Aiding and Abetting

Saturday, January 14, 2012
By dreeves

Collage of Beeminder and its competitors, circa 2011/2012

[UPDATE June 2017: We’re continuing to keep this list up to date. Let us know in the comments if there are any competitors we’ve missed!]

I just blackmailed myself [1] with a silly photo [2] thanks to our competitor [UPDATE: former competitor; see graveyard below] Aherk.com, who [used to] publish “compromising” photos of you to Facebook if you didn’t pony up (i.e., get shit done). I guess it will show up on my facebook page. (This photo is not actually compromising; I just want to get the full Aherk experience, minus the mortification. I’m not actually too keen on Aherk’s angle.)

Aherk [was] one of several Beeminder competitors getting a lot of press lately. Since our last post was singing praises of other trackers, we thought we’d follow that line to its logical conclusion and catalog other anti-akrasia tools as well. Here are the others we know of. Hover over the links for trash talk.

  • StickK (“put a contract out on yourself”) is the oldest (launched in 2008) and, with the demise of Pact in 2017, Beeminder’s primary competitor. We’ve blogged about StickK before and we expect to do so again, because we think Beeminder has gradually become a drastic improvement over StickK for data-oriented goals, such as weight loss.
  • Beeminder = commitment contracts + Quantified Self. In our humble opinion it’s the most powerful and flexible tool, though it probably has the steepest learning curve. It’s strength is turning any long-term goal for which you can define a graphable metric into a commitment to make steady daily progress. Beeminder launched in 2011.
  • DietBet (which has now generalized to WayBetter) facilitates weight-loss wagers among friends, i.e., you use it to set up a group weight loss competition.
  • HealthyWage also allows group weight loss bets. Launched 2009 though not available directly to consumers until later.
  • Write or Die is a clever word processor that you can configure to start deleting your prose if you go too long without writing.
  • GTBee is an iPhone app by the Beeminder team that aims to be the height of simplicity. It’s a to-do list app where you add tasks with deadlines and you get charged money for not Getting Things Done.
  • Lazy Jar (launched 2016) penalizes you each week you don’t hit your Fitbit steps goal, and you’re locked in for 6 months at a time!
  • Pavlok (launched 2015) is a physical bracelet that administers shock therapy to purge bad habits. Beeminder’s CEO has frequently worn one and is excited about integration possibilities.
  • Other alarm clock apps that force you to jump through various kinds of hoops to turn them off: Wake N Shake, Morning Routine. Our favorite app that does this is Sleep as Android.
  • Habit reCode (launched 2015) is an Android app for habit building that charges you $2 each day you don’t check in.
  • Habitica (formerly HabitRPG) doesn’t exactly count as a commitment device app (unless you count the threat of your avatar dying in the game) but we love them so much we’re including them here anyway.

Maybe Moribund aka “I’m not dead yet”

UPDATE: The following may have a foot in the grave. Or maybe they’ve achieved exquisite perfection. Either way, they haven’t been updated in years. Founders of these: just holler (or tweet or blog something) if you’re still kicking!

  • Fatbet (launched 2008) pioneered what DietBet seems to be taking to the bank, though we’re not certain which came first.
  • egOnomics Lab let you deposit money via PayPal and specify a beneficiary, similar to StickK.
  • GFDI launched in 2014 and got some Lifehacker coverage. It’s vaguely similar to our own Beeminder spinoff, GTBee, described above.
  • BetterMe is an Android and iPhone app that will shame you on Facebook for snoozing an alarm or not checking in to a location at a prespecified time.

Graveyard

UPDATE: We’re keeping this post continually updated as we learn about new competitors and moving any that are not currently operational to this graveyard (which is not to say they can’t come back from the dead!).

