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A carrot on a stick

This is a guest post by Josh Jordan.

While waiting for a Beeminder beta account, I tried using StickK to help me lose some fat. StickK is a brilliant concept and I hope they succeed in a big way, but I don’t like their weekly weigh-ins, for two reasons:

  1. It’s way too easy to temporarily and unhealthfully cut weight by dehydrating yourself with a hot bath and other techniques. Daily weigh-ins with Beeminder would be much harder to game. (Not that your humble narrator would ever consider seeking out and making use of such information merely to avoid losing a substantial sum of money, of course, but other less strong-willed people might be tempted.)

  2. With StickK, to make absolutely sure you come in under your target weight on the reporting date (if you’re not going to cut weight by dehydration) you actually have to make sure you weigh a pound or so below your target weight to allow for normal fluctuations on the day of your weigh in. Beeminder’s approach of daily weigh-ins coupled with the ingenious yellow brick road keeps you on track better while keeping you from stressing out about normal fluctuations in weight.

As an aside, I was confused by StickK’s screens for creating a commitment contract. There’s no final confirmation step the way there is in a normal online sales/checkout process. Every screen simply has a button at the bottom that says “next step”, while I was doing things like entering credit card details and inviting friends to support me, and I wasn’t sure when the contract had actually been created and when I would no longer have a chance to edit the contract details.

There’s not a lot of precedent for creating a commitment contract online, but for now I would suggest adopting eBay’s general approach. Right before the contract is created, the web site could say something like, “You are about to enter into a contract to do X, including making reports over the internet on the following dates (with a link to fine print about grace periods and such). If you fail you will pay $X per reporting period, for a potential total of $Y. Are you absolutely sure you want to do this?”