Tag Archives: Beeminder

Bethany Soule on Beeminding Beeminder

In this short talk Bethany Soule, founder of Beeminder, a goal setting and commitment tool, describes what happened when they started using it to “mind” the development of the service itself.

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QS PDX Recap (October 30, 2012)

This guest post comes to us from one of our wonderful QS Meetup organizers, Steven Jonas. If you’re a Meetup Organizer and want to post a recap of your meetup just let us know!

Quantified Self Portland Show & Tell Meetup Recap – October 30, 2012

Puppet Labs opened up their space and generously hosted our October Meetup. We had some amazing talks and discussion. Read on for more about each of the talks and our post show&tell discussion session.

David Gwilliam – Text Message Analytics

David GwilliamVIDEO | SLIDES | TWITTER

Brief: After getting dumped, David needed an excuse to read his old text messages. Exporting all of his SMS’s out of Google Voice, he used a variety of tools to get them in a form that would allow for linguistic analysis and visualization. Doing so, he reconfirmed his belief that most of his communication was either to girls or about girls. As his project moves forward, he wants to improve the linguistic analysis by looking at significant phrases, rather than words, and tweak his D3 visualization so that it better represents clustering.

Tools and other things mentioned:

-His GitHub page for his project – http://github.com/dhgwilliam/google-voice-stats
-Twitter page – http://twitter.com/dhgwilliam
-Google Voice – google.com/voice
-Google Takeout – google.com/takeout
-Data Liberation Front – www.dataliberation.org/takeout-products
-Markdown – http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/
-Redis – http://redis.io
-Ohm ORM – http://ohm.keyvalue.org
-Sinatra – http://www.sinatrarb.com
-Statistically Improbable Phrases – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistically_Improbable_Phrases
-Rack Cache – http://github.com/rtomayko/rack-cache
-Resque – http://github.com/defunkt/resque
-Rake – http://rake.rubyforge.org
-GCharts – http://mootools.net/forge/p/gcharts
-Pandoc – http://johnmacfarlane.net/pandoc/
-D3 – http://d3js.org
-jQuery -http://jquery.com
-Linguistic analysis equation – http://www.comp.lancs.ac.uk/~paul/publications/rg_acl2000.pdf

Rob Shields – Search Your Life

Rob Shields

VIDEO | SLIDES | TWITTER

Brief: Rob was interested in passively recording his life, so he rigged his phone to hang around his neck and take a picture nearly every minute. He dumped the photos into Picasa and with tagging and face recognition used them to start answering questions such as “When did I last have sushi?” and “What was the name of that guy I met at the QS Data Co-op?” Rob found that knowing that the phone was recording events, it allowed him to be more present in the moment, since he didn’t have to worry about retrieving a camera to capture events. Going forward, he would like to have ways to add more metadata (like geotagging) to add context to the images that he captures, a wider lens, and be able to integrate it with other streams of data.

Tools and other things mentioned:

-Gordon Bell’s SenseCam – http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/cambridge/projects/sensecam/
-Autographer – http://www.autographer.com/
-Memoto – http://memoto.com
-Project Glass – http://plus.google.com/+projectglass/posts
-Google Goggles – http://www.google.com/mobile/goggles/
-TagTime – http://messymatters.com/tagtime/
-Picasa -http://picasa.google.com
-Vicon Revue – http://viconrevue.com/product.html

Steven Jonas – Stressing Out Loud

Steven Jonas

VIDEO* | SLIDES | TWITTER

*from the QS Seattle meetup a week earlier

Brief: Steven discovered through an EEG assessment that he had a strong “freeze” response to stressful situations. This inspired him to use his emWave to monitor his stress levels, hack it to alert him whenever he got too stressed, and change his patterns at work. He found that keeping his stress levels in check allowed him to focus better and left him with more energy at the end of the day. Going forward, he would like to find a tool that allows him to annotate the data, and be able to track stress when he’s not at his desk.

