Beeminder Glossary

Saturday, July 13, 2013
By dreeves

an ancient tome

By popular demand, we’ve created a jargon file! We don’t expect this to be the permanent home of this glossary (maybe it belongs with our FAQ) but it’s on the internet now so from now on you can google things like “beeminder flatlining” and hopefully be sent here to learn what we’re talking about.

UPDATE: We’re continually adding to this as we notice nomenclature that isn’t self-evident. UVI, beemergency, beemail, panic threshold, do less, autodata, supporters, auto-ratchet, akrasia-proofing, …

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z



Procrastination, impetuousness, failure of willpower, acting against one’s own better judgment. Doing something you regret even as you’re doing it. See the sidebar of this blog, or check out our Anti-Akrasia Manifesto.

Akrasia Horizon

Akrasia is distorted decision-making in the face of immediate consequences and your akrasia horizon quantifies “immediate”. It’s the timeframe within which your short-term impulses outweigh your better judgment — taken by Beeminder to always be one week in the future. You can make arbitrary changes to your goal — the steepness of your yellow brick road — but only outside the akrasia horizon. (You can make your goal harder without waiting for the akrasia horizon; see retroratchet.)


The delay Beeminder imposes on making changes to your goal so that you’re always making decisions beyond you akrasia horizon. (See also: weasel-proofing)


The adjectival form of akrasia, or a person who is akratic. If that’s you, and you’re reading the Beeminder glossary cover to cover (bonus points if you’re procrastinating on real work by doing so), then you probably want to join Akratics Anonymous.

All-you-can-eat-buffet-hopping vacation

A hypothetical reason to make a weight-loss yellow brick road slope up for a period of time. For most goals it’s sufficient to add a flat spot for vacations.


To get a goal out of your gallery — used to cry uncle on a goal. The goal will be archived after one week, i.e., subject to the akrasia horizon. Archived goals still exist but the bot won’t bug you about them and you’ll never be charged for an archived goal. Newly created goals that you archive will also give you the option to blow them away completely, in case you set one up wrong.

Autodata goal

A goal that has an automatic data source, like RescueTime or Trello or Fitbit or RunKeeper (there are dozens of official integrations and ways to automate data entry for hundreds more, thanks to IFTTT and Zapier). You authorize Beeminder to read your data from one of those sources and then your Beeminder graph updates automatically. The full list of autodata sources is on the Beeminder front page or at the bottom of


A premium feature to automatically apply retroratchet every day so you can never accumulate safety buffer.


Goals that are auto-summing automatically add up all your datapoints and plot the cumulative total on your graph. This is the typical way Beeminder works. Exceptions are weight loss and odometer goals.


For weight loss (or weight gain) goals, the yellow brick road adjusts its width to maintain the “can’t lose tomorrow” guarantee: If you’re in the right lane today, and you report data every day, then no matter what your datapoint tomorrow, the road will auto-widen to accommodate it. If you’re in the wrong lane then the road width is fixed and you’re in danger of derailing the next day if your datapoint is off track.


Backburner (below the fold)

Backburnering/frontburnering is simply a means to organize your goal gallery, shoving goals that you don’t need top-of-mind to the bottom of the list. When you mouse over a goal thumbnail in your gallery you’ll see an icon in the upper right that toggles whether it appears above or below the line separating frontburner from backburner goals. Backburnering a goal doesn’t mean archiving it, and the bot reminders and pledges are unaffected.

Bad side of the road

There are two sides (or lanes) of the yellow brick road, separated by the centerline. The bad side (or wrong lane) is the side you do not want to be on. If you’re on the bad side you’re falling behind. The good side (or right lane) is the side you want to be on. If you’re on the good side you’re exceeding your goal.

The beehive

Beeminder headquarters. Our office is part of Upstart Labs in Portland, Oregon.


Daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly emails that we (the founders) send to keep everyone in the loop on what’s new with Beeminder. By default you’ll get them monthly but you can change that by going to Your Account → Settings → Email → Beemail. If you’re reading our glossary then you’ll probably enjoy getting daily beemails (or at least weekly).


See emergency day.

To beemind

To use Beeminder to track and commit to a goal. Often used transitively, as in “I’m beeminding my donut consumption.” Think of “beeminding X” as an intensified version of “minding X”.


