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A five dollar bill with bees on it

It’s hard to believe it’s been 5 whole years since we were slamming red bull on dirty couches in a college-town garage, with our friends Sergei and Mark, moving fast and breaking things on our scrappy little startup, dreaming big about how we were going to change the world(wide web) with …

Oh wait. I mean, 5 years since we publicly launched Beeminder. That’s really nothing like how it went down. (We do persist in breaking things though. Biggest self-inflicted disaster of the last year? Probably upgrading our ORM — a massive code-base-wide undertaking.) How did it really go down? Well, we’ve talked about that plenty: zero, one, two, three, four.

So let’s talk about what’s happened since we turned four…

The Year in Review

New integrations for getting data into Beeminder this year are from Complice, our own URLminder, and the Beeminder Slack Bot. The Complice integration in particular is a big deal for serious productivity nerds and we have three different blog posts about it: the original post by Malcolm Ocean about how Beeminder and Complice complement each other, our announcement of the official integration, and finally another Complice guest post about power user features of the Beeminder-Complice integration. We’ve also improved various existing integrations, like adding new IFTTT triggers, and especially Habitica integration improvements, thanks to Alys, about whom more shortly.

The Beeminder-related science news this year included the crumbling of a whole subfield of psychology — Ego Depletion — which prompted us to write about our own opinions on what willpower is. There was also a large meta-study on the advantages of monitoring goal progress. And it’s not new science but since it’s on theme, we wrote a little about the economic concept of revealed preference.

Behind the scenes of Beeminder there’s been a ton of work, like server infrastructure and cleaning out our codebase. Bethany migrated us to a new ORM (for non-nerds, this is a similar amount of work to packing your entire house and then unpacking it all again), cloudified our storage of graphs, and learned a whole bunch of stuff about dev-ops, like fully scripting the deployment of a fresh instance of Beeminder so that if/when the data center serving up our humble website disappears in a ball of fire we’re a few clicks away from making it all reappear like a phoenix in some less incendiary location.

More front endian, we added a rudimentary road editor for people who’re so far down the rabbit hole they emerged on the other side, and a very useful feature for premium subscribers: automatic weekends off. And we ended all that nonsense with so-called freebee goals. Now you can start any goal at $0 any time you want.

Other highly visible changes include a revamping of our premium plans. Beeminder is still free if you stay on track towards your goals but you can no longer create an unlimited number of goals without getting on our cheapest premium plan. Also new is a charity option in our most expensive premium plan. In sadder news, we officially ended our Beekeeper life-coaching plan. As we said in the announcement of the new plans, we’ll focus on what we’re best at — building very nerdy tools — and leave lifecoaching to the lifecoaches.

The splashiest new newness, of course, is the redesign we launched in October (see also our beehind-the-scenes look at it). It puts a strong emphasis on a list-view of your goals, giving you individual data entry right from the list, and trying to bring the relevant info — how much and how soon — into the forefront for newbees.

Finally, though most are too minor to be noteworthy, we made 365 User-Visible Improvements to Beeminder in the past 365 days. And in fact over 2000 UVIs in the past 2000 days. It’s been over 1000 days — almost 3 years — since we’ve failed to tweet a UVI in time and paid one of you $1000. We’re probably overdue and in fact could cough that $1000 up many times and have it all still be thoroughly worth it.

The State of the Bee

Bee offering a high five At the beginning of 2016, your friendly neighborhood Beeminder founders committed to the unthinkable: getting day jobs if we couldn’t make revenue grow in 2016. We were already profitable but just barely and needed a kick in the pants, so we gave ourselves one. Of course we beemind myriad inputs to growing Beeminder — user-visible improvements, blog posts, hours of work, tocks, etc — but beeminding outputs, like revenue, is harder. So we tried it the old-fashioned way and put ourselves on the hook by publicly announcing some dire consequences for failing to make Beeminder grow. Our main strategy here was the premium revamp to get more hardcore folks paying monthly, and the redesign, to keep most newbees from fleeing in terror upon loading the site.

Note the nice jump in revenue which means our 2016 commitment device has paid off and Beeminder will flourish into 2017 and beeyond:

Revenue graph: the first 5 years

We’ve been aided immensely in the push to grow faster by having Andy Brett come back in full force. And as of last month we have Lillian Karabaic as Minister of the Exterior — i.e., marketing and finance — which, it’s abundantly clear, is about to translate into more revenue growth.

Finally, we also added Alice Harris, aka Alys, this year, as Habitica Liaison. She both helps improve the Beeminder-Habitica integration and, like all of us, helps with support. Habitica, thanks to Alys, is now tied with CollegeInfoGeek as our top source of new Beeminder users.

This all makes our team sound bigger than it is though. Only Danny and Bee and occasionally Andy are full-time. Changing that is our biggest incentive to keep revenue growing.

Most Important Thing

The last couple years we put ourselves on the hook for some set of features / milestones we were going to reach before the year was up. That led to getting things done, but also scrambling last minute and of course, breaking things.

This year we pledged instead to keep 50% of our hours on whatever was the next Most Important Thing. We pay out pledges from derailments on those goals to users.

Danny’s been stuck all year on taming his email as his Most Important Thing, the bane of the CEO role. But Bethany, the CTO, i.e, the one who actually builds everything, worked on upgrading all the things and paid out a max pledge of $270 to a lucky user. Then came weekends off which only went as high as $30 paid. The premium revamp also only went as high as $30 paid (final pledge $90), and Bee’s current Most Important Thing is server infrastructure. Keep an eye on that one and if she falls behind you can currently earn $90 out of her pocket.

Favorite Blog Posts (and a New Forum Category)

Finally, if you’ve made it this far and just can’t stand to see this blog post end, let us make some suggestions of our greatest hits for this year, and you can go stroll down memory lane. It’ll be almost like reading a never-ending story.

  1. Our favorite guest post, of course, was by our now-9-year-old daughter, Beeminder’s Youngest User
  2. Oliver Mayor’s Team Black vs Team Yellow has been praised as a great introduction for newbees while also giving veterans food for thought
  3. Neil Hughes’s Walking on Custard is pretty poignant and funny
  4. We celebrated the new year with a pair of mutual guest posts on the Beeminder and Habitica blogs: Beeminder and Habitica Go Together Like Bees and Carrots by us on the Habitica blog, and Bee Your Best Self in 2016 with Habitica by Team Habitica on the Beeminder blog
  5. We started a series of posts we’re calling the Newbee Corner: What It Means To Give Beeminder Your Credit Card and What Happens When I ‘Derail’?
  6. Just in case you want to go all the way to the bottom of the rabbit hole: 16 Obscure Beeminder Features
  7. Better yet, there’s a new Life category of the Beeminder forum for “kvetching, kvelling, and kibitzing”, i.e., sharing stories, getting moral support, and offering advice