Lucking into the right beeminder workflow

This was almost a comment on the latest beeminder blog post, but I thought it might make more sense here.

I find Beeminder spectacularly useful, but I feel like this is only true because I use about 10% of its feature set for defining goals.

Specifically I use:

  • Only do more goals
  • Fairly tightly capped (I think. I mostly don’t derail, so I’ve not kept track, but the highest goal I currently have has a pledge of $30 because I let it derail a few times and haven’t botherd turning it down in the months since)
  • Occasionally auto-ratchet but I’m not really convinced it’s helpful
  • Weekends off on a few goals (despite being very in favour of this feature I don’t know how much it’s actually helping me. I think my current goals mostly don’t need it, but I’ll try a few new ones soon that I think do).
  • Heavily autodata based, and where not automatic input is almost exclusively through mobile
  • Always on no-mercy recommit (except for a few occasions where I’ve turned it off because I know I’m going to derail and want to cheat. Maybe I need to ask for that to be akrasia proofed?)
  • Always on a non-zero pledge

(I do also use things like take a break, retroratchet, etc. but these feel like goal editing features rather than part of the goal structure so I think they’re in a separate category)

It’s not that these are the only ones I’ve tried, it’s that I’ve experimented a lot and I’ve felt pretty strongly that other configurations just don’t work for me.

Now, I don’t expect that the same 10% works best for everyone (that would make life too easy), but I do expect there are some general patterns. e.g. my suspicion is that the significant majority of people don’t do well with do less goals. I think they’re both intrinsically harder to do than do more goals and also the beeminder model doesn’t work very well for them.

I guess some of the new streamlined goal creation is designed to help with this but I feel like maybe people aren’t being sufficiently scared off the do less goals.

I got distracted mid-way through writing this post and came back days later, so I’ve sortof forgotten what my original point in writing this was, but I guess I’m wondering how much of a common experience this is and whether it tends to cause people to drop beeminder as “not working for them” because they’ve initially tried beeminder and picked the wrong workflow.

So, beeminder users: Is this also your experience? Are you using a very specific subset of beeminder features that work well for you? If so, are they different/similar to mine?

Beeminder staffers: Do you have any sort of data on new user retention? Any idea if certain initial goals are more likely to result in retention than others?


One relevant factoid: do-less goals are deleted twice as often as do-more goals. That was part of the argument for, as you’ve eloquently argued here, discouraging newbees from creating them by paywalling them behind a new premium plan that’s going to be deployed sometime in the next 24 hours… See latest discussion of premium launch.

Ah yes. I knew that you were thinking of doing that but had forgotten, sorry!

I guess I should have held off this post until I saw the launch. :slight_smile:

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No no, this is a wonderful discussion to have started and we’re only addressing the tip of the iceberg with the new premium stuff. This is also really good for us to be thinking about as we work on the redesign.

BTW I would love to get more stats like this. Stuff that’s sufficiently aggregated that it’s not at all personally identifiable but that gives a good picture of what people’s usage of beeminder is like. Good blog post subject?


Okay, but why? I deleted the vast majority of my Do Less goals once I discovered the loophole and all of the notification bugs surrounding it. Putting a buggy feature behind a paywall makes negative sense to me.

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Yeah, I have found that even do-less goals tend to work better in a do-more format. Like my junkfood goal – when it was a do less goal, I wasn’t sufficiently motivated to keep it updated, but when I turned it into a do-more goal and started giving myself three points for free every day, with the idea that if I ate junk food I’d have to give the points back (by entering -1 as a data point), it suddenly became very motivating, and is now one of my most successful goals.

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I’m relatively new to beeminding, and am keeping myself to a few very simple goals so far, but I can’t think of a single example of a goal that couldn’t be better formulated as a “do more” than as a “do less”.

Does anybody have a strong “Do Less” success story, and if so, why do you think it worked better as, say, “fewer cigarettes per day” than as “more days without cigarettes”?

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The major negative effect I’ve noticed of days without goals is that they create binge days on days where it’s allowed if the habit is one that encourages binging.

The downside is not great enough to outweigh the fact that they’re otherwise vastly better for me than do less goals, but other people may disagree.

I suppose another case might be habits where 1/day is fine but you’re trying to eg reduce from around 10/day


Two answers: I personally value do-less goals very highly – the problems are not dealbreakers for everyone. And a better answer: this will be the fire under our butt to improve it and make sure it’s worth paying for. Of course we also stand by what we’re selling and if the loophole or notification problems are a dealbreaker for you in the meantime that’s absolutely grounds for a refund.

PS: My examples include time distracted, sugar, and passive entertainment. In all these cases I really want the graph to show me the actual amount being measured.

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from the support perspective, the big win is not in charging people for goal types, but in reducing potential confusion/bad experience for new users (who may or may not realize something is jacked up, and may or may not be charged money, and may or may not ever contact us about this!!). the other goal types are awesome and useful when you know what you’re doing and how to use them, and they are total timebombs when you do not, which is unfortunately often for newbees. (there’s plenty more we can do to improve that as well, but that’s going to wait til redesign goes live…)


I sortof feel like “premium user” and “advanced user” are being conflated in a way that may not be totally helpful? I’m not sure either necessarily implies the other (although advanced user will probably imply premium user given the new goal count restrictions)

I wonder if some of these things could be implemented by instead having a big button somewhere that people can click that says “I am an advanced user and I know what I’m doing and I’m prepared for the fact that things might get confusing” that unlocks a bunch of features when you press it.

(This may be a terrible idea, I don’t know)


FWIW, my impression is that you care a lot more about the quantified self aspect of Beeminder than is typical amongst Beeminder users (I don’t know if this is true, but it’s been my impression for a while). If you take away the QS aspect of it and think of it purely in terms of the desired behaviour change, is that still important to you?


I think this is a fabulous idea. Beeminder has (at least) two distinct audiences: the datanerds (who make up the bulk of the current user base) and tech-neutral-if-not-averse folks who just want a clear, comprehensible tool. A button like this acknowledges the distinct audiences while keeping all options available for everyone AND reducing the burden (and possibly impossible task) of making all the techynerdy features comprehensible to the nontechynerdy user.