Beeminder Forum

The case for making "Automatically trim safety buffer" a free feature

Insufficient monetization is typically the reason why digital products die.

Since Beeminder can monetize in two forms (derailments and premium subscriptions) it needs to balance these two monetization levers taking into account its mission, ethics etc etc

But one thing is certain: if Beeminder can make more revenue by doing more social good, it should be a no-brainer kind of decision to make.
(more revenue = more devs = more cool features = more users = more productive world = cure for cancer)

By looking at the premium features I can clearly spot two features that, when adopted by users, directly increase derailment opportunities and thus monetization (without being evil!):

Unlimited goals: although it’s a premium feature, it can also be accessed by free users

Automatically trim safety buffer: The less buffer one has, the more prone to derailment this person is.

The case for NOT making “Automatically trim safety buffer” a free feature

The main reason for not making this feature free is if it’s the key feature that makes people upgrade from Infinibee to Bee Plus AND the number of people that take this path is too significant.

The other reason I can see is that this feature might generate a lot of support tickets from free users if it’s complex to set up.

Have you ever considered this from this angle?

p.s.: I’m dying to know the percentage of the company’s revenue that comes from derailments vs from premium subscriptions. And also the breakdown between the multiple premium plans.
p.p.s.: Sorry if I’m sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong. I love the product and have the best of the intentions.


You’re in the absolute right place - you can be sure not only is your suggestion going to be appreciated but also at the very least taken into consideration :slight_smile:


Yeah, this is quality business advice! Thank you! In some ways we’re way ahead of you and have been talking about The Great Auto-Ratchet Flippening for a while. We want to make it so that goals on the free plan can’t accumulate more than a week or a month of safety buffer. If you have huge amounts of safety buffer, that’s a bit like a pledgeless goal, is not beemindery, and should be in Beemium with the rest of the unbeemindery or revenue-eating features. The “I just want a nice graph without ever risking paying anything” use case should, philosophically, be the expensive premium thing. Not the “I want to edge-skate this puppy” use case, as you say!

We’ve been putting it off though, for a bunch of reasons, some of which you’ve anticipated. I think the biggest is that auto-ratchet kind of blows up the road matrix and we really want to implement it better before unleashing it on the majority of goals. Also we have to really nail the interface and the messaging to not seem like jerks, or surprising people by stealing away their hard-earned buffer. (This may also tie in with auto-dialing.) You may be right that we could just not worry about that half of it and at least make auto-ratchet opt-in for free for everyone.


PS: Revenue graphs for inquiring minds


FWIW, autoratchet is definitely one of the major reasons (along with weekends off, although there are workarounds for that one with ifttt) I would never go non-premium.


I agree with you about the feature, but the phrasing “is not beemindery” rubs me the wrong way. to me, beeminder is a tool to help me accomplish my goals. sometimes inputting the data alone is motivation, and sometimes I need the extra kick. but I don’t think pledgeless goals fall into the same un-beemindery camp as “it’s a game where I never pay any money.” its not a game, its a tool, and its great for me that i can use the tool in different ways depending on whay works for my different goals (both beeminder Goals and the underlying life goals they’re helping resolve). if many users have huge safety buffers on most/all of their goals, maybe im overgeneralizing my experience.


The problem with having huge safety buffers is not only that users get comfy and derail less, IMO the biggest problem is that this allows them not to stick with a daily habit and thus give up on their goal and quit beeminder altogether a couple days/weeks later.

Thx for the detailed answer!! I love your transparency and the “build in public” ethos


This is important feedback for us and we do love what a powerful and flexible tool Beeminder is. Also it’s pretty amazing and gratifying seeing all the ways people use it that we never imagined. Since this thread is from a Beeminder-as-a-business perspective, let me both acknowledge that and the general importance of not rubbing users the wrong way as well as say that we have to hold ourselves back a bit from our natural desire to be everything to everyone. I think Basecamp’s admonition to make Opinionated Software is important advice for us. We’re not going to start breaking people’s workflows willy-nilly but we need to … well, I guess I said this in our own blog post about the startup egg-basket principle (which, having just reread it, is making very much the point @gustavohsouza led with in this thread!).

Exactly. Well said. I also think – slightly at odds with what I just wrote above – that we can generally get the best of both worlds with the right design where newbees who don’t know what they’re doing never end up with stupid amounts of safety buffer but power users who know exactly what they’re doing can have exactly that when they’re sure that that’s what makes sense.


Will you drop the “goal” element from the road matrix 3-tuple (leaving just time and rate)?

Definitely agree trimming safety buffer fits with “precommit to recommit” etc. Can’t think of a goal that I wouldn’t want this to be the default on.


