↑ comment by pjeby ·
2011-10-13T14:52:18.849Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
We'd love to hear more thoughts on this, like are we in fantasyland with the above rationalizations for being the beneficiary?
Nope. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that anybody telling you that you shouldn't get paid is full of.. it. Blow the money on whatever you want.
Even with exponential growth, people will spend a LOT more money to fail under normal circumstances. If you measure the actual value you're providing to people's lives, the amount of that value you'll actually be capturing is a negligible percentage, except for pathological Bruces (who will find a way to lose that money anyway).
If you want to give them a convenience option to also pay money to somebody else, then that's an additional service and should not reduce your fees.
More important: do not listen to people tell you how much you should be paid. Or more precisely, do not listen to people tell you how little you should be paid. That is a status conversation, nothing more. People do not tell the casino that they'll only bet money there if the casino gives the money to charity!
Anybody who makes this argument, you do not want as a customer. They are saying two things:
- "I expect to fail a lot", and/or
- "I do not think your service is valuable to me"
The correct answer to both statements is, "then our service is not for you."
You are giving people an awesome free tracking system. It can be manipulated in such a way that a person never pays a thin dime.
Frankly, you are giving your service away. I know marketers who would advise charging a monthly fee for this in addition to the penalties... and with appropriate collateral material, you could do just that.
Indeed, if you have not already patented the critical aspects of your system, be prepared to get ripped off by somebody who will market it better, and make more money than you... probably with a system that's not technically as good or mathematically correct as yours.
Packaged with appropriate training materials, a good internet marketer could and would charge an up-front fee of at least low-to-mid three figures, plus a two-figure monthly fee, plus the penalties on individual goals, and tell his customers in video format with a straight face that he planned to blow all their fees on drugs and hookers for use on his private jet... and still get people raving that it's the best thing since sliced bread.
Frankly, I personally know more than one marketer who could do that! (With variations as to what they'd say they were spending it on, though; I only know one person who could say "drugs and hookers" and not have it seem out of character to his audience.)
I also know far-less-evil marketers who would probably love to build your customer base like crazy (at zero cost to you), without you needing to change a blessed thing.
See, most of the internet marketers I know (that teach other people to do marketing) have a problem: most of the people they teach don't do anything.
And because the ones I hang out with are not as "evil" as they look, this actually frustrates the hell out of them. They actually want people to succeed, but that success usually involves things like sitting down and writing a certain amount of marketing literature, contacting people for joint ventures, etc. etc.
And a lot of people simply don't get around to doing what it takes.
So some marketers try to set up mastermind groups and "accountability partner" systems to get people to motivate each other. One group I was in for a while tried to pair people and do mini commitment contracts with each other. I didn't actually do any myself, but from what my wife told me about the group she was in, it was really awkward and didn't work well. (Most people didn't want to take the money.)
If the guy that ran that group (with several hundred members) had known about your program (and it existed three or four years ago), my guess is he'd have sent everybody there from the start.
So, in their eyes, you are going to be doing those people a tremendous service.
Really, there's potentially a business opportunity for you in private-branding your service and offering it to people who are coaches or who have coaching groups, and allowing a "show this goal to everyone in the group" (but not the general public). As a business of that sort myself, I'd probably pay $99 a month to have a service like that, provided it was private-labeled and let me integrate an API with single sign-on from my existing membership services. (edited to add: that'd be $99/month plus whatever my clients lose on their contracts, of course)
(Note that this isn't an attempt to spell out firm requirements, and I haven't actually used your system yet, so this isn't a firm offer to pay. And I personally may not be your best client for such a thing, because, for a sizable number of my customers, the anxiety of anticipated punishment is usually counterproductive. I do know marketers who believe in it for their markets, though, and who might spend more than me for the same thing, and have more people with more goals paying more penalties in.)
In short, you are not charging nearly enough, nor have you tapped the full potential of your business opportunities. Even if you don't go the private-label route, but just provide some sort of "group" feature (so coaches can monitor their clients' goals), there is still plenty of opportunity for the sort of folks I know to get you the right kind of clients. (i.e., ones who are already serious about opening their wallets to solve whatever problem they have.)
(If you want to talk to me about this some more, I suggest taking this off-line, though.)
