Mercy days after derailing and weekends off

Hi all!

I’m in the middle of a chat with Beeminder support, but I figured I’ll go here - not because I want whining, but because I want insight, so let’s crowdsource insight. :wink:

Story: I derailed on Friday on a do-more goal with 2 days of mercy and weekends off. To my complete surprise, I was in red on Monday again (instead of on Wednesday). And because of a mix of being angry, what-the-heck effect and “screw it, I don’t even care now” I derailed again on Monday.

Of course, I wrote to the Beeminder people, and Bethany answered (I hope, @Bethany_M_Soule, that you have nothing against me quoting here?):

2 days of mercy would be two days either way, never in addition to a weekend, and if we were adding two days of buffer after a weekend derail, then I’d file a bug report for that as incorrect behavior!

My answer was (more or less) this (of course, long after my anger faded away):

Really curious about your arguments as to how on Earth the current behavior could be anything but a glaring, terrible, Beeminder-is-stealing-my-money-level bug! (And it’s not that I’m angry - I am really curious, because I can’t think of any!)

So, what is the people’s opinion?

And again: I just want to understand this, I’m not claiming that this is any malice, greed or whatever (and I think this is obvious, but I’m stating it again just in case). And I’d like to possibly warn others who think like me (unless I’m the only one, which is of course also possible).

Huh. The thing is, I’d never even imagined that people would expect us to add two additional days as well as the weekend. We never have. I don’t know if that’s a matter of principle; as far as I know, it’s a matter of the derailment just always adding x days of flat spot, without caring what’s coming up in the graph.

I don’t personally have very strong feelings about how this should work; I think we’ll all find it interesting to see what others think!

I think if I’ve said I want a certain number of days of mercy, I want that number of days before I have to get back on the wagon – weekends or breaks aside. I guess I do strongly feel that it shouldn’t shorten a break, because a break usually means I’m not actually available to do the thing/put in the data! But if mercy would be just subsumed by the break, and I’d have to get back to it as soon as the break ends… yeah, that’s what I’d expect and plan for – I don’t feel like a derailment is buying me a certain number of days off that I am entitled to receive on top of anything else the road might do. I think that would be pretty suboptimal, in many cases.

Thinking, though… can you really call something that’s implemented in a way you don’t like a bug? The software isn’t supposed to give you more than two days of flat; it’s not something wrong with the code. A design choice you don’t like wouldn’t be a bug… hmm!

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Well, I’d never imagined Beeminder would not… That’s why I’m curious about others’ opinions.

And of course it’s not a software bug; if anything, it’s a design bug.

Here’s one way of thinking about it: for me, “mercy days” and “weekends off” are two separate concepts, and in this case Beeminder is conflating two unrelated things. One is: this goal is basically something I never (well, hardly ever, but let’s keep things simple) do on weekends. The other is: after I derail, I want 2 days “off” - and by 2 days I mean two days I could work on that goal, but I don’t have to. So treating Saturday and Sunday as my “2 days of mercy” is basically telling me: “if you really want your 2 days’ breath, you need to violate your principles and do some very serious (if possible at all) shuffling of your schedule”.

Of course, now that I know that, if I were to derail on Friday again, I would just change the “days of mercy” settings for one day. But this is a kludge, of course.

And finally: I don’t consider it “implemented in a way I don’t like”. For me, it’s rather “badly designed” (or “badly worded”), and if not for the fact that I know that Beeminder goes out of its way to be honest with the users, I might suspect something like this it is a deliberate decision to trick people.

EDIT: to put it in yet another words: in my mental model, checking “weekends off” should basically amount to “for this goal, treat Saturdays and Sundays as nonexistent”, so Monday comes right after Friday. Can you see now why I felt cheated?

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I suspect that is the core of the disconnect, for me! I don’t expect two days I could work on that goal but don’t have to; I want to have to get back on the wagon in two days. For me, minimising the gap is important when I re-rail, because it’s so easy to lose something from your routine if you can just miss it. I calibrate my days of mercy toward the exact number of days I can have away from the desirable behaviour before I risk disconnecting from it entirely, at which point it becomes a lot more effortful.

So there’s your use case for this not being a bug, I guess!

(It’s important to emphasise that what I’m saying is mostly from my personal point of view and what I expect to happen, as a user – which I am, all of us are – and doesn’t reflect what the others might think or the official intent behind something. I’m speculating if I say anything about that in this case; I don’t have insider knowledge!)

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Well, that makes sense, although I’d probably never think of it that way (and even now that you said that, I don’t and probably won’t).

OTOH, have you seen my edit, where I start with what “weekends off” mean, and then the behavior I was expecting is just an obvious corollary?

Three more thoughts.

  1. Just to make sure this is said: I don’t claim that Beeminder took my money wrongly - after all, I knew it could/would happen in 2 days’ advance.

  2. The idea with routines makes sense, although with a teacher wife, two kids, one of which has a very difficult time dealing with the lockdown craziness and the lockdown itself, I consider “daily routines” a luxury I’d love to be able to afford, but can’t.

  3. Either way, I am now 100% sure it’s a bug - the question is, if it is a design bug (i.e., the behavior is incorrect), or documentation bug (because if this behavior is correct, it must be visibly documented!).

I hadn’t seen the edit yet, but it does make sense! But it actually always made sense that you’d expect that, it’s just so different from how I think about it that it wouldn’t have occurred to me until you said it. (Which is, from a Beeminder point of view, the value of encouraging users to tell us about this kind of thing!)

