Withings partner spotlight: Beeminder

May 4, 2012

In this new entry in our “partner spotlight” series, we discuss Beeminder, a partner that marries an original concept with an innovative representation of data.

Beeminder is built around the Greek concept of “Akrasia”, and specifically around defeating it. From Beeminder’s blog, akrasia “encompasses the phenomenon of procrastination, lack of self-control, lack of follow-through, any kind of addictive behavior”, basically all those petty reasons that add up and psychologically prevent you from reaching reasonable goals.

In its attempt to help you beat akrasia, an important part of Beeminder’s originality is that it lets you track basically anything. It’s not a training program or a virtual coach, but rather a powerful tracking engine that you can adapt to almost any situation of life. Beeminder’s graphs are not just something you make to look at however (although they’re quite pretty). The whole service is very goal-oriented with several innovative tools to help you reach your objectives.

The first tool, that is at the heart of Beeminder, is the contract. In Beeminder, you can pledge a modest sum of money (5 or $10) to reaching your goal. It’s not about just reaching the goal in some last-minute rush though (a common consequence of akrasia). On the contrary, Beeminder is designed to help you arrive where you want to be through a constant, regular effort. You log your progress regularly and every time you stray too far from the tracks, the money is lost. While the initial amount is modest (5 or $10), it increases exponentially as you fail to meet the obligations you have set for yourself until the monetary motivation is powerful enough to compel you! At any time, you may also decide that the objective wasn’t realistic after all and cancel the tracking, in which case you will lose no more money.

Beeminder allows for some flexibility: at any time you may make your goal easier (or harder) to reach, but the twist is that the change will only take effect one week later. This ensures that the reason for the change is not your akrasia pushing you, but that it’s a reasonable decision that you are making with the long-term in mind.

This graph is made by someone who wants to push themselves to make more blog posts. In this case they increased the number of blog posts they must make every week to stay on course. The change however is only applied one week later, at the Akrasia Horizon. This particular graph looks only at the future and has only one point of data visible, on the left.

The second tool that is unique to Beeminder and that goes along with the contracts is the “Yellow brick road”. For any objective and completion date that you set, Beeminder will generate a line that shows the most efficient route to get there. This line and the area adjacent in the graph constitute the yellow brick road, the path that you must not stray from or you will be penalized and lose the money you have pledged. The yellow brick road provides a very clear visual reference to see where you are now and where you need to be in a day, a week or a month.


Of course you only lose your pledge if you stray in the wrong direction: reach your goals faster than expected like the person in the graph above and you won’t pay a dime.

One of the most common goals people try to reach with Beeminder is weight loss. It can be dangerous to lose weight too fast and when you do that often it is weight that you will regain later. While Beeminder won’t replace a doctor, the way it works will encourage you to lose weight regularly, at a steady pace. Beeminder can be great help and a great motivator, but ultimately it’s up to you to plan ahead enough that your goal is sustainable and set in a timeframe that makes it healthy to reach.

There are of course many other health-related personal initiatives where Beeminder can help you: count the days without cigarettes, for instance, or how many glasses of alcohol you drink in an effort to lower your consumption. The only limit is your imagination and what goals you feel are important enough that you really want to reach them. Other users’ testimonials may also give you some ideas!

To help yourself even further, the best thing to do of course is to connect your Withings scale to Beeminder. Once this is done, all your further weigh-ins will show up on your Beeminder graph automatically. This way you’ll be sure to stay honest all the way through!

Susie Felber

Susie is a writer and producer who has worked in nearly every medium. As the daughter of a hard-working M.D., she's had a lifelong interest in health and is proud that she continues to lower her 5k time as she ages.
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