Feature Idea: +Reinforcement via escrow

As mentioned in the Link graphs proposal, Beeminder is primarily a stick-based mechanism. I like the graph linking idea, and here’s another idea I’ve been bouncing around in my head about how to add additional incentives to goals:

  • When you derail on a goal, you pay the pledge amount to Beeminder and that same amount to into an “escrow” bucket for the goal.
  • If you then avoid derailing for longer than your previous streak, you recoup that cost - perhaps it’s transferred to a credit towards future derailments.
  • However, if you derail before the transfer that amount is forfeit and paid to Beeminder in addition to the derail punishment charge. The escrow account is also credited as before.

So, you have two incentives to avoid derailing: you don’t want to get dinged in the first place, and if you have money in the escrow account you want to get it back. Beeminder still receives the same amount from each derailment as before, with the additional possibility of double payment from consecutive derailments (Beeminder maintains the same level of income - though this is obviously affected by how well the incentives work).


I could see this making sense for a goal where you’ve set the pledge cap low, but for goals that follow the regular progression of escalating pledges I guess I don’t see what purpose the extra complexity serves? It’s already the case that the second derail is more frightening!

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The aim isn’t really to make derailing any more frightening, and you’re totally right that the escalating payments do that well already. Rather, I was aiming to add a bit of positive reinforcement to maintaining a streak while retaining the stick aspect of Beeminder. By putting a bit of cash in escrow and giving you the opportunity to get it back, Beeminder offers just a bit of redemption after derailing but only if you follow through. Of course, this does require some more complex bookkeeping and so might not be worth the effort unless there’s a strong motivation boost from it.

p.s. As a side note, I think these characteristics are useful guidelines for modified incentive schemes in the Beeminder framework:

+ Keep the lines bright. The rules must be clear and easily understood.
+ Retains the value transfer characteristic of the existing system, so the folks at Beeminder continue to be financially viable.
+ Don’t compromise the anti-akratic effect. Schemes that allow you to wring extra leeway from the system will probably end up negative overall.


Holding money in escrow quickly runs into all kinds of regulatory problems and you end up having to pay a lot to the escrow provider for the service.

You’re probably better off just giving the money to a friend and getting them to give it back to you at the appropriate time.


A true escrow service is only required when there isn’t trust between two parties. Since this would probably be an opt-in option and you already trust Beeminder to be fair with your credit card, the accounting can all take place on the Beeminder side. In fact, no money actually needs to change hands until the second derailment if that makes it easier - though that might affect how effective the incentives are.

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Even without true escrow, holding unearned client funds would lead to a world of pain, regulatoraly-speaking. So as you suggest, money should only change hands when it becomes ‘earned’, to simplify revenue recognition and avoid the hassle of accidentally becoming a bank… :slight_smile: