Wet Feet AKA Mandatory $5 Pledges

I just went to add a goal and found that $0 initial pledges have been removed from beeminder plus. I’d like to just say I miss the $0 first pledge. I wish I’d noticed some warning this was happening. Here’s a link to the blog post that went up about this.

Maybe I’m the minority but I have a lot of tiny daily goals that I use to limit the damage done by low-energy/depressive episodes. I get some steps, I drink my water, I eat at least 1000 calories, I clear my coffee table, etc. At a $0 penalty, I’ve maintained a 6-month step streak, for example. To me, even the threat of a $0 goal possibly going to $5 was enough of a motivation. Again, we know this worked for me because I maintained the goals. As another example, look at Nicki’s public goals, they have had a reading one since 2022 and have read 150k pages this way. readreadread – shanaqui – beeminder

Because I use Beeminder to enforce a sort of minimum daily activity, I have many of them set to autoratchet down to a daily beemergency. This worked for me. But I think having 10 daily goals, all of which could bill me $5, would become a psychic burden. I’m trying to think my way through this.

You’ll say don’t ratchet down to beemergency. I guess but the whole point was to encourage myself to get a little done every day. Even when I’m sad and don’t want to move. If I have a bunch of buffer, I’ll lose this daily motivation.

You’ll say the $50 should be my motivation. Sure, but I was motivated by the threat of the threat of $50. The blog post says that if you’re never derailing, you should lower the pledge. But here you’re forcing us to start at $5 regardless of whether we’ve been successful at $0 for new goals. Here’s an example where Nicki has done 625 daily checkins on support documentation at $0. Should you lower their goal from $0 since it’s not motivating them enough to derail?

I could combine all my goals into a single goal. But what I liked was being able to check off each tiny increment of resembling a human being: tidy a little, drink water, get steps, do a focusmate session, etc

I’ve been beeminding for 5.9 months now and $50 is too much motivation. Oddly, to me, it feels like a huge burden. It feels like a giant mortgage psychologically. It feels like owing the mob money: motivating but stressful. Maybe I’ll learn to live with the stress.

Overall, I’m panicked because I had something that worked for me and dozens of goals. This new system doesn’t work for me and I’m stressing. It’s a real wrench in my day as I try to scramble to figure this out. Do I have to upgrade to beeminder premium to start at 0 and set a $5 cap there? I’d rather pay $64 once than have a zillion $5 goals crowding my mind. <=========== Upon re-reading the blog post, this wouldn’t even work. I’d be locked into $64 monthly forever. Right? I couldn’t just go back to my beloved beeminder plus?

I guess I could just stop adding new goals but that seems like a real kneecap to functionality.

The blog post mentions that if you increase the existing $0 pledges from beeminder plus accounts, you’ll give us “plenty of warning.” Where were the warnings for removing the ability to make them? Is there some email I’m not getting?

I realize my use was a little off-label. But as you make these changes perhaps consider those of us who are thrilled to be paying for beeminder plus because it was working for us exactly as it was. Beeminder has been integral to my life for months and this is a serious wrench.

Questions:

  1. Does anyone else find the $0 initial pledge super useful in their beeminder diet?
  2. Who here is excited to see the option removed? I’m interested to see the thought process. Maybe your example can remove my 5-alarm panic.
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I can relate to your experience. I don’t use it much in this way anymore, but there was a time period where the $0 pledge goals worked quite well for me (they don’t work very well in my current state however). It is definitely a bit disappointing to have this option removed and I can see how it will potentially alter your current system.

(As a side note, the “Month Of Wasted Awesomeness” critique in the blog post seems like a valid observation. It seems like the logical solution would be to allow users to start at their most preferred inital pledge (including $0). Maybe it does not align with Beeminder’s business model to give this option for free.)

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$0 pledge goals worked quite well for me (they don’t work very well in my current state however)

I choose to read this as “ever since I won the lottery” :wink: Of course thank you for sharing. I’d be curious to know what changed to make $0 pledges stop working.

allow users to start at their most preferred inital pledge (including $0). Maybe it does not align with Beeminder’s business model to give this option for free.

It hasn’t been free during my tenure. It was a feature of bee plus to allow $0 initial pledges but they would increase to $5 after derailing. For beemium, they allowed and still allow $0 pledges that never increase.

