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Website of the Week: Asking machines to nag you, so humans don't have to


Even the most disciplined people need a nudge every now and then. There are countless tools to help us avoid distraction and stay focused on our goals. Many of them are elaborate and expensive. Some of them are even human.

HassleMe.co.uk is a simple internet service that allows you to enter a recurring message to yourself and set the time intervals between reminders. For example, you may choose to receive a reminder email every day to “Do some exercise” or to be asked every six months: “How many people want to buy your business?”

According to MySociety.org, the not-for-profit web development company that runs HassleMe, the idea evolved from a tool called “hasslebot” that one of its developers created to encourage the developers and volunteers at mySociety to blog frequently. To everyone’s surprise, it worked.

You have the option of making your “hassle” publicly viewable, and that page (warning: occasional salty language) is a catalogue of human neuroses, guilt and resilience. In other words, it contains lots of hassles to lose weight, finish personal projects and smell the roses. (I set up a daily reminder that said: “Stop feeling guilty.”)

There’s also a dedicated section for hassles that have the longest intervals between reminders. The majority of these are similar to those you find on FutureMe – long, rambling messages like: “This is your 16-year-old self. So you’re 26 now, huh? Wow, 26, scary. Eeek!”

I’ve never really been one for mantras or earnest life-affirmations. And I’m surrounded by enough machines and people programmed to hassle results out of me. But HassleMe goes about its business with elegance, simplicity and a dash of whimsy. Sometimes, that’s all that’s required to help you help yourself. Or at least have a giggle trying.