Beneficiaries, anti-charities, and precommitment


#1

Hi all,

I’m pretty new to Beeminder (and AA) but am loving the service so far - I’ve been looking for something that does what Beeminder does for a while now, and though it’s early days I’m very positive.

One service I’ve been looking for, though, is the ability to set beneficiaries. While I know that this has been mooted as a premium feature, there’s the obvious disadvantage of a positive outcome (a warm feeling of charitable donation) arising from not meeting your goals.

However, I propose a different approach - that of pre-committing the donation, then divesting it to the charity in proportion to how completely you’ve met your goal. I can quantify how much of my disposable income I would like to commit to charity (and it’s currently debited directly from my account monthly). I would like to put that money at stake - if I achieve my goals, the charity gets the money anyway (so there’s no opposing incentive to soften the blow), if not, the money is lost (either to Beeminder, or an anti-charity - noting the commentary that the Beeminder team have made about the negatives associated with anti-charities here: http://blog.beeminder.com/anticharity/).

As a trivial example, if I made a monthly donation to Great Cause X, the amount donated could be instead debited and held in escrow by Beeminder. Let’s say I stay on the yellow brick road for 85% of the month, then 85% of the money goes to the charity, and the rest goes somewhere else (obviously, given humans are more sensitive to loss this should be framed to me as 'you have lost 15% of your donation to Great Cause X). I’m sure you could finesse this with different ramping between time on track vs proportion donated etc but that’s the general idea.

I think this would be a good way to up the ante and make goals have a more tangible outcome while encouraging altruism. It also means that goal pledges are decoupled from charitable donations - Beeminder can still take my $5 pledge every time I go off track, because I’ve already committed my donation amount separately.

This would be relatively easy to hack together using the API (and I will attempt to do so) but obviously it’d be cool if you could manage the whole system from the same interface, without duplicating too much infrastructure. I think that others might see this as a preferable option to the regular beneficiaries model too.

Anyway, love to know what people’s thoughts are.

(Apologies if this has already been discussed or misses stuff that’s commonly accepted within the AA community - I couldn’t find anything that specifically countenanced precommitment though)


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#2

That’s an interesting idea, although I can say that for myself if the
relationship between my performance and the reward/penalty is linear, it’s
not going to compel me to do much. I mean that if slacking off another 1%
always costs me 1% of the donation, I am probably not going to do very well.

Or, put another way, if I were to decrease my pledge on either of my $30
goals I would probably derail them again.

Cheers,
Sean

On Fri, Aug 22, 2014 at 8:22 AM, Sam Deere sam@samdeere.com wrote:

Hi all,

I’m pretty new to Beeminder (and AA) but am loving the service so far -
I’ve been looking for something that does what Beeminder does for a while
now, and though it’s early days I’m very positive.

One service I’ve been looking for, though, is the ability to set
beneficiaries. While I know that this has been mooted as a premium feature,
there’s the obvious disadvantage of a positive outcome (a warm feeling of
charitable donation) arising from not meeting your goals.

However, I propose a different approach - that of pre-committing the
donation, then divesting it to the charity in proportion to how completely
you’ve met your goal. I can quantify how much of my disposable income I
would like to commit to charity (and it’s currently debited directly from
my account monthly). I would like to put that money at stake - if I achieve
my goals, the charity gets the money anyway (so there’s no opposing
incentive to soften the blow), if not, the money is lost (either to
Beeminder, or an anti-charity - noting the commentary that the Beeminder
team have made about the negatives associated with anti-charities here:
http://blog.beeminder.com/anticharity/).

As a trivial example, if I made a monthly donation to Great Cause X, the
amount donated could be instead debited and held in escrow by Beeminder.
Let’s say I stay on the yellow brick road for 85% of the month, then 85% of
the money goes to the charity, and the rest goes somewhere else (obviously,
given humans are more sensitive to loss this should be framed to me as 'you
have lost 15% of your donation to Great Cause X). I’m sure you could
finesse this with different ramping between time on track vs proportion
donated etc but that’s the general idea.

I think this would be a good way to up the ante and make goals have a more
tangible outcome while encouraging altruism. It also means that goal
pledges are decoupled from charitable donations - Beeminder can still take
my $5 pledge every time I go off track, because I’ve already committed my
donation amount separately.

This would be relatively easy to hack together using the API (and I will
attempt to do so) but obviously it’d be cool if you could manage the whole
system from the same interface, without duplicating too much
infrastructure. I think that others might see this as a preferable option
to the regular beneficiaries model too.

