A long, long time ago
And I can still remember how butterfly singing affects the lifespan of butterflies
But I knew if I had my chance
Then I would assess whether singing to butterflies was worth doing just for the imagination
So it turns out the formula for singing to butterflies is as simple as it could be. You spend 10% of your energy tank in energy and get 5% of your energy tank in imagination (usually 6% because you have full mood). The only question is whether we like that exchange, and whether 1.5 currants worth of butterfly life sweetens the deal anyway.
The obvious answers are no and no. I often price energy at 0.75 currants and imagination at 1.07 currants based on revealed preferences. So trading ten energy, which cost us 7.5 currants, for 6 imagination, which is worth 6.42 currants is a bad deal. If we did it in batches in such small sizes (and if it didn't take any time to do) size then the 1.5 currants of butterfly life would in fact make it a good deal, but in reality we are going to be spending 100, 200, 300 or more energy at once. At an energy tank of 2000 we are spending 200 energy (cost 150 currants) for 120 imagination (128.4 currants) so the extra butterfly life isn't helping much.
But while butterfly singing isn't that great, it also isn't that bad. It gives more than 85% of the imagination that donating does, which places it above sno cones in the imagination hierarchy. So if you've hit your daily donation limit and you want to drop some more currants gaining imagination, butterfly singing is a pretty reasonable choice. Pick up food from auction and go out singing.
If you nibble a piggy then you spend only two energy and you get twelve imagination. You also get four meat with a potential 20 more. So that might make you wonder why I think spending 10 energy to get 6 imagination is potentially a good deal.
In glitch you are constantly converting between five resources: energy, currants, imagination, assets (items) and time. You'll notice I didn't put mood on the list, it is not a resource unless you are going for tree chopping badges on public streets.
Each resource has its own rules. Currants, for example, can be converted readily into other resources but there is generally a lot of friction when converting other things to currants. Imagination can be spent on upgrades that permanently make other resources more useful. Time is actual time your spend playing, and so there are all kinds of real life issues that govern that.
Energy can be exchanged favourably for other things but in order to do that you usually also have to put in time. Energy also expires if you don't spend it - energy has a four hour life cycle at the end of which any unspent energy is lost forever.
What butterfly singing does that is interesting is that it violates the rule that its takes a lot of time to spend a lot of energy. It is completely realistic to spend a full energy bar of any size in a half a minute through butterfly singing. Because of this, it lets you avoid having your energy expire.
Operating at a Loss
As I noted above, using my standard conversions, when you sing to a butterfly you actually come out behind - you lose equivalent value of resources. But that is somewhat fictional because I have set the value of imagination based on assumed behaviour, and I have set the value of energy based on the assumption that it will be used.
If energy is not going to be used then it's value is zero, so anything you can extract from it is a benefit. As for imagination, if you like to eat sno cones for imagination then you are willing to pay 1.66 currants for an imagination, at which point butterfly singing is positive.
So we don't actually have to worry about losing resources, we have to worry about losing resources compared to our next best option. Generally if you are doing something and your next best option is better than what you are doing then you should stop doing what you are doing.
When the day is about to end and you find yourself with 30 seconds to spend half and energy bar in a large flock of butterflies, singing sounds pretty good.
But be careful, just because singing to butterflies is theoretically a fast way to convert energy into something else doesn't mean it is necessarily faster than the alternative. If you can sing to a butterfly you can probably milk it instead. Milking gives 12 imagination and around 60 currants worth of goods at vendor prices. That's the equivalent of 68.1 imagination. So if your energy tank is 1140 or less then you would get more out of milking than out of singing. That's not to say you could get more milkings in, but simply that milking gives you better outcomes despite costing far less energy and taking the same time.
Of course nibbling is even better than milking, and nibbling is often an option you could look into instead of milking. Since you get two nibbles per piggy and piggies are on the ground, it also means less walking around, so each nibble might use up only a second and a half of your time while a sing uses up two, three or even more seconds.
But by the time you tank passes 2000 it would be hard to imagine that butterfly singing wasn't better, action for action, than piggy nibbling. Still, it would probably be worse than two piggy nibbles, so spending yourself down to next to zero energy on singing when you could get several nibbles or milkings in instead of that last sing is not great.
Making Something out of Nothing
You are putting tons of energy to waste every day. When you don't log in during a game day you are letting all the energy you would have had during that day rot.
Suppose you play for just thirty seconds in the morning before leaving for work or school. Eat one piece of food and you'd be able to sing ten times and earn 60% of your current energy tank in imagination as long as you were logged out near a bunch of butterflies. That might be pretty good for a half minute of play. But again it's easy to get carried away. If your energy tank is 2000 then that's only 1200 imagination. Considering you have to open a tab on your web browser, or open the browser itself, then you have to load up Glitch, you may be looking at spending a minute to get that half minute of play in. That's down to 20 imagination a second which is not that spectacular. Sure, it's imagination you wouldn't have gotten otherwise, but it's real time in your life that you could have spent in another way.
It's when you have a large energy tank that butterflies start to take off. With 10k energy you could earn 6k imagination. With 20k energy it would be 12k imagination. That might even be worth turning a computer on for.
Doesn't Use Donation Limits
The other reason to sing to butterflies is that you have a limit on donations per day that is completely separate from your limit on butterfly singing per day.
That is not to say that you don't have a limit on singing. There are various factors that limit your total energy usage in one day. But the limit is probably at least 200 butterfly sings per day - spending 20 times your maximum energy on the endeavour.
That would be 12 times your current energy tank in imagination. If your tank is 2k then that's 24k, which is probably a very noticeable amount when put next to your donation limit. Going back to that 10k tank, that's 120k imagination you could be picking up if you were singing like crazy. You'll need a lot of energy to pull this off but that doesn't mean it can't be done.
Conclusion of Sorts
This was a long and meandering trek through various kinds of analyses all to arrive at a point that you probably already knew: If you are getting to the end of the day or the end of your play session and you have a bunch of energy left over, you can blow it by singing to butterflies and get something out of the deal.
But is butterfly singing a comprehensive imagination strategy? Is it preferable to other methods of earning imagination to level up? It might be at the extreme end, but only when your energy tank starts to get very high - at least 10k, but probably more like 20k or 30k. At that point you probably don't need a huge amount of help figuring out how to earn imagination.
Appreciating my winged friend,