I think I hear you on the Month of Wasted Awesomeness. For a certain person, that would be a wasted month. I worry I’m not that person because I take even $0 goals seriously. (For now? :thinking:)

You’ve given me some things to consider. Thank you~~

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It’s just that I stopped being very motivated by the graph alone at some point. I think it is something about myself. I tend to have to make small changes to my productivity system after some time of using it to keep things fresh. The threat of a financial penalty can work nicely these days, but I do have to limit it to a few important goals. Having too many goals with a financial penalty would probably add too much stress on me as well.

Oh I see. For me, the $0 initial pledge was free. (Maybe it was a grandfathered feature from joining earlier? I am not sure.)

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(Btw, you’re not James Clear of Atomic Habits fame, are you? Just a fan? Or just nominative coincidence?)

Sorry about that! We’ve been talking about it a lot in the daily beemails, so I guess I recommend subscribing to those though you’re right that we should’ve gotten the word out more widely than that.

This is huge and it makes me so happy the huge impact Beeminder can have with this sort of thing. Thank you for saying this!

:heart_eyes: but if you mean you’ve not derailed in that whole 6 months then my question is: what would’ve been the harm in having had $5 at stake that whole time? You say that even the threat of the threat was enough motivation, but then… the actual threat is that much more motivation, so I guess I don’t see the problem.

I think I agree with your reactions to the rest your list of possible mitigations, like keeping safety buffer and combining goals.

Related blog post:

Eek. I don’t know if the following reframing is helpful and I’m nervous it sounds all money-grubbing, coming from me, but with this high value you get out of Beeminder and the infrequency with with you derail on these goals, could you just mentally treat those $5 goals as $0 and chalk up the occasional derailments as random payments to Beeminder for the motivation it’s providing? Should be a lot less than Beemium, right? Also, it sounds like you don’t actually want Beemium since you don’t want the pledges capped at $0, you want them to ramp up more gradually. Thinking about this.

Well, it’s changing things about your existing goals that we’re more nervous about. But maybe we can make this up to you with honey money which you can use as derail credit? I have to think about what’s fair there.

Thanks so much for this feedback in any case!

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I think I understand @jamesclear’s point about $5 across all the previously $0 goals being “too much motivation.” Some of us feel the weight of potential derails more heavily than others do. They play into our perfectionism, or our sense of self-worth, or some other big psychological item in a way that makes them stressful. At $0, this is the only stress they cause us, and it’s manageable. But add in the stress of losing money in a budget where that loss matters, and the stress crosses the line from motivating to distressing. It is very tempting for those of us in this psychological camp to archive everything and run away screaming.

So, to quote Danny above, the actual threat isn’t that much more motivation; it’s anti-motivation. I know it’s hard to grok this if your relationship to derailing and/or money is completely different. Maybe think of something that would change this for you – this example is way over the top, but it makes my point that there is something like this for each of us, just in a different place – for example, if you’d been doing great with monetary stings but now the app you’re using has replaced those with chopping off a finger, or ruining your credit record. There is a point where the sting feels so serious it is no longer motivating; it’s become a risk that is not worth taking.

(Disclaimer: I may not have represented @jamesclear’s concerns adequately, only my own.)

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@jamesclear, in the meantime, maybe using honey money would be a workaround for you that reduces the stress back down to “motivating.” What I have in mind is this: think of an amount you are willing to spend on the value you get from Beeminder each month, and buy that amount of honey money at the start of each month. Think of it as paying a little more for your monthly subscription. The money is gone, so when you next derail, it will be like derailing on a $0 goal, in terms of the consequence to your bank account.

This of course requires mental gymnastics and it may not at all return you to the equilibrium you had, since it’s a different mechanism – but I’ve found that using honey money this way has done wonders for my relationship to derailing and my stress levels with lots of goals. I hope it has a similar effect for you, if you try it!

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It seems like there’s a bit of a trilemma here:

  1. One side is the “having money at risk, even if I’m not planning to derail, is psychologically difficult”. This sits alongside “the risk of derailing (even for $0) is motivation enough”.
  2. The second side is “unless you’re willing to derail sometimes, you’re not pushing yourself”.
  3. There’s also a third, thus-far unspoken, element which I’m going to mention anyway: Beeminder can’t exist without funding, and it’s funded by the users. No advertisments, no reselling of your data, no venture capitalists demanding endless growth - just the subscription and derailment charges. So if you’re not willing to pay Beeminder, you’re currently just using it on the basis of the kindness of strangers who do pay.

