Idea: Beeminder for digital distraction

Beeminder is a tool that helps you achieve your goals by charging you an ever-increasing amount money when you don't achieve your goals. It's very effective for certain types of people, with many calling it life changing, etc. If it sounds intriguing you should definitely check it out.

I've used Beeminder and mostly like it, but have a few issues (some of these are with Beeminder, some with myself).

Beeminder's real achilles heel: fake data

Contrary to other takes, BM's true Achilles heel is that has no way of knowing when you cheat, either blatantly by entering fake data or half assing a workout or a blog post or something.

This definitely isn't Beeminder's fault. Many (most?) of their users have success despite it, and they have talked about it and have some features to address it. But obviously everyone would be better off if entering fake data was literally impossible.

Incentive issues: Beeminder keeps the money

Beeminder keeps the money you pay when you don't reach your goals. On the one hand, this is fine: they have cool tracking tools and integrations that aren't costless to develop or run. Plus they're friendly, always erring towards not charging if your data got messed up, automatically pausing your account if you go inactive, and even pay random users when they don't achieve their own goals.

This is fine, but it also leads to clear conflicts of interests. One example: say you want to go the gym more, and you know paying $1 or $5 isn't going to motivate you. You want pay $20 every time you don't go.

Instead of letting you set the penalty at $20, BM requires you first put $5 on the line, fail, get charged $5, increase the penalty to $10, and fail again. Only then, finally, will your pledge be $20 so you can start being motivated.

At first I missed this and figured the increasing penalty amount was some black box algorithm meant to maximize my chances of achieving my goals. Then I read the BM folks says they do this is because they need to make money on your smaller, less motivating amounts first.

Another example: some people are motivated enough by BM's long term data tracking features that they enjoy using it without putting any money on the line. In that case BM is helping you achieve your goals, but isn't getting any penalty money, so it seems reasonable to charge something, however this brings us to the last point, which is...

Beeminder is really expensive

Beeminder is really expensive for what it is, which is a product where you pay a monthly fee in order to pay them more money when you don't achieve your goals.

There's a free version that's limited to 3 goals, any more than that and it's $8 a month. Extra features like automatically having weekends off are $16.

If you want to pony up to get your incentives aligned (immediately set your dollar amount at what motivates you or just use the tracking features without putting money on the line) it's $40 a month (this option also lets you donate half your goal related losses to charity).

While I'm familiar with Patio11's law of SAAS pricing, and BM is free to charge what they can, this seems like way too much money to me, well beyond the market price.


Hence this idea, a BM type like service that:

  • only does digital distraction type goals (limited time on Instagram, not using phone after 7 pm) that it's impossible to cheat or enter fake data on (vs half assing a workout)
  • costs a low monthly fee
  • donates all punishment dollars to charity