I remember reading multiple times that Beeminder (or at least the Beeminder staff) were opposed to “gamification”. Could anyone comment on why, or perhaps more importantly, what you mean by “gamification” in this context? It strikes me as a bit weird since to me, Beeminder is a game, although it’s so free-form it’s perhaps more similar to Nomic than it is to more common games.

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If I had to take a guess, I would start from the idea that “gamification” often involves trying to provide fake rewards for activities (in the form of game points/ levels/ cool hats/ etc) – but the reward for succeeding at your Beeminder goal is succeeding at your Beeminder goal. Imposing a game-based set of incentives and values could distract from the inherent value in your goals.

For me Beeminder is very ungamelike, because I experience it as an extended conversation between my past, present, and future selves. Beeminder goals are all about maintaining priorities and making my values explicit to myself. Keeping up with a Beeminder goal for any reason other than “I want to accomplish these things” would feel like Beeminder was backfiring for me.

I know a lot of people have different experiences, though, so I’d actually be very curious to hear opposing views!


Good question. I dug up a previous thread where I tried to answer:


Also I found this (HT @Brian_Ball) which claims that Beeminder satisfies Core Drives 2 and 8, gamification-wise:

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I want to give this 100 hearts!!

@oulfis Realize this is an old thread, but: How can you say that Beeminder is based only on intrinsic rewards when its primary mechanic is taking your money if you derail? That seems like an arbitrary—if incredibly useful—system of incentives and values if ever there was one.

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Hm, if the way I said it before didn’t make sense, I’m not sure I can say it differently. The main thing, really, it that it’s not “arbitrary”, because I myself set all the incentives.

Checking Beeminder every day forces me to acknowledge the actual value that these goals have to me: Do I want to spend $5 to not ask my best friend how her day went? Do I want to spend $10 to not make progress on my dissertation?

I have a medical one that’s particularly effective because I’m particularly akratic about it: I never want to do it, but once Beeminder says it’s time, I have to ask myself: Do I want to spend $30 to mess up my endocrine system and experience several days of side effects? And pretty much always, I would prefer to instead spend $0 and take good care of my heath!

When a Beeminder goal actually isn’t intrinsically valuable to me, I’ll find myself saying, “sure, I’ll pay $5 not to do that useless thing that I don’t care about, nothing bad will happen and I can go to bed early” – these are the goals that I derail at a few times and then archive because, actually, it turns out I don’t want to do them.


Yeah, I didn’t read @oulfis as saying that Beeminder is based only on intrinsic rewards, just that there were no fake rewards.

How does this goal work exactly? I’d be annoyed if someone asked me every day but I’m weird lol :heart_eyes: :heartpulse:

Haha, the goal is actually a general “stay in touch” goal for a long-distance best friend, with a slope of 2/week, not every day. But if it’s an eep! day then, in that moment, I have to reach out to her somehow or derail. If there hasn’t been anything else to send to her / talk to her about, I can always just ask how she’s doing and get back on the road, plus talk to my best friend as a bonus.


That makes sense to me, @oulfis. Perhaps one of the problems is that “gamification” is such an ambiguous term.

If by gamification you mean a system of arbitrary rewards and penalties which may or may not align with the user’s goal, then after reading your response it’s clear to me that Beeminder isn’t that (unless it’s used poorly). Also, that definition could easily become unethical in practice.

If by gamification you mean some set of standardized game mechanics such as badges, streaks, levels, experience points, etc, then, while there probably isn’t anything wrong with them per se, trying to add such systems into Beeminder would destroy its elegance with very little gain.

If, however, by gamification you mean the application of psychological principles to a system for the purpose of making the system more engaging and effective in helping its users reach their own goals, whether or not the application takes the form of intrinsic or extrinsic motivators or a combination of the two, then Beeminder has certainly made use of it.

Captology is probably a better term for the third definition in the context of a software system like Beeminder. And if you asked people what they thought gamification meant, most would probably say something along the lines of the first two definitions, anyway.


I don’t agree. It could make actually using Beeminder more fun, and supply more of a positive motivation for achieving your goals rather than Beeminder’s current best possible case of “I didn’t derail”. And if it were implemented in a way that wasn’t completely inept, you could just ignore it if you didn’t care about the “gamified” aspects.

A better argument might be something along the lines of “this could easily be done by a 3rd party through a browser plugin or the Beeminder API if anyone wants it; it isn’t part of Beeminder’s current core mission, so the folks who work full-time on Beeminder shouldn’t devote much effort to it at the moment”. Then the ignoring it if you don’t want it would happen automatically (although on the flipside, it would be less discoverable for people who would like it).

I guess I do want to reiterate that, for me at least, Beeminder’s current best possible case is “I accomplished this goal which is meaningful to me.”

For me, Beeminder supplies close-up “punishments” in situations where the actual punishment is delayed or non-existent (like failing to learn something I was interested in knowing) or where the actual punishment is insufficient to get over a mental block (like my medical thing that I want to put off every single week). But it doesn’t need to supply the reward, because the reward already exists, in the goal.

I’d find it really unhelpful if Beeminder tried to add arbitrary artificial rewards, because it would distract me from the actually important conversation between past self / present self / future self, regarding what I actually want to be doing.


Besides the reward of actually accomplishing what you set out to do, I think the fact that pretty much every Beeminder graph is a cumulative graph is a positive psychological cue. Instead of highlighting how your performance has gone up and down over time, Beeminder graphs always emphasize what you’ve accomplished over the whole period that goal has been active. I think this is probably another way that Beeminder leverages the intrinsic satisfaction of accomplishment for reward.

Also, if you’re interested in a more gamified approach, I’d recommend checking out Habitica. I used it for quite a while and really enjoyed it. Also, I believe there’s a Habitica integration for Beeminder.


Interesting… I don’t view Beeminder as discussion / negotiation between my past, present, and future selves. I view it as discussion / negotiation between my System 1 and my System 2. Accomplishing my Beeminder goals is naturally rewarding for my System 2, but it still helps to have some System 1 reinforcement, since System 1 is largely responsible for actually accomplishing the goal.

True… and I actually view this as a mild nod to gamification. (Don’t let the founders know though, they might take it out. :wink: )

Yeah, I’ve been vaguely meaning to do that for a long time, it’s just hard to pick up One More Thing when I already have So Many Systems For Managing Todos.

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I think that’s just another way of saying the same thing. System 2 says past, present, and future all want the same things. System 1 has a distortion. It also wants the same things for all times, with just one small exception - right now, when it wants to be impulsive and procrastinate instead.

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I think the term for this is hyperbolic discounting. System 1 values the immediate future much more than the far future, whereas system 2 is consistent in its valuations. Therefore, you are more likely to act according to your best values when committing to something in the future than when committing to something right now.

“Schelling Fences on Slippery Slopes” is a good blog post on the concept, and “How To Do What You Want: Akrasia and Self-Binding” is another good blog post that explains how the concept works in the context of Beeminder, without referring to the term hyperbolic discounting directly.


Yes, that’s usually how it’s described, but for me, I’m extremely impulsive. So it’s not so much about the “immediate future.” It’s about right now. So for me there’s no hyperbolic curve, just a weird discontinuity at right now. Like I’m fine doing some task X in 1 minute - going to bed is a good example - just not right now!

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