It is worth noting as well that my point of view might not be characteristic. At a best guess the last time I had a concept of weekends vs weekdays was 2012. First unemployment and then freelancing kinda killed that concept for me.

Lately, I know it’s a weekend because the rugby’s on… (Please, please let us win against England, o powers that be.)

…So I’d love to see others chip in. :slight_smile:

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BTW, for me, weekend makes a huge difference. (And I’m completely not into sports - I’m rather a “football is played with sticks, right?” type of person. :wink: )

I think (as has already been said, but just summarizing here) it really comes down to “weekends off” meaning one of two things:

  1. Please don’t make me do anything for this goal on Saturday or Sunday.
  2. From the perspective of this goal, Saturday and Sunday don’t exist; it’s as if time skips from Friday directly to Monday.

It seems like there are good reasons/use cases for thinking of it either way, and the choice obviously affects how mercy days + weekends should logically be handled. The current behavior corresponds to (1); @mbork 's expectation corresponds to (2). For what it’s worth, I would actually expect/prefer (2) (although I don’t have any weekends-off goals at the moment). The reason I prefer that interpretation is that in a scenario where I have derailed on a goal on Friday, it’s probably because there are some extra stressors / backlog / etc. which needs to be dealt with before I can get back on track; but putting me right back on the hook on Monday means I need to do that “dealing with stuff” over the weekend in order to be ready, but the reason I would have weekends off is so that I don’t have to think about or deal with stuff related to that goal on the weekends.


Wow. @byorgey, thanks for saying what I was thinking but was unable to put in words.

I don’t have any weekends-off goals at the moment either, but I agree with this line of thinking:

I would imagine (pure speculation) that people using ‘weekends-off’ on a goal are doing so because there is a distinction between ‘weekday’ and ‘weekend’ in their life (vs just ‘hey give me two days off a week’). And so I would expect to interpret the goal as ‘this is something I do on weekdays, don’t intrude in my weekend time’.

Given that framing, derailing early in the week (with 2 days of mercy set) means ‘ok, i have 2 weekdays to pull it together’ but derailing on friday means ‘huh? I only have monday’. Derailing on different days has different behavior*, which feels unexpected / a design bug. Or at the very least a ‘these two features interact in a particular way so “beware! and check your understanding”’ (similar to how weekends off + autoracheting used to be).

( *I get that with the expectation provided by @shanaqui the behavior is consistent)

fwiw, I haven’t thought about this scenario before reading this thread today and weekends-off creating ‘ignored’ days was my off-the-cuff expectation as well, so I had much the same surprise as @mbork to reading about the actual behavior.


Thanks @mbork and everyone! I’m pretty intrigued by Wormhole Weekends, as @bee and I started calling it out loud after seeing this last night. (Btw, I’m not sure where that “@Bethany_M_Soule” is from – presumably an ancient import from the old Akratics Anonymous, precursor to the forum.)

I think we’ll think of this as another vote to prioritize the True Breaks feature. I don’t know if that alone could give us Wormhole Weekends but it feels like a prereq for going down that rabbit hole in any case.

Review/preview: True Breaks will mean a literal/visual gap in the Yellow Brick Road when you schedule a break. For do-more goals it may not be much different from a flat spot (I’m not sure yet) but for weight loss, for example, it should mean your weight can do whatever it wants during your vacation and the road will continue from whatever your weight is when you return.


OK, here’s a super-crazy idea that Beeminder probably shouldn’t actually do, but may be fun to think about: fully user-customizable calendar systems.

Look at it this way: hardcoding magic numbers is bad, right? So it’s kind of iffy to have it hardcoded that January has 31 days, that there are 12 months in a year or 7 days in a week, or whatever. Or indeed, that time is divided into “weeks” and “months”—an alternate calendar system might have other time units completely. Maybe a “fleem” is a span of time that alternates between 5 and 8 days in length, except that every 29th fleem is a leap fleem which is 9 days long, but not on years which are square-free.

Does that sound crazy? It’s not really any crazier than what we have, with different (semi-arbitrary) month lengths, plus leap years (especially the Gregorian method of calculating leap years.)

Now, it’s true that this doesn’t align very well with the astronomical bodies in our solar system, but that isn’t the point, is it?

A fully general calendar system (or rather, a meta-calendar system: a system for arbitrary user-specified calendars) would give the user the tools to control exactly the way the calendar works for their hearts content—it should go without saying that it should include a way to specify parts of the calendar where time stands still, or flows at a different rate, or even moves backwards! This would utterly subsume any need for Wormhole Weekends, with no extra work required from Beeminder!

(And think of how grateful all those timetravelers will be, now that finally they too will be able to use Beeminder without all the timetraveling wreaking havoc on their graphs.)

Now, you might think that I am somewhat less than 100% serious about this proposal. Fine, fine, you got me. But I honestly do think it’s worth thinking about—not, perhaps, as a remotely serious option, but rather to define how this approach would work if taken to the limit. No, you’re quite likely never going to actually get to such limit, but it defines one end of the continuum on which this design decision sits. As such, it seems quite worthwhile as an illuminating (and quite fun) thought experiment, I think.


zzq, I think that internally, days will either be true-break days or not, and that they’ll be able to be in any arbitrary grouping and count. Whether or not setting an unlimited number of arbitrary true breaks according to a user-defined system is included in that… well, I’m not the one to say :slight_smile:

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Wait, how do you know about my personal calendar system!?