Beeminder Forum

No-Excuses Mode

In “(Not) Embracing Sting Dilution” (don’t bother to read it – we’ve dropped the idea and I’m about to repeat the still-relevant parts), I talked about an idea for a kind of freeloader filter.

There’s a particular kind of user – and I think we accidentally encourage this in our marketing copy – who treat Beeminder as a game where the goal is to never ever pay Beeminder a penny. Some of those users have conversations with us in support about each derailment and why it wasn’t legit. It’s not actually common but it’s frustrating when it happens.

[EDIT: Ironically our most amazing users keep spotting that paragraph and freaking out that they’re who we’re talking about. Repeating my latest response: eeek, no no no! you are the exact opposite of that type of user! really really the opposite. you pay us regularly and only lean on support for actual exceptional circumstances. that’s exactly as designed! in the above paragraph i meant it very literally: people who view it as a game to literally never pay us and have zero shame about coming up with a ridiculous, weaselly reason for every single derailment, why it wasn’t their fault.]

Partly related to that problem (if it is a problem – we’re not actually sure!) and partly because we just like the idea, we’ve been thinking about revamping weaselproofing. It seems that “doctor’s note”-style weaselproofing like we have now is not actually popular and no one (least of all our poor support workerbees) would be sad to see it go away. Also it kind of encourages an excuse-making mentality which feels very… anti-beemindery.

(There are other aspects of weaselproofing besides the “show us proof that your derail wasn’t legit” aspect, like not letting you tamper with autodata or not letting you delete a goal in the first week, that we do still like and intend to keep.)

So instead of weaselproofing, we’re thinking about a no-excuses mode that you could opt into. Charges could happen as soon as your deadline hit and if you asked for a refund because your cat threw up or whatnot, we would, well, we can’t really refuse to do refunds but maybe we’d delete your whole account if you insisted on reneging? I don’t know. Spec needed there. Maybe it would be enough to remind people of what they agreed to. Also making you do something more than check a box to remove all ambiguity about what you’re agreeing to.

(At the opposite end of this spectrum, the idea of a self-serve legit check option is also semi-popular and I just can’t decide how to think about that. It might make sense as an expensive premium option so that only serious, conscientious users who know what they’re doing can risk ruining Beeminder by opting for it. Or conceivably we should charge for the status quo full-service legit checks since those are what actually cost us money. More likely we’ll just continue to eschew the idea of calling non-legit without talking to a human.)

Ok, poll time!

Which of the following are true for you for at least some goals:
  • [QUO] “I value status quo weaselproofing where I have to provide some kind of proof of my excuse”
  • [NOE] “I’d sometimes opt in to ‘no excuses’ mode, committing to treat all derailments as legit”
  • [MAN] “I value having a human on the other side of my legit checks as in the status quo”
  • [SEL] “I’d love a self-serve legit check option and am certain that wouldn’t ruin Beeminder for me”

0 voters

Approval voting as always; check all that apply. And if you already answered this in the beemail poll, you’re encouraged to re-answer.

The results from the beemail:

  • 3ish people (~20%) value status quo weaselproofing [QUO]
  • 6.5ish people (~50%) would be into no-excuses mode [NOE]
  • 10 people (~80%) value the status quo with humans on the other side of legit checks [MAN]
  • 6 people (<50%) (think they) want a self-serve legit check button [SEL]

What proportions of the total are each of these?

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Good question. Those are all divided by 13 respondents. Lemme edit in the percentages.

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I’ve personally faced a lot of trouble with external integrations having technical issues with Beeminder which has caused me to illegitimately fail goals a few times in the past.

Not sure I’d be very happy if I was forced to pay due to one of these things, but I guess it could be added as a disclaimer.

I suppose the solution would be to give myself some buffer and resolve issues before they cause a derailment.

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I think a lot of my goals could be either self-serve or no-excuses. Since I try to be so explicit in my fine print, support basically never challenges my non-legit calls. Of course, just the fact that a person is paying attention has some value for ensuring I say honest and don’t start down a slippery slope, so for that reason it does appeal to be able to decide on a per-goal basis which goals should be under what regime, and hopefully I’d be able to say, “Nope, actually, I need a person for this goal,” and change it back even after I’d put it under self-serve.

But if these options can make Beeminder better for users and reduce support costs, I’m all for them!!

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I would be sad to see it go away!

Do you mean with weaselproofing on or off?

My understanding is that with weaselproofing off, support doesn’t challenge a non-legit call, regardless of what you have or don’t have in your fine print - that’s what it means to have weaselproofing off.

I think:

  • there should be an option for freely calling non-legit (whether self-serve or human-mediated). Currently this is weaselproofing off.

  • there should be an option for no-excuses, AND

  • there needs to be an option for “I have fine print and I would like Beeminder to determine whether the current circumstances fall into my fine print.” In other words, making Beeminder the judge. As I understand it, this last option is weaselproofing on. This could include requiring a doctor’s note, or not.

Since this last one is extra work for the Beehive, there may need to be extra charges for this.

If calling non-legit is also extra work, there may need to be extra charges for this as well.

Ok, I am a little confused about this.

Beeminder is a game where the goal is to never pay Beeminder. That’s the whole point. Ideally you do this by always doing your tasks.

But for any game, you have to play within the rules. It’s up to each individual what these rules are.

A user who wants to freely call non-legit should have that option. And a user who wants to put rules in their fine print and have Beeminder adjudicate whether a derailment is legit should also have that option.

What I don’t understand is why there are conversations about why the derailment was or wasn’t legit, and why this is frustrating.

Do these users have weaselproofing on? If not, just let them freely call non-legit.

If so, Beeminder needs to be comfortable making a decision, and let that be the end of the conversation, either way.

What is the frustrating part?

