two extremes of motivatability

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Daniel Reeves

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Sep 10, 2014, 7:40:21 PM9/10/14
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My recent "Type Bee Personality" post [1] described sort of the
platonic ideal of a user of a commitment device tool like Beeminder or
StickK or whatnot [2]. In the case of Beeminder it's someone who
climbs the pledge schedule till they find their Motivation Point [3]
and then Beeminder simply works motivational magic from then on. When
it's too expensive to derail you make sure not to and all is roses and
ponies.

The other extreme -- to take it to an extreme extreme for
gedankenexperiment purposes -- might be someone who's clinically
depressed and thinks "to hell with everything, I'd literally rather
kill myself than deal with this seemingly simple task right now."

People who just get shit done with Willpower or something are an alien
species as far as we're concerned. They're not part of this
motivational spectrum.

The question: How are people distributed on this spectrum of
motivatability? Sometimes people claim to not be motivated well by
money and I always suspect that what they mean is that they haven't
found their Motivation Point. But they could also be kind of
incorrigibly irrational and/or have a somewhat self-destructive
utility function where a commitment device will do nothing but inflict
more damage on top of the akrasia.

I want to get a better handle on that question. Could y'all chime in
with personal anecdotes? (Publicly or just to me and I'll compile
responses.)



[1] blog.beeminder.com/typebee
[2] blog.beeminder.com/competitors
[3] blog.beeminder.com/glossary#m

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Goal tracking + Commitment contracts == http://beeminder.com

David MacIver

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Sep 11, 2014, 4:47:21 AM9/11/14
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I think that the idea of people having a single motivation point is a mistake. My energy and motivation levels are in general incredibly variable, and my responsiveness to beeminder style commitment devices varies accordingly. 

I'm definitely in general not the sort of person who can get shit done with Willpower on average, but I go through months at a time where I'm within spitting distance of that, and just not letting a goal derail is motivation enough.

Right now... well my goals are currently coming tumbling down around my ears. I've derailed on a few things because I valued the pledge less than not doing the work to derail. I think those were mostly $5, but one might have been a $10. I put my pledge on coffee up to $90 because that's silly money for a coffee which I would never pay and right now I'm considering whether it's worth it (I'm hanging on to "not worth it" by the skin of my teeth).

Also, FWIW, I was one of the people who claimed to not be motivated well by money. I still maintain that, it just it turns out that what I really meant is that I'm not motivated well by monetary rewards and I can still hate spending money on trivial things (I had not previously realised this about myself).

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Clarissa Littler

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Sep 11, 2014, 1:34:49 PM9/11/14
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Well so I think I am also one of the people who's poorly motivated by money and much more motivated by the idea of avoiding "failure". I think that's why, in general, my goals have stayed pretty low over this past year. I agree also with the other response in that my motivation is rather variable. I know that I definitely have had days where nothing can motivate me because I'm in a state of nihilistic self-destruction rather similar to the extreme example you describe.

I know, though, that I'm probably an outlier in that regard. I'd say my average day, though, is that I have a lot of trouble believing that anything I do is actually worth it and that I'm taking advantage of my own rather irrational fear of failure to curb my irrational feelings of depression. I don't, however, hit emergency days very often since I trimmed my total set of goals down to a manageable level. My usage pattern tends to be that I trot along motivated for awhile and stay ahead of goals until a bad phase hits me again and then I stop trying anything for a few days, I start to see more blue and orange on my goals list, and then I finally make myself start working again because I feel the pressure and after a few days of riding the minimum of what I need to get done I get momentum back and get ahead of everything again. I have a feeling it's probably obvious in my data when this happens.

Hope that's a useful response.

Sean Fellows

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Sep 11, 2014, 5:14:26 PM9/11/14
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I agree that a lot of what motivates me is psychic pressure that derailing is bad. I find the dollar amounts most motivating on orange / blue days when I think "Jeez, I don't want to leave myself in a $30 eep day tomorrow and it wouldn't kill me to [do thing].".

If I ever get up to $90 or $210 on a goal I would have more data about whether the big amounts scare me off. So far, the two goals I've hit $30 on are actually goals for things that already cost me money, so it is easier to rationalize. As in, "Would I still want this beer if it cost $16 instead of $6?" is a way to sweep the $10 level under the rug.