One partial resolution is @grayson 's model of buying a certain amount of Honey Money each month, that equates to what Beeminder is worth to you, and using that as your sole source of derailment funding. Right now that’s a bit inelegant, as if you over-spend your allowance (and therefore have unpaid charges), you’ll be restricted in many Beeminder functions until you’ve caught up.

Are there other models, do you think? One could be a version of Beeminder that is subscription-only, with some initial free trial period, but @dreev has very clearly said that’s not the model they want to go with. Anything else?

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Ah, @grayson and @clivemeister, you two are amazing. Eye-opening and beautifully said. I’m particularly hopeful that something with honey money will work for @jamesclear.

More background on Beeminder’s decision that Clive alluded to:

I don’t like this feature at all. It sometimes takes me lots of time until I understand which metric I want. I have the pledge increase every time I derail, so why do you have to force us pledge 5 dollars from the beginning? It sounds very greedy of you.

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Currently user-Nicky hat on here:

Because this is a little misleading, I just want to clarify: /readreadread is a sort of anthology goal which keeps tracking my page count over multiple years. However, I have yearly goals:

And before them there were goals for 2023. Not sure if I had those goals in 2022 – I think not.

All of those goals have $5 pledges. /readreadread is never likely to derail, and isn’t really intended to anymore – it’s there because it holds continuous history. This is fairly unBeemindery thing to do, and I won’t be mad if it gets taken away and I have to put a pledge on it. I just didn’t really have the heart to archive it and lose the history.

My progress on that goal is being enforced in multiple different ways, though, with money at stake, on goals which have derailed and for which I have paid. What it absolutely isn’t is an example where someone has beeminded without money at stake. :sweat_smile:

With a slightly more worky hat on, since I don’t think anyone would believe I’m entirely unbiased on this front! (Though it’s perhaps worth knowing that poor @dreev hears a lot from user-Nicky when they’re unhappy, believe me.)

It’s a bit late to go into the confusion here, but it does sound like something tripped you up here, because it’s been free to start at $0 (with an increase to $5 after derail) all along. You didn’t need Bee Plus for that, and I don’t know of a time when that wasn’t the case – certainly not while I have worked for Beeminder. Until the feet-wetting feature, anyone could start a goal at $0.



Anyway, as possibly the person who originally suggested increasing the pledge from $0 to $5 after a week, and definitely a major advocate for it, one major concern for me is the number of people who have $0 pledges and never allow a derailment to stand. The costs are high for support – the services of myself and the rest of my team don’t come cheaply, nor should they, and all of my team are worth their weight in gold. So just on a financial level, there’s the fact that the permanently-at-$0 goals cost us money to support without actually providing anything in return.

I had two suggestions about that at the time:

  1. If you derail on a $0 goal, it’s at $5 now even if it was non-legit, OR
  2. Feetwetting as currently implemented

One thing that was kind of ruled out by previous strategy (read the strategy memo on the blog) was forcing people to use premium. That didn’t work and I don’t think it’s a good idea to try to repeat it.

The other factor is just my own experience based on what I see in support and what I do on my own goals: I can manage perfectly well with goals at $0 until I hit a certain level of life stress, and then things cave in around my ears. A valuable use for Beeminder – to me, one of the most important – is placing a cost on deviating from your goal. So, my theory (and we’ll see how well it’s borne out by data) is that it will be awesomeness-maximising (i.e. help people reach their goals better) if they have something really at stake.

If it turns out to not be awesomeness-maximising, I’ll advocate to roll it back – that’s something we’ve never been shy about doing. So far, I’d say that my feeling on the water temperature around that is that it’s a successful experiment, but I don’t look at the data myself (usually; I did run one experiment myself); my job is to talk to people, squish it all together in my mind and present @dreev with my conclusions. :laughing:

So definitely if it’s not working, we’d like to hear more about why – does it stop you from wanting to make goals? Is it fixable by starting with more safety buffer until you find your feet? Is there anything else that would be helpful? Do you prefer my suggestion #1 from above?

