I want to get back into beeminder, here's what's stopping me

I’ve been using Forfeit a bit/it’s been working well and made me consider reengaging with Beeminder. However after logging in/looking around for the first time in a while, I don’t think I’m going to, here’s why —

I can’t set my pledge amount to what I want/something that’ll immediately motivate me*.

I have a lot of things I want to do, I appreciate Beeminder’s integrations, and I’d like to put money on the line to motivate me, however it is really unappealing to me to go through the “derail a few times” song and dance to get it up to something that’s going to be painful (or the alternative song and dance of signing up for premium for a month, making goals, then cancelling it - more on the vibe this give me here).

So I’m not going to be making any new goals in Beeminder. Just a data point for you guys.

My understanding is BM doesn’t allow short circuiting so they can collect all the initial, non-motivating amounts of money people don’t mind losing. Makes sense. But to quote Bastiat, there’s that which is seen and that which is unseen**. The random $1, $5, and $10 amounts are seen. What’s unseen is this is a huge turnoff (both rationally/practically – re: it’s either expensive, time consuming or both to get around, and irrationally/morally – it bugs me that paying for a service where the whole point is you pay them money if you don’t meet your goals isn’t enough to actually get incentives aligned, instead I need the – pretty obviously priced to be prohibitive – platinum plan for that.) And (it’s def true in my case) I think BM is missing out on some people signing up/pledges because of it.

Forfeit Experience

If it helps/makes it less scary, here’s how it worked for me in Forfeit without short circuiting:

  • I wanted to spend less time on my phone, so I made a goal that said I’d send in a screenshot of the apps I opened on my phone and prove gmail/chrome/whatsapp were combined opened <= 1 per day
  • I wanted it to have teeth, so I set it at $30 a day
  • One day I went over it on accident, and paid $30
  • Another day I forgot to send in a screenshot, and paid another $30

So that’s $60 (in the span of about 10 days), which I was happy to pay (I’d say I met the “spirit” of my goals the whole time, but recognize paying here prob makes using it more effective overall). FWIW I’m pretty confident it’d be the same in Beeminder. Just looked, and in the 1-2 years I was using it heavily I paid $1132 in pledges (in addition to the $271 for the lifetime plan). This was worth it to me. Again, not saying it’d be same for everyone, but it’s a data point.

Note: I get BM is free to charge what they want/for features they want. This isn’t nec something I feel entitled to per se, but it’s the reality of my BM situation at the moment and I know you guys appreciate feedback.

* Without paying an additional – (e.g. in addition to the lifetime plan I have) $42 a month.
** Another thing that’s unseen: all the people who aren’t signing up because there’s no lifetime plan (aside: would be curious how many people here are grandfathered into the lifetime plan, that’s what the only other Beeminder user I know IRL did, now it’s not even an option).


If I’m not mistaken, currently the pledge schedule works such that:

n^i = 2(sum(n^(0...i-1)))

(I feel like there’s probably a way better way to show this formula using latex :stuck_out_tongue:)

So you’re paying half of one derail at the desired level to reach that level.

I guess that doesn’t seem too bad to me, especially since during that process you may find that a lower pledge level than you thought is effective for a given goal. But maybe I’m missing something? :thinking:



Right. You’re also jumping through the hoops of derailing n (-1) times to get to the level you want.

Looking at your article, I think Dan gets it (emphasis added):

You can’t jump straight to amounts that really motivate you since Beeminder never gets paid that way. But [this] is a shame to have as a constraint! We want “making people awesome” to always come before “making Beeminder money”

Then later:

In the spirit of simplifying — and because we just sounded like huge jerks asking people to pay us purely in order to risk paying us more (fair as that was in principle, for those who actually read this post) — we now have just one way to short-circuit the pledge schedule: Go Beemium.

But Beemium is basically still asking people to pay more money in order to risk paying more. Also, if you look at pricing, it’s quite a bit more ($50) compared to the normal $8 and $16 plans. My impression is they really don’t want people to do it.

I think there are two issues, one is the “justice” (not exactly right word) of paying for a service where, again, the perk is that you get to pay the service more money in order to be held accountable, and still not have the incentives aligned. To me this is really annoying. I don’t think I even understood at first that that’s why you couldn’t short circuit. I thought it was just some BM algorithm that optimally figured out the best way to have people achieve their goals – if I had realized that’s what was going on I might not have even used it in the first place. Hard to unsee now.

