WebWatch: Write or Die


To work or not to work, that is the question that plagues all college students. Emer Sugrue investigates writeordie.com to see if that might be the answer

Procrastination is something we all suffer from at some point in our lives. Unfortunately I suffer from it at all points in my life and so I have turned to the internet to solve the problem it has partly caused.

Write or Die is a program designed to eliminate the problem by forcing you to write. It comes from the idea that a tangible consequence is more effective than an intangible reward. If I do my essay now I will get good marks; if I put it off, I can watch telly.

The lure of good marks three months from now will never be enough to counter the instant gratification of going for a nap and spur me to action – but a browser turning red and making a noise just might.

You pick a time limit and a word goal and your ‘Grace Period’, or time until your punishment kicks in. You can choose forgiving, strict or evil depending on your procrastination level and penchant for flagellation. You then select your difficulty level or ‘consequences’.

Gentle Mode is the closest to your regular judgement-free word program. You type away and if you stop, after a while a message will pop up kindly urging you to continue. Normal Mode is slightly harsher. After a few seconds of inactivity an annoying noise starts to play. It seems to be random. While playing around with it, I got crying babies, a poorly played violin and Hanson’s ‘MMMBop’. Finally, there’s Kamikaze Mode – when your time is up, the program begins deleting your writing, word by word.

However, the main question is does it work? Well, sort of. It’s not great for college work because you will legitimately need to pause frequently to check a source or a fact and wake the house with the cacophonous strains of the Hanson brothers, not to mention the ability to mute defeating the purpose of the program altogether.

Even Kamikaze Mode isn’t enough for the determined procrastinator, as if you switch to another browser to look at cats or whatever you crazy kids do with your internet, your work will be deleted without you even realising. Ultimately, you have to want it to work and if you were determined to do that, wouldn’t you just do your damn homework in the first place?