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Prescript: Huge thanks to @shanaqui for these clarifications. Confirmed that until feet-wetting mode was deployed last week it was always totally free for anyone to start a goal at $0 and have it stay at $0 indefinitely if you never derailed it. (Already, one week in, that sounds all wrong to me, and in fact none of the 50ish new users in the last week have batted an eye about it.)

Yes, especially great questions! Thank you. See also the poll below.

On to my response to @cynrd:

As @clivemeister alluded to in point 3 of his last response, it’s important for us to not feel any shame about being a for-profit business – we’re absolutely convinced that maximizing users’ awesomeness is the best way to grow Beeminder. See our argument in “Derailing Is Not Failing”.

Of course there are those, especially those in this thread, for whom lower dollar amounts at stake are motivation-maximizing. The Beemium plan currently lets you cap your stakes at $0, which is not exactly what most of you want. So, as a thought experiment, suppose that for $64/mo (the current price of Beemium) you could have more complete control over how your stakes (aka pledge) change over time, including staying at $0 indefinitely if you never derail.

If the answer is that that would be hugely valuable and a price comparable to, say, a gym membership would feel fair for that, then that will be extremely valuable feedback and we’ll think hard about this as we continue to revamp the pledge schedule.

If the answer is that that would feel greedy then, we will just feel awful about pricing you out and hopefully it will serve as motivation for ourselves to grow faster so that we can expand our reach and price fewer people out when we can sustainably do so, business-wise.

Another idea for potentially best-of-both-worlds is that the duration of feet-wetting mode could just be lengthened. In fact, we could use more feedback on that:

How long should feet-wetting mode last?

  • 0 days, I’ve no need for feet-wetting, stakes are the bees’ knees
  • 7 days, the new status quo is :+1:
  • 14 days, though it’s an inelegant compromise
  • 30 days, to really soak those feet
  • ∞ days, you greedy bastards
0 voters
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The issue with 7 days is that that’s the akrasia horizon, so unless you realize you need to change your pledge as soon as you make the goal, you’ll have to delete and recreate the goal to change the settings before your stakes kick in (which I believe is the point). Two weeks means you have a week to figure out if things are working, as well as enough buffer to make your settings align with what you’ve found works.

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I voted “30 days” but that’s really a vote for brand-new users getting 30 days to work out exactly how Beeminder works and adjust things in a low-stress environment, with the feeling that they can experiment and settle in without losing the farm off the bat. I don’t think new goals for established users need 30 days.

Of course then the question is “what is established?” and that probably depends more on how intensively you use Beeminder than on how long you’ve used Beeminder. But maybe a good rule of thumb could be “your first 3 goals start at $0 for 30 days so you can figure Beeminder out; after that, the pledge goes to the standard minimum, $5, and all goals beyond your first three start at $5.”

I think that framing might even feel generous to new users, while instantly establishing that the awesomeness always comes from having money at stake?

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I’ve been pondering this and I have a follow-up question. If the feet-wetting period was 30 days, it seems like the argument is that that allows you a “free” derail if something is wrong with your goal, and then you’re on $5 with all the problems ironed out etc etc. This is the ideal use-case for $0 pledges: they cover an initial goof or miscalculation or “oops, I forgot that I’m away for two days within the akrasia horizon”, and so on.

It’s my experience from support that a non-zero number of people wouldn’t accept that, and would expect the support team to cancel the charge and push the pledge back down to $0 if they derailed on a new goal due to some kind of miscalculation or misunderstanding or something.

So… I’m sort of sceptical about the reasoning that the $0 provides an extra buffer that lets you trial a goal before the stakes become real, because I think there’s a tendency to see the support team as being that buffer rather than the $0. (And just to be clear: in general we’d say that’s wrong. If Beeminder’s goofed in some way, then yes, that’d be non-legit – but if you set an ambitious goal and couldn’t meet it, that’s legit according to the letter of the law.)

If that’s the case, then allowing a $0 pledge for 30 days is pointless – might as well get rid of $0 pledges altogether, if people aren’t actually using it as intended, as a way to trial a goal with a bit of a safety net.