Tools and other things mentioned:

-emWave2 – http://www.heartmathstore.com/item/6310/emwave2
-equanimity – http://www.meditate.mx/iphone

Daniel Reeves – Beeminder update

Daniel Reeves

TWITTER*

*sorry, no video

Brief: Daniel gave us an update on Beeminder, highlighting new functionality for connecting the great project management tool, Trello, as well as using Beeminder to keep track of your progress during NaNoWriMo. He also talked about a Pomodoro Poker, a hack night where participants bet on how close they can complete a task to a time limit (without going over).

Tools and other things mentioned:

-Beeminder – http://www.beeminder.com
-Trello – http://blog.beeminder.com/trello/
-NaNoWriMo – http://blog.beeminder.com/nanowrimo/
-Pomodoro Poker – http://blog.beeminder.com/tv/#comment-691153967

Discussion

discussionPrompt: One of the interesting things about self-tracking is the heightened awareness that you’ll gain. Noticing things that you could never perceive before. This could take different forms, sometimes like a sixth sense. For example, this is a device I built from a kit made by Sensebridge that attaches to your ankle and points in the direction of north. Over time, the wearers develop of sense of where North is that lasts even after they remove the device. Are these extra senses always good? Can they be negative?

Tools and other things mentioned:

-Sensebridge’s North Paw – http://sensebridge.net/projects/northpaw/
-Contour @USB – http://bayercontourusb.us
-Zeo – http://www.myzeo.com/sleep/shop/zeo-sleep-manager-mobile.html

Drinks afterward at Deschutes Brewery

The night ended with a lively discussion where the main topic was productivity systems where everybody shared what they use, what failed for them and why.

What’s Up Next?

All in all, it was a fantastic, invigorating evening. We hope to see you at the Data Co-op on November 27. What is a Data Co-op? It’s a regular part of our QS PDX meetup series for people with data that they’re working on, or people who want to see what data other people are working on, or people who want/have tips for working their QS-related data. If you track some kind of data about your life and are trying to make sense of it, join us during this open time and bring your data and a computer with you.

Topics that arose last time:

D3 and data visualization (http://d3js.org/)

Wolfram Alpha and analysis of meditation data

Scraping Nike FuelBand data with Firefox

And, of course, people brought dozens of projects with them to work on, and many ideas were shared in small groups. We plan on hosting the next Show & Tell in January and hope to see you soon!

Pictures courtesy of Ryan Casey. See more here.

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Toolmaker Talk: Bethany Soule & Daniel Reeves (Beeminder)

This is the fifth post in the “Toolmaker Talks” series. The QS blog features intrepid self-quantifiers and their stories: what did they do? how did they do it? and what have they learned? In Toolmaker Talks we hear from QS enablers, those observing this QS activity and developing self-quantifying tools: what needs have they observed? what tools have they developed in response? and what have they learned from users’ experiences?

Bethany Soule and Daniel Reeves have presented at New York City QS meet ups (here and here) on a couple ideas that came together and turned into Beeminder, which they co-founded in 2010. Through much personal experimentation they’ve developed unique ideas on how best to visualize your progress towards a goal and how to set just the right amount of monetary incentives.

Q: How do you describe Beeminder? What is it?

Soule: Beeminder is a goal-tracking tool with teeth. Report your progress every day and make sure to keep all your data points on a “yellow brick road” to your goal. If you fail to do so your graph will be frozen and you can pledge (by which we mean pledge actual money) to stay on track on your next attempt.

Reeves: The idea is to give yourself a kick in the pants. Here’s how to tell if Beeminder could be useful for you: Is there something you know you should do, you really do want to do, you know for certain you can do, yet that historically you don’t do? (Also, are you a highly nerdy data freak?)

Soule: What we mean by the “yellow brick road” is a line on your graph that gradually gets you from here to there and tolerates some daily deviation without allowing a slippery slope of sloth.

 

Q: What’s the back story? What led to it?

Reeves: I had a friend who wanted to lose weight. This was in February 2008. I had her email me her weight every day and I’d send her back graphs of her progress and tell her if she was on track to hit her target in time. I was mostly following the principles of The Hacker’s Diet, in particular the part about getting as much data as possible but smoothing it so as not to be discouraged by random fluctuations.

