Why I haven't automated my goals

Automating data collection is considered a good thing in Beeminder-land. Yet I’ve only ever had one automated goal (Fitbit steps). (For a few others, a tool helps me collect the data, but I still enter it manually.)

This has some obvious problems: it makes me spend more time interacting with Beeminder instead of actually doing stuff, leads to occasional false derails where I did the thing but didn’t enter the data in time, and makes me reluctant to have too many goals (especially goals with easy roads that are just a sanity check, or goals with flat roads whose only purpose is collecting data).

Some goals are hard to automate.[1] But I don’t automate even the seemingly trivial ones, like my goal for entering data points on other Beeminder goals.

I believe I do this because as the sole developer and user of automation, the automation would be brittle. That is, even if it appeared to be working for a while, it would break in ways I hadn’t anticipated or found too difficult to prevent. I know support would fix everything, but I’m reluctant to impose extra work on support that doesn’t help make Beeminder better, and I also just generally don’t like asking other people to do something for me without any reward. (This is an advantage in other contexts; it makes weaseling out of derails less tempting.)

Anyway, I don’t have a solution. Just seemed worth sharing.

[1] Aside: For multiple goals of mine, a mobile app that takes a picture, does OCR, and looks for a number formatted in a certain way and posts it as a datapoint would do exactly what I want. This goes for my bike odometer and book pages read, at least.


Sounds like an argument for more official integrations!

As for your footnote, I find odometer goals are kind of like half-automated goals because you never have to worry about missing a datapoint. You can ignore the goal completely, letting the odometer roll along, and every so many days, or if it’s a beemergency, enter the current reading. The graph is still perfectly accurate; the gaps when you didn’t enter anything don’t really harm the overall picture at all. Eg, https://www.beeminder.com/d/kernel_task

And mildly relevant blog post: http://blog.beeminder.com/whattomind

Well, that is a good idea anyway, but a lot of what I Beemind is weird, or at least the specific ways in which I count it are. It’s not like there are existing internet-of-things devices already tracking them. Maybe in some cases I could/should change how I track things to make them work better with Beeminder, though. (E.g. I’m using RunDouble for running; I know RunKeeper is the 800lb gorilla in the space, but I don’t think it supports my Pebble, which is kind of a big deal for me as long as I’m using the Pebble, and I did try it at some point and have a vague recollection of disliking something about it).

This is definitely true, but I think maybe misunderstands where on the curve I am. 5 of my goals (note, I’m including goals that I currently have “on hold”; they were active at some point but I was just derailing on everything so I set the rate to 0 on all of them and am trying to slowly wade back in) are already odometer. I could make even more of them odometer, but I’m not sure it would really help because the remaining ones mostly either have the “odometer property” that something external is recording progress and all I have to do is transcribe it appropriately, or rarely have an occasion when the odometer would be incremented more than once per data point I need to enter, or both.

Maybe it would help if I could scan an NFC tag with my phone to directly increment a specific goal by 1? Though I hate that NFC requires my phone to be on and unlocked, plus I don’t always have my phone with me around the house (largely because I have to plug it in to charge)… physical buttons would be even better, but last time I looked there wasn’t a way to do that that didn’t have pretty annoying limitations.

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Physical buttons are getting a lot better these days; there are tutorials on how to use amazon’s dash buttons to do arbitrary tasks, or they offer IoT versions which are programmable.

I use a Flic right now to mind a number of things related to a nailbiting habit I’m trying to kick (working marvelously so far, by the way), and IFTTT offers the “DO Button” app which allows you to link any beeminder trigger you like to a big round button on your phone screen.


Yeah, that still seems a bit weak… I’d like it to not rely on my phone in any way and the price is about 5x what I’d like (note that I’d probably want 20 buttons or so to start; otherwise I don’t think it’s worth the effort to set up an ecosystem around buttons). Maybe my standards are unrealistic with current technology.