The program you interact with by email or SMS. It reminds you to add data, you reply to it with new data, and it warns you if you’re about to derail.



The dotted orange line down the middle of the yellow brick road, separating the right lane (or good side) from the wrong lane (or bad side). This is your ideal path. If your progress perfectly followed the centerline, you would reach your goal exactly on schedule.

Commitment contract (also: commitment device)

A means by which you constrain your own future behavior for the purposes of thwarting akrasia, i.e., a tool to enforce on yourself your own better judgment. In the context of Beeminder, it’s your agreement to let Beeminder charge you if you don’t keep all your datapoints on your yellow brick road. (See also: Synonyms for Self-Binding)



The values you enter into Beeminder, or that Beeminder enters for you in the case of autodata goals, consisting of a timestamp and a value. Datapoints are shown color-coded on the graph. Green is good (outperforming the yellow brick road), blue is for the good side of the road, orange is for the bad side of the road, and red means failure or imminent failure (an emergency day).


To fail to keep all your datapoints on your yellow brick road. You don’t officially derail though until you end the day with your datapoint off the road. Until then it’s an emergency day. If you had a pledge on a goal, you’ll be charged 24 hours after derailing.

Dial up/down

To make your yellow brick road more or less challenging using the road dial. If you have a lot of safety buffer, you’ll want to dial up your road and make it more difficult. Changes you make to your road have a one-week delay before they take effect, per the akrasia horizon.

Do Less goal

Formerly known as “Set-a-Limit”, this is a goal to limit an action, such as eating fewer sweets or spending less time on Facebook. On a Do Less goal you must always stay on or below the yellow brick road. As with Do More goals, Beeminder auto-sums your datapoints to show you the cumulative total as you follow your yellow brick road. (See also: pessimistic presumptive reports)

Do More goal

This is the most common Beeminder goal type. You enter a value every time you do something you want to do more of — minutes of exercise, number of workouts, servings of vegetables, hours of work — and Beeminder auto-sums your datapoints to show you the cumulative total as you follow your yellow brick road. Sometimes the names “Do More” and “Do Less” cause confusion, if you just want to do something consistently, or perhaps never do something at all. Think of them as goals to do more (or less) than you would otherwise do if left to your own devices.


Emergency day (eep day)

A day when your datapoint — which will show up red — is off the road but you haven’t officially derailed. You must get back on the road (go running, weigh in again, whatever you’ve committed to) by midnight at the end of this day. (And if you don’t like the default midnight deadline, you can change it.)


Flatline / flatlining

When you report no data, Beeminder assumes that you did nothing (or stayed the same weight). We add a placeholder datapoint to the graph for today — graphed as a tiny triangle — to show you where you are with respect to the yellow brick road. It’s not a real datapoint and is not added as actual data. Exception: pessimistic presumptive reports.

Flat spot

A period in which your yellow brick road is paused, requiring no work. You may want to add a flat spot for a vacation, for example. You do so by dialing down your road with the road dial. When you start a new goal or rerail, Beeminder by default starts you with a flat spot so you can build up an initial safety buffer.


[UPDATE: Freebees used to mean something different. Then we changed everything!] A freebee is a goal with a $0 pledge and no payment method entered — i.e., no meaningful commitment yet. You can create a limited number of such goals before Beeminder makes you add a payment method. Even if you enter a payment method you still may never have to pay anything, as long as you never derail.


(Currently in flux!) If you derail from your yellow brick road with no payment method on file (so no way for us to auto-recommit you) then your graph freezes. A graph will also freeze if you derail after you’ve scheduled the goal to be archived. Some graphs are also in a frozen state because they’ve been grandfathered from before rerailing was automatic. You can still add data to a frozen goal but the bot won’t remind you to do so and the graph won’t update when you do.

Frontburner (above the fold)

See backburner.


Good side of the road

See bad side of the road.


Legit check

An email that the bot sends you if you derail. You can reply to it to cry foul if there was any reason you feel like it wasn’t a legitimate derailment. If you do that, we (the humans behind Beeminder) will manually reverse the derailment. It’s slightly cumbersome, by design, but if the derailment was in any way Beeminder’s fault (including confusion about the rules or any of this terminology) we especially want to hear why.


The use of clever or perhaps unorthodox tricks to improve one’s life, particularly one’s own behavior. Beeminder is a hardcore lifehack.


