Beeminder is a way to track progress towards a specific goal. However, the goal needs to be one that you can quantify over a time period. So while you can work towards a goal of “write x words by date y” you can’t work towards the goal of “finish paper by deadline y.” In order to use beeminder, you set up a goal with a target date and target goal. So, if you’re tracking how many words you’ve written, you may start with 0, a goal of 30,000 and 6 weeks until the deadline. Then, each day or so, you input your new value. Maybe on day one you write 500 words, on day two 1000, and on day 3 you don’t write at all.
Beeminder then creates a graph charting your progress. However, it’s not just an ordinary graph – they include extra information to help get you motivated and moving forward. The graph gives you an idea of where you need to be in the future in order to stay on target. It uses a yellow “road” where you can be in the right lane (moving forward on target) or the wrong lane (in danger of falling off target).
If you fall off the target, and exit from the wrong lane to not even on the road anymore, you can no longer continue to add data to your graph without first pledging some dollar amount to stay on target. This is where this solution may or may not be for you. If you manage to stay on the road, you never have to pay. If you go off target again, then they charge you. For some people, the idea of losing some money is a great way to motivate them to stay on target. For others, it’ll just be motivation to no longer continue using the site. Of course, you could just make your goal so easy to hit, that you’ll be on target even if you’re not on target, but where’s the motivation in that?
I’ve been playing around with the site for a couple of weeks now, but I haven’t actually found a research related use for it. I’m not interested in tracking how many hours I work or words I write, as I don’t think those translate directly to meaningful results. And, for research, I like to focus on quality of quantity. However, having watched some friends recently track their word count on their dissertations on sites like Facebook, I think a tool like this could be helpful, as it’s easy visual feedback as to how you’re doing.
Conclusion: I’m going to continue playing with it for now, but I’m not sure it’ll be a long time solution for any current tasks I have underway. Maybe when I get around to writing a dissertation…