Daniel Reeves

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Sep 11, 2014, 5:41:51 PM9/11/14
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Thanks for the great responses!

Some of you saw that in the daily beemail I turned this into a
numerical question, quantifying the spectrum like so:

0 = clinically depressed and fundamentally unmotivatable because you
don't even necessarily want to live so you sure as hell can't possibly
care about getting charged $810 or whatever.
10 = the perfect platonic ideal type bee personality.
5 might be someone who Beeminder works fine for for some things but
for other things you dig in your heels and weasel or irrationally pay
stupid amounts of money.

I'm a 9 I guess. I'm a lazy ass but if get up to enough money at risk
I toe the line and do what I have to do, which is how I've
accomplished pretty much everything I've accomplished, starting with
getting my PhD thesis written when Bethany invented the "Voluntary
Harassment Program" that eventually evolved into Beeminder.

Here's the histogram of responses so far:

0:
1:
2: *
3: *
4:
5: ***
6: *
7: *******
8: ****
9: **
10: *

(Clarissa, David M, and Mirabai -- You three seem like 9s or 10s to me!)

On Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 10:34 AM, Clarissa Littler
<clarissa...@gmail.com> wrote:

Kuba Stechly

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Sep 11, 2014, 5:48:58 PM9/11/14
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I think I might be close to the "platonic beemindee" almost all of the time. I stay mostly in the steady akratic state, finishing only those goals that are eep days. Once costs get high enough, I stop derailing ($270 is the upper bound, but recently even $30 has been enough.) at all; before that, I derail every few weeks or so.

What keeps me at an 8 and not a 9 is the fact that I have days on which I am very tired (usually a lack of sleep from procrastinating on beemergencies for a week or so), so I start to weasel a little... I'm not proud of this, but recently, I changed the time zone so I would have a few extra hours to finish something (I wanted to sleep first). My hatred of messing up the QS aspects and the sanctity of my data prevent me from any sort of outright falsification. 

(Speaking of which, I need to request that my time zone controls become locked.)

Essentiae

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Sep 11, 2014, 6:24:26 PM9/11/14
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This depends a lot, for me, on how well I can manage the things that need doing. If I miss that something was due and only see it late in the day, I often end up closer to the "3" end of the spectrum come late evening. If, on the other hand, I see everything early enough in the day and can keep it in sight at the relevant times, I'm closer to an 8 or 9.

Allison Nelson

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Sep 11, 2014, 8:06:05 PM9/11/14
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Hi everyone,

I am one of the clinically depressed people that you mentioned. Its very hard to find motivation to do much of anything some days, and I've derailed a lot and just given up/archived goals when I felt like "it wasn't worth it" anymore. I know thats not the best way to go about it, but there definitely IS something about putting in a little data point each day, even if I feel really crappy, that gives me a sense of accomplishment for the day. I try to set my goals low, and then by using the "just get started" idea, it helps to where I've done SOMETHING. Some days I don't do too well. Some days I barely want to get out of bed. But I am motivated by data and quantification, so that helps sometimes. I'm currently on a beeminder "break" (I know...I'm hardly the "perfect" beeminder candidate but I guess what I'm trying to say is that I have found more use with it than I would have without it, and if that means I use beeminder in an on-again-off-again sort of fashion, then thats what works for me.

To place myself on the scale of 0-10, I suppose you could say I'm a 1 or 2. Probably closer to a 1. It's useful to give me *something* to strive for that day, but if I get too discouraged by a goal I usually derail once or twice then archive it :/

Isaac Schankler

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Sep 11, 2014, 8:39:28 PM9/11/14
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As someone who has suffered depression on and off, I will say that Beeminder is not very useful, and maybe sometimes harmful, for a person in that state. If I'm being honest it's probably one of the main reasons I stopped using Beeminder.

I've never been at "I would rather kill myself than do this thing" -- in my experience this is not how the cognition goes[1] -- but there have been times where my brain will go to great lengths to avoid even thinking about a thing because of the hamster wheel of self-loathing that it will put me on. In that state Beeminder tasks can be a part of that cycle of destructive self-talk, something along the lines of "if I can't even do simple task x, how will I ever get my shit together?" It also doesn't stop me from doing the task poorly (or what I irrationally believe to be poorly), or fudging the data.

Beeminder can be good in the short-term to get from "agonize about the thing" to "just do the thing already" but after a while it loses its effect for some reason. Staying on the road seems less important after it becomes routine.

And money has never been a very effective motivator for me either

Isaac

[1] I will stop short of saying that this is a fundamental misunderstanding of how depression works because maybe there's someone in the universe who has had that thought and meant it? But the numerical scale doesn't make sense to me either. It's like asking "on a scale of triangle to bumpy, what color would you say you are?"
Isaac Schankler, composer | www.isaacschankler.com

Allison Nelson

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Sep 11, 2014, 10:09:47 PM9/11/14
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I agree with Isaac, on the one hand it's motivating but on the other it just seems like "another thing you can't seem to get right."

Daniel Reeves

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Sep 16, 2014, 2:24:27 AM9/16/14
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Here's a fascinating and heartening account of beeminding while
depressed from an anonymous Beeminder user:

> I think that it was a good thing I had Beeminder when I was depressed.
>
> I don't mean to say that Beeminder fixed my depression, but it put a
> lower bound on the worst case scenario. You know that thing where,
> when depressed, you continue to go through the motions, but you
> have this otherworldly sense that you are in fact going through the
> motions. You can observe yourself, detached, as if from some
> vantage point outside your own self, doing things, and you can't relate
> to yourself or feel anything or get back into your body. You don't feel
> exactly in control, but things are still sliding along hitting all the right
> marks and mostly taking all the right cues.
>
> Beeminder gave me motions to keep going through. It was like a stick
> I could reach out and use to prod that version of me that I felt so
> completely detached from. It didn't feel like I was winning. And I
> certainly wouldn't predict that it would be like this for everyone, and
> perhaps it wouldn't always be like this for me, but in this case, it
> happens that beeminding things kept me getting out of bed. It kept
> me engaging in work that I sometimes hated, but usually also
> managed to give me some sense of worth and accomplishment. It
> kept me doing things that I normally love but the kind of things that
> you quit doing when you're in that state. "I hate everything. So why
> bother with this thing I love." I think that in reality it's really valuable
> to keep keeping up appearances like that. To not retreat completely
> out of things you love doing and people you love interacting with.

On Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 7:09 PM, Allison Nelson

Patrick Duncan

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Sep 16, 2014, 5:00:11 AM9/16/14
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Thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts on this thread. I really do appreciate hearing others' views on these topics.

I, however, don't really understand the scale. It seems to measure someone's likelihood to respond to their current pledge in the final point in time they have to meet their goal before it derails. However, it seems like this is actually a binary classification. You meet your goals because you care for the pledge you are about to lose. You don't meet your goals because you don't care for the pledge you are about to lose (e.g. the pledge isn't high enough, you have competing commitments, or your inability to do anything via depression). Perhaps the scale is measuring how beyond caring someone is mixed in with with how close the combination of all of these goals are to each of their motivation points??

E.G. 
Not depressed
Goal 1: Pledge $5 / Motivation Point $30
Goal 2: Pledge $90 / Motivation Point $90
Goal 3: Pledge $5 / Motivation Point $30
= Ranking on scale: 8

E.G.
Overwhelming inability to start
Goal 1: Pledge $5 / Motivation Point $30
Goal 2: Pledge $90 / Motivation Point $90
Goal 3: Pledge $5 / Motivation Point $30
= Ranking on scale: 3


My own anecdote is that I've just failed on two goals. (When my bank gets its $*#@ together and finally send me my replacement credit card, I'll start them up again.) I failed because I sat on beemergencies days for at least one of them for about a week and then didn't manage to get the work done one night as I didn't finish normal work until 11pm. When one failed, I let the other fail because I'd had enough and needed a rest. I was leaving things far too late (completing the minimum required with minutes to spare) rather than spending time earlier in the day (i.e. planning!). One Beeminder blog post talks about setting up a goal to motivate getting beeminder goals ticked off earlier in the day. Perhaps I should be looking into that. Perhaps it's just that I need to fail a few times until the credit card debt (Huh, I only just realised that was the actual motivation of each pledge) starts to kick my ass. 

I don't know where I currently am on your scale Daniel.


Kate Bendrick

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Sep 16, 2014, 1:36:09 PM9/16/14
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Money is indeed a poor motivator, because no matter what it's a future reward (or more specifically, a set of future reward options). Juice is a reward. Facebook is a reward. A skydive is a reward. Money is simply the possibility to get a reward, again and most importantly, sometime-that-is-not-now. The closer the motivator in temporal proximity to the desire action, the better.