Motivation point

The minimum pledge amount that’s large enough to motivate you to stay on the yellow brick road. As you derail and rerail, your pledge amount increases exponentially until you reach the point that provides you with enough motivation to stay on track. Also known as the psychological bite point (thanks to Noah Wilde for the term).


No-mercy recommit

Normally you automatically rerail with a one-week flat spot. Check the no-mercy checkbox in your goal settings if you want to be immediately back on the hook with no safety buffer if you derail.


Panic threshold

UPDATE: We got rid of this! Instead you can now directly set for each goal the time of day that Beeminder starts sending reminders. One less glossary term to worry about!

Pessimistic presumptive reports

This applies to Do Less goals and can be turned on or off in goal settings for goals with manual data entry, as opposed to autodata goals. When you don’t report a value Beeminder conservatively assumes that you did twice whatever the current daily rate is. It actually inserts a dummy datapoint to that effect telling you to edit it if it’s not correct. So it’s the analog of flatlining for Do More goals. Without this feature you can flake out and fail to report data and Beeminder will treat you as successful. (See: Do-Less Goals and Pessimistic Presumptive Reports)


The amount of money you have committed to pay if you derail. The initial pledge for a new goal is zero (if you’re using a freebee) or $5. Each time you derail it increases — $5, $10, $30, $90, $270, $810 — though you can choose not to increase the pledge or even drop back down to a lower pledge level. By following the pledge schedule you will quickly close in on your motivation point. You can increase your pledge at any time, or short-circuit, by paying half the currently pledged amount. That takes effect immediately. You can lower your pledge for free but it’s subject to the akrasia horizon. (See: our money page)

Precommit to recommit

This is the fundamental tenet of Beeminder that, unless you opt out, you’re automatically recommitted after you derail. It has a name because, historically, it was something you had to specifically opt in to. (See: Precommit to Recommit: The Third Great Beeminder Epiphany)

Premium plans

We intend for Beeminder to always be a totally free awesomeness-inducer (free if you stay on your yellow brick road, that is) but if you want to pay monthly (or yearly or anythingly) you’ll get various perks.

Programmable self

The next stage of evolution of quantified self, or, arguably, the real point of quantified self, to change one’s own behavior with data. (See: The Rise of Programmable Self)


Quantified self

“Self knowledge through numbers”. (See: and see also: programmable self)



To recommit to a goal after you’ve derailed. This happens automatically unless you cry uncle by hitting archive. When you rerail your pledge increases to the next level (though you can choose to override this and stay at your current level). If you haven’t pledged yet for this goal, you will be required to pledge at the minimum level of $5. The road shifts so that your current datapoint is right on the centerline and you have the choice when rerailing whether to start with a flat spot.


Changing the yellow brick road within the akrasia horizon, for the purposes of removing excess safety buffer. This feature is in flux but the current non-premium version works as follows: Hitting retroratchet adjusts your yellow brick road such that your current datapoint is on the centerline. This means you’ll have 1 day of safety buffer, and the countdown will read 2 days and some number of hours.

Right lane

See good side of the road.


See yellow brick road.

Road dial

The three parameters, shown beneath your graph, that determine your goal and the steepness of the yellow brick road, that is, the rate of progress you’re committing to. The parameters are (1) goal date (the date by which you will complete the goal), (2) goal value (e.g., your target weight or the total number of hours working on a project), and (3) weekly rate (the steepness of your road). You specify any two parameters and the third one is calculated for you. Common pitfalls: setting a positive instead of negative rate for a weight loss goal (though it’s on purpose that that’s allowed; see all-you-can-eat-buffet-hopping vacation); having a goal of working out 3 times a week and putting “3” as the goal value instead of the rate (the goal value will be the cumulative total when the goal date is reached, which for many kinds of goals is irrelevant); setting a goal value of 0 for a Do Less goal (again, Beeminder plots the cumulative total so weaning yourself off of something with Do Less means making the rate eventually become zero, not the goal value). (See: Flexible Self-Control)

Road rate/steepness

The number of goal actions or units you are commmitted to completing per week (or per day). A rate of zero means a flat spot on your yellow brick road. The rate can be adjusted subject to the akrasia horizon using the road dial.


Safety buffer, safe days

The number of days you can go without reporting data or doing what you committed to before you derail. If you are at zero safe days then the next day is an emergency day and you’ll derail on your goal if you don’t get back on the road by midnight (or whatever deadline you’ve set).

