Beeminder Forum

Upside down support

I’ve heard @dreev and @shanaqui mention Beeminder’s unique support philosophy, and I’d like to know more and have something to refer back to. Any chance we could get a new Beeminder blog post on the topic?


Here is the 7 year old original blog post BTW:


Ahaha, it will have to include how very hard @dreev had to hammer the concept into my head before I suddenly went “OHHH”.

In the end, I figured out the rule of thumb that made this click for me: every support interaction that isn’t 100% routine, my aim is to come out of it with (at least) one piece of usable feedback.


ooh, yeah, definitely needs to happen! thanks for posting the link to where the idea originated, @smitop! specifically the “Don’t just offer help, ask for it” section.

but we’ve taken it to extremes and i have a lot more to say about it!

to tide y’all over in the meantime, lemme paste a couple things from the private “supsidedown” category of the forum, for making fun of users discussing support strategies and policies:

in case this is a useful example to see, i dialed up the upside-downness to 11 on this:

yikes, that’s extremely bad that the beeminder emails stopped coming through for you. can you go to and confirm that the checkboxes for email are still checked? you can also go to an individual goal’s settings tab and send a test reminder and see if that comes through. really appreciate your help figuring out what went wrong there! deliverability problems with email could be devastating for us.

ps, canceled the charge and undid the derailment on ___

i want to encourage everyone to do that. full upside-downness first with a bare minimum of actual helping as like a literal afterthought.

i should add that i’m intentionally exaggerating and pushing fellow support workerbees (I count as one too!) out of their comfort zones. @shanaqui and @justanotherjon especially are extraordinarily good and kind humans and every instinct in their bodies screams at them to leap to your assistance when you email support with a problem. so it takes very conscious control (and clever heuristics like @shanaqui comes up with) to flip the interactions upside down.

another one:

i started saying a thing in support that i like; not sure what y’all think of it:

“keep this kind of feedback coming; hugely helpful!”

Philosophical tangent:
i guess i like how it’s particularly unapologetic about the upside-down-ness. like literally an imperative: keep doing this (because it goes without saying that the point of support is improving beeminder).

i keep finding myself wanting to push it more extreme (i really like extremes!) like every time we help a user we have to reframe it as helping beeminder. “ok, fixed your thing; thanks for highlighting the confusingness of this; it really helps us figure out how to make this work better for newbees” or whatever.


or maybe the philosophizing is unnecessary and it’s just that i’ve hit on a more sincere-sounding version of “thanks for the feedback”. something that doesn’t just say we appreciate it (big companies have ruined that) but that kinda demonstrates it:

“keep this kind of feedback coming!”

anyway, non-rhetorical question: does that make sense? would it work in your own support voice?

one more, from our out-of-date support manual:

Don’t be helpful! Specifically, don’t do things for users that they could do themselves. Instead, point them in the right direction and ask for feedback about how easy it is to find and do. This is counterintuitive so I’ll repeat it: always shift the focus to them helping us, not us helping them.

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I also want to re-emphasize the genuineness of all this. We really do need users’ help in understanding what Beeminder could’ve done better to have avoided the problems users email us about – figuring out the root issues. And asking for help is really hard. But it’s worth it and we’ve gone to great lengths to overcome our fear of doing it and Beeminder support interactions tend to be pretty amazing because of it. (Also because of our amazing support workerbees. :blush:)


Because Beeminder is this thing that I built, to me it is deeply mortifying when someone points out a bug or is describing how they drew a completely different conclusion than what I intended, or whatever. That’s the driving force behind upside-down-ness for me! I personally feel embarrassed and responsible when something goes wrong, because I am! If I focus on the embarrassment and apologizing that gets me nowhere, though, but if I ask the user for help in figuring it out, then…

It’s like “well, I could feel defensive and try to hide from this embarrassment,” (which, to be clear, I do plenty — I absolutely hate hallway tests, for example, because it’s much more direct/personal/in-person confrontation of that uncomfortable feeling), “but if I ask the user for help I not only get to fix the problem — which feels really important to me, because, Beeminder’s my baby and all that — but I also refocus the user’s irritation or whatever negative feelings, or entitlement feelings they’re having about it into feelings of usefulness and helpfulness (in most cases).

This is hardest for me to do when it’s a problem that’s been outstanding for a long time and we just don’t know how to fix it, or don’t have the resources to prioritize the problem higher or whatever. Then I just feel impotent and it sucks to have to like, solicit the help that I know I can’t actually use? Or something.

So possibly another way to sum up the Beeminder support philosophy in a sentence is “think like a founder”?