Heretical freebees epiphany

This is ridiculous after all the work we put in to freebees but here’s a half-baked an epiphany:

Instead of renaming freebees to be less confusing, we’ll kill them off. We now let you buy them for 10 cents apiece as a way to make sure you put in a credit card at some point. And we want goals to start with a real pledge by default for most people. But we can cover all the bases like so:

  1. At some point you can’t create new goals without putting in a credit card. Beeminder’s not Beeminder without that credible threat. You may still never pay us a dime but you have to be willing to risk something (or pay for Plan Bee).
  2. All goals let you explicitly choose whether they start at $0 or $5. Maybe we default it to $5 after a while but as part of goal creation you can always choose. (If you want to start higher than $5 then you want Beemium.)

That’s it. We force you, sooner or later [1], to add a credit card. And we nudge you with defaults to start goals at $5 but make it easy to start at $0 as much as you like if you prefer. No need for a concept of freebees at all.

The only loophole that leaves is that you can keep archiving and recreating goals with $0 pledges. But if you’re willing to do that then there’s probably no help for you anyway.  :)

(Thanks to Adam Mesha for inspiring this by asking insightful questions about freebees.)

[1] And we’ll a/b test “sooner vs later”. It’s even possible that the optimal time to force you to enter a credit card is when you sign up. I realize we lose a ton of people who would’ve eventually gotten enthusiastically on board if we do that. But we also save a bunch of people who otherwise would’ve created a half-hearted trial goal and then wandered off without getting themselves on the hook, with all subsequent attempts to get them back on the wagon falling on deaf/akratic ears. Credit card on sign-up also means big simplifications in the code, small simplifications in the UI, plus lower support costs. But again, it’s an empirical question.


The epiphany works for me.

I argued against freebees being a special case, and this removes the specialness. It looks like a set of rules that inevitably and naturally encourages non-freebee behaviour.

Not sure about step #1, because I think that the subset of folks who will abandon history and recreate their goals is small. But I agree that entering a card during goal creation is the right point in the lifecycle. The alternative is to enter a card because your goal has frozen; that kind of rerailment friction is what resulted in the new world order. ( )

Omitting #1, then as a newbee you’ll be prompted for a credit card when one of your goals derails, and at some point we’ll flip the default during goal creation to $5 and prompt you for a card. (somehow)

As for when to flip the default, the existing freebee-counter logic sounds useful. Also, if you’ve got a card registered (for whatever reason). Though as a premium Plan Bee subscriber, I want to be able to specify whether $0 or $5 should be the default for my goals.

In the writing of this, I like the sound of #1 better than when I started. That’s because I’m struggling to imagine a smooth UI for simultaneously offering a choice between $0 and $5, and interspersing a card sign-up. But if we can come up with a good user experience, I prefer it to ‘forcing’.

There’s additional friction when adding a card for the first time, like explaining how you’re on the hook for your other goals. (Unless we set autowuss or cap the pledge, etc.) So we’d need to fit all of that into the flow of a changed default, for cardless users.

I also wonder whether this is how things used to work in the before-time, when we didn’t have a limit on freebees. If it’s the same proposal, what’s changed in the meantime to make it a better idea this time around?

But broadly, yes. I like things that work without needing to create artificial exceptions, and this proposal sounds like it moves us in that direction.


Here’s another freebee removal proposal:

Goals always start with a $5 pledge.

New signups get some amount of initial pledge credit.
(e.g. currently: 7 freebees x $5 pledge = $35)

When a user derails, deduct the amount from their available credit.
When total pledged > ${credit} require entry of a credit card.

Users can create 7 $5 goals or derail a couple of times on 1 goal.

User is prompted to enter credit card info every time they derail but get the
chance to skip it if they’ve still got enough credit left to cover their

Eliminates freebees altogether.
Eliminates special casing of initial goal pledges.

I’m not sure what happens with deleted/archived goals, I guess allow re-pledge
on deleted goals but keep the pledge amount locked for archived goals.


It sounds like an improvement over the relatively complicated formula that’s being used now.

That would eliminate the possibility of using a starting pledge of $0 for quick experiments or temporary goals.

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Would you then deal with the ability to change pledges by preventing the $5->$0 shift, or just let it be subject to the akrasia horizon?

Not having $0 pledges removes complexity for new users.
The pledge credit still allows for experiments and temporary goals.

$0 pledges could be enabled for premium users / as a reward for users who had entered credit card information.
The more I think about it the more I like the idea of giving extra free functionality as a reward for entering the credit card info.
Is the ultimate goal to get people to enter their credit card info?

Edit: I’m not proposing that $0 pledges be removed totally, just for users who have not yet provided any card information.


Okay, if $0 pledges are enabled for premium users or for users who enter credit card info, then we’re close to the original proposal with my personal concern addressed, but with the extra complexity of initial free money.