Set-A-Limit goal

Former name for Do Less goals.


To increase your pledge to the next level immediately. Short-circuiting will cost you half your current pledge. For example, if you’re jumping from a $10 pledge to a $30 pledge, you must pay $5, unless you have a premium plan that allows free short-circuiting. (See: Pledge Short-Circuiting)

SOS clause

If something truly unexpected happens, such as physical injury, that prevents you from staying on your yellow brick road we can make your road immediately become flat until you are able to get back on your feet. Email with an explanation of the circumstances and your request. (See: Force Majeure, Or Beeminder’s SOS Clause)

(Getting) stung

See derail.


Supporters are friends/family/enemies who will be cc’d on any legit check email you get when you derail. You can add supporters in goal settings. See the announcement of the feature on our blog for details.



See freeze.

User-Visible Improvement (UVI)

Early on, before we even publicly launched, the Beeminder founders, being dogfood maniacs, hard-committed to averaging one user-visible improvement to Beeminder every day. We often describe the day’s UVI in our daily beemails. (See: Beeminder on Rails and Dog Food Renewed and, especially, 1000 Days of User-Visible Improvements)


The home of our feedback forum. For general Beeminder discussion, the currently most active forum is the Akratics Anonymous google group.



Weaseling is stretching the spirit of the SOS clause or doing anything else outside the spirit of Beeminder’s commitment contract. (See: Weasel-Proofing and the Definition of Legitimacy)


If you check “weasel-proof me” in your goal settings then you’re authorizing us — just for that goal — to be hard-nosed in the face of ambiguously extenuating circumstances. In other words, if you cry foul in response to a legit check when you derail we’ll say “tough luck” unless it’s something really airtight. Nothing at all resembling “stuff came up” or “I got really busy” or “I wasn’t feeling well” will fly. Weasel-proofing also affects things like the ability to add manual data for an autodata goal.

Wrong lane

See bad side of the road.


Yellow brick road

The path to your goal, with some leeway on either side. This is drawn as a literal yellow brick road on your graph and you’re committing to keep your datapoints on it (or on the good side of it) every day. (See: The Magical Widening Yellow Brick Road)

Yellow guiding lines

These appear above or below your goal to indicate the good side of the yellow brick road. The extra thick one shows one week buffer — kind of the opposite of the akrasia horizon line. If you stay above that line — keep your safety buffer at 7 days or higher — then you’re immune to being stung. If anything comes up, just flatten your road. It will take effect after the akrasia horizon (7 days) but since you have that much safety buffer, you’re golden!


Zeno polling

If Zeno polling is enabled, you’ll get reminded ever more persistently on emergency days until you’re back on your yellow brick road. This can be toggled under email settings. (See: Zeno Polling)


Image credit: Food History Jottings

Tags: , , , , , , ,

  • Matthias (yes that guy)


  • Matthias (still that guy)

    Guys, this looks really, really good. Thanks for following through on it. Also I’m laughing really hard about Zeno polling (I seem to have missed the blog post in June).

  • Pingback: Combatting Cheating | Beeminder Blog()

  • Pingback: Scheduled Breaks! | Beeminder Blog()

  • Pingback: Do-Less Goals with Pessimistic Presumptive Reports | Beeminder Blog()

  • Pingback: More Schwag, Less Beeminding | Beeminder Blog()

  • Pingback: Beeminder Turns Two! | Beeminder Blog()

  • Enoch

    Can please explain hard cap?

  • Daniel Reeves

    Good question! Real quick here for now: when you have a Do Less goal then the Hard Cap number tells you the most you can do today and still be on the Yellow Brick Road.

  • diribigal

    Under SOS It links to but it should link to

  • Daniel Reeves

    Good catch! Thanks so much; fixed.

  • Marcos

    i just have a question:
    Let`s supposed i want to be better every single day just like all the people reading this probably are. However, let`s say i do not like to loss money. The question is: if i commit to my goals perfectly and i never lose my first fail opportunity (or something like that, which i think its call FreBee and we all receive one with each goal we start), can i actually use this awesome platform from u guys without losing any money throught all the process?

    PLEASE CORRECT ME IF THIS IS WRONG. or i miss something

  • Daniel Reeves

    Yes you can. has the details!