William Howard

Developer on the CEA Online team

Wiki Contributions


Possibly of interest: the fastest rocket sled track uses a similar idea, they put a helium filled tube over the final section of the track:

Just as meteors are burned up by friction in the upper atmosphere, air friction can cause a high-speed sled to burn up, even if made of the toughest steel alloys. An engineering sleight-of-hand is used to increase those "burn-up" limits by reducing the density of the atmosphere around the track. To do this, one needs a safe, non-toxic, low-density gas such as helium. Helium is only one seventh the density of air, significantly reducing friction between the high speed sled and the atmosphere. Enter the "helium bag" concept.

No one person takes ownership of the idea, so it was probably a combination of brainstorming and inspiration. But like any elegant engineering solution, simplicity is at its heart. It involves enclosing a portion the track with a plastic sheet, not unlike the plastic drop cloth found at the hardware store. This tube is sealed off and pumped full of helium to force out the air. A helium-filled tube that can stretch for more than a mile then covers the track.

Shows that the idea can basically work without any advanced technology. I think this is a video of it in action, where the white thing above the track is the polyethylene tunnel which is then destroyed as the sled goes through it:

That was when I took a week off work to do side projects, glad it at least shows up in this graph 😌

Thanks for the tip... deep down a part of me knows there are ways to get around Freedom, but they're non-obvious enough that I haven't cheated yet

Glad to be of help! I was almost put off by the overly rave reviews when I first tried it lol but now I can imagine myself writing one.

I haven't tried Focusmate, although I do do timed work sessions (and did before I used the app) and now use the app to enforce a certain amount of time per day, so this achieves a similar effect.

I registered on forfeit and see that it has pomodoro forfeits in the app, so using it for focusmate may be redundant.

It might be redundant, although one thing that is really great about it is that because screenshots are the universal interface you can keep using the apps you already use and just use Forfeit to submit evidence. This is why I still use Habitica even though I could equally put the same tasks in Forfeit directly, there is just no particular reason to do so.

Also, if you don't mind me asking, what is the commitment you most often fail? Is it time spent on twitter and youtube?

I've looked through at the ones I have failed and it looks like "reply to X person" and "publish blog post" are the categories that stand out. For replying to people I deliberately set the penalty low to begin with (and increase it if I fail the first time) so this is by design. For publishing blog posts, there aren't that many instances but I have failed >50% of them, here I was generally underestimating the effort it takes.

I actually rarely fail the twitter one because the penalty is quite high (and I block it via Freedom for the rest of the day if I'm getting close to the limit).

Could you explain more about being coercive towards subagents? I'm not sure I'm picking up exactly what you mean.

Some thoughts related to what I am interpreting you as meaning: I have found that my problems have shifted from not being able to follow through on things, to being almost too able to follow through on things, and thus getting entrenched in a pre-committed plan when I should change it (for instance repeating a time consuming daily habit that isn't doing much for me).

I see this as a good problem to have. When I was less able to execute on things my plans were just as bad, I just never found out because I never got as far as completing them. The problem of planning is still hard though, and isn't solved by the app, although I have found that it helps a lot.

I think these apps work best if really aversive tasks are set to a estimated-bare-minimum commitment, which in reality is probably the median amount of what one can get done.

This seems right. One thing I would say is that kind of surprisingly it hasn't been the most aversive tasks where the app has made the biggest difference, it's the larger number of moderately aversive tasks. It makes expensive commitments cheap and cheap commitments even cheaper, and for me it has turned out that cheap commitments have made up most of the value.

It has made a difference to the most aversive ones, I just don't think the category of extremely aversive things makes up that much of the value in my life.

This is possibly a way in which it's better than Beeminder, which I understand is oriented towards at least medium term goals (where you make several increments of progress along the yellow brick road). By number most of the things I have put in Forfeit have been one-off things that would be too small to be worth Beeminding (unless you could group them into a higher level of abstraction).

giving him the Four-Hour Work-Week


he went from not hard-working at all (barely worked, had no direction) to more ambitious working levels (~50 hour weeks, big ambitions)

This made me chuckle