Beeminder Turns Three!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014
By bsoule

Three kinds of bees, beecause we're three!

Yo Yo Yo and a buckle of gold, Beeminder just turned three years old!

This time last year we were sitting in a hotel in San Francisco during the Quantified Self global conference, excited about our year of autodata integrations, exponential revenue growth, and being featured in the Wall Street Journal.

So what has this year held? For starters, another 365 User-Visible Improvements (funny story there though). Some of those are major new features, like arbitrary deadlines and new autodata integrations. We’ve also tried some big experiments, scientific and otherwise. And of course plenty of crazy commitment schemes…

$810 Pre-commitment Pre-anniversary Month

Technically our birthday is October 11. As that date approached we were lamenting that we weren’t quite ready with some big announcements that we really wanted to be part of our anniversary fanfare. So we picked a date that was close enough and hard-committed to have all those things announced on the blog by then. How did we do that? By promising $810 to our daily beemail subscribers if we didn’t:

We have a bunch of mostly-finished things like arbitrary deadlines, new freebees world order, a Discourse.org forum, and new integrations. We really want to wrap them up so we can brag about them for our 3rd launch anniversary later this month. So, if we haven’t announced all those things on the blog by Oct 28 (at 5pm pacific) then we will owe one of you $810. Reply to this email then to claim it!

Things got more than a little hectic scrambling to make good on all that, but as the (retroactively added) links there attest, we pulled it off [1] and are ridiculously pleased with ourselves.

New Autodata Integrations

Autodata is awesome, especially if you want to beemind All The Things. And it’s a perfect symbiosis. People who use Beeminder to sting themselves if they fall off the wagon on their Duolingo practice are going to keep coming back to Duolingo. It’s win-win! Plus when we pull the data into Beeminder automatically it’s less work and harder to weasel. So part of our business plan is getting as many services hooked up to Beeminder as possible. On the fitness tracker front we added Jawbone UP support, with Epson’s new Runsense GPS about to be officially announced.

It’s been a much bigger year for beeminding productivity. In fact weight loss goals have dropped from 20% of new goals created in year two to 12% of goals created in year three. We’ve got 7 new productivity integrations, to the 2 fitness ones.

New since last year are Draft for writing online, Codeschool for learning to code, and HabitRPG for winning at life. A bit higher level are Twitter integration, and Tasker + Beedroid, as well as a Zapier trigger (to be officially announced soon!). These last three can all serve as glue to make up your own autodata goals. Zapier has hundreds of apps and services they already integrate with that you can now use to trigger new data in Beeminder. Tasker on Android lets you do the same kind of thing except with any event on your phone, and Twitter is kind of in a limbo space in between. Maybe you would like to actually beemind tweeting more often, for brand building or marketing purposes or something, but it’s also possible to use hashtags to track a particular sort of tweet, and use Twitter to beemind a gratitude journal of sorts.

And even more abstract than those last three was our OAuth post, where we released a template app and an omniauth strategy for anyone wanting to build stuff with the Beeminder API to use as a starting point.

Moar Sociallier

We’ve experimented with making beeminding more sociable, with a supporters feature, a Facebook share button, and a weight loss competition. Perhaps most social of all is our new discussion forum.

And in the physical(ish) world, Danny and I have had more human interaction this year with several new faces around the beehive. Andy Brett got distracted cofounding a Ycombinator startup, but we’ve had Erica, two high school interns, several new worker bees helping out with support (Hi Nick, Ben, Denis, Tarn, and Chelsea!), and, most importantly, Alice Monday. Alice joined us earlier this year and you’ve probably talked to her if you’ve interacted with support as she’s our official Support Czar. She’s also monstrously clever and in addition to implementing pledge caps, and the HabitRPG integration, among other things, has mounted a fierce campaign against our technical debt. Tangentially related, she’s working on an implementation of TagTime that isn’t terrible!

So Many Other Things: Features, Buzz, Mania, Guest Posts!

