This is a guest post by Henrik Wist, to whom we just paid $1000 for derailing on our own meta Beeminder commitment to announce one User-Visible Improvement (UVI) to Beeminder per day. For our version of how this went down, see the addendum to our recent “1000 Days of User-Visible Improvements” article. (And, yes, we made 1000 improvements in 1000 days only to derail on day 1016!) We’re blown away by Henrik’s generosity in donating his windfall, and delighted by this chronicling of how it happened. It is cross-posted at his blog, Run Bike Code.
For almost a year now I’ve been a happy Beeminder user. It helps me accomplish goals that I otherwise probably would not achieve, like doing a short daily workout, practicing some Spanish, or even keeping my blog alive with content. I had planned for today’s post to be about my blogging workflow, which heavily depends on Beeminder. Alas, today’s post is a different story.
About dog food
Let me give you a little background. What I love about Beeminder is their extensive belief in dog food. Dog food in the sense of product development where you use your own product (in production, no less) from a very early point during development on. Beeminder has taken that to the next level, because they use Beeminder to improve the product. There is a meta Beeminder goal where the team promises to implement and roll out (and tweet about!) one “User-Visible Improvement” every day. Should they fall off the wagon (derail, in Beeminder terms) the pledge goes to a lucky blog reader (or commenter, technically). With this scheme, the team managed over 1000 UVIs over the last three years! Pretty awesome, if you ask me. In the process though, due to some derailments, the pledge slowly grew to $1000.  And yes, all previous pledges were paid to Beeminder blog readers.
Close, but no cigar
So, the UVI pledge looms at $1000. Believe it or not, I have far better things to do than checking the UVI chart on a daily basis. But once in a while, after checking that my own charts are all green, I wander over to the meta goals. November 19th was such a day, and lo and behold, the team was very close to derailing, which I noticed shortly before going to bed. As time zones happen, the deadline (midnight PT) is a convenient 9am for me, so I set an alarm for the next day to check the goal again, only to find out that they managed to get a UVI rolled out and tweeted about. After a quick exchange on Twitter I went on with my day and more or less forgot about it. And in the following days the Beeminder team managed to stay on the road, all the way up to 1000 UVIs and more.
On December 3rd, a couple hours after 9am (CET) I came across the UVI meta goal again, and to my surprise it was off the road, and to my further surprise, no one had claimed it by commenting on the blog post. Which I did, immediately. And Daniel responded some minutes later, saying that it seemed to be legit, even though they actually had a UVI rolled out, just not tweeted about in time.
Holy Moly, they just paid me $1k
To be honest, after reading Daniel’s comment, I wasn’t 100% sure that I’d actually get paid by Beeminder. But I had other things going on (like work) and it was night time at Beeminder HQ anyways. Turns out, when I was asleep the next night, Daniel contacted me on pretty much all available channels to figure out how to pay me. After a few emails back and forth in the morning I received the confirmation from PayPal that I had a payment of $1000 in my account. Wow.
Own vs. Earn
What to do with a windfall of $960 (yes, some $40 were lost due to PayPal’s transaction fees), shortly before Christmas? There are a couple of gadgets I’ve been eyeing for the last few months. The Garmin FR620, for one, coming in at $400. A GoPro Hero 3, another $400. That would still leave me with more than $150 to spend. But somehow that didn’t feel right. If I own gadgets, I want to have earned them, knowing that I worked for it.
Then how about getting rid of that slight overdraft, that crept up over the summer? That would make me reach my “Pay back overdraft” Beeminder goal pretty quickly. Still, feels wrong.
Honestly, these two thoughts on how to spend the money went as quickly as they entered my head. I knew what I’d do with the money even before I posted my comment on the Beeminder blog.
World Bicycle Relief
The thing is, it’s Holiday Season, and that is the time to give. Probably not very coincidentally, the well known Fat Cyclist has a fundraiser for the World Bicycle Relief going. This is one of the charities that I give money to on a regular basis (and have already done this year for Fatty’s Grand Slam for Zambia 5).
To cut a long story short, I made a donation of $938 for the WBR, thus giving seven bicycles to people in Zambia, courtesy of Beeminder. However, since this counts towards the “Grand Slam”, Fatty’s anonymous donor will match those seven bicycles and make it 14. Here’s the confirmation email:
On behalf of World Bicycle Relief and the people we serve, please accept my sincere appreciation for your generous donation of $938.00.
World Bicycle Relief’s mission is to provide access to independence and livelihood through the Power of Bicycles; your gift helps mobilize people across rural Sub-Saharan Africa with simple, sustainable bicycle transportation. Your generosity helps connect children with schools, healthcare workers with patients and entrepreneurs with markets.
Thank you for sharing The Power of Bicycles!
President, Co-Founder, World Bicycle Relief
Now, should I, by any chance, win one of the bikes that Fatty organised as an incentive for his fundraiser, I’m totally going to keep it.
I would like to thank the Beeminder team for an awesome product and the courage to live up to their slip-ups each and every time.
 Correction from the Beeminder team: That’s indeed how things normally work with Beeminder but it wasn’t until UVI #150 or so that we actually came up with that! When we created this Beeminder contract for User-Visible Improvements, Beeminder was in its infancy, and not even publicly launched. So we just picked $1000 from the start in that case, and this in fact is the very first time we derailed on it — because $1000 is super motivating!