Soule: I quickly wanted in on it, because I was tracking my own weight in Excel — Lame! So we started automating it and getting more friends and family on board. We called it Kibotzer (the kibitzing robot), though no one got the pun. Even before we started with the data collection and visualization side of things we’d been making bets with each other as part of various productivity schemes for quite some time, so it was only natural to bet about staying on track with our graphs.

Reeves: We’ve since dropped the betting terminology but it’s equivalent. Now you’re pledging (money) to stay on track on your yellow brick road. (HT: PJ Eby)

Soule: In 2010 we decided to quit our day jobs and turn it into a real startup, which we renamed Beeminder.

Reeves: But if you really want to trace the roots, the backstory starts in 2005 when Bethany and I were dating and I was writing my dissertation. I’d been dragging it out forever so Bethany concocted a Voluntary Harassment Program, as she called it, and we tried out all kinds of crazy incentive schemes and productivity hacks. They apparently worked, since I got my PhD that year.

Q: What impact has it had? What have you heard from users?

Soule: Our users think it’s the bees’ knees! I assume that bees have awesome knees.

Reeves: We do have a small number of users who find it powerfully motivating. Lots of weight loss success stories, of course. And we use it to force ourselves to keep up momentum on Beeminder itself.

Soule: Here’s an ongoing success story that we blogged about: Our friend and early beta user, Jill, wanted to join a new gym, which is often a recipe for throwing away money. But she actually worked out how often she would need to go to make the membership worth the money (1.8 times per week, on average) and then used a large Beeminder contract to force herself to maintain that average. That’s been going since March: beeminder.com/jill/gym.

Reeves: There are plenty of failure stories, too. We find that it really only makes sense to beemind things that are both objectively measurable and that you have complete control over. So you can beemind how much time you spend working but not, say, how focused you are. Weight loss is a borderline case: you don’t have complete control over it since your weight fluctuates randomly from day to day, but we’ve put a ton of work into adjusting for that with an auto-widening yellow brick road and other data-smoothing tricks.

Q: What makes it different, sets it apart?

Reeves: Primarily that it works as a commitment device. Most goal-tracking sites don’t work that way (nor do they want to). A notable exception is StickK.com. What sets Beeminder apart from StickK is the focus on the data and the graph and Yellow Brick Road. By having everything based on your data you get far more flexibility. We think it’s more motivating and insightful to pledge to keep your data points on a yellow brick road to your goal than to StickK to your goal.

Soule: Yeah, with StickK it’s all about the contracts. You have to fully pre-specify exactly what you’re committing to do and how much money to put at risk to force yourself to do it. With Beeminder you just first start tracking. Your data then informs you on what to commit to. You don’t even have to think about how much to risk — we tell you, and you climb up the fee schedule until you hit an amount that really motivates you. There’s also this clever thing called the “akrasia horizon” that lets you continuously adjust your commitment — the steepness of the yellow brick road — without it, y’know, defeating the whole point of a commitment contract.

Q: What are you doing next? How do you see Beeminder evolving?

Reeves: We’re working our butts off on a ton of features that our users are asking for in the Beeminder feedback forum.

Soule: Beeminder is literally getting better every day. In fact, we’re beeminding that: We have to make one User-Visible Improvement to Beeminder on average per day or pay one of our users $1000. We’ll have made about 300 improvements when this goes to press!

Reeves: In the near future we’d like to add more ways to automatically collect data instead of needing to report data points to the Beeminder bot. We can currently connect Beeminder to Withings scales and our own (very hacky) TagTime stochastic time tracker. Bethany also made a pushup counter for Android which semi-automatically counts pushups (you put the phone on the floor and touch your nose to it). Finally, we have a version of our API in private beta which a couple people have used to automatically send data to Beeminder as it’s collected.

Q: Anything else you’d like to say?

Reeves: If you want to keep up with the latest on Beeminder, follow the Beeminder blog — we’re committed (literally) to posting frequently!

Product: Beeminder
Website: http://beeminder.com
Platform: Web, email or SMS
Price: Free as long as you stay on your Yellow Brick Road

(If you are a “toolmaker” and want to participate in this series, contact Rajiv Mehta at rajivzume@gmail.com) 

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