Daniel Reeves

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Sep 16, 2014, 1:37:11 PM9/16/14
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I'm actually not at all sure the scale makes sense. The idea for that
straw poll was related to our "10 freebees for $1" idea and how that's
different from unlimited freebees with Plan Bee.

The difference, repeating myself from a recent daily beemail, is that
a freebee is a goal that starts at $0 but still climbs the pledge
schedule each time you derail. You can turn off auto-increase and have
it stay as low as $5 but you can't have it stay at $0. Plan Bee lets
you have truly pledgeless goals (as many as you like) that can start
at and stay at $0 (and drop back down to $0 if previously at $5).

The fact that it takes a paragraph to clarify that means we're doing
something wrong... :)

My inclination is to solve this by yanking the "infinite freebees"
perk from the premium plans. There are only ~50 people taking
advantage of it and it's pretty un-Beeminder-like. (But of course
anyone who's signed up on Plan Bee before we make changes will be
grandfathered or better.)

In the meantime we've tried to disambiguate by referring to the Plan
Bee perk on beeminder.com/premium as "fully pledgeless goals" and are
inclined to try this "10 freebees for $1" idea since it's easy and the
feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. (Thanks again!)

But back to the motivatability scale, my idea was that if there are
many of you lower on that scale then we should perhaps keep pursuing
seemingly un-Beeminder-like ideas like unlimited pledgeless goals.

Here's the final histogram of responses (also repeated from a recent
daily beemail):

0:
1:
2: *
3: *
4: *
5: ***
6: *
7: *******
8: ****
9: **
10: *

(Note the huge selection bias though.)


PS to Portland people: Want to join us tonight at the beehive for a
pomodoro poker hack night?

Daniel Vainsencher

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Sep 17, 2014, 2:54:57 AM9/17/14
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Hi Daniel,

I propose for your consideration two reasons why you should take the
"lets change the rules objectionably, but grandfather people in" move
only under extreme circumstances.

1. It reflects badly on beeminder.
2. It imposes a permanent software engineering and relationship
constraint on beeminder.

I can elaborate on each if necessary. But I for one would much prefer
that you never grandfather anyone in. When you change the rules, change
them (and yes, that means having that hated "we get to change the rules"
clause). And as a corollary: change them (objectionably) only rarely and
carefully.

Beeminder has, at different times, expressed two views that seem to
conflict:
1. "infinite freebees" ... it's pretty un-Beeminder-like.
2. ... the QS First principle, and in fact I view Beeminder as foremost
a Quantified Self tool

I think the infinite (subscription paid!) freebees are a very QS
feature, and hence very Beeminder-like also. People are telling you on
many threads that the QS aspects of BM are at least as important as the
sting. And for paying subscribers there is no conflict with revenue.

I personally love BM. It works for me for some important things, though
not yet for ugh-fields nor for work. But for me personally the "hurry
now, get grandfathered" calls are a turn off.

Daniel Vainsencher

Daniel Reeves

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Sep 17, 2014, 4:24:08 AM9/17/14
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Excellent points, and I did have that in the back of my mind a bit
when I added the "or better" after "will be grandfathered". Like if it
looks costly for the reasons you suggest (I'm not sure if it will be)
then we could instead do a greater-than-100% refund on the most recent
premium payment. We'd have to think it through and, mostly, ask the
people affected. (Which, again, is not many.) Noted on the turn-off of
anything with an "act now!" feel to it. Great point.

As for the seeming conflict between the QS First principle and fully
pledgeless goals, my own feeling is that, yes, Beeminder is
first/foremost a QS tool, but it's still not exactly beeminding if you
remove the pledge part. It's just, y'know, minding. QS First is
actually my own bias. Many of us view Beeminder's graphs and data as
purely a means for implementing flexible commitment contracts.
[blog.beeminder.com/philip] Ie, QS Last.

But even QS First doesn't mean QS Only, is my point. We gladly point
people to alternatives like blog.beeminder.com/trackhack if they want
QS Only. As you point out, it makes sense to give people that if
they're willing to pay for it, except, as you also point out, there
might be a software engineering cost and relationship constraint,
dealing with two very different kinds of users with different sets of
rules and algorithms. (But it might be fine!)