  • Pact, which launched as GymPact in 2011 and announced their shutdown on 2017 Jun 30, was an iPhone and Android app that automatically tracked when you went to the gym (or exercised elsewhere) and the commitment device angle was that you won money for hitting your goal, paid by other Pact members who couldn’t get themselves off the couch. (We don’t know exactly why they shut down but we had long speculated that adverse selection would be an issue for their model. See also discussion of Beeminder vs GymPact on the Beeminder forum.)
  • TimeCarrot combined the ideas of StickK and RescueTime, but seems to have fallen to an early demise. They should’ve beeminded their progress! (And of course now that Beeminder has RescueTime integration we can bill ourselves as “StickK + RescueTime”.)
  • Succeed Or Else was seemingly a StickK Lite. They’d keep your money if you fail, which in our opinion only works if you’re providing a lot of additional value (like, say, by being a great data tracking tool as well as a commitment device!).
  • Lose It Or Lose It was much more nicely done than Succeed Or Else, and, obviously, focused on weight loss. It had some cool social features so was less susceptible to our criticism of Succeed Or Else. Sadly, they closed their doors in 2013.
  • Run Or Else launched 2012 Jan 16 and the name says it all. You use the RunKeeper app to track your runs and risk money via PayPal. Run Or Else went on (hopefully temporary) hiatus in 2013.
  • HealthRally (closed its doors sometime in 2013) we thought of as almost the opposite of Beeminder, rewarding people for reaching goals instead of punishing them for failing to. You collected pledges from friends and family who chipped in for some coveted prize if you reached your health-related goal. We suspect that the typical Beeminder user would balk at the idea of taking up a collection, whereas the typical HealthRally user would just laugh at the idea of paying Beeminder money when they fail.
  • Getupp was a nice idea: it let you commit to being at a given place at a given time. The penalty was broadcasting your failure on Facebook. BetterMe (see main list above) now has this niche covered. (Thanks Ben Popken.)
  • Betchyu launched 2014 July 15 and had an Android and iPhone app for setting up bets with friends, similar to Fatbet but for artbitrary goals. It seems to have died by the end of 2014.
  • Fitsby was a GymPact competitor for Android that was focused on bets among friends.
  • mySafe launched successfully on Kickstarter, from the makers of the Kitchen Safe, but they canceled it for now so they can focus on their main product, which we still recommend.
  • Aherk! provided commitment contracts where the penalty was embarrassment.
  • Rivet (launched and died in 2015) was an Android app that monitored time spent on distracting apps like Facebook and Snapchat and charged you money for not staying below your chosen max amount of time per week.
  • GameUp was an alarm clock app that made you play a game to silence the alarm.
  • Non Zero Day was maybe a minimalist Beeminder without the graphs.
  • 21habit was elegant and simple. You pledged $21 to maintain some desired action for 21 days, hopefully ingraining it as a habit.

Sushi and Green Fields

It’s funny how we once thought of it as worrisome to see other startups pursuing our idea. It’s so clearly the opposite of worrisome! The more the merrier! All these startups are helping each other get the public exposed to commitment devices.

It’s like my brother who has a sushi restaurant in central Illinois with one primary competitor in town. Since most people in town haven’t even tried sushi, most of the marketing that my brother’s competitor does is just creating new sushi eaters, some of whom will then presumably eat at my brother’s restaurant. Anecdotally, that effect dwarfs any actual customer stealing that the competitor may do.

With Beeminder and StickK and now Aherk and others, it’s like that but even more so: 99% of the population hasn’t heard of a single one of us!

PS: We’ve learned of a newcomer about to launch on Monday, by the founder of the Programmable Self movement. We’ll add them to this list then! [And done. It’s Run Or Else and their logo can be seen sprinting in from the upper left corner of our logo collage.]


 

Footnotes

[1] To get the Beeminder API published in January. (Note: A rudimentary version is available now as a private beta, subject to us grilling you a bit!) UPDATE: Voila: the Beeminder API.

[2] UPDATE: I originally referred to it as a “gay photo” which I thought was kosher since I clarified that I was not using “gay” pejoratively nor do I equate “gay” with “compromising”. Sense was quickly knocked into me (thanks everyone!): steer a wide berth around the kinds of things bigots say and don’t rely on wordy explanations to counter a first impression!

Here’s the original version of the first paragraph, if you’re curious:

I just blackmailed myself [1] with a gay photo thanks to our competitor Aherk.com, who publishes “compromising” photos of you to Facebook if you don’t pony up (i.e., get shit done). My photo isn’t NSFW or anything. It’s not even embarrassing. Ok, fine, it’s actually entirely innocuous and I’m intending to cause it to get released, just to see how that part works. I guess it will show up on my facebook page. (As you’ll see, you might call it gay, sort of, but obviously I see nothing compromising about that. I’m not actually too keen on Aherk’s angle.)

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