Prescript: Most of this will now be subsumed by https://blog.beeminder.com/deathtofreebees/
If you’re deleting a goal for technical reasons then it shouldn’t count against your freebees. Also we want to learn about how often that happens because that’s a pretty fundamental thing we need to improve. So we’re making these changes:
(As a philosophical side note, the point of freebees is to let you get hooked on beeminding before we make you enter a credit card. Serious users shouldn’t expect them unless they’re paying for them. Our post on pledge short-circuiting and pledge decaying discusses our philosophy on this.)
When you delete a graph you get a question like this:
Why are you deleting this goal? (Being less than a week old you can immediately and completely delete it.)
(•) a. I just am
( ) b. Beeminder messed up
( ) c. I was confused about Beeminder
( ) d. I’m abusing this loophole to get off the hook before I derail
Blah blah blah:
__________________________________________ | | | (text area) | | | | | | | | | | | ------------------------------------------ [ gray cancel button] [ red DELETE button ]
where “Blah blah blah” is dynamically updated depending on which radio button is selected:
or if all freebees are definitely used up (see technical definition below):
Note that “a” is the default and is phrased to be true no matter what. That gives a “don’t make think” path of just hitting the red button.
To avoid confusion and frustration we need to display the number of freebees remaining. That will be in the sidebar below the New Goal button: “3 freebees left”. (Note link and hovertext; probably target=_blank as well.) If you have Plan Bee or higher then it will show a nice infinity symbol. If freebees is less than or equal to 0 it turns into this: “0 freebees left”. (Note new link and hovertext.)
Here’s what that screen does in all the possible scenarios…
Decrement remaining freebees (which starts at 3) for every new goal created (even if that makes it go negative), and increment it on goal deletion iff b or c is selected.
There’s also a
deletables field counting the number of goals less than a week old.
The “freebees definitely used up” in Section 1 means
freebees + deletables <= 0.
In other words, every goal created uses up a freebee but deletable goals might get credited back.
As long as you might end up with freebees remaining then include the part about “this won’t count against your freebees”.
Regarding the “delete the delete button” idea in Section 5: This seems like a good approach, but could be a bit complex, particularly for new users.
Perhaps a way simpler way: any goal less than a week old gets a persistent banner on the goal page that says ‘this goal has training wheels on - you can delete it or fail for free for X more days; but if it’s set up right and you want to commit fully, click here to take the training wheels off’. Then after six days send a reminder email letting people know: their pledge amount is about to bump to $5; they will need to enter a credit card the next time they derail after tomorrow (if they haven’t already); last chance to bail!
There are a few advantages to this:
I’m in the habit of “test-driving” goals before I truly commit to them. Not in the sense of “Is this a rate I can maintain?” because I know that’s just a matter of adjusting the road dial, but rather in the sense of getting a feel for the sort of obstacles there are in maintaining the goal, and whether I feel like having it as a goal benefits me at all. 2 freebees at a time wouldn’t hurt me in this, because I’ve never really tried to experiment with more goals than that at once, but 2 freebees total ever kind of puts the kaibosh on that sort of experimentation. I’d definitely like to be able to get freebees back when I delete a goal for any reason, including “this was a bullshit goal and I shouldn’t have made it in the first place”.
That said, I am totally in favor of the idea of having users enter a credit card right from the start. Anyone who truly groks the point of the site won’t have any issue with that, as they’ll be able to see that there’s no point to it if there’s no penalty for failure. In the event that you go with the “freebees get automatic pledges after two months” plan, you could say right before the input of credit card info that all goals older that two months will automatically get a pledge on them, and so you need the credit card info for that reason. And again, when a goal is created, the default will be to make a $5 goal, but when the user deliberately changes it over to a free goal it will make a “This goal will be free until
I can only speak for myself, but I would much rather have unlimited goals that start at $1 than any limited amount of freebees. There’s something about knowing that they are limited that make them feel not so free, anyway. The packrat in me wants to conserve them.
I really don’t love what I see in terms of systematized “Why am I deleting this goal?” petitioning. Must justification be necessary? I know you guys are super understanding & all, but it’s still a bit of a stressful process to have to bend the knee to the Bee Overlords. It’s already an embarrassing and potentially costly situation to find oneself in, adding on this social pressure doesn’t help.
I respect that you want to give Newbees a chance to get to know Beeminder before putting down a credit card.
Add a $1 stage at the front of all goals’ pledge schedule. Because David Ernst asked nicely. No, actually because it’s the smallest amount of money to maintain a sting but still have it just be a baby sting (at first!). So it encourages more new goals created.
Give all new users a bonus $0 stage on the front of their pledge schedule, for all goals created in the first month. So they can dip their toes in without credit card. Who cares about how many they make! Maybe they’ll see “oh no my months almost up, I should make a bunch while I still can”…. GREAT! If they’re valuable they’ll evolve into revenue generating pledges anyway!
