidance on what kind of slope is realistic based on your past data.

For those who don’t know, the prototype graph editor – graph.beeminder.com – is a good way to do retro-ratcheting already now. You can literally drag the bright red line to make it match your past datapoints.


Hmm. I like “helpful guidance on what kind of slope is realistic based on your past data”, but I think I might not like retroactively changing my line—it’s useful for me to see “oh, I always fall off on this goal once I have a few days of safety, I should set up a reminder for that that’s not just the beemergency, or just increase my rate a little so I can rely on the beemergency as a reminder”.

I don’t really find the steps in the line that unsightly, tbh—I mostly see past ratchets as inspiring and wouldn’t want to hide that!


Yeah, @ozanogreden brought up a similar concern. A potential compromise is for the datapoints to always retain whatever color they originally had, regardless of how the red line may change after the fact.

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Personally I’m philosophicaly opposed to the graph ever changing in the past. I always want to be able to see how things were. I can plot a trend line without changing history.


Here’s what I’ve written in discord with more context.

For a few goals, I’ve set yearly goals this year. For instance my running goals.

I’ve set (personally) ambitious goals in terms of hours and kilometers ran for this year. All I want is reach 2023 and see I’ve succeeded. (I’ve got a times run per year goal which auto-ratchets so that I get the health benefits of regular exercise, which I suppose are multipliers of benefits of total exercise per year.)

I started the year highly motivated. It looks like my data points may be moving away from the red line:


Looking at the graph, I found myself thinking “Wouldn’t it be cool if I hit my yearly goal like October? Or come sickness, come injury hit my goal in early December?” The information that feeds this motivation is the historically accurate representation of the red line. If you fudge that line, I’ll lose that information.

(Back to being realistic… I’ll probably end up thankful that the red line was there. But that’s another story.)

I’ll also +1 @rperce’s point about ratchets explicitly. When I see consecutive auto-ratchets… sure the steppy line isn’t the nicest thing to look at. But I go “Wow okay that’s neat - let’s sit down and think about what’s happening.”


New idea/proposal: not only do the datapoints retain their original color, there’s also always a ghosty version of the bright red line that can never change from what the red line was at the time. So you can move it the red line retroactively but a shadow of the original will always remain visible.

Maybe @narthur et al will say it should be the other way around? If you want to see what bright red line you could’ve hypothetically have hewn to, that’s what the ghosty version should be. But that feels like a can of worms in terms of what bright red line you’re editing. Like if there’s just one bright red line and we merely remember what it used to be, that’s more straightforward in terms of graph editing.


I guess I just fall firmly on the side of historical accuracy rather than aesthetic consideration. If something in the past is ugly, I’ll just change x-min… But, given my lack of appreciation for the use case for editing the road in the past, I feel somewhat il-equipped to argue against it.


I actually think that I wouldn’t like all of my goals to get the change-the-line-in-the-past treatment – the approach works for me with some of my goals and what they’re for, and doesn’t at all for others. So I think the current ratcheting status quo is probably my preference, because I can always do the other thing myself with graph.beeminder.com if I want. :thinking:


When I was young, I listed to the original broadcasts of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I recorded them to cassettes, and practically wore them out re-listening. So I remember Arthur Dent and Lintilla escaping through tunnels, by Lintilla turning her Crisis Inducer up to 9. See this: Crisis Inducer | Hitchhikers | Fandom

So “just the right amount of stressful” has a nice history :slight_smile: