Fourth Anniversary of Beeminder

Thursday, October 29, 2015
By bsoule

Diagram of the lifecycle of bees, in four stages

Beeminder is four years old!

We’d liiike to get this blog post started by telling you what we’ve been working on this last year (revamped reminders! so many new integrations! new versions of smartphone apps! meetups and Quantified Self!), buuut you’re probably more interested in the question of whether we owe someone $810, or if we came through on the progress we promised exactly a year ago. So let’s just get this out of the way: We’re paying up.

But now we’re gonna make you stick with us through the rest of the post to hear all the juicy details.

Flashback to a year ago…

Shortly before our third anniversary we put ourselves on the hook for some big new features and scrambled to deploy them in time and made things kind of awful and broken for a while. We got scolded by our fans. Then we brainstormed a bunch of ways to mitigate that problem in the future (among them being “just cough up the money”, which we’re doing this time around!). We also started using the strategy of beeminding the amount of time spent on each feature, which felt like a really useful way to guarantee progress without a hard deadline. I’ve been using a Beeminder goal to spend half of my working time on the “next most important thing”, which keeps me moving forward, and turns most days into mini deadlines for the feature, without pushing me up against a wall where I feel pressured to deploy things in a half-baked state.

Unfortunately, before we had that great discussion with you all, we already committed $810 to finishing the following three things by this time:

  1. A dramatic improvement to new user experience, along the lines of a new user walkthrough (like HabitRPG does!) or changes to goal creation (with data that backs it up as better)
  2. Client-side graphs (panning and zooming and mousing over datapoints!)
  3. Revamped reminder and notification settings

How’d we do?

1. Dramatic improvement to the new user experience

We tried out a widget from our friends at UserOnboard, which gives a series of next steps for a newly minted user. Sadly, in its current form, it has no significant effect at all on goals created or datapoints added or credit cards added. So not only is it not dramatic, but it’s not actually an improvement at all in its current state.

Things we could try include tweaking the content and wording as well as the look and placement. Other things to consider might be that this kind of guidance would be more helpful in a course of lifecycle emails, since the widget only helps once the user’s already signed in to their Beeminder account, and we may be losing people even before they get that far.

2. Interactive Graphs

We’ve got a beta version of this deployed for people who subscribe to daily beemails (you can sign up too!). The graphs are still generated by Matplotlib, but then rendered in your browser using D3. This current version does do panning and zooming, but it is ugly, and there is a ton of work to do on the details still, so we are far from being ready to deploy it as a replacement for the static graph images. Judge for yourself:

3. Revamped reminders

We rocked this one. Reminders are much simpler yet more flexible, and with much saner and less spammy defaults. And you can customize the defaults for new goals. Winning.

What else have we been up to?

Here are the Highlights!

  1. Tons of new integrations. We launched an IFTTT channel this year, as well as Skritter, Misfit, Garmin, Sleep as Android, and some big improvements to existing ones, most notably GmailZero, which now lets you beemind the results of any arbitrary query.

  2. New versions of smartphone apps. We published a long awaited update to the iOS app in July, which fixed a bunch of problems with app syncing and silent failure of datapoint submission. (Another update is around the corner.) The latest version of the Android app was just released this month and includes myriad fixes, tweaks, and improvements, and closed a loophole with weasel-proofed data editing.

  3. Community! Danny and I gave talks at the Quantified Self conference in San Francisco this June. [1] We were thrilled to meet up with a bunch of Beeminder users during and after the conference, and again in New York in August. It’s also been more than a year with the Beeminder Forum now and it has become such an amazing community and resource about all things Beeminder. You guys are the best!

  4. About 360 other tweaks, improvements, and bugfixes including the super helpful “Due By” table for goals that tells you how much you need to do for each day in the next week.

The State of the Bee

Beeminder revenue graph The good news is that everything is still up and to the right, we’re profitable, sustainable, and of course getting better by the day (literally). Setting down the rose-colored glasses for a second, we’re doing fine on the “to the right” part but it’s more like “to the right and at least definitely not down”. In other words, revenue is still almost flat, not quite breaking $20k/month. As much as we love working on Beeminder, that’s still less than we’d make with day jobs so that absolutely has to go up by next year. Ok, putting the rose-colored glasses back on, we seem to be tentatively crushing our archnemesis, StickK:

We’re not being serious about crushing StickK, who continue to make much more money than us. In fact, we’re just delighted to be generally considered one of the Big Three commitment device apps, the third being Pact App.

So… what about that $810?

The client side graphing plus the new user experience both feel super weasely to try to count, though we made nice progress on each. We had a whole year! But we got really absorbed in all the new autodata integrations, and then the reminders revamp took much longer than expected. This next year we’ll take our own oft-repeated advice and commit to the inputs, not the outputs!

So we’re paying out the $810 evenly amongst 8 of you. We’ll pay the first 4 commenters on this post, and then we’ll select 4 more users at random to spread the love around.

What about next year?

We’re both going to keep 50% of our Beeminder time (tracked by TagTime), turned toward the Next Most Important Thing. If we derail on those goals, the pledges will get paid to one of you, same as for our personal meta goals, and the UVI, Infra, and Blog goals as well. You can follow all the excitement, and take our money, on the forum.


 

Footnotes

[1] For some reason my talk about Maniac Weeks is up, but video of Danny’s talk isn’t available online yet, so as a topically appropriate consolation prize, here’s Danny’s latest Maniac Week attempt from August:

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  • http://malcolmocean.com Malcolm Ocean

    Womp, one of the first four commenters sounding off!

  • Adam Werewolf

    Good work, folks! I just started with Beeminder in February, and I’m really impressed with how fast Beeminder gets better.

  • https://twitter.com/chipmanaged Micro(chip)managed

    1 of 4, please

  • http://malcolmocean.com Malcolm Ocean

    Also I’ve done a bunch of work in the last few weeks on user walkthroughs for Complice and would love to share my experience with you guys :)

    I thought it was going to be hard/unpleasant, but it’s actually been quite a bit of fun and took <10 hours to ship a major improvement that's maybe doubled how many people become active.

  • https://twitter.com/chipmanaged Micro(chip)managed

    Okay, now that I’ve got the speed-post out of the way… Congrats on the anniversary and all of the hard work. (You already know that I don’t think this should have counted as a derailment, or that it would be weasely (…but if it’s gonna be paid. Shotgun).)

    I also like that you guys haven’t committed to a specific task for the next year. I think it allows you a lot more flexibility if things come up (you know, like users whining about their pet bugs… not that I would know anything about that) and I’m all for Beeminding time spent over outcomes.

    Beeminder’s gone through a lot of changes in a year. I hope you’re looking back on it with pride. (Though, I suspect you’re just really, really tired just now).

  • Oletros

    Congratulations for the awesome work you do

  • stundere

    and i appear to be 5th D:

  • David Gessner

    Congratulations for everything you have accomplished. Beeminder keeps getting better and better and I can’t imagine anymore how I would get anything done without it. Keep up the good work!

  • Enoch Chhabra

    Love the way you keep yourself accountable.

  • Jenny Li

    I love the new reminders! Can’t wait to play more with the graphs too.

  • http://giannopoulos.net/ Markos Giannopoulos

    Congrats on Year 4! I think you have something unique both in terms product as well as corporate and development philosophy. Keep it up! :)

  • Kenny Y

    congrats! keep up the amazing work!

  • yoro216

    Congrats! I started using Beeminder in June of last year and I’ve never been the same person again (in a good way!).

  • Nevan King

    $20K a month is fantastic.

  • Molli Vandehey

    You guys are absolutely amazing, geeky, and cheeky. Congrats on your successes, and most of all, on keeping your word and owning up to your own foibles.