perverse incentives and the paradox of beeminder's sting

People often complain about Beeminder’s perverse incentives. We
started to address that in the last paragraph of our most recent blog
post:

It seems that from the perspective of those paying us,
Beeminder is providing a ton of value and a ton of motivation
and the occasional cost of derailment is a fair fee for
Beeminder’s service. In that sense it’s almost natural that the
fee is waived for people who never go off track. Those people
evidently didn’t really need Beeminder in the first place.

In other words, Beeminder is putting itself on the map for exactly one
reason: it makes people more awesome.

But that can lead to the opposite complaint – that Beeminder’s sting
is so valuable as to be self-defeating. In other words, it’s hard to
be motivated by the threat of having to pay Beeminder if you feel that
Beeminder has already earned that money! Please don’t laugh but we’d
like to propose that the solution is to just hurry and get to an
obscene pledge amount. After the $5 and $10 pledges it gets obscene
quite quickly: $30, $90, $270…

We ourselves have the problem of reduced sting even moreso: for some
of our goals – blog.beeminder.com/blogdog – we pay our users and for
others we’re just paying ourselves (minus credit card processing fees
and other overhead). But it just means that we need to get up to
crazier pledges before they’re motivating. The $90 Bethany and I both
have on bmndr.com/d/meta and bmndr.com/b/meta is maybe/sorta
sufficiently motivating but we tend to skate the edge and it’s
probably a matter of time before something comes up and makes us
derail. (Tip: Keep an eye on blog.beeminder.com/blogdog for your
chance to win!) I have $810 pledged on bmndr.com/d/ontask but that was
frightening enough that I made the road super conservative. But I
think that still works. If I get annoyed with myself for not being
on-task enough then I’ll dial up that road despite the frighteningly
high cost of failure. (I’m also excited to try Paul Fenwick’s latest
scheme for staying on task; see recent thread here as well as
http://www.facebook.com/paul.fenwick/posts/399413113449380 )


http://dreev.es – search://"Daniel Reeves"
Follow the Yellow Brick Road – http://beeminder.com