This started out as me venting about something that happens sometimes when doing Beeminder support – a feeling of every derailment wanting an explanation and never accepting them as legit – but turned into something bigger. I’m nervous that the first part is a bit too much dirty laundry or user-shaming or something, but bear with it till the second part!
Part 1: The Ill-Advised Rant
I’d love to better convey and promote the philosophy where there’s no such thing as fine print or non-legit derails. You just set your pledge to something that is fine to pay as long as it’s rare. Then having a highly unusually crazy week or an implausibly barfing cat or even something profoundly exculpatory like the death of a family member – none of those are things to discuss with support. By definition they are rare and thus it’s not a problem to eat the derailments. Not only “not a problem”, but a problem to not. The whole attitude of wanting to avoid paying in those circumstances rubs me the wrong way a tiny bit. The implication, for some kinds of people, vastly overgeneralizing here, is that you ideally shouldn’t ever pay Beeminder. That paying Beeminder means you succumbed to akrasia and Beeminder is supposed to prevent you from doing that. If Beeminder succeeds in quashing your akrasia so you never derail intentionally, and also unintentional derailments are covered by your fine print or are otherwise grounds for calling non-legit… then Beeminder shouldn’t ever be paid?
I mean, I’m pretty biased, but that doesn’t feel great.
Part 2: The Bigger Epiphany
But that’s picking on one particular kind of user and ignoring way too much. There are people who subscribe to bee-nice-to-yourself and intentionally derail plenty and they want to pay for those and not pay when there’s a real excuse. That’s totally fine.
Maybe it could be part of onboarding that you pick your Beeminder archetype or something? Here are the ones that initially come to mind and I imagine you all will have plenty more because I tend to be outrageously reductionist.
Part 3: The Beeminder Archetypes
Intentional (or Akratic) Derailer with Fine Print
You subscribe to the bee-nice-to-yourself philosophy and intentionally take a sting occasionally. (Or you just succumb to akrasia occasionally.) In the case of extenuating circumstances, you call non-legit and get the charge canceled. You’ve put some thought into what “extenuating” means and included it in your fine print so you don’t get weaselly about invoking it.
Tooth-and-Nail Derailer without Fine Print
You fight tooth-and-nail against derailing, would never just decide to, akratically or otherwise, and thus only derail when the universe conspires against you. Since that, by definition, is rare, you don’t begrudge paying Beeminder when that happens. And you don’t need to worry about fine print. Derailing is the universe rolling the dice and determining that a payment is due for the lovely service Beeminder provides.
If you’ve set up your goal so derailments are rare, then you just always pay for them. If not, then you adjust the goal until they are.
You either want to never derail and are happy to pay directly for the time spent discussing the legitimacy of your derailments or you want to never pledge money so derailments don’t need to be discussed. Or maybe it’s one way for some goals and the other way for others. Either way, you’re rejecting the above archetypes and just paying for a service the old-fashioned way.
It’s extremely possible that all of the above is wrong-headed. Maybe you’re happy to pay Beeminder in various ways that don’t fit into any of the above categories (please reply!) or maybe I’m off in my assumption that non-legit excuses are necessarily rare or maybe if we have to resort to guilting people into paying us then we’re doing it wrong. We encourage people to reply to the legit check emails and they do, and naturally they want to avoid paying money whenever possible, so, there you go. Do I even have a point here beyond shaming people who don’t ever pay us? Or maybe there are useful ideas here in setting expectations? I’m obviously thinking out loud a bit and eager to hear your thoughts!
PS: I almost forgot about Team Black vs Team Yellow which is probably highly relevant here.