The Beekeeper Program: Beeminder-Based Lifecoaching

Wednesday, January 1, 2014
By Erica Edelman

A whip colored black and yellow, like a bee

This post is by Erica Edelman, our very first employee! She’s been knocking our socks off since we met her a couple months ago, and apparently the feeling was mutual because last week she moved to Portland from Columbus, Ohio to start with us full-time. The main excuse to hire her was that she’ll be running our Beekeeper program, which she’ll tell you about in this post. But she’s pretty brilliant at all manner of other Beeminder work as well. She’s been helping with support, keeping on top of evangelism in the blagosphere and whatnot, and drafting blog posts about behavior change. She clearly fits right in with our general level of behavioral economics nerdery.

UPDATE: Erica has left us but the Beekeeper program lives on. We now outsource beekeeping, in particular to Malcolm Ocean of Complice.co.

UPDATE 2016-08-08: We have officially retired the Beekeeper lifecoaching program.


 

After a year of beta testing with a handful of trials, the Beekeeper program is fully functioning and on a roll now! Thank you so much to our intrepid beekeeping guinea pigs who put up with us (and especially me) while we learned the ropes, smoothed the sailing, and other nautical metaphors. The Beekeeper program was actually conceived a full year before I got involved, starting with an email from a user who just randomly volunteered that they’d love to pay Beeminder $200/month for some extra hand-holding and accountability. Danny and Bethany gradually realized how much demand there was for a life-coaching layer on top of Beeminder, and also how much work it takes. Their overwhelminess was my gain, because they brought me on board and now I have the Awesomest Job Ever [1], which is helping you all reach your goals and be awesome yourselves!

So if you, or someone you love (or someone you hate but still want to get a useful gift for?) needs a little extra help with actually accomplishing your New Year’s resolutions, or even figuring out what your resolutions should be, then read on! Also, read on if you’re just curious. Or bored. Or are procrastinating on other More Important Things (though in that case, this really might be useful).

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (A Beekeeper)

After you sign up, but before we meet, [2] I’ll take a look at your history with Beeminder to find out how long you’ve been beeminding, what you’re already beeminding (if anything), and how often you derail. This is total stalkery, but we’re going to be talking about your goals, obstacles, shortcomings, hopes, dreams, and whatnot, so we had better be on good terms.

Then, in our first video conference [3] we’re going to nail down your goals, and hammer out a game plan, and other construction metaphors. (Apply paint to the crumbling façade that is your life? No?) Some things we’ll be discussing include:

  • Do you already know about dialing the yellow brick road, the akrasia horizon, and what the lanes of the road mean?
  • Do you want to focus on productivity or fitness or both?
  • Anything unusual you may have value for beeminding, like a hobby you don’t spend enough time on?
  • How akratic are you? Really?
  • What level of cajoling and handholding do you expect?
  • First-order goals — do you have them?
  • Are your goals S.M.A.R.T.? Can we make them be?
  • What’s the best way to actually track these goals? Can we turn it into a simple binary? What’s the optimal way to actually collect the data?

One simple litmus test for things that make good Beeminder goals is the want-can-will test. We’ll also look for ways that we can automate data collection for your goals, like with one of our integrations, e.g., RescueTime, and we’ll help get that set up if you’re not already using it. We’ve also set up custom data collection for people before. For example one beekeepee changed their email address for iTunes receipts to go to a Beeminder address (theirusername@beeminder.com) [4] and then we set up a mail filter and an IFTTT recipe to add data to their goal when a receipt came in.

After the first meeting, we will run your goals for about a week, and then do a check-in meeting to see how things are working out, and make any needed changes. Most of our beta testers got the most value out of these first couple of meetings so it’s completely expected that many users will sign up for a single month just to get on the right track. The one-month option might also be a great idea for new users who just want a little help getting over Beeminder’s initial learning curve.

Besides the video conferencing, other perqs you might want to take advantage of include:

  1. Shielding you from data entry or the mechanics of beeminding (like dialing your roads)
  2. Being more persistent about reminders than the Beeminder bot can be (if the bot tries to be more persistent it backfires since you tune it out)
  3. Human weaselproofing for the Cheaty McCheatersons out there. E.g., don’t just say you took a walk… send me a picture from your walk!
  4. An extra eye on your graphs to make sure they aren’t going into the red
  5. Ongoing reassessment about what else to beemind or what to change
  6. General feedback (no those pants don’t make you look fat)
  7. All the social pressure you can stand, e.g., “Oh no, if you fail on your goal then they’ll fire me, and I’ll be jobless and homeless and it will be ALL YOUR FAULT, so you better not eat that donut or my shattered dreams will be on your shoulders!”
  8. Whatever other ways you want your beekeeper keeping you in line, perhaps drawing the line here

Meetings with me will continue as necessary, and I’ll ride your back about staying on your goals.

Head Beekeeper

That’s right folks! Beeminder hired a whole brand sparkling new employee specifically for this program. In fact, I’m the first official full-time employee. I moved all they way from Columbus, Ohio to come join Beeminder here in the hipster paradise that is Portland. I am trying to grow some facial hair to better fit in, but seem to be having trouble with it, because of this extra X chromosome.

If you’re worried about entrusting your dreams and ambitions to me, you can read my bio — I wrote it myself so it must be true, right? [5]

Besides that, here are some things I think are especially nifty: effective altruism, swing dancing, social psychology, cognitive biases, moral psychology, Joss Whedon, Neil Gaiman, Mumford and Sons, eurogames that take way too long to play, and the people who play said games, thinking probabilistically, game theory, behavioral economics, community building, intentional relationships, space and the things found therein and the exploration thereof, horror movies, the usual nerdery (BSG, Dr Who, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, etc).

If this sounds perfect for New Year’s, or if you think you’ll need some extra accountability with maintaining new habits, you can sign up here:

UPDATE: Wow! The response to this was really great! We have seven Beekeepees now, and growing! Thanks to everyone so far who has shown interest!


 

Image credit: This bumble-bee themed whip was made by Ryan Galdamez. [6]

Footnotes

[1] Reason #328 why working for Beeminder is awesome: I track my work hours using a random sampling app [7] developed by Bethany and Danny, and fully integrated into Beeminder. HOW NERDTASTIC IS THAT?

[2] Heads up that as we scale this up it is likely that we’ll be outsourcing some of the coaching. But we’ll promise to maintain the high levels of Awesomeness and Integrity that you’ve come to expect from the Beeminder crew!

[3] Note, this does not have to be video conference. This is supposed to be a super high touch premium plan and all that, so we do what you like and if you’re terrified of making eye contact with other human beings we can totally communicate by smoke signal.

[4] This is an interesting little Beekeeper perq. It’s an accountability email address, minded by someone in charge of keeping you on track on your goals. You can use the email address as your own, with the caveat that your beekeeper will also see everything sent to it. There are a lot of interesting things you could do with it, by setting up email filters. As a silly example StickK likes to cite, a “don’t contact my ex” goal could be minded by adding a filter for emails from you to your ex that forwards to your beekeeper address.

[5] Hold on! I have an awesome experiment to try: “Erica is a billionaire living on her own private island with many puppies and much chocolate.” Nope? Dammit!

[6] Eye roll. The whip is because I once made a joke that Beekeeping was “Pro Domme with your clothes on!” and I REALLY shouldn’t have, because apparently B and D think it’s hilarious.

[7] It’s TagTime, if you want to check it out for yourself.

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  • steven moore

    That is FANTASTIC. I just discovered beeminder 15 minutes ago, im even more intrigued now.