Introducing Shanaqui: Beeminder Support Czar

Tuesday, October 30, 2018
By Nikki Walters

Nikki profile picture

Nikki Walters is Beeminder’s new Support Czar! The Support Czar (a position previously held by such luminaries as Alice Monday and Chelsea Miller) is in charge of answering most of the email you send to support@beeminder.com and coordinating us other workerbees to answer the rest of it. And I guess we need to put “new” in scare quotes since Nikki has been helping with support since April. So there’s a good chance you know Nikki quite well already. We are lucky to have them!

Hello! I’m Nikki and you may (but probably don’t) know me from around and about the interwebs as shanaqui. [1] Since the Beeminder and Habitica fanbases overlap, some of you will also know me as a Habitica moderator. I also have a book blog, a science blog, a writing blog, and a Twitter account where I talk too much.

I’m from the UK, and usually to be found somewhere under a pile of books, accompanied by my four rabbits who think tech support is their calling (but tend to offer solutions like “ffffgb,,,” to any given query). I have two degrees in English Literature and will shortly have one in Biology, and I’m not satisfied yet, so Beeminder support is the perfect thing to fit around my ongoing education, frenzied reading sessions, and insatiable urge to learn everything that sits still long enough.

Still, this is Beeminder, so maybe the most important thing is what I actually track on the site! I have 35 goals at the moment. Some are fairly traditional targets for beeminding: French and Welsh on Duolingo, a step goal linked to Fitbit, keeping my blogs up to date. Some are a bit more out of the way. Here’s a rundown of some of the most important/interesting (at least to me!):

  • backlogbooks: I have somewhere in the region of 1,200 books I own that I haven’t read. This is a reminder to get reading them, but after chatting about it with folks on the forum I decided I wouldn’t work on reducing that number. That would turn a thing I love into a chore. Instead I just make sure I actually read from that pile, and not just the new shinies. That approach is working better so far. These books have to be on a specific list I’ve compiled of all the books that qualify. Not on the list? It doesn’t count. Now I just need a goal to remind me to keep the list up to date…
  • dissertation: This goal is retired now, but it’s still worth mentioning because it’s a success story. The first time I wrote a dissertation, I was really disorganised and overwhelmed. This goal for my second dissertation reminded me to stay current with the literature and keep looking for more things to include. And now my marks are in and I did really!
  • gameofbooks: I’ve mentioned a couple of times on the forum that I have a kind of game set up whereby I get points for how long it took me to read a book, how long it’s been on my to-read pile, etc. The rules specify more points for a book I’ve owned for years, or for a book I took four weeks to read. The points are tracked in a spreadsheet, and my Beeminder graph is simple: I just add the number of points I get per book (or sometimes per day, if I finish multiple books on the same day).

Game of Books graph

  • mistakes: Sometimes, things go wrong. Sometimes, this is due to my own careless mistakes. This goal allows me one careless mistake per week (because everyone makes mistakes sometimes), and then it’ll start to punish me. I was doing this manually by donating the money, but that wasn’t as trackable, and I have drunk the Kool-Aid at this point: track everything trackable!
  • MITs: Inspired by a challenge from Habitica (and rather like Alys’s Must-Do goal), this one involves planning my day and my priorities. Every night, I pick my two Most Important Tasks for the next day and enter them as the comment in my report for the current day. I’m… a little distressed by how often this slips, actually. Still, the charge is still pretty low right now…
  • picky: If you didn’t know this, you can make IFTTT buttons using a widget on your phone. I have mine configured to send +1 whenever I consciously stop, notice myself picking at my skin, and push the button. At the moment I have a generous amount of room for error. It will get less generous! I’m not using this as much as I should be, to be quite honest, but that’s partly because I have healed up quite a bit and my picking behaviour is down to a level where I don’t always notice until long after the fact.

Reassurance Graph

  • reassurance: There’s a more in-depth post about this one on the forum, but in a nutshell, the goal is designed (after discussion with a doctor!) to help combat my anxiety disorder by reducing contributing behaviour. The more I check in about something that’s making me anxious, the more I need future reassurance. The goal is designed to break that cycle, while still giving me a bit of room to get stopgap help if it’s really unbearable. It really is helping! I’ve reduced the number of times per week I’m allowed to request reassurance without derailing, and my data has been pretty flat for a while. It’s not a miracle cure, but it is a bit of extra incentive to stop and let my brain do the talking instead of my panic. “Is this worth derailing, or can I manage?”
  • reviewbacklog: This is my attempt to keep myself on the hook to catch up with writing book reviews and stay caught up. It works pretty well until I read three books in a day, and then it falls on my head a bit. One long train journey and I’m back at the top of a steep slope…

Review Backlog Graph

  • weight: I mostly made this because weight goals are really popular, and I wanted to try it myself to learn how they actually work in practice. There’s no charge if I derail on this one: I’m holding pretty firmly to beeminding “actions, not outcomes”. For actions related to weight loss, I have a calorie deficit goal (400 calories per day difference between what I eat and what I burn) and a calorie total goal (so that even if I burn all the calories, I can’t eat an entire cake, alas).

That’s me as someone who uses Beeminder, but of course I’m also working with you in the support inbox (or the chat widget) and on the forums. It’s my job to answer emails, underail you if you have non-legit derailments, fix your yellow brick roads, and generally keep things running smoothly for you. It’s also my job to holler for someone to fix things when they go wrong, poke everyone to answer their email if I don’t know the answer, and generally keep the inbox in good shape. In the case of Beeminder and the inbox, if the question is “who minds the minders?”, the answer is muggins here, that’s who. Which is actually pretty great, because Beeminder is pretty great and I have all the best coworkers (before we even get into my and Adam’s book bromance on Slack).

So there you go: anatomy of a workerbee. Say hi if you see me around (on or off Beeminder)! I’m very well trained: I never bite, and hardly ever sting!


 

Footnotes

[1] I generally write “shanaqui” in lowercase because, although it’s become a name, it wasn’t meant to be. It actually comes from Michael Scott’s Tales of the Bard trilogy. People suggested the word in the book was from the Irish word “seanchaí”, which is pronounced almost the same (SHAN-a-kee). It means “storyteller”, so I adopted the word as my username both for being an appropriate description and for nostalgic love of the book in question.

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