The second issue is whether – just from a purely maximizing profit standpoint – not letting people short circuit actually makes BM more money. Given it’s one off 5, 10, whatever payments before it gets to something motivating, I kind of doubt it (my guess is no lifetime plans is costing BM money too but that’s a different question). This is testable though. In my own personal case I’ve forfeited amounts that were motivating, but n=1 there. Related: I’d be curious if people really understand why BM doesn’t allow short circuiting, or whether (like earlier me) they just took the algorithm as given. Also if it was more widely known, I’d wonder how they’d feel about it (this isn’t a threat, ha, I have no desire to “expose” anything, just genuinely curious). To me it feels gross.

BTW I have some (like $50 or something) Beemium credit. In theory I could sign up/create goals, then cancel. I’m not really interested in jumping through hoops though (and also – what if I want to make motivating goals in the future?).


I guess this is the disconnect for me. It doesn’t feel like a hoop because I just continue using Beeminder as I would regardless of pledge level, and it naturally goes up until it either hits my natural motivation point or my pledge cap. It would feel like more of a hoop if I felt like I had to purposefully derail to reach the cap I wanted. :thinking:

But I’m probably not a good example of the issue you’re experiencing, since my pledge caps are generally quite low. In the past, when I did want higher pledges right away, I did the buy-a-month, make-the-change, downgrade-back-to-original-tier process. But even back then I probably only ever did that one or two times.

Can you argue a bit more on how not having pledge short circuiting is a misalignment of incentives? It’s not obvious to me that it is, since, like I said, I think it’s plausible that there’s value in the information you gain by seeing what level kicks in your motivation. I guess I’m somewhat dubious that I could ever know the exact right pledge amount for a high-pledge goal.

Another blog post that has more info on Beeminder’s thinking behind how things currently work:

In my own words, something like, exponential pledge schedules reduce the cognitive burden and anxiety around creating a new goal, while simultaneously allowing the commitment to ramp up naturally, allowing you to work out the kinks on a new commitment before it gets too serious.


I am a Beeminder superfan so my following statements are not criticisms.

I think that if you are a fairly long term user of Beeminder the exponential pledge schedule can be a bit bothersome if you already know generally what level of pledges are needed to get you motivated.

For example I have a workout goal and I know for a fact that $5 or $10 is not motivating enough because I have massive akrasia about physical activity. So essentially I have spend $15 just to get to a $30 pledge.

I think the pledge schedule is super useful for new users who may be a bit overzealous with the # of goals, pledge caps, etc. But if you have been at the Beeminder game for a while you generally know how much it takes to make you care about a goal.


It’s in the blog post:

You can’t jump straight to amounts that really motivate you…


… since Beeminder never gets paid that way.

My incentive it to achieve my goals (by being motivated). Beeminder’s incentive is to make money. Normally our incentives would be aligned since companies make money by giving the users what they want. And, I think if more people knew why you can’t short circuit your pledge (because BM wants to make money at the expense of the core product, which is you achieving your goals) they’d be annoyed, and BM would fix this.

For me it’s partly potentially a symptom of a larger problem – are there other areas where BM is purposely making it harder for people to achieve their goals?

I get it’s naive to think that BM can make all/enough money only via forfeited pledges, that’s why you have to pay monthly/or for a lifetime plan. Fine. To me, paying that should be the end of it – once you’ve paid (again for the right to pay more money to BM), your incentives should be aligned and BM should be in the business of helping you achieve your goals in the best way possible, full stop (note I’m fine with stuff like paying more to have pledges go to charity). If the economics of this don’t actually work, i.e. that these one off unmotivated pledges are what’s keeping BM in business then, I think it prob has bigger problems and it’s questionable whether moves like this will fix it.


Not intentionally! And even with short-circuiting to higher pledge amounts, there was a forum thread years ago about why that feature should be free. It’s super valuable to have that brought up again; maybe the time has come.

By ‘free’ I think I might mean ‘included in another of the premium tiers’, because people initially tend to have poor intuition about what will actually motivate them to act on their Beeminder goals. Definitely a power-user feature.