It’s worth noting though that since humans are loss averse, I expect that derailing on a $5 pledge where that $5 was given to you for free would hurt more for most people than derailing on a $0 pledge, for better or for worse.


Yeah, dropping back to $0 (and setting a pledge cap of $0) would be the key Plan Bee perk.

Personally I set my goals to 5 usd right away - somehow that little bit of money means I will actually follow up.

That said my one concern in a world where I would have to pay for my honey (because no free bees), even if I really want to do this goal I still want some freedom to experiment with how I count it - do I count pushups, minutes exercised, times exercised? There really is no right-for-everybody way and freebees would make it easier to find out what works for me.

Why don’t you make it so that after 3 goals, or when you derail, you have to put in a credit card/paypal account and then you can create more free initially goals? That way people get a chance to test beeminder and find out that it rocks, before they risk money?

This feels right. I misunderstood some Beeminder subtleties (including whether freebees could come back after you stop minding one) and bitterly wasted all my freebees early on learning how things work. I know that the ‘barrier’ of putting down $5 has stopped my experimenting (or has been an excuse for procrastinating the experiments).

Nearly free freebees helps the situation but the [albeit minimal] cost involved still makes me view freebees as a precious resource with the potential to be saved for special occasions. On the other hand, open access freebees encourages reckless goal setting and an increased chance of stumbling upon something awesome. Having the option to start the payment curve with an inbuilt testing phase and an initial pledge of $0 has always felt right to me. Your epiphany gets it all the way there.


Right, with this death-to-freebees proposal, everything is always a freebee (starts at $0) if you want. We make you put in a credit card at some point but that’s separate from the freebees question. The goal is to make things nice and simple and avoid special cases (and terminology like “freebees”).

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I think @insti’s proposal would be the cleanest and nicest – it eliminates both the concept of freebees and any special casing with initial pledges which could just always start at $5 – except that once you enter a credit card we want to let you create goals with $0 initial pledges. That’s the activation energy argument.

So with the second advantage gone, I think I prefer my original death-to-freebees proposal at the top of this thread.

Let me know if I’m missing something there, and thanks so much for the help in thinking this through!

PS, @amesha made essentially the same point:


I’m a kind of freebee junkie, so I was pleased to see ‘buy more freebees for $0.10’, but as many as you like at $0 once you have my credit card would be even better.

I think I just like to think that every goal includes the possibility of screwing up without penalty once, and I’ve designed at least one goal badly in a way that it wasn’t possible to notice in the first seven days.

And incidentally, I have actually derailed once and paid you money now. And I nearly did again yesterday; I was out in the street trying to get signal to tell you about my German practice at 11:58 last night. I probably would have emailed you a tale of woe if I’d failed; but honestly, why didn’t I do it at any time earlier in the day? I could have done. New goal; clear all the red and orange beeminder stuff in the morning! Then there’s no risk of derailing, right?


That no longer needs to be a toothless intention! You can set your deadlines to noon now (we intend to support actual morning deadlines as well but for now noon is the earliest).

So @dreev… when are these freebees dying?!


Thanks for asking! I believe it will be between the launch of Skritter and Strava in this list. And by authority of we’ll be making steady progress on those integrations. So, I predict… April for the death of Freebees (aka free Freebees for all).

You definitely have influence on this question though. Is the status quo where you can buy them for 10 cents apiece super annoying?

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I like the $1 for 10 of them. Please don’t make that go away.

but it’ll be replaced by “any goal you start can start at $0 without you having to buy them” - does that make it better?


TL;DR: IMO, all goals should always start at $0 with free short circuit to $5; we should have 1 permanent freebie; it would be great to have a $1 pledge amount for Beemium subscribers (which we could skip over on most goals since we have free short-circuiting).

IMO, All goals should always start at $0 by default and move up from there when they first derail. (With the first short-circuit from $0 to $5 being available even to non-premium.) We’re just never really sure what we can really do, realistically, when we first start a goal, I think.

I also think each user should have at least one perma-freebie at any given time. E.g. you could step a goal down from $5 to $0 only if you had no others that are permanently free or stepped back down to $0 at that time (and none in the process of being stepped down to $0). I think there is good reason to want to Beemind something like weight, for example, without having it cost, since people are likely also minding other related goals. (Just-created, never pledged goals shouldn’t count towards your perma-freebie limit.) I use permanent-freebies for test goals and for only two other goals. I’d be fine with giving them up for the test goals, as well as with giving up permanent freebies on all but 1 of my goals (and I am minding something like 70 goals). Sometimes I like to reward myself for a long time without a derail by stepping back to $0 to see how I do without the sting (hint: never well) but I’d be fine with giving that up.

I wouldn’t mind having a handful of goals that could be $1 goals, too, though. But I think that should be a Beemium feature. Use case: I mind each weight training exercise separately. I really don’t want to pay $80 for missing a workout (16 exercises x $5), but would be perfectly fine with paying $16 for missing a workout and derailing those 16 graphs.