I should also mention that we've avoided any grandfathering so far
(other than prices for premium plans) and do want to continue to avoid
it. So, yes, really glad you pointed this out.

Feedback still solicited on how bad it would be to drop unlimited
pledgeless goals from Plan Bee, given that you could instead buy 10
*initially* pledgeless goals for $1. But I also think we may yet find
a way to have the best of all worlds and make QS Only and QS First and
QS Last people all happy in an elegant way. [note to
self/inner-hexagon: pledge caps proposal may be part of this (might be
worth a separate thread if people are curious)]

Thanks again for the highly constructive feedback on this stuff, Daniel!

Daniel Vainsencher

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Sep 17, 2014, 5:05:36 AM9/17/14
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I think that one blindspot that QSers might suffer from is that for most
people, just one system is plenty complicated enough. There isn't room
in my life for beeminder and for iDoneThis etc.

Having the sting *available* in BM makes it the first QS tool attractive
enough for me to try. The possibility of also using sting-free QS for
some goals on the same interface doesn't detract, so why remove it?

I find myself rambling in my argument. Actually, I just don't know why
you are considering this change. "not BMish" is not a reason, it is
shorthand for something I still don't understand.

Maybe conceptual integrity: "we only do stuff with a zing"? but zing=0
is just a valid special case (for paying subscribers). Have I missed
some other explanation?

More generally, I would say: change is not all good. More speed is good.
Less bugs is good. More (quality) integrations is good. New features...
sometimes, but keep in mind the system basically works, and complexity
is a bug. Removing existing features!? have a really good reason for that?

Daniel

Tom Nicholls

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Sep 17, 2014, 1:55:18 PM9/17/14
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On Wednesday, September 17, 2014 10:05:36 AM UTC+1, Daniel Vainsencher wrote:
I think that one blindspot that QSers might suffer from is that for most
people, just one system is plenty complicated enough. There isn't room
in my life for beeminder and for iDoneThis etc.


This.

I don't think the conceptual confusion that exists is a good reason to get shot of a valuable feature. Simply rename the premium version, as suggested, to something like "totally pledge-free goals". It's (quite reasonably) premium only, so it's not like the population who might get confused by this is very large.

On this topic, I've been thinking fairly hard about the post made a few weeks ago which linked to https://training.kalzumeus.com/newsletters/archive/saas_pricing and what exactly the best way of seeing the premium plans is.

The QS/free goals thing is essentially the only reason I have a premium sub. This seems to be quite a fundamental point: your business model is not dependent on subscription income, and (except for this case, where an obvious benefit undercuts your business model) it's not clear that they offer many benefits beyond warm fuzzies of financially supporting a good idea.

The second point is that your business is not like those discussed on the Kalzumeus posts: you don't sell premium subscriptions to corporates for whom whatever subscription level is trivial and the glossy presentation is all. You sell to individuals, for whom the "feel" of the service is actually central to the basic offer and absolutely key to whatever added value is offered by the premium sub. By making small chisels away at that feel, whether it be by establishing a separate class of grandfathered service or by making things "premium" which are actually helpful for the delivery of the basic Beeminder service (which, let's not forget, comes with its own revenue stream) then my feeling is that you're slightly cannibalising your brand reputation.

In short, it seems to me that your approach should be closer to the Tarsnap example that is derided (extraordinarily honest and straightforward, and very much a person-to-person service) simply because your competitive advantage rests on either your model not being copied (seems unlikely) or on relatively geeky individuals (not large bureaucracies) deciding that you're absolutely the swell kind of people that they want to send cash to on a regular basis to keep themselves honest. The premium subs (however happy I am with them) are a bit of a sideshow.

I don't for a moment think this is the only perspective on value, and you'll have spend orders-of-magnitude more time thinking about this than I have, but it seemed important. Feel free to treat it as the unsolicited advice it is!

Tom

Daniel Reeves

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Sep 18, 2014, 8:41:47 PM9/18/14
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Daniel and Tom, this continues to be brilliant feedback. I can allay
most of your fears about grandfathering and yanking features. When
hashing out this "10 freebees for $1" idea it started to seem too
convoluted how Plan Bee is all about unlimited freebees but then you
can get freebees dirt cheap but the Plan Bee freebees are freer than
freebees because they can stay at $0 and OMGtoocomplicated!