I’m glad that Forfeit is working for you. For me it always takes several commitment systems working in parallel to support a real-world goal.

A decade ago, I remember being surprised how motivating the Beeminder graph was all by itself and indeed, for user-me, the dollar amount pledged is almost irrelevant.

But I’m probably wired strangely, since for me money isn’t a good motivator for taking action — whether for getting it or losing it. Don’t get me wrong, I like having and spending money, but as a prompt to action? Nada. It’s the structure of the money-related systems around me that’s interesting, not any individual element.

After going through a period of paying hundreds to Beeminder each month, I’ve dialled most of my pledges back to $5. I also tried having all pledgeless goals for a while, but then I went numb to the beemergency days.

I’m grandfathered into the grandfathered lifetime plan, Plan Bee, which (according to the premium feature tick list) is like Bee Plus with the extra tick for $0 goals.


I completely agree. I’m Lifetime Beemium and I can’t imagine using Beeminder without being able to set my pledge amount to a motivating amount.

It would be too annoying to jump through all those hoops every time, agreed.

The hoop is that you have a Beeminder goal that you would like to be motivating, but you have to sit there and wait for weeks for it to be motivating, and in the meantime you’re not doing what you’d like to be doing because the dollar amount isn’t large enough to motivate you.

I’m also skeptical that Beeminder actually makes more money by requiring people to jump through hoops. Even at a motivating amount, you’ll still derail a lot - and at the higher amount. I bet Beeminder would actually make more money by allowing all users to set a pledge amount.


I’ve said this above in other ways, but the no short circuiting aspect is problematic to me for two reasons. The first is purely practical and you’ve summarized it well here:

The second is more irrational/primal/lizard brain/righteous anger (like what you’d feel if someone just blatantly and for no good reason cut in front of you in line) – the fact BM purposely makes it harder to achieve your goals even though you’re paying them twice (via plan + pledges) to do that.

For me the second is just as, if not more, problematic, I haven’t really used BM in the same way (even for goals where I’m already up to a motivating amount) since I realized what was going on and why.

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But you can just pay for the premium service - just consider it the cost of using Beeminder. Think of the non-premium service as a trial, broken version that’s just there to get you familiar with the interface, but requires payment to be functional (like with online dating apps).

Yeah but I don’t feel like I should have to pay $50 a month for that in perpetuity ($42 on top of the lifetime plan I’ve already purchased). That’s sort of a lizard brain feeling – maybe it actually would be worth it for me to pay (I’ll have to think more about it) – but I agree it should be moot/something BM does anyway (even if they’re just comping a premium subscription to people who seem fine paying a lot in pledges) because they’ll likely make more money that way anyway.

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I think the existence of the basic plans is making things more confusing - pretend they don’t exist, so your real options are not using Beeminder or using Beemium at $50/month. Then the question is whether Beeminder is worth $50/month.

Update: I still want to get back into beeminder. Especially after hearing about @felixm’s SICP goal (I’ve had it on my list to work through SICP for a long time).

Right now I’m weighing:

  1. Pay $50 for Beemium (seriously considering it, though on some level it’s laughable considering this would be easily the most I pay for a consumer app (I subscribe to a decent amount) and this is the only one that takes even more of your money as a service).
  2. Seeing if a relatively free/less rankling option like streaks (one time $5) or habitify (one time $60) works.
  3. Trying out forfeit more (still been using it for one off, triage type goals, but eager to see if they get better at longer term habit type stuff – I talked to the founder a bit and they seem young, motivated, and pretty talented, so we’ll see).
  4. Building something myself (considering this, albeit maybe not as seriously). I think there’s opportunity here though – e.g. right now the “market price” for a commitment device app is expensive – $8-50 a month + they keep all your pledges. Maybe that’s right (and based on all the failed past competitors it seems at least very possible), but I also could see it being lower with more competition, maybe something like a one time/monthly fee + all your pledges are donated to give directly or something.
  5. Using normal beeminder with the lower pledge schedule – might work, the problem is a combo of knowing the initial pledges aren’t really that motivating + knowing why I can’t set it higher might make me too annoyed to use it.