Anyway, love to know what people’s thoughts are.

(Apologies if this has already been discussed or misses stuff that’s
commonly accepted within the AA community - I couldn’t find anything that
specifically countenanced precommitment though)


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#3

Good point about linear penalties. As Sam suggests, that part can be tweaked.

But this is a beautiful idea. I always like to see if a new product or
feature idea can be approximated without actually implementing
anything. [1] In this case, could you trial this idea by setting up a
Beeminder-vs-Charity bank account where all your money earmarked for
charity goes, and which you also use as the funding source for your
Beeminder goals? Now derailing on your goals is palpably redirecting
money from children with cancer (for example) to Beeminder!

Does that capture the spirit of this? (Note it solves the linearity problem.)

[1] Related idea: Email-first startups.
http://ryanhoover.me/post/43986871442/email-first-startups

On Tue, Aug 26, 2014 at 9:23 AM, Sean Fellows oaks64@gmail.com wrote:

That’s an interesting idea, although I can say that for myself if the
relationship between my performance and the reward/penalty is linear, it’s
not going to compel me to do much. I mean that if slacking off another 1%
always costs me 1% of the donation, I am probably not going to do very well.

Or, put another way, if I were to decrease my pledge on either of my $30
goals I would probably derail them again.

Cheers,
Sean

On Fri, Aug 22, 2014 at 8:22 AM, Sam Deere sam@samdeere.com wrote:

Hi all,

I’m pretty new to Beeminder (and AA) but am loving the service so far -
I’ve been looking for something that does what Beeminder does for a while
now, and though it’s early days I’m very positive.

One service I’ve been looking for, though, is the ability to set
beneficiaries. While I know that this has been mooted as a premium feature,
there’s the obvious disadvantage of a positive outcome (a warm feeling of
charitable donation) arising from not meeting your goals.

However, I propose a different approach - that of pre-committing the
donation, then divesting it to the charity in proportion to how completely
you’ve met your goal. I can quantify how much of my disposable income I
would like to commit to charity (and it’s currently debited directly from my
account monthly). I would like to put that money at stake - if I achieve my
goals, the charity gets the money anyway (so there’s no opposing incentive
to soften the blow), if not, the money is lost (either to Beeminder, or an
anti-charity - noting the commentary that the Beeminder team have made about
the negatives associated with anti-charities here:
http://blog.beeminder.com/anticharity/).

As a trivial example, if I made a monthly donation to Great Cause X, the
amount donated could be instead debited and held in escrow by Beeminder.
Let’s say I stay on the yellow brick road for 85% of the month, then 85% of
the money goes to the charity, and the rest goes somewhere else (obviously,
given humans are more sensitive to loss this should be framed to me as 'you
have lost 15% of your donation to Great Cause X). I’m sure you could finesse
this with different ramping between time on track vs proportion donated etc
but that’s the general idea.

I think this would be a good way to up the ante and make goals have a more
tangible outcome while encouraging altruism. It also means that goal pledges
are decoupled from charitable donations - Beeminder can still take my $5
pledge every time I go off track, because I’ve already committed my donation
amount separately.

This would be relatively easy to hack together using the API (and I will
attempt to do so) but obviously it’d be cool if you could manage the whole
system from the same interface, without duplicating too much infrastructure.
I think that others might see this as a preferable option to the regular
beneficiaries model too.

Anyway, love to know what people’s thoughts are.

(Apologies if this has already been discussed or misses stuff that’s
commonly accepted within the AA community - I couldn’t find anything that
specifically countenanced precommitment though)


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http://dreev.es – search://"Daniel Reeves"
Goal tracking + Commitment contracts == http://beeminder.com


#4

Thanks for the responses guys.

Having a ‘donations’ bank account is a great idea. To be honest I hadn’t
thought of doing that. Partly that’s because I want to precommit the money
to a third party in order to no longer be in control of it - I don’t want
to have the option of knowing that I have a ‘safety fund’ that I could tap
into with no consequence if I inadvertently overspend in some other area of
my life. However, it would probably be OK if the account was exclusively
for charitable donations (so that psychologically I can treat the money was
’spent’ once it’s in there). It’d also get around the issue of double
handling the money (which - particularly if international transactions are
involved - would incur some transaction costs; perhaps there’s a
PayPal/cryptocurrency solution for that). Anyway, I’ll give it a go (I’ll
have to start in a month or two because I’m currently overseas) and let you
know how successful it proves.