We’ve spent a good deal of time on server infrastructure and technical debt this year (though man do we still have mountains of it), and Bee even started a UVI-like goal for making improvements to behind-the-scenes stuff that’s strictly not user-visible.

But we’ve also made new features in Beeminderland: pledge caps, freebees, and, most exciting, arbitrary deadlines, are all things we’ve blogged about. (And mouse over those links for summaries.)

In the web interface we give a limited ability for making changes to the yellow brick road, since you can only change it starting a week from now. The Beeminder API now lets you make arbitrary changes to your yellow brick road, subject only to the constraint that you can’t make it easier on yourself between today and a week from today. This means you can clean up ugly jumps in the road, remove flat spots retroactively to see if you could’ve maintained a given rate all along, or anything else you can imagine. Including, of course, retroratcheting and scheduling breaks, or the oft-requested flat weekends. If any of you have ideas for a UI for all this power, we’d love to discuss (we have our own ideas).

Finally, since we’re being quite exhaustive in this recap post, here’s everything else worth reading that we’ve blogged this last year. We’ve done two press roundups. We introduced the GTBee app for iOS.

We’ve done a series of so-called Maniac Weeks, and documented them on the blog as well.

And we just have to mention these two stellar guest posts from Eric Kidd, talking about beeminding language acquisition, and Jess Whittlestone, about beeminding your way out of your comfort zone. Really well written and practical pieces that we’re proud to have published.

Plateau of Doom, or at least Mild Inconvenience

So all of those things happened. There was some less glamorous stuff too. And since we’re into radical transparency (this year we even signed on to the Open Company Initiative) we’re not holding anything back!

Beeminder revenue graph For one our revenue growth has hit a bit of what Amy Hoy calls the Plateau of Doom. Fortunately holding steady at a bit under $20k/month is sustainable. And more importantly, we’re as ridiculously excited about Beeminder as ever. We just need to follow the advice in Amy’s article.

Next, trying to turn the Beekeeper Program into a pillar of Beeminder was one of our perhaps less well-advised endeavors this year. Lifecoaching is a wonderfully complementary product to Beeminder, but the key word is ‘complementary’. Beeminder is much too young to try to diversify. We should have heeded the standard startup advice to keep all your eggs in one basket. Be laser-focused on the one thing you’re best at. Distractions are fatal and we feel like we dodged a bullet there.

Luckily we’ve found the best of both worlds by outsourcing the beekeeping to Malcolm Ocean of Complice.

We had some more server fires, more than once possibly literally, and did at least two major server migrations/upgrades. If you want to follow our ineptitude in real time, we have a special Twitter account, the archives of which are always a fun trip down memory lane for us. Or check out the collection of blog posts about our screw-ups.

Predictions

So as not to end on a downer note, last year in the comments of our second anniversary post, Nick Winter asked if we had any predictions for the coming year. Predictions are hard (especially about the future), and we sort of side-stepped the question. But making public predictions of this sort is also a type of commitment device. So after this crazy mad dash to the finish, with our $810 commitment (torture) device, I’m kind of keen to pre-commit to something now for next year!

Here goes! $810 says next year’s anniversary post will include the following:

  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


 

UPDATE on 2014-11-21: Bethany’s Maniac video from the final week leading up to this post.


 

Footnotes

[1] “I believe you said integrations plural,” one of you will say. You are clearly a person after our own hearts. We did say plural and we meant it! Besides HabitRPG we’ve launched Zapier integration and Epson Runsense integration. “Yes, but you said you’d announce them on the blog,” you say, pedantically. Is this footnote not on the blog? “Touche,” you say.

(We take commitment contracts super seriously and might’ve called this too weaselly but the spirit of the original commitment was to launch all these things. Epson and Zapier are temporarily relegated to this footnote because we’re coordinating a bunch of marketing buzz with those companies in coming days and weeks when we’ll make splashier announcements.)

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  • http://skritter.com Nick

    Congrats on a terrifically long blost post worth of progress this year, guys!

  • dsernst

    Waaaaaay to go!!!!! Happy birthday Beeminder