But, of course, the people who accept the derailment are invisible to the support team, and the reasons why people do accept derailments are opaque to us (apart from a very small percentage of instances where people respond to give us the post mortem).

As a result, I’m curious how prevalent this ideal “yes, I would accept the derailment at $0” is. Of course, that’s hard to get at since people often want to respond with what their best intentions are, rather than their actual practice.

So! Here’s a bit of a poll, which won’t show who voted for what publicly (or even to admins, I’ve tested). Please do vote with what you do usually/instinctively, rather than what you think you’ll do going forward now I’ve framed the actual ideal – I’d really like to hear what people are doing by default.

If you derail at $0 because you set the rate too high or made some other kind of miscalculation, do you accept it as legit?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Sometimes (please comment)
0 voters
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i BELIEVE (please take it with a grain of salt, my memory is not the best), that so far i’ve tried to treat all derailemts equally. i definitely remember calling non-legit on 0$, like i would on money-goals, because i forgot to sync something, etc.

i remember thinking both “no that’s unfair this should keep being a 0$ goal” and calling non-legit, but i also remember thinking “okay fine i didn’t pay for this one yet and i don’t have a justifyable reason to call non-legit so i’ll just have to pay up next time”. (on different goals / different instances.)
so my image of my past self seems pretty balanced. i chose “sometimes” on the poll because i can’t be sure i never ever ever ever used it as a weasle tactic, but i’m pretty confident i was like at least 95% honest / reacted the same as i would have with money-derails.

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Ok so I went back through all of my $0 derailments (I’ve definitely had a lot of goals at $0 over the years…) and here is the data:

For the past year, I’ve not contested any of my 6 $0 derailments
For the year before that, I only contested $0 derailments that were either a) an autodata problem or b) a me-screwing-up-graph-editing problem (6/7 derailments)
For the time before that, I did in fact contest $0 derailments for reasons such as “forgot to enter data”. I didn’t see any contests due to “I set my slope too high”, though, and that doesn’t feel like something I would contest, but who knows. I do take ample advantage of the “one week instadelete” policy for things like that. I would be FAR less happy about THAT going away!

So there you have it! Some of this is likely increased beeminder experience leading to fewer mistakes – I’m now much better at not forgetting data, and slightly better at editing my graph. But I think it’s maybe interesting that the total number of $0 derailments per year haven’t changed much. Overall I voted “yes” on the poll because of my recent behavior, but feel free to change the underlying data to be “sometimes” instead if you want judgement over all time.

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I wish that the initial pledge was more flexible. Different goals have different levels of importance. Some goals may deserve an immediate $90 on the line while other goals may function well with a $0 initial pledge (I think that the act of tracking is often quite powerful in itself).

I prefer the model that was previously in place (infinite) because some users seem to have found a lot of value in using the $0 goals (e.g. jamesclear’s case), and we already had the freedom to increase our initial pledge to $5 at any point. For myself, the change is not very relevant and won’t change much how I use Beeminder, but it seems a bit unfortunate to remove that feature if it was valuable to others. In the end, I am sure Beeminder will remain a valuable tool under both set of rules, but just wanted to present a bit this (unpopular) vote.

(Side note, I do not know what is the marginal cost of a $0 goal to Beeminder or the expected profits of implementing the new set of rules. I am only wondering here if the previous set of rules would generate more value to the users.)

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I don’t usually contest $0 derailments because it doesn’t seem like a good use of the support team’s time.

Typically I think of these are “legit” derails: I forgot that I don’t want the goal to count during a trip, and didn’t build up enough buffer; I thought this goal was achievable but whoops I’m nowhere near meeting it; I thought I wanted to do this but actually I don’t care. aka, I did not do the thing as I told myself I would.

And these are “not legit” derails: my autodata messed up; I did the thing but forgot to report it; I thought I set a goal for 10 minutes a week but it’s actually 10 minutes a day. aka, I did the thing as I told myself I would but the chart disagrees.

My warning, though: I suspect my attitude is deeply shaped by the very long trust I have built up with Beeminder. I know that Beeminder would never charge me in a situation that was genuinely unfair, so it doesn’t stress me out to set up a weirdly complicated goal with the risk that support will have to reverse a charge.

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I’ve just created a new thread specifically about the transition of pre-existing $0 goals, to bump their stakes to $5:

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