Review: Forfeit is the yoda of commitment device apps

Beeminder is fantastic. You want to be able to do something and suddenly you can accomplish what you want to complete! But after years of using it, there was a small problem with how Beeminder interfaced with my (atypical) brain that I‘ll call the intention commitment gap - I’ll describe it as

Whenever a commitment device fails to motivate, even if it is nominally the user’s fault for not setting a commitment device to be aggressive enough to motivate.

For example, if I were to have 7 beeminder goals that were blue, (would have financial consequences in two days) but not green… (Financial consequences in three days.)

As I used beeminder more and more, a blue goal became a deeply abstract idea - if I don’t make progress on this goal, I will have punishment… in two days.

But in the back of my mind I did want to do these goals. All of them. Why would I have created them if I did not? But time and time again my brain would be unable to see a blue or yellow (consequences in one day) goal and get myself to working on it, even though logically I knew I would suffer the consequences if I didn’t do it while the goal still had time left at yellow as opposed to being red - the day when Beeminder’s stick comes into effect.


I could have tried to make progress on these goals. And I think that’s the key word that brought it down - try. It was something OPTIONAL, even though there would be consequences if I did not do it now. I needed to close that gap between intention and consequence - bringing future consequences to the present to motivate present behavior!

I could set Beeminder to be more aggressive, but that created the side effect of having my goals always be on the verge of red - which is, stressful! Sure, there are ways to make that go away but having four or more goals that are red when you’re setting the Bee to be aggressive makes you feel - wrong. And bad. Because you have these things that are blaring red on your dashboard every day. And while it may seem like a little thing, having red colors on a webpage, weaponized psychology is the whole product of Beeminder, no?

I’ve been trying Forfeit for the past few weeks, which is like TaskRatchet, but unlike TaskRatchet (sorry TaskRatchet devs I love you but I only aim to speak the truth! :slight_smile: ) the interface was actually inviting enough to convince me to create my first goal within the application, which I believe are called Forfeits. I think Forfeit has the best goal creation flow of any commitment device I reckon on mobile. I mean, you get sign a little contract with your finger each time you want to create a goal and you read through a little colorful modern blurb explaining your goal every time, how cool is that?

I think the other strength of Forfeit’s goal creation which is fairly understated (besides pulling off the nanny bot version of Beeminder postulated in Beeminder blog posts so good by having reoccurring and one time goals on the same user interface, laid out by due date chronologically - fan girling!) is that, despite the existence of more sophisticated options, the easiest reoccurring goal (forfeit) type you can create is a daily, once every day goal, or a goal that hides from your dashboard except for the days that you need to complete it.

It makes it terribly simple (if you choose to use it like that) - if there is a blue bubble on my forfeit homepage, I have to do this, or lose money! Do or do not (and lose money) - there is no try (except when you set a beeminderdy accomplish x percentage of goals a week type goal :P)

Open the app. Got a list of things I MUST do. Finish them. They go away and turn green and grey! Don’t finish them? They go red (and grey) and I lose money.

While there is less precision than beeminder, the intentionally simplistic (but best in class slick) goal creation I think works in Forfeit’s favor for my brain. (Even goals that are beemindery, as in, complete x percent of forfeits in a week to avoid derailing, are presented almost identically in the app to every other type of goal - so that your brain, wired to complete a blue goal each time you see one, slowly starts tackling these once every other day goals daily for the clean goals page you get as a reward at the end of a day for accomplishing everything on your plate.)

If I were to implement this same kind of functionality in Beeminder to get what I needed to get done done, it would work, but not as well, as I have found for my brain - a page blaring red all the time if I were to set a goal to be needed to be completed every 6.5 or 7 days out of 7, makes me feel bad and stressed. Beeminder can be used in that way, but from a psych welcoming perspective, it’s definitely tuned for other use cases.

Thinking about it from a behavioral design perspective, it also makes a lot of sense for my brain from that perspective as well.

Behavior = Motivation * Ability * Prompt

With beeminder, I would have the prompt but lack motivation due to the lack of sting attached to leaving a goal in the yellow, green, or blue areas with limited immediate consequences. However, I ended up extremely frustrated because I had the ability to do so, and I had the prompt to do so in front of me.

With Forfeit checking out the same equation, it becomes a lot different - every bubble on the page has a clear motivator behind it - if you see something blue, you should probably do it today. And I have the motivation at the end of the day to see the list of blue bubbles cleared out. I have the ability to do so, and I am prompted by the app to do so.

That’s my rant! :slight_smile:

Forfeit is still missing tons of quality of life features that beeminder has spoiled me on, but having an todo list commitment device app and a reoccurring goals app that you can tailor to provide a schedule for how you can tackle every hour of the day is a dream come true. Thanks to the Forfeit devs, the Beeminder devs for giving me the language to think about this, (+ getting me thru college and helping me write my first musical :D) and all the Beeminder competitors and this forum for being great places to think about commitment devices :slight_smile:


I gave it a try, and I must say, I absolutely love it! Initially, I was hesitant to continue using it because I was worried that it might not survive due to a lack of users. However, your comment has made me reconsider.

One of the things I really appreciate is the ability to send proof without any additional cost. Moreover, the UI is simply delightful. It’s so well-designed and visually appealing.


I had raised the same concerns about profitability, but I actually ended up spending about a dollar per 4 completed items, which is actually really quite good! I imagine it’ll be less as I shift from a Beeminder to Forfeit mindset, but yeah, something about taking photographs as proof just tickles my satisfaction brain.

In the back of my head, as much as I hate to admit it, I imagine some part of me is going, yes, please check my work! I did it! :stuck_out_tongue:

In Beeminder derailing is the result of a long term trend. Whereas Forfeit you can derail on a bunch of things quickly without much prior warning, though the appeal system is good. I think because you can derail a bunch of forfeits in quick succession and because you derail a lot more often than Beeminder, it has the side effect of making me make reoccurring goals that I know I can accomplish every day, even on my worst day which has the (unintended?) effect of naturally encouraging you to gradually add small habits that build on each other? It’s kind of incredible.