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], 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.


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.]



[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, 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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  • Raphael Negrão

    Hi Daniel!

    I’m the evil mastermind behind Aherk! and it’s great to be mentioned by you! Especially because Beeminder is an app that we really admire here.

    If you’re curious about the app’s workflow, just email me at raphael {at} aherk {dot} com and I would be happy to share it with you.

    And I couldn’t agree with you more regarding “competitors” when you say “the more the merrier”! All the luck to you… you really deserve that! :)



  • Dylan

    I really like run or else in that it does the ‘data collection’ bit as well (like timecarrot did, but probably better). I think thats required for programs like this to be truly meaningful/useful (at least for me).

    Of course its easier for runkeeper because it has a very limited scope. Perhaps when the beeminder api is released individuals will make add-ons to collect data from runkeeper, or wireless scales, or rescuetime, etc.

  • Daniel Reeves

    Agreed! I’m a big fan of things I can beemind without explicitly entering data (though for some kinds of goals it actually is quite nice to reply to the bot emails).

    Here are things Beeminder can track with greater or lesser degrees of automation:

    1. Time with TagTime —
    2. Pushups with Bethany’s TallyBee app for Android
    3. Weight with a Withings scale — (working on making this much easier to integrate)
    4. As you point out, as soon as our API is ready, anything else you can think of! And anyone who’s reading this can get in on the private beta of our API if you let us grill you a bit.
    5. We also had at one point a prototype of a blog-watcher that would auto-update your beeminder graph for number of blog posts by watching your RSS feed. We’ll resurrect that if there’s demand.

    One other thing that may mitigate the problem of data entry for some people or some kinds of goals: you can interact with the bot via SMS.

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  • Daniel Reeves

    (See for the latest on ways to beemind without explicitly entering data.)

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  • eo2

    Hey Danny, where precisely do you suspect moral hazard and adverse selection effects with GymPact?


  • Guest

    Nevermind – I stumbled over your blog post on that:

  • Daniel Reeves

    I guess I was just thinking about gym rats who go to the gym daily anyway, plus the incentive to cheat. I went into a bit more detail at

    Actually I’m not sure if anything here counts as moral hazard. The gym rats problem is definitely adverse selection but maybe the cheaters problem is just, y’know, cheating.

    Also, I think GymPact is dealing with the problem fine, but I think it’s the reason the rewards can’t be more than token amounts. So I think it turns out to not be a huge difference between Beeminder and GymPact in practice. The psychological difference may be significant though.

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  • Daniel Reeves

    PS: Bethany’s TallyBee for counting things like pushups is now built in to the Beeminder Android app.

    Other automatic data sources for beeminding are on the front page.

  • simonjp

    What about Weight Wins and HealthyWage? Both offer rewards for success, rather than penalties for failure.

  • Markandrew

    I want a program where I can put money up front. Then if I reach my goal, it becomes a reward (minus a fee maybe for the usage) and if I lose it, then it is a punishment. All programs are still missing the big reward aspect. Rewards are huge for work related goals, such as a paycheck…

  • Daniel Reeves

    We’ve heard this often enough now that I want to understand it better. Beeminder gets your credit card info and only charges you if you derail — no fee at all if you don’t. So could you achieve the psychological effect you’re after by taping the amount of cash that’s at risk to the side of your monitor (or the bathroom mirror or wherever)? If you win then triumphantly grab the cash and do something fun. If you lose then go deposit it in your bank account to cover the credit card bill.

    (I should add that most Beeminder goals aren’t really binary like that. They’re mostly ongoing, open-ended goals where you sometimes, hopefully rarely, get a monetary kick in the butt, but continue right on going on your (adjusted) yellow brick road.)

  • Daniel Reeves

    We view those as kind of a fundamentally different service. We don’t go for these notions of “rewards” and “success”. :)

    More about why we think punishment is where it’s at:

  • Markandrew

    The thought you have about attaching money onto a monitor/mirror has the right concept, but isn’t very practical overall. The stick (not carrot) effect usually (at least for me) works for a bit, but then one wants to be away from that kind of pressure or punishment. Thus, I tried Sticck and it worked once, but I didn’t want to make another goal on there because of that issue. I tried 21Habit but the stick/carrot isn’t strong enough ($21), whereas if I could front much more than that and state what I plan to do with that money/reward I am confident that would work, along with the statistical map you create, but I am guessing Online Companies don’t want to work it that way… because of their risk?

  • bpopken

    Hope you’re well! +Getupp to the graveyard.

  • Daniel Reeves

    Done! Thanks Ben! (Sad about Getupp though; someone else should get on that idea!)

  • Daniel Reeves

    UPDATE: Looks like BetterMe is all over it. Extensive edits to the list recently.

  • Tim Perry

    A new competitor! Early days, but just launched for private alpha:

    Build Focus – it’s focusing only on the wasting time getting distracted and browsing the web case, but with the similar reward/punishment approach to try and build better habits.

  • Daniel Reeves

    Awesome, now publicly launch that puppy and I’ll add you to the list! :)

  • Josh Curtis

    Is Complice a competitor? I’ve been using that for a month and love it!

  • accoladeA

    In, Malcolm Ocean, creator of, writes:

    Beeminder and Complice are so different, in both philosophy and the details, that they collaborate more than they compete.

    Complice has also been taking extensive advantage of the Beeminder API

  • Malcolm Ocean

    Exactly! I suspect they may compete slightly for some people (e.g. the set of people who will only ever want to use one tool in this space) but in general I know lots of people who use both and find that they complement each other wonderfully.

  • clipart

    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!

  • Reset Habit

    Hi Daniel,

    Fellow competitor here. Thanks for your inspiration!
    I started in November 2017 to catch the people making 2018 new year’s resolutions. “Set Goals For Free. Pay Only When You Fail.”

    I hope to be half a successful as you, but my app is built on failures and honesty :)