A couple questions that have come up chatting with some of you…
(I figure we can collect questions here and turn this into an FAQ. So I’m wikifying this post. If you have an edit to make but it doesn’t let you, let me know. I’m interested to learn how the permissions work for that kind of thing!)
1. Is it fair that my reliability seems lower only because I commit to harder things? Or: Is it fair to inflate your supposed reliability by only ever committing to easy things?
The rule I use is that if I utter “I will” or “I’ll” or “I’m going to” then I must log a commitment. It doesn’t matter how trivial. The only thing the reliability score is meant to measure is “of the times you say you’ll do something, what fraction of the time do you do it?”. If you make sure to only say you’ll do easy things and get a 100%, that’s perfectly allowed. If you want to get yourself to do more hard things, you probably want to use Beeminder. Commits.to is just about ensuring that your words match your actions. If you do that purely by adjusting your words, that’s still a win. But you may find that commits.to is a powerful commitment device too, once you have a reliability score you’re invested in.
Maybe it still feels like apples and oranges if you commit to very different things than someone else. But the important comparison isn’t between different people. It’s from the perspective of the person you’re committing to right now, to compare with your commitments in the past. When Alice tells Bob, “I will do the thing”, Bob can see, empirically, how much he can count on Alice for the thing.
2. Can I create commitments to myself? Maybe even make this my to-do list?
We’re not the boss of you, but it’s a bad idea. It gives you too much flexibility to shape your reliability score beyond its meaning for the people you’re making “I will” statements to. When Bob sees a commitment URL from Alice, her reliability should tell him “of all commitments like this that she’s made to people, how often does she follow through?” If it’s combined with self-commitments, it’s not really telling him that.
It’s not just about goosing your numbers with easy commitments. Probably you’re more likely to flake out on commitments made only to yourself. So by including those you underestimate your reliability when committing to others.
So, no, Commits.to is not a to-do list. It’s just for tracking explicit commitments you’ve made.
3. Can I delete a commitment?
This is very confusing in the status quo, especially because of how you create new commitments simply by clicking the URL. That means if you create a commitment and then actually fully delete it, like where it’s totally gone from the database as if it never existed, then clicking the URL is just going to create it again. That turns out to be very unexpected for people.
Of course if the URL was never put anywhere where it might be clicked on then that’s not an issue.
But on principle we recommend generally voiding rather than deleting commitments. That has the same effect, removing it from your gallery of commitments, not counting it for or against your score, but leaving the commitment at its original URL. You can also include in the notes the reason you voided it.
(We have a sketch of how to handle this better in the future by hashing the original URL, using that as the commitment ID, and having the best of both worlds with fully deleting commitments in a way that doesn’t surprise users.)