Spoonfuls of sugar for the premium plan changes

(Continuing the discussion from Mega Feature List and the blog comments…)

Our recent premium changes have made some of you sad, which has made us sad. Seriously, this has been mildly traumatic – not least because of the fear that we’re shooting ourselves in the foot, that people will stop creating goals or signing up or recommending us unreservedly, and that we’ll fail.

And it’s hard to test pricing schemes – no fair charging people differently.

So we’re making a list of ways to make you happy about the changes… Please chime in!

1. Goals more grandfather-y

For some who’ve always taken it for granted that they can create goals left and right, it was especially jarring to hit that paywall on their next goal. (In the meantime we’ve at least automated that “more free goals please” button so the first time you press it you can just immediately create the goal, but that’s not getting at the root of the issue.)

So maybe it’s not enough that you can keep existing goals. They could also not count against the Infinibee limit. Meaning everyone who’s not premium would just magically get 3 more goals before they hit that paywall.

2a. Opt-in to pledges counting towards premium

This one would be kind of huge and potentially dangerous. I’m imagining it as a slider with dynamic text as you slide it but @bee and @chelsea are telling me to give it a rest with the damn sliders so it could also be radio buttons like so:

How much of your pledges should be applied to premium plans?

( ) 0% : “Don’t tamper with the purity of my incentives!”
( ) 50% : “Compromise! Credit half my paid pledges towards premium plans.”
( ) 100% : “I like free things! And I don’t think premium plans should cost anything anyway so no issues with skewed incentives for me!”

[ ] Apply this choice universally to all goals.

I know there are very varied opinions about applying pledges to premium and our first stab at a compromise was the first FAQ on the premium page which doesn’t feel like enough to some users. This may be the other extreme (even being opt-in).

Less drastic might be this:

2b. Waive the goal limit for people who pay pledges

For Infinibee only, you automatically get enrolled if you average more than $4/month in paid pledges.

3. Reward early adopters

(This one we’ve already done.)

Existing premium subscribers can keep their legacy plans indefinitely at the price they’ve been paying but we’ve also now (please let us know if you’re premium and haven’t seen an email from us!) sent out discount coupons for the new plans. The discounts are 10% off to 50% off depending on how long you’ve been premium. So 50% if you’ve been premium as long as it’s existed or 10% if you jumped on board right before we deployed the changes or 30% if right in between, etc.

For example, if you’ve been Plan Bee since the beginning then you can either switch to the new Beemium for $16/month or switch to Bee Plus for $8/month.

(Existing Beemium people are special because they just automatically moved to the new Beemium plan with the new charity perk. So maybe that suffices for them, but we’re checking in with them individually since there are only 28 of them and we know most of them by name. :))

4. Refunds in case we totally backtrack

(This one we’ll definitely do, unless it’s moot.)

It’s possible we’ll completely relent on the whole paywall thing. That might sort of get your goat if you sprung for a lifetime Infinibee plan (thank you to those of you who’ve done so!). So we’d refund those (maybe minus the price of however many months that you actually needed it to have unlimited goals). And in general do whatever post hoc adjustments make sense to make everything exquisitely fair.

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Reading the blog comments you referred to reinforces my enthusiasm for an earlier suggestion: make Beeminder a paid service, period, and give new users a 45-day trial with unlimited functionality.

I think this is the least offputting, user-friendliest approach if Beeminder absolutely has to earn more money than it’s earning just on pledges.

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I will also say that I don’t think your biggest issue is the response you’re getting from long-time users. Yes, you should make them all happy by grandfathering / discounting / etc., but the real issue is how does this affect new-user behavior?

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I think this is highly dangerous and for me there no non-zero % that wouldn’t have me thinking “If I take this derail before end of month I pay less on my next premium bill.” It encourages you to derail sooner to keep your bank fat, because any premium bill that gets paid with non-bank funds is a permanent loss.

I maintain that my original suggestion (Why should you pay for beeminder premium?) of having premium count towards pledges is much less destructive. It encourages you to derail later, when your bank is fatter and the total bank size is finite in a given time period.

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We’ve been talking about this. I think it harms the incentives either way [1] and the problem is the automatic coupling. So we can be as generous as we like with discounts on premium plans for high-rollers (as we call people who pay a lot in pledges), just not automatically apply pledges to premium or premium to pledges.

I can still see arguments on both sides of this but I think the tie-breaker is the time and effort it would take to implement it right. We’d rather spend that on the redesign (and yellow-brick halfplane and making do-less goals more consistent and making an interactive road editor and…)

@grayson: Astute points! I’m personally not a fan of trial periods but will keep thinking about this.


[1] If you could pay in to Beeminder and withdraw the money if you didn’t spend it on derailments then the incentives would be fine. But if your balance is growing and the only way to use it is to derail then at some point you’ll start feeling like you might as well derail. And, for a bunch of dumb real-world reasons, we can probably never support withdrawing your balance.

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I disagree. As I wrote in the post I linked, the incentive to derail is quite limited. Your bank can only pay half of a derail, so a 30 derail will cost you 15 no matter if your bank is 15 or infinity. Additionally, the pledge schedule means that your next derail is even more scary, and that too is true even if your bank is infinite.

