I’ve moved this poll here to the top of this post. You can answer it without reading anything else! (And reminder that the options are not mutually exclusive. For example, if you value steep pledge schedules on some goals and shallow pledge schedules on others, vote for both!)
- I value a steep pledge schedule to quickly reach my Motivation Point.
- I value a shallow pledge schedule so I don’t skip past my Motivation Point.
- I might pay a lot for the premium feature of capping my pledge lower than the normal minimum (depending on what the minimum was).
- I pretty much always know when creating a goal what its pledge cap should be.
Last month in a weekly beemail, I floated an idea for a new design for how we let you choose pledges and how they progress as you beemind along and (occasionally) derail. It’s a tricky design problem because we have a lot of constraints for it.
- Retain the status quo’s pledge tripling as an option.
- Default to doubling on derail.
- Make it impossible to miss the fact that after your first derail, the pledge increases.
- You can cap your pledge, but only after your first derail.
- Kill the accidentally user-hostile stepping down one level at a time.
- There’s a pledge floor, like how you can’t cap pledges below $5.
- No short-circuiting to higher pledge amounts.
- Beemium nixes #6 & #7 and is an elegant variant, not a hideous, bolted-on special case.
- An option to have your pledge automatically decay if you stay on track for 30 days.
Why those constraints?
The traditional pledge tripling after the initial $0->$5->$10 progression has the nice property that if you stick to that schedule, the amount you have at risk is always exactly twice the total of what you paid at previous levels. Some people may value that and some people may generally value being able to accelerate quickly to motivating amounts of money.
But realistically, doubling is the simple obvious predictable elegant thing to do and I think all of 12 people in Beeminder’s history have ever really understood let alone had value for the “$x at risk implies $x/2 paid previously” property. Especially since pledge caps spoil it anyway. In any case, there’s wide variation on what people need here. It’s not unheard of in the status quo to feel like, eg, $30 is unmotivating and $90 makes you weasel or dial your slope to be stupidly easy.
For constraint #3, this is just something we’ve learned the hard way. Users don’t read webcopy and sometimes newbees have been fine with risking $5 but when they derailed and found themselves with $10 at risk, they thought we’d pulled a fast one. The current UI has managed to solve that by being super in-your-face with the progression, so we just have to ensure we don’t lose that.
Next, pledge caps are obviously important to people. But there’s a big problem with pledge caps and newbees: they don’t understand the difference between pledges and pledge caps and are in the mindset of “I’m just trying this out so I’m going to choose the lowest possible value for everything”. This is why we think it’s important not to offer the choice of pledge cap on goal creation. After your first derailment (typically at $0) is when we think is the right time to consider where to cap your pledge. I think even veteran user-me would like that better, though I realize some veterans would find that frustrating to have to click through on their first derailment and pick a pledge cap. If so, I think we’ll be able to find the best of all worlds. But my contention is that it will be natural enough if, for example, you get the legit check email and it says you’re now at $5 and doesn’t say it’s capped there, for you to click through and cap it.
Maybe constraint #5 can make up for #4. It’s annoying and the wrong kind of paternalism (not that it was intended as such – it was more an implementation happenstance) to not let you drop your pledge by more than one level per week. The beehavioral economics says you should be able to drop your pledge to anything (down to the pledge floor, more on that next) as long as you wait out the one-week akrasia horizon.
So, the pledge floor. Your initial pledge can be below it (i.e., $0) but there should be an amount (currently $5) that you have to stay at or above after your first derailment. That’s how Beeminder stays in business. Similarly, you can’t jump straight to your Motivation Point because Beeminder never gets paid that way. Beemium is what removes those constraints. (Also we think that people who think they want short-circuiting or pledgeless goals are often wrong and we want them to be really sure that that’s what they want!)
Another motivation for all of this is that Beemium has been feeling… messy lately. We’ve even felt like maybe we should drop Beemium altogether and focus on our bread and butter. But we think we have an idea for having the best of all worlds, hence constraint #8.
Constraint #9 isn’t really a constraint. It may or may not make sense to add optional pledge decaying while we’re at it, either because it’s when it will be easiest to figure out how to fit it in, or to placate people who may otherwise be sad about some of the changes, like #4.
The actual pledge schedule proposal
What does all that imply? We’ve been agonizing and collecting feedback from you and here’s what we’ve come up with. The “$X” here is the pledge floor, which you can think of as $5 but more on that below.
- You choose to start at $0 or $X.
- You can also pick a pledge multiplier, from 1.5 to 3. Whatever you pick (default 2, for doubling) we show you dynamically what pledge schedule that implies.
- (If you started at $0 then of course you’ll jump from $0 to $X on first derail.)
Pledge UI on existing goals
You can click the pledge amount or go to the Pledge section of a goal’s settings to change your pledge, or change how it will change.
- The UI has a field to change your pledge to any number from $X to whatever your pledge currently is (or any dollar amount at all if you’re Beemium). This starts a cancelable one-week timer, same as in the status quo.
- Below that is the multiplier which works the same as in goal creation.
- Everything else is in a default-collapsed section labeled “advanced”.
- Unlocked after your first derailment is a pledge cap, which you can set to anything ≥ your current pledge. The default is "\$\infty – No limit / I’ll know it when I see it".
- Pledge decay! Also unlocked after your first derailment: Check a box to have your pledge halve (divide by your multiplier) when you stay on track for a month, down to $X ($0 if Beemium).