No more worrying about how many freebees. Or how to count number of freebees. Or when to use freebees. Or when to refund freebees.
The 1-month “Freebee” period offers you a good reason to remind-ping them 27 days later if they made an account but forgot about it. (That whole month could be treated as “Intro to Beeminder” onboarding re our other conversation about patio11-style auto emails. )
Your point about, what’s a goal without a pledge is a good one. However, if someone is pledging lots of money (and particularly, paying lots of money) then trust that they know best.
I’ve been with you guys for 1+ years, but I just started my first goal with the Android stop watch — and, I screwed it up. Put the goal in minutes, while I’ll be submitting fractional hours. I know, I know, there’s some scalar transform thingy, but no way I’m doing linear algebra while I’m dieting.  So that would have been a good spot to start at zero pledge. Instead, I’ve got $5 on a bogus goal that I’m going to delete or finish or what have you in a week. 
And, even though the interface is pretty straightforward, if you only touch the beehvie once every couple of months, it is pretty easy to screw something up.
Second case: sometimes someone might start tracking something with little sense of what their current run state is. So while they might phrase the goal as 7 hours a week or less, for a while they really mean, let’s see what my base state is, I guess I’ll aim for 7, but who knows, maybe I’m running at 21 now, we’ll see… 
I just think the customer experience of, “I’ve failed. I’ve failed. I’ve failed. I’m not sure what I’m going to be doing this month, maybe no money this time — what? I can’t do that? Screw this.” isn’t great.
I also think that pledges are fundamental to Beeminder and I don’t really think of my free goals as completely free, because there’s always the possibility of having to pledge and then pay if I derail too much. I use my free goals for goals that I know I can stick to, because I have for long stretches in the past, and I want to track it and make it more consistent. If it turns out to be harder than I expect, it will soon become a pledged goal. Important goals that I’m less sure of I put money on right away.
The first free goal I deleted was because I changed my mind about how to approach the goal. The real goal is “don’t gain weight” but I don’t want to track my weight since I don’t have direct control over that, among other reasons, so I created a goal for diet. I decided that for now it would be better to do “don’t snack between meals” instead of “don’t eat wheat”, so I deleted the no wheat goal and created the no snacking goal. That’s certainly not Beeminder’s fault but it’s also not because I’m trying to weasel or cheat or anything like that.
The second goal I deleted was because I created it as a “Do More” goal, then found an automatic updater (the Anki plugin) that requires it to be an Odometer goal. So I had to redo it as an odometer goal. Again not Beeminder’s fault but also not because of cheating.
I think that pledgeless goals are important not just for getting to know Beeminder in general but in figuring out how to use it well. It’s easy to create a new free goal when I’m familiar with it because I’ve worked on it a lot in the past. Maybe because I’m still new to Beeminder, I am much more careful about making pledged goals, because it feels like they should be either harder or more important. I expect that eventually I’ll be on at least Plan Bee and make extensive use of free goals (but I want to get some more experience before I jump in too excitedly).
The existing documented behaviour where you are limited to N freebees at a time (though N=7 sounds high) makes much more sense than the actual behaviour where deleted graphs can still have permanent effects! If freebees are valuable (which, to be honest, I don’t find them to be — that’s why all my goals have pledges on them — but presumably other people have different usage patterns) it doesn’t really make sense that the fact that you have found them valuable in the past and then finished / given up / archived / pledged on that goal should prevent you from making use of them now. As a rule of thumb I would discourage features where you can get better user experience by deleting your account and creating a new one.
As a semi-related point, the only reason I’ve created freebees other than for testing (and my previous failed attempt at Beeminder) is because you have them as the default, so I’ve had a lot of “Create a goal, oops that was a freebee I didn’t mean it to be, add a pledge” interactions. You might want make goals have pledges by default if there’s already a card associated with the account.
Also, with regards to the “letting newbies get a feel for the site” goal of freebees, as a datapoint the first time I used Beeminder I gave up on it and that was probably because my goals were entirely freebees and so there were no consequences for stopping using it. The fact that I can’t just ignore Beeminder and it will go away is basically the number one valuable feature of it for me, so it’s not really giving a good feel for Beeminder without some sort of pledge.
 Danny replies: It’s not that bad! :) You created the goal in minutes so just scale it by 1/60 and voila, now it’s in hours. If you accidentally scale it by 60 instead of 1/60, just scale again by the reciprocal to undo.
 Danny’s counterpoint: There’s no chance of paying the $5 on a bogus goal. You can still instantly delete it within the first week. If something did go wrong and you derailed due to setting up the goal wrong or any kind of technicality or even just confusion about the rules like that, just reply to the legit check and we’ll always stop the charge.
 Danny replies: Well said! We have a different solution in mind for that problem, namely the generalized road dial. It’s going to be great!