[edit: changed "negative reinforcement" to "punishment" above, since technically, it's not negative reinforcement]
Replies from: homunq, dreeves
↑ comment by homunq ·
2011-10-28T13:02:06.241Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
An optional charity tip percentage is consistent with all of the above, and it is a requirement for at least one otherwise-willing customer (me).
And I may be saying the two things pjeby says I am, but I'd claim that I'm also saying:
####3. I don't want to look or feel like a masochist.
That's probably a common goal, and I believe that including a charity option would allow me to use and promote your service while meeting that goal, whereas I can't do either without it.
Finally, to dreeves: pjeby has some plausible arguments, but data is more valuable than arguments.
Replies from: dreeves
↑ comment by dreeves ·
2011-10-28T19:33:56.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
That's a good point and a valuable datapoint. :) It seems like a funny thing for a rationalist to care about though... (Not the donating to charity part, of course, just that it seems orthogonal -- you should should donate to charity independently of your use of commitment devices.)
I do see what you mean though. The use of self-binding is an admission of a fundamental irrationality (akrasia) so it may be valuable to have some plausible deniability.
Side note: You probably typed a "3." instead of a "1." and the markdown editor thing "fixed" it for you. That's a big pet peeve of mine about markdown, which I otherwise love. Blatant violation of the anti-magic principle.
Replies from: homunq
↑ comment by homunq ·
2011-10-30T11:58:30.834Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Yes, exactly. Obviously, the strategy involved for not looking/feeling like a masochist is to cover up with philanthropy. And of course the motivation behind philanthropy is not at all feigned; philanthropy is a stance of hope, and despair is one primary cause of my akrasia. But as you say, the only reason to connect that philanthropy to self-binding is to cover up the essential irrationality.
I thought of a good way to express another reason for this desire: I also want to assert that I still have some "consumer-like" power over you, akin to an upward-sloping demand curve. As pjeby said, this is a question of status. But insofar as I'm addressing an "unjust" status relationship, where your fees are unrelated to your value provided, my refusal to buy without a charity option is (in some sense) a common human meta-rational bias to devote resources to punishing injustice. Anyway, as a startup business, status doesn't concern you in this sense, as much as growth.
Note that both of these reasons --- not looking like a masochist, and addressing the "unjust" (or at least, unconventional in your favor) commercial status imbalance --- are essentially status concerns, so even while they are logically separate, they are emotionally related.
(Of course, the status concerns in our commercial relationship are unrelated to our personal status relationship here, where you're the guy who actually did something useful, and I'm the guy who's bikeshedding it.)
ps. I fixed the numbering above with an initial "####". Yes, it's annoying to have to do that. I actually like it when markdown changes 1,2,2,3 to 1,2,3,4; but 3,4,4 should at worst become 3,4,5 not 1,2,3
Replies from: dreeves
↑ comment by dreeves ·
2011-11-14T20:55:04.683Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Do you think this mitigates the problem at all: http://blog.beeminder.com/blogdog
In short, we (the founders) are reciprocating with our own commitment contracts, pledging $1395 to Beeminder users to force ourselves to stay on our own yellow brick roads. Maybe it's more in the category of a nice little gesture that most users won't even know about. It certainly doesn't address fundamentally the issue you raised. (Of course, that wasn't the point of it -- we just really needed to raise the stakes on our own commitment contracts since paying ourselves wasn't cutting it!)
(PS: Not bikeshedding by any means! You can't imagine how helpful all this has been. Especially the further consultation we've been having with pjeby offline, but this whole comment thread as well.)
Replies from: homunq
↑ comment by homunq ·
2011-11-15T23:22:54.370Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
Not really. I mean, I guess it helps with the general status differential, but it doesn't resolve the general "ick" I get from the idea of a transaction where one of two things will happen:
- I will get value, and you will not get paid.
- I will get negative value, and you will get paid.
Basically, someone always loses; it pattern-matches a negative-sum game, even though it's not one. But you're binding me to give to charity, then there's a way to see it as win/win from my perspective, and win/win from your perspective (success story, or charity story plus money; either of which is helpful for your marketing).
This is about the 3rd or 4th rationalization I've given for why this is important to me. I honestly can't give a good external reason for why you should believe any of them, since they're probably not all truly necessary factors in why I'm making an issue of this. But I can sincerely attest that despite the shifting rationalizations, this feels to me like a good line for me to hold, and like something that will honestly help you get customers if you do it.