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Feet submerged in a pool with money everywhere

First, we’d like to present a foresight award to Beeminder (and Manifold) user ianminds, who predicted we’d do this almost a year ago.

Cutting to the chase, here’s how things work now. As ever, when creating a goal, you can choose to have it start at $0 or to put $5 at stake from the get-go. The interface for doing so looks a little different, though:

Checkbox which says 'Hold the pledge at $0 for 7 days while I get my feet wet'

And the real difference is that, before, the goal would stay at $0 indefinitely. Well, indefinitely until you first derailed (that means letting your datapoints cross the bright red line on your graph, for anyone just tuning in). Then only after that first derail would it go up to $5 at stake for the next derailment. Now if you opt to start at $0 at risk because you’re just not sure if you picked the right metric, or if you’ll even like it, etc, then at the end of the first week, we will bump the pledge up to $5 for you.

Any questions?

What about my existing $0 goals?!

We haven’t changed anything with those… yet. We would like to do away with them as well [1] but we won’t do that without plenty of warning. That’s why we’re starting with this experiment. We’re easing into the water a toe at a time.

What if I really like free [2] things?

Then try hard not to derail? We actually think the best users actively prefer their $0 goals to become $5 goals after some period. Our theory is that the model Beeminder user only ever picks $0 when creating a goal out of uncertainty about what’s realistic to commit to and other unknowns.

Philip Hellyer likes to chide us (very correctly) about what he calls the Month Of Wasted Awesomeness. If you start a goal at $0, with a week of initial flat spot, and you shrug off $5 and $10 derailments, then your first four weeks of your new goal will be like:

  1. Coast along for a week on the initial flat spot
  2. Derail at $0, whoop-de-do
  3. Get a week of post-derail respite, coast along again
  4. Derail at $5, yawn
  5. Get another week of post-derail respite, coast along yet again
  6. Derail at $10, very mild groan
  7. You guessed it, another week of post-derail respite
  8. Now you have a $30 beemergency and are finally arsed to do something about it

Feet-wetting mode isn’t actually helping with that problem very much, but it’s a step in the right direction! If you don’t start with a week of initial flat spot, at least, this reduces the Month of Wasted Awesomeness by 25%.

When does the bump happen exactly?

I have no idea! This has only been live for a couple days. We have plenty of time to finish implementing the part that actually increases your pledge. But seriously, the idea is for it to happen exactly 7 days after you created the goal, or 24 hours after we send you a reminder that the feet-wetting period is ending, which should happen six days after goal creation.

What about an archived goal?

Well, that mostly shouldn’t happen, since in the first week getting rid of a goal means outright deleting it, rather than archiving it. And since we’re temporarily grandfathering all the previously created goals, it’d take a bit of doing to wind up with an archived or otherwise frozen goal with a $0 pledge on it. Which is not to say that some of you won’t manage it.

Wait, you didn’t answer my question about archived goals, are you avoiding making eye contact with me?

Probably yes. We’re very shy.

Anyway, we think that you should always prefer to restart a goal rather than create a new version of it, so if a goal manages to freeze at $0 pledged, for any one of the possible combinations of events that could lead to this (immediately weaselproofing and scheduling an archive on your brand new goal? a payment on a different goal failing, causing your account to get flagged, and then derailing the $0 goal within the first week? having previously had a Beemium plan when the goal was last active?) then you will be able to restart it with the same feet-wetting option as if it were a brand new goal.

In other words, a frozen still-feet-wetting $0 goal will (we are hereby committing) allow you to opt in to a week of $0 at risk for the first week after unfreezing.

Why is that elephant staring at me?

Oh, his name is Beemium. He is in the room.

For Beemium folks, we’re not taking away your pledgeless goals. If you want a pledgeless goal now it’s almost the same as before. Now you tick a square (instead of a circle) to start at $0 pledged, and set the pledge cap to $0 to stop the pledge from increasing when you derail. Really not very different at all!

So what if I cancel my Beemium plan?

Then all your $0 pledge caps will get bumped to $5 pledge caps. This is the same as it ever was. The difference now is that since $0 pledges are week-long trials only, your newly $5-capped goal, with current $0 pledge, will get picked up as a goal whose feet-wetting period is already overdue to end, and we’ll send you an email saying so within the first day after your premium plan was downgraded. Then 24 hours after that, your pledge would get bumped up to $5.

The same would happen if you decided to move the pledge cap from $0 to $5 yourself without canceling Beemium.

Any other money-grubbing machinations in the works?

So many! Users have long been excited about the idea of automatic pledge decays: if you go long enough without derailing then probably your pledge is too high. Derailing it is nailing it! So, partly as a reward for staying on track, but partly as a hint that you should be less afraid of derailing, we’re pretty on board with having your pledge automatically go back down after a while. And we have a whole menagerie of ideas like that for adjusting pledges to squeeze maximal motivation out of them. Maybe we’ll throw machine learning at it, who knows. Having the pledge bump itself from $0 to $5 after 7 days is one of many things we may do. We won’t spring any of this on you, and we’ll always respect pledge caps, of course, but we’re excited about how much more motivating Beeminder goals can potentially be if we’re smarter about setting the stakes.



[1] Yes, Beemium excluded, but we’d rather not talk about that.

[2] This is not to be confused with “Death To Freebees; Or, Freebees Für Alles” which you were almost surely not going to confuse this with but we think that post is a fascinating look into the early days of Beeminder and how dumb we were so we wanted an excuse to at least link to it in a footnote.