Orange Is The New Red

This was originally a daily beemail.

The other day I had a prescheduled break on all my goals but it turned out I didn’t need it and was thinking if I announced it publicly enough or something maybe I could establish for myself a new Schelling fence for “ORANGE IS THE NEW RED”. Like all my normal beemergencies were orange that day. If I could pretend they were all red… would that be very valuable? I couldn’t tell. Eventually I’d use up the buffer. What would I actually accomplish with the red→orange shift other than maybe reducing how much I pay Beeminder? And maybe making a crisp clean set of consequences more convoluted.

I floated that in our internal chat and @adamwolf and @shanaqui agreed that effecting that shift is totally valuable for them.

I’m curious what you all think. This is also a PSA that it’s easy to try: Schedule a one-day break on all your goals a week from now and put it on your calendar as orange-is-the-new-red day. On that day the one-day breaks mean everything that would’ve been red is now orange. Pretend it’s red like usual, et voila. From that day forward, as long as you can maintain the illusion that orange=red, nothing will have changed in how much you’re actually doing/did but you’ll have successfully put a day of emergency buffer in your back pocket.

Of course the exact same thing works for any other color shift. You could even get a week of safety buffer and be entirely immune to the akrasia horizon.

I feel nervous about this line of reasoning because it feels like its logical conclusion is that you end up not needing Beeminder at all. But Adam and Nikki assure me that this is not at all the case. There will be times when you eat into that buffer and even derail and that’s fine and that consequence still has to be there. Using just a graph and a spreadsheet would eventually fall apart completely without a lot of work that would amount to recreating a lot of Beeminder.

I don’t think I’ve done Adam and Nikki’s take on this justice. For one thing their contention is that actually beeminding their beemergencies is a key part of this for them.

But for now, I thought I’d put the “orange is the new red” strategy out there and see how many of you are inclined to try it (STRAW POLL).

Initial results of the poll

Here are very paraphrased excerpts from the responses to the straw poll about maintaining safety buffer by treating orange as if it’s red.

As seems to often be the case, opinion is perfectly split…

Roughly Pro:

  1. I finally got an all-green dashboard and it feels empowering.
  2. Maintaining buffer is great and you still totally need Beeminder because you need to know that eventually the consequences will actually sting.
  3. Personal rule: At most 1 thing due tomorrow, at most 2 due in 2 days, etc. (But haven’t found a way to meta-mind that and don’t always have the discipline.)
  4. I’ve tried variations of this and aspire to do so more. Note that derailing gives you that safety buffer, no need to schedule a break.
  5. You just inspired me to do this (by working ahead for the extra safety buffer, not by scheduling breaks).

Roughly Contra:

  1. Too much overhead, Beeminder already works perfectly well and I don’t really mind how much I pay you guys.
  2. Trying to trick my brain isn’t worth the effort.
  3. I’ve maintained one-week buffers in the past but it ultimately didn’t stick.
  4. I’ve tried it; it inevitably collapses in a few days.
  5. This is like setting your clocks 10 minutes ahead, i.e., it’s doomed.

Neither or Both:

  1. Not exactly related but a user wanted to brag about their surprisingly life-changing teeth-brushing Beeminder goal.
  2. What I really want is two yellow brick roads on one graph: the true bare-minimum with penalty and the stretch goal.
  3. My trick is to have $0 pledges on most but not all things and then not look at the pledge amounts.
  4. The official version of this should be a TWO day break. BLUESHIFT because you’re moving the beemergency towards you! [physics nerd joke; I love this person so much]
  5. Keeping all my goals green was nice while it lasted.

What we really need is color-ratcheting.

With color-ratcheting, you could preserve the psychological significance of red while still giving yourself extra days of buffer. It would let you set the colors so that everything less than X days is red, letting you associate the red line with whatever amount of buffer you wanted.