No, by blowing up the road matrix I mean proliferating the number of pieces in the piecewise-linear function that is the yellow brick road. How those pieces are defined isn’t the issue so much as how many of them there are.

I’m thinking that one solution could be retro-ratcheting – steepening the current segment of road, including in the past. I haven’t thought it through yet though!


This sort of thing always seems very counterintuitive to me, but I may not be representative (and maybe more important I know next to nothing about your constraints, other than the ones intrinsic to the problem).

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Yeah, I don’t like the idea of ratcheting modifying the road in the past. Feels super weird and dangerous. I want to be able to see where I was in relation to the road in the past. Allowing ratcheting to modify the road in the past kind of re-writes history in my mind.

Also, on buffer, I have some goals that are “do x every six months,” which can be super useful for following through on things that I need to do, but only very infrequently. I’m probably ok if that’s only a feature for paying users, but thought I’d mention it. Some of my goals would be unusable without the ability to have six months of buffer.


I am looking for some help. I am on the free plan with three goals, to evaluate if this product is useful or not. I tried the help and FAQ, and this post looks the closest.

I am not sure what I miss, but it doesn’t make sense. It seems I have too long until it will remind me that I am off path. For doing 10 min exercice per day, and doing 5 to-dos per day, it looks like I can be off path for almost a week, totally lose track, before it will help me to come back.

If it is a paid feature, what do I need to enable? I might subscribe for a month, but then it is not really a trial anymore…

Or are these the paying features, as you say on the top?

What shall I enable to make it work?

I want to be reminded to make 10 min exercise per day, but now if I do 1h, it allows me to do nothing the next day.

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The feature you want is called “autoratchet” and it will automatically reduce the amount of time you have left. It requires a Bee Plus plan.

Other options are to manually reduce the amount of time you have using the “ratchet” feature, which does not require paying for premium, but you have to do it manually, or to just increase your daily requirement.


Thanks, I tried it, and it looks like it works! The graph looks like this now:

I think this should be explained more clearly when setting up goals.
And I would make this part of the free package, otherwise it doesn’t make much sense to use the product.

Unless I take the effort to search, and come here to the forum, I would just have moved on and try some other app.

I am not an English native, I didn’t know what ratchet means [here], and I just ignored it, thinking it is a geek feature for later. I knew ratchet from bike repair, but it didn’t make sense here…


I am on the free plan, finding my way around beeminder. It was exactly the case for me: a month long safety buffer, and it just didn’t make sense using beeminder. Fortunately I got some help here, and now it looks more useful.

If you don’t want to make this feature available for free, at least you should explain it.
I would rather make a low cost plan for 1-2 USD per month, for 3 goals, with all the features, so we can test all the features.
Or make some other way of trying out the “advanced” features that you reserve for the expensive plans.

There are just suddenly so many digital subscriptions trying to trim my wallet, I am getting careful to pay only for things I actually use.


I sympathize. I have a degree in math and at least a little knowledge of a few programming languages and I still found Beeminder difficult to learn and understand.

I love Beeminder. It’s an amazingly powerful and flexible piece of software, it’s saved my ass many times, it’s gotten me out of blackest depression and up and doing things again, it keeps me functional. But like many extremely powerful programs, it has a steep learning curve and not a lot of good introductory explanations or tutorials.

I also struggled with it and didn’t really get it at first when I started playing with it years ago. The first few times I tried I couldn’t understand how it worked or how to use it. It took many tries and a lot of practice. People have suggested that there be better intro materials, but sadly things don’t seem to have improved much on that front.


I see. I didn’t expect a slow learning curve, I thought I just sign up and go… in fact, I was thinking to use it to save time. (What can be complicated about ticking boxes about habits?) The other habit tracking apps need constant manual intervention to enter if I did something and how much.

I was happy to discover to see it can be automated here by pulling data from my watch, Fitbit, Todoist.

But in the end I spend more time figuring it out and troubleshooting than I spent entering data in the other apps… otherwise, it looks promising and I hope when finally I managed to set it up, it works without intervention.


Alas, the constant stream of UVIs are actually one of the hold-ups here. I have previously recorded video tutorials, but they become partially obsolete almost as soon as made, sometimes in very important ways. I tried recording them in a modular way so re-recordings don’t take too long, but then cutting everything together is beyond my current skillset. If anyone has suggestions on (preferably free) software for doing this kind of thing, I’d actually really appreciate it.


I think making it a free feature is a great idea! Or at least make it possible to buy the feature at a lower price point than the second-most pricy Premium plan. I would gladly pay 5 bucks per month just for that feature, but 16 per month is just too much. I know the plan contains other things, but this is the only feature that I would pay for.


I like the sentiment! Even if our primary audience is nerds, I think that sign-up-and-go is where we should be aiming

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