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I wrote a small productivity application, Tomate. Since I'm not a native English speaker, I'm afraid the description of the project may not be clear enough for potential users. Can you help me improve it?

Like many of us, I suffer from attention and procrastination problems, especially when in front of a computer. How can one focus on the mundane task at hand when the appeal of the Internet is just two clicks away?

I started a quest for tools and ideas to help me concentrate (I know, I know...). I found a very good book, unfortunately written in French: "Comment ne pas tout remettre au lendemain", by Bruno Koelz.

It turns out the diagnosis is as follows: the hardest part of not procrastinating is getting to work, by which I mean staying concentrated long enough to really get into the problem. Once this stage is passed, you usually enter a state of flow and continuing to work is a lot easier and more rewarding.

For this reason, I wrote a very small applet that allows me to pass a contract with myself: by clicking the icon, I commit to fully concentrate on a given problem for no less than 10 minutes. The icon becomes red for ten minutes, after which it turns green. I am then free to either continue working or do something else.

The duration is voluntarily small because no matter how boring the task is, ten minutes is always doable. Knowing I have an escape, it is easier to commit.

Since tweaking productivity application parameters is a great way to waste time, the applet has absolutely no configuration options, dialogs, logs, etc. I tried to make it as simple as possible and to avoid including any feature that is not absolutely necessary to accomplish the goal.

Why "Tomate"? Tomate is the French word for tomato, or "Pomodoro" in Italian, which is the name of a similar and popular technique. The Pomodoro technique consists in working in sets of 25 minutes, with mandatory breaks between the chunks. I feel my method is more efficient, because it is a waste to take breaks when you're concentrated and don't need them.

About the code: the applet is written in Python 2 and PyGTK. It is only tested on linux, but it should work on other platforms as well. Feedback welcome!

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4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Your use of English is very good, yet your arrangement could be better.

  1. The sentence near the end that starts "Why "Tomate"? Tomate is the French..." should be closer to the beginning, if not at the beginning.

  2. Avoid using generic terms like "one" when referring to a potential user (you do this in the beginning - "How can one focus..."). You use the word "you" later, which is more personal and is actually the preferred way of writing for a description like this.

  3. I would exclude "It turns out the diagnosis is as follows:" - it's too formal.

  4. You have a really good sentence later on "Knowing I have an escape, it is easier to commit." - try to reverse the sentence, like this " It is easier to commit knowing I have an escape" - it gets to the point sooner in a less formal way. You could even use that sentence as your app's tag line (one sentence description).
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Thanks a lot for your detailed answer! Just a precision: how would you rephrase "It turns out the diagnosis is as follows"? –  static_rtti May 24 '11 at 19:28
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@static_rtti I'm happy to help! I suggest you simply remove the phrase "It turns out the..." (don't replace it with anything), because it is not really necessary - the paragraph can stand on its own. –  Erik Westermann May 24 '11 at 19:54
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Sounds perfectly clear to me. I think your English is quite good.

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What you have here is a story. I think the writing is good. The text is ideal for an about page.

However, I think your true goal is getting people to use the application. Sorry if I am making a bad assumption.

To influence people online you need to get to the point immediately. And you need to talk to them about them, not about yourself. Look at the number of times you use the word 'I' in your story.

Start with one or two sentences about why the person reading this right now needs to stop and download and try your application immediately. Ideally, you describe what problem your app solves, then the main reason how your particular app solves it (and how it is different from similar apps).

Then offer a sentence or two about yourself and why you built the app and who the app is for.

Then dive into your story, though if your app is free you should offer the download button right away and then dive into your story and offer your download button again at the end.

Example:

The Real Reason You Do Not Get Things Done - And The Three Second Simple Fix

You fail because you do not start tasks and stayed focused on them. So you never finish anything. My free app, Tomate, makes you accountable to the most important person in the world: you. It works in just seconds:

[Download button]

[Full story]

[Download button]

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Good advice, thanks! This may not be for now (I'm looking for feedback and early adopters, not millions of users), but I'll definitely keep it in my head :) –  static_rtti Jun 9 '11 at 10:24
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Very clear, but in very many words:

"Like many of us, I suffer from attention and procrastination problems, especially when in front of a computer. How can one focus on the mundane task at hand when the appeal of the Internet is just two clicks away?"

My atention wanders after the first ten words: will this guy ever get to the point?

Are you a procrastinator? Me too, especially in front of a computer. Who wants the daily slog with the Internet just a couple of clicks away?

My two cents worth.

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Thanks for the input! –  static_rtti May 29 '11 at 7:47
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