Special cases and questions for the spec
- A. Let’s round everything to whole dollar amounts.
- B. There’s not much need to expose the multiplier on goal creation but it helps ensure the user understands that pledges increase when you derail. Also goal creation friction is good.
- C. When a stepdown is scheduled, the dynamic display of the pledge schedule only cares about what the pledge is stepping down to.
- D. We could allow you to pick any amount in [$0, $X] as your starting pledge – I would like that – but then point #3, about jumping from your initial pledge up to $X becomes confusing/surprising/weird. We’d apply the max of $X and whatever the multiplier yielded. That’s technically true regardless, just that it’s obvious and expected in the case of starting at $0, zero being immune to multipliers.
- E. How about letting your pledge cap be as low as the amount you’ve scheduled your pledge to step down to? It might be natural enough that your current pledge can be above your cap if your new pledge is waiting to take effect.
- F. If the answer to E (pledge cap may be below current pledge) is no then the post-derail, recommitted pledge is always the min of (a) the old pledge times the multiplier and (b) the pledge cap. If the answer to E is yes, and a stepdown is pending when you derail, then the recommitted pledge is just the target pledge, with no multiplier.
- G. (Note that that’s a deviation from the status quo ante. Pledge stepdowns are oblivious to derails. If you’re at $10 stepping down to $5 and you derail then your recommitted pledge stays $10 and the stepdown to $5 still happens a week from when you scheduled it.)
- H. We could avoid all the confusion in E/F/G by using the multiplier in lieu of a pledge cap. After the first derail you unlock the ability to pick any multiplier, as low as 1. So you can never pre-decide a pledge cap and have to wait till you get to it. You can schedule your pledge to step down, set the multiplier to 1, and your pledge will then drop to where you want it and stay there. Elegant!
- I. If H carries the day then we could have a special case to worry about with pledge decay. Or maybe we just do the transparent, worse-is-better, anti-magical thing and say that pledge decaying with a multiplier of 1 is a no-op.
- J. No such thing as a multiplier less than 1, even for Beemium.
- K. Even Beemium users have to wait a week for their pledge to change (#4), for simplicity/consistency/anti-magic reasons.
- L. Point #7 discourages newbees from tampering with the genius of the exponential pledge schedule.
In the beemail I gave a tweet-size version of something vaguely like this proposal and asked what value for a pledge floor – $X – would feel fair. The replies were all over the place (and mostly non-numeric) and I’ve excerpted them below. Here’s a different poll that may help shape this:
[moved to the top of this post!]
Very paraphrased feedback excerpts
(I don’t think I’ve done a great job of capturing all the feedback and much of it is out of date for the current version of the proposal so let’s mostly ignore what’s below and repeat the parts that are still relevant as new comments in this thread.)
“$1 is my Goldilocks amount that I’m always happy to pay yet is still motivating.”
“I think the less flexibility the better on the pledge schedule. But if I could choose the floor, $3.”
“If my goals all had pledges of $10, and I couldn’t drop it below that with my current Infinibee / Bee Plus perk, I think I’d set my goal targets lower.”
“That actually seems pretty great, at least given $X=5, and modulo the whole anti-settings thing. Unlocking things after your first derailment on a goal is quite reasonable. Maybe such things should be configurable in the goal’s settings immediately, at least for Bee Plus users (who, by assumption, are power users who aren’t confused by having access to a higher level of detailed control over their goals).”
“If you don’t want a multiplier of less than 1.5 for the first derailment, you can declare that this is the case despite any chosen long-term multiplier of less than 1.5. But even if that is too complicated, at least some pledge-cap type thing should be configurable in the advanced settings up front, and probably also the new pledge decay thing, or something. I feel that I should be able to set up a goal to be exactly the way I want it, then never have to revisit that goal’s settings unless or until I change my mind about one of those settings.”
“This idea seems like it could indeed be close to a Pareto improvement over the status quo (at least if $X=5). And if so, then great!”
“All my goals seem to be $0, $1 or $5 at the moment. Quite happy to pay for premium to get around constraints.”
“I vote for a $1 pledge floor. I’m more inclined to have some less central goals on Beeminder if I can keep the pledge cap on them very low, and I see this as win-win: I get nudged on more things than otherwise, and the occasional derail more than pays the costs associated with those goals for Beeminder (and in short, is pareto-better for both of us than my not having those goals on Beeminder at all).”
“$X = $5 as that’s an amount I may choose to pay a la blog.beeminder.com/beenice.”
“I like $X as $5. I think pushing the stick-or-raise decision to the point of derailment rather than the point of goal creation (or maintenance) is the right place.”
“Seems complicated. And not sure $X should be the same for everyone.”
“I vote for $X=10 or so. And instead of a multiplier, how about choosing both initial pledge and first post-derail pledge? I’m against pledge decay; it at least needs a warning about dropping below one’s Motivation Point.”
“I really like the $5 minimum. For me, that really works.”
“Maybe instead of unlocking functionality after first derailment (I don’t pay attention to whether a goal has derailed before), it could be unlocking functionality when you have at least $X pledged.”
“$X should be something like $3. I liked $1 pledges and like finer-grained low values.”
“Wow, [killing the one level per week pledge stepdowns] makes me so happy I’m having a hard time even caring about anything else on that list!”
“Yes! Pledge decay!”