I thought it would be fun to troll Paul Fenwick about how his use of
Beeminder to enforce flossing his teeth is patently ridiculous and how
that can’t possibly be useful.
But that’s more of a footnote to a debate I was having with my sister
about whether she really needs Beeminder at all. She was falling back
into what to me seems a self-delusional way of thinking. Roughly:
can’t I just get in the right frame of mind and just decide to finally
suck it up and do this thing? She noticed that when she’s in the right
frame of mind, staying on a yellow brick road is trivial and Beeminder
seems superfluous. When she’s not, she wastes a lot of money
My general response is that you should do everything you can to your
state of mind, no doubt, but first you should just hard-commit, as
insurance. Then if you can set up environmental triggers and success
spirals and habits and everything else to make staying on your road
easy, that’s wonderful. And no harm in having hard-committed either –
you get a nice visualization of your progress at the very least. 
The real danger is in waiting for that right state of mind and then
waking up and noticing that you’re 50 years old and 350 pounds.
It sucks to need Beeminder, but what sucks even more is needing it but
not using it. And I think anyone who finds oneself 20 pounds over
their ideal weight needs it.  Whether they can stomach the idea of
a commitment device, or get their head around the idea, or cast off
the delusions that this time they can just get serious and do it…
- 90% of people need Beeminder (they act against their own better
judgment, in a way that they can very clearly identify, such as
overeating or underexercising).
- 10% of people don’t need it and those people are genuinely amazing.
- 30% of people have the right combination of personality traits to
subject themselves to a commitment contract: a certain kind of
integrity to not (actively) weasel, a certain level of self-awareness
to know they’re not part of the elite 10%, and the determination /
initiative / moxie / tenacity to put up with tools like Beeminder for
getting the commitment contract set up and seeing it through. Ie,
people who are honest, self-aware, ambitious, and ironically,
self-motivated, if imperfectly so.
(30% might be more like an upper-bound – the fraction of people who
will use a commitment device when it’s handed to them on a silver
platter. Eventually Beeminder will be that silver platter.)
In my laughably biased opinion, those in that 30% who make themselves
awesome with Beeminder (or, fine, StickK or GymPact or others) are
even more impressive than the people who are just naturally awesome.
 This is the footnote about flossing. I think it’s key that
Beeminder gives you a nice visualization of your progress. It’s why
it’s worth setting up a goal that you delusionally think you won’t
really need. With flossing there’s no progress to visualize, you just
want to do it every damn day. You might as well use StickK for that.
Also, by progress I don’t mean that there’s an end criterion. Almost
all my goals are open-ended. Just that the graph should be in some way
interesting, like showing the total cumulative number of pushups I’ve
done. I guess seeing the total number of times you’ve flossed and when
you were more or less consistent is interesting, so my anti-flossing
rant is highly exaggerating. Mostly I’m just personally not akratic
about flossing (which is not to say I do it as often as dentists
 With some exceptions. It’s certainly possible to love food more
than life itself.