Beeminder Forum

Bee-Nicers vs Tooth-and-Nailers: What's Your Beeminder Archetype?

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.

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I’m not sure which category I’d fit into, but I feel like I pay Beeminder quite regularly and also call non-legit quite regularly.

I pay for beemium, though I’ve gone long periods of time on the free plan.

I pay when I choose to derail or my akrasia decides for me. (I subscribe to bee-nice.)

I call non-legit when I forget to enter data, can’t enter data due to lack of connectivity, or otherwise screw up data entry (often due to backfiring automation).

Basically, if I derail because I’ve failed to meet the real-world goal requirements, I pay up. Otherwise, I call non-legit.

Hopefully this behavior pattern falls within the range of patterns you don’t feel the need to shame. :wink:


Ha, on multiple levels, yes. Note that being Beemium makes you entirely shaming-immune, even if you weren’t already! :grin:

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We all have our eccentricities. :laughing:

I think that it’s a good idea to differentiate between solvable problems and unavoidable realities and I think its relevant here. This blog post from Marco Arment Right versus Pragmatic comes to mind. I also think my comment to the derailing is not failing article is worth to be mentioned here as well:

In hindsight the article also articulates the frustration with a perceived misunderstanding of the relationship of failing and derailing and wants to re-educate the users, hence it’s trying to rework the discursive landscape. At least it seems to me that way. So, in short: A terraforming project literally has to move mountains - and for a long time - and still it’s success is doubtful at best IMHO. So maybe this reality of use cases that are not aligned with the companies interest has to be accepted first?

Otherwise I’m much in the same boat with @narthur, I think, maybe a little bit less aligned with the company since I have probably payed less over the years, but his description tracks for me, too.


I’m totally down with educating users regarding how to make the best use of Beeminder, even (or perhaps especially) if that education aligns with Beeminder’s financial sustainability. However, I do think that users who avoid paying are still doing Beeminder a service:

  • A larger user base means more word-of-mouth marketing for Beeminder.
  • Every new user that signs up is a step towards normalizing Beeminder’s particular flavor of weird, and that should be celebrated.
  • It may be natural for new users to start out as tooth-and-nailers and only grow into bee-nicers over time.

That certainly was the case for me. It took me a period of time to realize that Beeminder is more effective for me when I don’t view derailing as failing. I’m probably not the only person on that journey.

As I see it, I think you can focus on educating users in a way that’s aligned both with Beeminder’s financial sustainability and users’ real-world awesomeness without asserting that the two are always absolutely aligned. Users will find ways to derive value from the service without giving you money, but that doesn’t mean those users aren’t good for the business.


I think I must be in the Beemium camp, although the description doesn’t read quite right to me. I never bought into the “derailing isn’t failing” argument: if derailing isn’t failing, then what is failing? Not even bothering to show up, I guess? But that doesn’t seem right as that means everyone here is in the “never failing” camp, which means All Shall Have Prizes (my favourite example here), and I’m really not sure that can be right either.

I do beemind loads of stuff that I want to get myself to do more often (or, rarely, less often). I love the graphs, and the widgets on my phone, and the reminders. It all acts as a free-form to-do list for me. And I can see the argument for “I’d rather pay 10 bucks than go for a run today, so I’ll take the hit”, so I do pledge money. But that’s still a fail, for me.

However, and most importantly, because the service is so good and useful to me and because it is just plain clever, I went premium to reward the developers. Keep at it!


Yup, this is my feeling. Beeminder stakes force me to take the future consequences of my behavior into account. If the situation is such that I’m willing to eat those consequences, I go for it.

In my book, missing a day is not failing. Failing is disregarding future consequences when making present decisions. And I can derail without doing that.

That being said, people derive value from Beeminder using very different philosophies, and I think that’s awesome.


I like this conversation! Here’s my straw poll response:

I don’t think about fine print because I treat all or most derailments as legit.
I pay for a premium plan in part because I don’t plan to derail often. (Also, I live without a smartphone, and the text notifications are really useful.)*

With that said, I do remember one day, when my beemergency had been chasing me for a week, and it seemed worth it to just derail and pay the $5 for a fresh start.


I would quickly become resentful of the system and quit it for good, not using it AT ALL, if I couldn’t get out of derailments for serious life circumstances. On the extreme end, if I can call off of work for it, necessitating my school to pay for a substitute and my students to get a slightly lower quality workday, then I should definitely be able to call not legit or ask for a flattened road sooner than 7 days out. I just asked for a flattened road for a few days about 2 weeks ago for going to my uncle’s funeral and spending that time with my family, and if I couldn’t have done that, it would have soured me on it so much that I wouldn’t touch the tool again. And the availability of help for less serious issues, like getting a flattened road on my meal logging goal a month or so back for the weekend I had to chaperone an out-of-town trip, creates a lot of goodwill towards the system and makes me more OK with accepting the loss of money when I do legitimately derail.


Also, different goals call for different attitudes – I have a number of goals that just don’t make any sense if every day isn’t a beemergency (they are basically reminder goals – remember to take your pills! remember to write tomorrow’s to-do list! remember to journal!), so any life hiccup will cause them to derail. So dialing down the road to derail less would make them entirely useless for my purposes.