I don’t see how you’ll ever be in a scenario where you feel like you might as well derail, even with an infinite bank.

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I’m not trying to persuade you that implementing the banking is top priority. But I do feel very strongly that the two banking types are very very different and that only one of them is worth implementing at all. :slight_smile:

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I see now; I missed the part about always paying at least half the pledge immediately. It’s still muddying things, like if you get to $90 you may think “but it’s really only $45 since I have so much in my Beeminder bank”. But you could be right that it’s a fair tradeoff. Just that my preference (especially factoring in implementation cost) is to keep pledges decoupled from premium and make sure the premium plans feel fair – that you’re getting extra value from them that makes sense to just pay for separately.

Btw, everyone contributing to this discussion, we want to reward you with a discount on premium plans! Hit us up: support@beeminder.com (Also saying nice things about us publicly, I think that’s grounds for especially hefty discounts.)

This situation isn’t any different than having your goal’s pledge be too low today. If it’s going to take $90 to motivate you, then you’re going to derail on $30. If that’s not a flaw in Beeminder, then I don’t think it’s any worse if the bank system lets the pledge creep below your threshold. Once you end up at $210 you won’t derail anymore even with an infinite bank.

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That’s a fair point. I stand by “muddying” in the sense that under your scheme, if you see “$90 at risk” then the true cost to you is something you have to confusingly reason about. I of all people should be perfectly used to that. :slight_smile: And you’re right that the problem is pretty self-correcting by waiting for the pledge to climb high enough that it’s moot.

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Suggestion: Mention on the blog post that you’ve moved the discussion over here! I left pretty extensive comments there without seeing the information here, but I don’t think any of my responses have particularly changed.

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Excellent comments on the blog post, Gretchen. Well said.

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I don’t really know how I should feel about your new premium plans, so I’ll just try to dump all of my thoughts here and hope that you can do something useful with them.

I think that you are in a tough position with Beeminder because I understand why you want to increase the recurring, predictable revenue, but on the other hand I don’t think that your business is really well suited for that.

Let me first explain that I do not consider myself to be the most dedicated Beeminder user. Now when I look, I am surprised to see that I have paid more than $250 in lost pledges since 2013 (i thought it was closer to $100), but I have typically used Beeminder for a few larger goals with large periods without any serious pledges or risk of derailing in between. Beeminder is a nuclear weapon that I will use when I want to commit seriously to a goal. I currently only have flat goals that I use for collecting data. Probably not what you want your users to do, but it keeps me coming back now and then.

I really want you and Beeminder to succeed, and I’ve always been happy to pay when I derailed because I got a lot for my money, both in terms of the Beeminder service and my own productivity. But on the other hand I have always found your premium plans outrageously expensive in the context of the value I would expect to gain from them specifically.

As I said, I have had at most 1 or 2 serious goals at a time. Those were the only goals where I actually would have liked to use a few of the premium features (advanced and automatic retroratcheting, and now weekends off) but I never felt that it was reasonable to pay so much to use just 2 features on 2 goals. I might have played around with the other features, but it was retroratcheting and weekends off that pulled on me and that I would most likely have used if they weren’t so expensive.

Luckily, the free plan always had everything I needed, so I could just keep using that, and I did experiment with a lot of different goals. Most of them didn’t stick for one reason or another, maybe because I didn’t care or because I was trying to measure the wrong thing, it wasn’t a problem because fooling around was free. I think it was these small experimental goals that sometimes turned out to be serious goals that I would end up paying a lot of money for. But that’s not going to happen any more.

I think the new premium plans will make me stop fooling around with the small goals that may or may not turn into the serious goals that I end up paying for. I don’t want to pay $4 per month just to fool around with new goals that I may never be serious about. I don’t want to beg for more free goals all the time, it would annoy me. I don’t want you to give me a premium plan for free either because I don’t want to worry about whether you’ll let me keep it the next month when i don’t pay any pledges because I am in a period where I have any serious goals. I don’t want to spend money or effort on any of that.

The new infinibee plan means that I would now have to pay $4/mth to create new goals, which was free before, while giving me absolutely nothing extra that I care about. It honestly seems like a joke.

  • Unlimited goals - fine, but I won’t pay $4/mth just for that, i’m used to getting it for free
  • Unlimited goal types - probably okay, I think they were free before but I didn’t really use them
  • Auto canceling subscription - that’s fine again but I don’t think it adds that much value
  • Fitness tip of the day - I really don’t care. There are plenty of free fitness tips online and I don’t believe that yours are so much better that I want to pay for them.

I think the features of the Bee Plus plan look interesting but I am totally unwilling to pay $16 per month to use them on the 1 or 2 serious goals that I sometimes have.

Have you considered a goal-based plan where users could choose to pay e.g. $1 per month to get the Bee Plus features for a single goal? I think that I would be very likely to do that for each of the serious goals that I sometimes have, it would almost be a nobrainer (given that the goals themselves are free to create in the first place). It might also be a good way for users to realize how nice it would be to pay for a regular plan to get Bee Plus features for all of their goals.