I guess that a key attraction of building it into the core app would be
that it would reduce barriers for others who wanted to set goals and link
them to charities - Beeminder already has my credit card info so it’s just
a matter of ticking the box and setting an amount to start the recurring
debits/donations. You don’t have to set up a new bank account, and the mere
fact of it being suggested as an option could mean that Beeminder users who
wouldn’t have otherwise considered doing it might decide to give themselves
an extra incentive for their goals while also increasing their donation
rate. Obviously I get that the altruistic angle is perhaps outside the
remit of Beeminder’s core business, but as someone interested in ways to
get more people to do good things this seems to me like a really easy way
to do some good stuff.

Thanks again for the suggestion, will keep you updated

Sam

On Tuesday, 26 August 2014, Daniel Reeves dreeves@beeminder.com wrote:

Good point about linear penalties. As Sam suggests, that part can be
tweaked.

But this is a beautiful idea. I always like to see if a new product or
feature idea can be approximated without actually implementing
anything. [1] In this case, could you trial this idea by setting up a
Beeminder-vs-Charity bank account where all your money earmarked for
charity goes, and which you also use as the funding source for your
Beeminder goals? Now derailing on your goals is palpably redirecting
money from children with cancer (for example) to Beeminder!

Does that capture the spirit of this? (Note it solves the linearity
problem.)

[1] Related idea: Email-first startups.
http://ryanhoover.me/post/43986871442/email-first-startups

On Tue, Aug 26, 2014 at 9:23 AM, Sean Fellows <oaks64@gmail.com
<javascript:;>> wrote:

That’s an interesting idea, although I can say that for myself if the
relationship between my performance and the reward/penalty is linear,
it’s
not going to compel me to do much. I mean that if slacking off another 1%
always costs me 1% of the donation, I am probably not going to do very
well.

Or, put another way, if I were to decrease my pledge on either of my $30
goals I would probably derail them again.

Cheers,
Sean

On Fri, Aug 22, 2014 at 8:22 AM, Sam Deere <sam@samdeere.com
<javascript:;>> wrote:

Hi all,

I’m pretty new to Beeminder (and AA) but am loving the service so far -
I’ve been looking for something that does what Beeminder does for a
while

now, and though it’s early days I’m very positive.

One service I’ve been looking for, though, is the ability to set
beneficiaries. While I know that this has been mooted as a premium
feature,

there’s the obvious disadvantage of a positive outcome (a warm feeling
of

charitable donation) arising from not meeting your goals.

However, I propose a different approach - that of pre-committing the
donation, then divesting it to the charity in proportion to how
completely

you’ve met your goal. I can quantify how much of my disposable income I
would like to commit to charity (and it’s currently debited directly
from my

account monthly). I would like to put that money at stake - if I
achieve my

goals, the charity gets the money anyway (so there’s no opposing
incentive

to soften the blow), if not, the money is lost (either to Beeminder, or
an

anti-charity - noting the commentary that the Beeminder team have made
about

the negatives associated with anti-charities here:
http://blog.beeminder.com/anticharity/).

As a trivial example, if I made a monthly donation to Great Cause X, the
amount donated could be instead debited and held in escrow by Beeminder.
Let’s say I stay on the yellow brick road for 85% of the month, then
85% of

the money goes to the charity, and the rest goes somewhere else
(obviously,

given humans are more sensitive to loss this should be framed to me as
’you

have lost 15% of your donation to Great Cause X). I’m sure you could
finesse

this with different ramping between time on track vs proportion donated
etc

but that’s the general idea.

I think this would be a good way to up the ante and make goals have a
more

tangible outcome while encouraging altruism. It also means that goal
pledges

are decoupled from charitable donations - Beeminder can still take my $5
pledge every time I go off track, because I’ve already committed my
donation

amount separately.

This would be relatively easy to hack together using the API (and I will
attempt to do so) but obviously it’d be cool if you could manage the
whole

system from the same interface, without duplicating too much
infrastructure.

I think that others might see this as a preferable option to the regular
beneficiaries model too.

Anyway, love to know what people’s thoughts are.

(Apologies if this has already been discussed or misses stuff that’s
commonly accepted within the AA community - I couldn’t find anything
that

specifically countenanced precommitment though)


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http://dreev.es – search://"Daniel Reeves"
Goal tracking + Commitment contracts == http://beeminder.com


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#5

It’s a really interesting idea, Sam, and I think in theory Danny’s separate bank account would get most of the way there.

Regarding the other points you mention, Sam, especially sharing the idea with other users, this sounds like a great topic for a blog post. Another way to use Beeminder!


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