Beeminder Forum

Accountability via People

Hello! I’m making this thread to start a discussion on how people view the method of person-as-accountability!

Or in other words, how do you feel about having someone else hold you to doing a task and be your commitment device as opposed (or perhaps supplementing) another method, such as apps like Beeminder.

  1. Specifically, for those who have created Bee Journals/threads updating progress on this forum: How do you feel about people giving you a poke (perhaps even necroing the thread) to ask how you’ve been doing/holding you accountable?

    I personally feel very mixed about this¹, because I feel as though it isn’t my place at all to pry? And there could be a hundred reasons why somebody stops updating. But on the other hand, most of these threads specifically ask for people to hold them accountable (hence why they made it in the first place)!

  2. Also, this is an open invitation for anybody looking for a diligent (and neurotically so) mutual accountability partner! I’m finally confident enough in my own self-discipline that I’d like to try this out, making a new Beeminder for daily check-ins and everything. (Maybe using the nebulous method of goal-tracking via URLminder?)

    If you’re interested in this experiment, send me a PM, add me on Discord (Brennan#4915), or e-mail me!

This is just how I feel about other people’s Bee Journals. You can write whatever you want in mine, go wild.)


Brilliant topic! And great point about the norms for chiming in in people’s journals in the Life category. Maybe we could make it be a thing that people should clarify their groundrules at the tops of their journals?

Or maybe I could just declare ex officio that it’s fine, you wouldn’t have a public journal, on the Beeminder forum no less, if you weren’t game to be prodded a bit. :grin:


This was actually one of the techniques I tried in grad school: a classmate and I attempted to be each other’s accountability partners. Perhaps it was our situations, but it quickly devolved into a “misery competition”, whereby we seemed almost to egg each other on to be LESS productive and fail harder! I actually would feel BAD when I had been productive in a given week, because it would make him feel worse about not being productive. Not sure exactly what caused this unfortunate mismatch, but I guess something to keep an eye out for.


I’m totally game for people to prod me in my Beeminder journal, ask me questions about my updates, etc! I’m going to do what @dreev mentioned and put it in the top post; even if it’s sort of implied by posting in public that replying is a-okay, it can still feel weird to be the first non-me person chiming in, so I think adding the ground rules will be helpful in encouraging chat.


It’s weird but this seems to be really typical. Good news for Beeminder I guess? People often are like “I can just set up my own commitment device with friends!” and it seems to always eventually devolve. Either it’s doomed from the start for reasons similar to what you describe, or it peters out because it’s just too much work to maintain the diligence of keeping on top of it.


Any group of people almost immediately start to subvert their purpose, as I recall from Wilfred Bion’s Experiences in Groups — “groups unconsciously coordinate their actions to defeat the more sophisticated purposes of the group.”

In the same way that, as soon as a stable group forms, Jonathan Huxley says there’s almost nothing you can do to stop the creation of sub-groups and subdivisions very quickly thereafter.

No such thing as “one organisation” or “one culture” (or “one train”, given that we’ve just been watching Snowpiercer)


Hmm. This is… not good? But frankly makes a lot of sense. Even just looking at individuals, both diligence peters out and people will subvert their own intentions often.

But I still have hope! :grin: This forum is a group of wonderful people that do help each other a lot.

I believe that’s because of it’s loosey-goosey nature? Once you are in a formalised, contract-obliged group is which there are rules (and maybe an implicit hierarchy), then malbehaviour starts?


I subvert my own intentions regularly!

But I’d avoid putting value judgement on this splintering and subversion – it’s just how people and groups are, something to be accepted, anticipated, and worked with rather than ‘fixed’


My apologies for the ambiguous wording! I didn’t mean “not good” from a moralistic stance.

Rather, it would be something that might cause difficulty in finding an accountabil-a-buddy that I wasn’t even cognizant of. (The only person that I’m interested in fixing is myself! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:)


I’d be totally fine with people raising my threads from the dead to ask about them. I often drift away from them because I assume no one’s all that interested and, even when there are updates or things I’ve learned, I end up feeling a little shy about talking about them, given that first assumption.


I’ve actually had great success with an accountability buddy!! Though we don’t actually frame it as ‘keeping each other accountable’ (in some kind of potentially punitive way). We have a standing one-hour meeting every week, and we take turns having it be “my week”/“their week” to just… talk about how our PhDs are going. We do make lists of tasks we want to complete in the next two weeks, and it’s incredibly valuable just to know that somebody else will notice if a deadline slips. We’ve been doing this for two years, I think? Really good longevity. I think the key was focusing on the timeblock itself.


I’ve had more success with a group of three rather than two for accountability. I felt more of a sense of competition in the group of three that amplified as we went on. As for the group of two, it started feeling like I was nagging the other person when I tried to keep them accountable. And vice versa. Then it fizzled out.

Other factors that come into play for successfully using people for accountability are

  1. similar levels of commitment
  2. sending concrete proof
  3. keeping the atmosphere competitive/fun or some motivation/benefit to keep on going
  4. simple ground rules everyone is on the same page about

Currently in a group of 3 for a 30 day exercise challenge and it’s going super well. We use selfies for proof. Highly recommend.