I think it’s important for Beeminder to avoid paternalism (at least the type concerning what rules users have). Beeminder is a very customizable tool that can be used in many ways. Users should be able to configure and use Beeminder in the way that works best for them. That’s the whole idea of a commitment contract.

Users should be able to set whatever rules or standards about legit derailments work best for them, if they choose to do so, and Beeminder in my opinion should just enforce those. Not argue about it, just make a ruling and stick to it. I feel like the frustration comes when users have different views than Beeminder about how to set their rules, and I think Beeminder should be an agnostic judge on this issue.

If there are cost and revenue issues, those should be dealt with directly by charging more for whatever uses Beeminder’s resources.

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Where can I find this feature? Thanks

Oh, any Beeminder bug or technical issue with an autodata integration partner would be an exception to no-excuses, I’d say. We definitely need to hear about such things.

We could say “no excuses and you always pay for every derailment, but also we have a bug bounty equal to your pledge for reporting any problems with Beeminder, including its autodata integrations”.

No no, our philosophy is generally that if you’re able to maintain buffer then you must not need Beeminder that badly in the first place. (I know there are a million exceptions to that but, still, “I guess you should’ve maintained more safety buffer” is never going to be a satisfactory answer.)

Subject to the akrasia horizon (i.e., with a one-week delay), I think that makes sense for no-excuses mode. For the very hypothetical self-serve mode, I guess it would be the opposite. You could turn it on with a one-week delay and turn it back off instantly. (But I don’t think self-serve mode will be a thing.)

Oh we do, just that ultimately we believe you and do what you feel is fair, if you engage with us human-to-human.

Well, we want to discourage that. People who reply to legit checks all the time with random-seeming reasons they don’t think the derailment is legit are frustrating. It’s tempting – just so we wouldn’t have to witness such seeming weaselliness – to offer such people a self-serve legit check button but it seems too dangerous.

Good point, and that’s valuable! Well, maybe? I would say Beeminder is doing that with or without weaselproofing. We don’t really like it and feel like it should be pretty expensive. For people who pay a lot (like by being Beemium, but also just if they have plenty of legit derailments) it definitely feels fair and valuable.

It’s part of current weaselproofing! It’s at the bottom of the Commitment tab under your graph. (Thanks so much for asking that! It’s completely opaque right now that that’s part of weaselproofing and we need to fix that.)

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I’m a chronic introvert and bothering people because something unexpected went wrong on my end stresses me, despite everyone being super kind. It would be nice if there was some option of circumventing that… maybe not permanently available, but like a limited amount of veto vouchers for a goal. By the time I run out, I will have figured out what integration broke where, when I should have synced, or how much padding I need to leave for myself to account for medical emergencies.

I get that integrations breaking or me misunderstanding some technical aspect of something is grounds to nix a derailment, but I don’t want to bother anyone and, on top of that, (despite objectively maybe seeing it as something I didn’t do wrong) my guilt about (possibly) derailing knocks my anxiety meter to 11. About a year ago, after a dense line-up of medical situations, travel snafus, and integrations that just refused to behave predictably, I opted to manually enter the necessary data and force-archive all my goals instead of having to talk to people and stress out about it even more. I’m back now and trying to cross my fingers that it’ll have a different result, but I’d feel much calmer if I knew that on the other end of “something going wrong” there wasn’t another stressful scenario.

I get that I’m definitely in the minority. But if that option existed, my anxious self would jump on it immediately.

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Thinking hard about this! Thank you! One thing to keep in mind: if an integration is being flaky or you misunderstood something, replying to the legit check is extremely valuable for us! Even if the flakiness isn’t Beeminder’s fault and even if the misunderstanding was your own fault, just seeing such patterns is really important. So in case that helps overcome the reluctance to reply – it really does help us!

(And again, no-excuses mode will have exceptions for flaky integrations.)

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Oh, goodness, I completely hear you. I have GAD (generalised anxiety disorder) and I can spin up a situation like this into a whole astonishing baroque drama in seconds, without any input from my logical mind… so I can totally understand how difficult it is to reach out to us about this kind of thing. And it gets worse when other stuff is going on, as you described with all the issues you had that led to ending your goals; the overwhelm is real. I used to be super shy about contacting support for anything, before I joined the team: I actually recently told @dreev a story about when I was first hired and I needed a goal for tracking my hours, and I wouldn’t click the button until @alys convinced me it would be okay and that she would make sure she answered the email and not someone else! So, I really do feel you on this one.

If you’d contacted us in that situation, we’d have figured out something that was fair and didn’t lead to you being charged for something you had no control over. I don’t know if it helps at all to know that Beeminder’s Support Czar is actually someone who struggles with anxiety, but because I struggle with it, sensitivity to that and other mental health issues is something I try to keep in mind when chatting to people via support. I mean, I still aim to hold your feet to the fire, but nicely.

(Where nicely = according to the commitment contract, while being scrupulously fair, and also if you give me half a chance I’ll tell you what I’m reading and send you pictures of my rabbits or something.)

I know Danny said it, but I want to really emphasise that when you let us know that integrations have broken or you’ve misunderstood something, that is really useful for us. Not just for Beeminder’s future direction, but pretty much immediately in terms of how support works and explains things, what we know and what we have documented. I promise that we are really grateful for that kind of feedback.

Heck, we’re not just grateful for it, we’re excited about it. I actually love my job – bring me your derailments and your weird integrations! I wanna sink my teeth in and get it figured out.

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Ahem, assuming you actually derailed, points out @mary, who is extremely good at spotting such things. Probably better to just drop the idea of monetary bug bounties altogether until we can introduce them in a sustainable way. For now it’s just stickers (plus our undying gratitude) for reporting bugs! And, to bring us back to the topic at hand, canceling charges on derailments even if it was in no-excuses mode.

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