I guess that the big problem is that during some periods I am one of your serious users that you want to pay money (but I already do that through pledges and I think that’s fine), and during other periods I am a casual user that should be able to use Beeminder for free.

I honestly don’t like being so negative and I feel stupid complaining about you wanting to take my money, Beeminder is a business after all. On the other hand you’ve always valued feedback, and I’ve always valued that you value feedback.

I will totally understand it if you decide to stick with the new premium plans, and I won’t hold any kind of grudge, but I probably won’t stick around for it.

Plan Beemium makes a lot of sense. I really agree with Tenet the fourth from the blog post.

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[quote=“styrke, post:13, topic:2420”]
Unlimited goals - fine, but I won’t pay $4/mth just for that, i’m used to getting it for free[/quote]

(Emphasis mine.) I’m quoting these to reinforce that this is the pushback you’re getting from us established users (@styrke, I had the same reaction). I don’t think you (that is, @dreev and @bee) should use this kind of feedback to inform whether the change works for new users, and presumably n{new users} >> n{existing users}.

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Good point! Though it was sort of intentional. This discussion was originally for the more hardcore users and focused on how to make sure we do grandfathering fairly so no existing users feel like they want to leave (please please tell us if we’re failing at this for you!) and the blog comments I figured would be more newbee-focused. But that separation hasn’t panned out. I do generally like the forum better for discussion.

But I’m definitely reading everything in both places and still thinking hard about all this. Keep the feedback coming!

I’ve been thinking of financing beeminder, and why it feels like such a kludge to me.

My fundamental problem is that the current model of beeminder essentially makes less sense the less financially constrained you are.

The core idea in beeminder, at least as far as I can understand it, is that if it costs you money to derail, then at some amount of money, you’re going to be sufficiently motivated NOT to derail that you succeed in reaching your goals; in which case having the high pledge no longer costs you anything.

The problem is, that’s a great deal if $5 or $10 is sufficient motivation to keep you on track for some goal; but if you’re slightly less strapped for cash and need $500 or $5000 pledges in order to make a sufficient effort; then it becomes a much less attractive proposition.

Because in that case, beeminder is only worth using for goals of yours that are worth $5000 to you, and also; at that point you have to start comparing to alternative ways of reaching your goal.

If I want to learn to play guitar, and a $10 pledge is sufficient to make me practice twice a week, that’s cool. But if it takes $2000 to make me actually practice twice a week, then I’m probably better of hiring an actual guitar-teacher.

Meanwhile premium plans are the other way around: discouraging to people who are short on cash, but affordable to people who have a more unconstrained cashflow.

So who is beeminder for then? Well-off people who will need to send you very high amounts of money in order to actually make any impact on their goals? You’re poor value to them. Or poorer people who ARE very strongly motivated by a $10 or $25 pledge? $16/month or even $4/month is strongly motivating those people NOT to pay for beeminder …

As it is, beeminder seems great for people who are strongly motivated not to send beeminder $25 in derailment fee, but who at the same time does not mind sending beeminder $48 or $192 every year.

And that looks too close to a null set.

Personally I like the tracking-stuff, but consider the derailment-payments a nuisance of no practical value in motivating me, in the cases where I am willing to pay a high amount in order to reach a goal, there’s almost always a better option than beeminder. I’d be willing to pay a modest amount for the practical value in beeminders tracking, but that amount is bounded upwards, $50/year MIGHT be okay, but $100/year would be right out; the value is just not that high, I can put the data in a spreadsheet for free after all.

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Just read the e-mail, it seems like a lot of people are in the “I’d like to upgrade, but I only want one of the new features in the higher tiers and paying for all of them feels too expensive.” I don’t know would make things more complicated, but perhaps a “pay-per-feature” type model may work?

[quote=“styrke, post:13, topic:2420”]
Most of them didn’t stick for one reason or another, maybe because I didn’t care or because I was trying to measure the wrong thing, it wasn’t a problem because fooling around was free. I think it was these small experimental goals that sometimes turned out to be serious goals[/quote]

This is an excellent point. Fooling around with a bunch of minor experimental goals is part of the process of discovering what you value enough to get serious with. It’s not that the individual experiments are worth anything, but that systemic exploration is invaluable.

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Part of the value that I personally get from Beeminder is not having to interact with an actual guitar-teacher.

Your example would also tell me something about how much I actually want to learn to play the guitar. And maybe, yes, the answer is that I definitely want to learn, and frequent in-person instruction is my best option (for all sorts of reasons, not merely cash).

That’s still a win for beeminding, because it’s a self-awareness that I wouldn’t have got without first finding out that $10 didn’t (or did) get me to do enough quality practice.

Aside: originally I read your comment as being if $10 for once a week and $2000 for twice a week, which was a pretty cool gradient.

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Not really, or at least, I do not think this is universally true. A guitar teacher cannot necessarily make you practice twice a week. There are some for whom the social pressure of knowing they have to face their guitar teacher and risk looking stupid if they have not practiced is enough to make them practice. But I know I at least am not one of them. In fact, I suspect that if it really took a $2000 pledge to force you to practice, then having a guitar teacher would not.

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