Here’s how I imagine it might work: I pay Beeminder some amount of money, let’s say $1000, and I fill out a legally binding contract that details the conditions under which I can get that $1000 back. Once I provide proof that those conditions have been met, I get my money back.
The only data tracking involved is a single binary status. It’s either done or not done.
I love how you think! But it’s somewhat easier said than done and not our current focus. Which just means that it won’t happen in 2016, at least not as part of Beeminder proper. In the meantime what about doing this with a friend? Or if your friends are too soft on you (common problem, it turns out) then I’d be happy to hook you up with other people here on the forum who I know well enough to fully vouch that they’d neither run off with your money nor give it back willy nilly.
This reminds me of an idea that Vincent Conitzer and I were talking about: constructing commitment circles, like A enforces B’s contract who enforce’s C’s contract who enforce’s A’s contract.
If lots of people like this idea (by clicking the little heart, I mean) then I’ll consider that enough demand to see if I can help organize such things, at least informally.
Or maybe it can be self-organizing! I’m going to switch this to the Life category to make that more likely…
It might be worth adding to a FAQ because it comes up quite often.
The problem with that is that contracts for thousands of dollars are never going to be paid (doesn’t matter how much you hate it, for 1000 usd you are going to the gym, go skydiving or give blood), which means the beeminder owners don’t make any money.
However most people don’t know this, so you can trivially abuse your friendships by offering the contract “to the first person who claims it” on Facebook, or friendster or whatever you use. People are going to see a chance to win a lot of money for doing nothing and at least somebody is going to claim it if they can and you don’t have to pay anybody in advance (so they won’t run with the money) but the contract will hold up in court (INAL).
This is basically what I considered doing to make sure I showed up in the gym since I wanted more than the normal beeminder verification, but weirdly enough that is one thing that so far I don’t need any external incentive at all to do so so far I haven’t had a chance to put this plan in to practice.