But we hear you, throwing the QS Only people under the bus isn't the
right solution. So we won't do that.

Here's the current pledge caps spec that I alluded to before:
expost.padm.us/pledgecaps

One thing I wanted to ask you more about, Tom: why would it feel to
you like cannibalizing our brand if we made basic things premium? The
extreme of that would be to make everything premium, like a limited
free trial but then you have to pay to keep using Beeminder. A normal
subscription service, in other words. The biggest argument against
that is that we've made a big deal out of the "if you never go off
track you'll never pay anything" feature. If it's just the seeming
unfairness of having to pay a monthly fee when you're already paying
pledges we could fix that by applying all pledges as credits towards
premium plans. (But we're not thinking seriously about this at this
point; mainly just wanted to hear more about possible brand
cannibalization concerns.)

Thanks again for the help thinking this stuff through!

Daniel Vainsencher

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Sep 19, 2014, 3:30:04 AM9/19/14
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On Sep 19, 2014 3:41 AM, "Daniel Reeves" <dre...@beeminder.com> wrote:
> But we hear you, throwing the QS Only people under the bus isn't the
> right solution. So we won't do that.

There are no QS only *people*, there are QS only features. Every person can benefit from stingy goals and also from QS only goals. Only difference is stingy goals statistically pay for themselves, but you have to charge for QS ones.

> Here's the current pledge caps spec that I alluded to before:
>expost.padm.us/pledgecaps

Looks reasonable. Does add some complexity, but not much.

> One thing I wanted to ask you more about, Tom: why would it feel to
> you like cannibalizing our brand if we made basic things premium?

Here is a natural line of thought:
- your paying customers are everyone that has given you a credit card, not just "premiums".
- hence moving features to premium = degrading service for paying customers.
- if you are often degrading or even talking about degrading, then you will probably degrade in the future, forever.
- maybe I should put my data, time, loyalty and money somewhere safer.

Hence cannibalizing your brand.  Not worth it for omgtoocomplicated, IMO.

Going back to the basics, I think bm is the bees knees just as is. I am sorry if it isn't generating as much income as you'd like, but hiking prices shrinks your potential market.

Daniel

Sean Fellows

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Sep 19, 2014, 10:33:13 AM9/19/14
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Am I reading your draft spec correctly in that the possibility of exponential goal growth is being removed from non-premium users?

I think this would take away quite a bit of the sting of Beeminder for me. I have two goals at $30 and I am terrified of derailing on them, not because I can't pay $30 but because I can't pay $270. If derailing the goal would leave the pledge at $30, I would probably derail more[1]. That, and the idea of paying money for the privilege of paying more money seems backwards.

That said, short-circuiting my goals to $270 doesn't feel right either. Even though I am pretty sure $30 isn't going to keep me on track forever, the longer I don't screw it up the longer I get to stay at $30 and that feels a tiny bit good every day. This is all just ways of saying that I find the exponential schedule motivating.

=====

As I've said before[2], I'm not very impressed with the way things are partitioned into premium today. If essential features are moved into premium, I will quit Beeminder.

Cheers,
Sean

[1] Yes, this may be more revenue for Beeminder short-term, but I'm not going to use the service if it isn't able to get me to do things.
[2] Today I'm minding 19 goals and I've paid Beeminder a total of $60.


--

Tom Nicholls

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Sep 19, 2014, 10:51:49 AM9/19/14
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On 19/09/14 01:41, Daniel Reeves wrote:
[snip]
One thing I wanted to ask you more about, Tom: why would it feel to
you like cannibalizing our brand if we made basic things premium?
For me at least, the sales pitch for Beeminder is hugely refreshing:
it's very clear up front about what the concept is, and this is really
nicely reinforced by things like the force majeure clause and the
"exquisitely fair" premium sub slider. The values expressed by this are
something like "fair", "rational", and "honest" (though not, note,
"cheap" or "free"). It feels, in short, like the kind of company who I'm
enthusiastic about giving money to.

In particular, I'm thrilled that Beeminder doesn't feel like another
slightly scuzzy SaaS provider attempting to extract my money because I'm
too lazy to cancel, or constantly trying to upsell me into an
unnecessarily high subscription band. It makes a straightforward offer
(QS with commitment contracts) with a fair price (the cost of derailing)
and a straight-up commitment to honesty. This made me not only happy to
commit to its use, but also (eventually) to a lifetime premium sub.