I took a straw poll in the weekly beemail! I’m repeating the poll here and will summarize the results from the weekly beemail responses after it. Check all that apply:

  • a) I keep my pledge low enough that it feels reasonable to intentionally derail sometimes if I want to give myself a break
  • b) I think carefully about my fine print so I can give a principled answer to whether a derailment is legit or not
  • c) I don’t think about fine print because I treat all or most derailments as legit
  • d) I pay for a premium plan in part because I don’t pay enough in pledges for the amount of value I get out of Beeminder
  • e) none of the above!

0 voters

Weekly beemail responses:

a) ************************  24 people
b) ****************          16 people
c) **************            14 people
d) ******************+       18.5 people
e) **                        2 people

Paraphrased feedback excerpts:

  1. I would actually like a global fine print please because I’ve refined it to something that applies to almost all my goals.
  2. A little each of [bee-nice], [just-accept-derails], and [premium]. Depends on the goal.
  3. I’m “think carefully about the fine print” but don’t actually write it in the fine print since it’s a simple obvious criterion. (~4 people)
  4. I’ve never derailed because the thought of derailing is anathema to me!
  5. Having fine print that allows for unusual circumstances but requires specific actions to redeem myself has been a game changer.
  6. I’m [bee-nice] though it led to a period a while back when I suddenly realized I was derailing quite a lot and I had to reel it back – now it’s much rarer.
  7. I’m [bee-nice] though I always feel so bad about it that that often gets me to do it.
  8. I do think carefully about the fine print, but this is to decide if I can ‘score’ things with principle (e.g. for the priority work goal), not to decide if a derail was legit after the fact.
  9. My non-legit derails are either force majeure (normally unexpected illness) or technical screwups.

Another thing that probably has an impact on people’s relationship with Beeminder is their financial situation. Someone who is tight on cash is probably much more likely to be a tooth-and-nailer, if they join the service at all. I have people in my life who I think could find a huge amount of value in joining Beeminder, but their financial situation makes me resistant to even suggesting it to them.

I think being tight on cash can mean the service may be even more effective for you, and pledge caps could solve some of the problem. I’ve been using Beeminder for a while and I still need to make better use of the pledge cap feature.

+1 for this.

This is very interesting to me. Does anyone have examples of doing this?


I am the feedback for global fine print! Seeing so many users struggling with defining fine print has made me really think over my own, and I’ve got it down to where it covers almost all situations. I’m thinking I’ll write it up in an Evernote doc and link that from the fine print of all my goals, and then there’s no trouble with having to go back and edit each one individually if I tweak the wording…


Two things I realized about all this:

  1. Maybe being a true tooth-and-nailer means having a gambling mentality.
  2. This is all highly related to Derailing Is Not Failing

Thanks so much for the ongoing discussion!

PS, particularly relevant quotes from the forum thread about “derailing is not failing”:


When I started with Beeminder I was actually sort of not exactly drowning in money because I was dreading the commute to my workplace. Not the work itself, I got no problem with that, but I hate commuting [1].
And yes I can confirm that the threat of Beeminder was bigger then though I suspect this bigger threat was in parts due to the novelty rather than a larger percentile effect on my income.

[1] It got tremendously better by listening to podcasts and audio books to reduce the boredom but still, I seriously hate commuting by car :wink: Unfortunately my employer isn’t super reachable via public transport either or else I’d do that.
Anyways I show up quite a lot at work now, because I may have started a goal for that. So much that my coworkers keep asking me what happened with me working so much lately :smiley:
I actually got quite some buffer on that goal accumulated by now because once I’m there I stay there for longer than planned. Again, it’s not the work I dread. It’s the commute there. And there have been quite a few traffic jams lately that I rather sit out working than on the highway.
(On that note, I would totally go Beemium but there is not really anything on Beemium that makes me go “I NEED DIZ”. I mean sure some things on there would be nice, but BeePlus is nice too :slight_smile: )

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Hello feedback! Nice to see this idea is taking shape. Is there any reason for not having a global fine print field? I really want one. The link woraround is a good way out for now, though. Good idea!

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I wouldn’t say it’s taking shape, I literally just asked for it in the reply to that beemail. :slight_smile: Just in case you were assuming that was something already in progress or that had any kind of priority because it’s me saying it!

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no no no no not at all, no worries! I am beeminding long enough to bee realistic about when features actually… yellow halfplane anyone? /runs and hides somewhere/


I second that!

I’ve yo-yo’d financially a bit and my pledges didn’t follow that. So downturn becomes even more stressful, and upturn becomes even more relaxing. Both are bad to be honest.

What if people could auto-scale all their pledges based on their current income?
I think it’s unfeasible to implement and almost nobody will use this though.

As for derailing, there’s one more aspect: it could be a sign of too much friction.
I found myself forgetting to input the data in time and that didn’t really depend on the pledge size. So, the derails were not intentional, but there were too many of them to call it normal.


What’s wrong with this attitude, and why does it rub you the wrong way?
This is basically how I see it.

Ideally, Beeminder crushes akrasia so the only times I derail are the times I genuinely (far mode, long view, out-of-akrasia-horizon-distortion) want to derail. And those times are times where the derailment is not legit, so I shouldn’t pay then.

Ideally, Beeminder shouldn’t get paid, but you could also say ideally Beeminder shouldn’t need to exist. Here in the real world, Beeminder is only partially successful at crushing akrasia, so it’s not like legit derailments don’t still happen.

And because there are so many important features that only work with a premium membership, Beeminder’s still getting the monthly payments (the free version of Beeminder seems so crippled to me that it’s basically useless).

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