I'm cool with premium for pledgeless, for starting the road at $910, and
for Beekeeper, because those are things that are likely to actually cost
you money! It seems exquisitely fair to have those as premium.

On the other hand, charging for (hypothetically) turning on the "view
rosy line on the graph" bit would feel cheap. Instead of providing an
awesome tool at a fair price, it would be artificially crippling the
basic version to chisel some money out of your public. If the tool is
free, that's maybe fair enough, but it isn't: you're in the enviable
position of having actual revenue from (many of) your basic users. So it
would just feel like a slightly tawdry cash grab, which isn't really in
line with my perceptions of what your brand values are.

Incidentally, I've actually never been quite as comfortable with the
other limb of your expressed premium policy ("too complicated") as it
seems a bit of a cop-out, though the fact that people will accidentally
rename their graphs and break things will probably cause enough of a
support demand to justify it.

I think my perception of your values is probably fairly widely held. My
reaction to it probably isn't: plenty of people seem to have no problem
with business models selling configuration bits or supernumerary
foozles. Hell, if Microsoft had a proposition as good as Beeminder, then
I'm sure it'd get plenty of business.

On the other hand, I doubt I'm the only one -- and you haven't set your
stall out as a nickel-and-diming company. If you start looking more like
one (intentionally or not) then I fear you'd be eating a reputation that
has a lot of long term commercial value. Customer delight and perceived
brand value congruence is pretty hard to obtain.

The
extreme of that would be to make everything premium, like a limited
free trial but then you have to pay to keep using Beeminder. A normal
subscription service, in other words.
That's a little difficult to square with the "pay up if you derail"
sting which is at the core of why Beeminder is great, but you could
probably do something with the pledges-towards-subs which would make
that work (though you'd have to be careful not to devalue the sting by
simply giving you your cash back as a subscription credit, of course...)

In many ways it'd actually feel more honest than a weird hybrid where it
looks like the price is x ($derail) but once you've used it for a bit
you realise you actually need (say) the retroratchet feature to be able
to beemind effectively and you're stuck with the option of either
abandoning your time investment in the system or forking out an extra $y/mo.

The biggest argument against
that is that we've made a big deal out of the "if you never go off
track you'll never pay anything" feature.
That is quite a large part of it, I think. It's not so much that it
couldn't have been set up as a subscription-only service but that it
wasn't. (Plus the more boring business case argument about whether
raising the barriers to entry would increase revenue, of course, but
that's got very little to do with brand values). It's very much about
the honesty and straightforwardness rather than the cash.

tl;dr: Need to be careful to avoid making Beeminder a tawdry
bait-and-switch. But it might just be me.

T

Daniel Reeves

unread,
Sep 19, 2014, 7:56:28 PM9/19/14
to akratics
This is pretty amazing having this community to discuss the future of
Beeminder with. Thank you! Y'all have changed my mind on my initial
inclination to axe infinite freebees and I'm finding the rest of this
persuasive as well.

BREAKING NEWS: We just deployed pledge caps as a default, but everyone
(premium or not) still has the option to set them as high as they
want. (Only Plan Bee or higher can have a pledge cap of $0.) Note that
this is a generalization of the "auto-increase pledges" checkbox we've
had until just now.

Thanks especially to Alice Monday for doing the heaving lifting code-wise.

We're hopeful that this may be the best of all worlds. And hopefully
it won't be too tedious for people like you, Sean, who'll want to go
through all their goals bumping the pledge caps to $810 or whatever
amount meets your personal definition of "crazy enough to motivate me
to never let the pledge actually get that high".

All ideas related to premium plans are going back on the shelf for now
while we digest the latest feedback. So if we can pause all thoughts
on that [1] and get your reaction to these new pledge cap defaults,
that would be awesome...

Thanks again, everyone! Insanely helpful as always.
Danny and Bethany and Alice et al


[1] Again, we're finding Daniel, Sean, and Tom's points persuasive.
And in fact they're mostly just urging us to stick to our original
principles, as outlined in the "No Carrots For You" section of the
announcement of premium plans
[http://blog.beeminder.com/premium#nocarrots]. And I agree that #2
("things that are confusing to newbees") is too fuzzy.
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