My 2017 new year resolution was to eat less meat for various reasons, even though I lived in the Limousin region and was famous for my BBQ.
This decision was based on a conjunction of factors: environment (climate change, land scarcity, use of antibiotics, water pollution…), ethics (animal rights), and health.
But I didn’t want to stop entirely.
After a month, I looked back and couldn’t measure my effort.
I felt miserable.
With a family, you have to compose with everyone’s diet. Sometimes, you go for lunch at work and can’t find a vegetarian option (it’s becoming easier). Other times, you cook a dish with meat and need to finish the leftovers even though you planned not to eat meat.
It’s life, and unlike habits that can be moved around the day, you either eat or don’t eat meat at a given meal.
So what can you do? You can adopt Meatless Mondays. But what if you want to go beyond a single meatless day per week? And you still have an issue when you need to finish a dish on Monday that includes meat. Sure, you can turn that into a Meatless Tuesday to compensate, but if you have more than one day a week, you spend your time juggling and keeping track.
Keeping track was a key component. But habit trackers rely on streaks to motivate you, and when you’re a part-time meat-eater, you’re constantly breaking your streak and starting over. The lack of a sense of progress will crush any spirit.
At the time, I had been using my Apple Watch for a year, and I enjoyed the unobtrusive way of tracking vitals and activities with it.
So I imagined the most simple app: one that would send me a push notification in the evening and ask me: “Did you eat meat today?”. I would reply with a simple yes or no. It would require only a few seconds of my day while allowing me to keep track of what I was eating.
On Feb 2, after midnight, I created my new app and started logging my meals. But receiving the exact same question every day was boring.
So I wrote a bunch of silly messages that I would send randomly along with the question. It was fun. I could let out all the bad puns that came to me.
I couldn’t have a boring app, even if it was just for myself. Also, I couldn’t have any UI at all for the app.
Since I was not eating meat, I imagined that I would earn cows when I wasn’t eating meat. But I would also lose them if I was eating too much meat in a row. I didn’t want a streak system per se, but there had to be some penalty possible if I missed my target.
Now that I had cows, I needed to put them somewhere, so I created a planet. It was kind of obvious to me that this planet would also be the No button I would use to answer the daily question.
Everything was fine, but as I started to get more cows, my planet became overcrowded. So I thought cows would be able to merge as you’d reach a week worth of them, and so on after a month, quarter, or a year. Each new level would have a different design than the daily cow.
After a couple of months, I discovered 3 things.
- looking at my logs was both rewarding and valuable to help me decide what to eat, sometimes going the extra mile
- I got caught up in my own game and started to eat less meat than my original goal
- I was happy just to visit my cows and see my progress
It worked better than I expected.
But even more than that: Naomi felt real. I was happy to hear from her every day.
Naomi is the cow that asks me the question every day. Her name is derived from the app’s name.
When I needed an extra bit of motivation, I would look at my history and almost always pick a plant-based meal, even when I was ahead of my goal. I’d call that “asking my cow.”
Her look is so singular that my daughter (born end of 2018) quickly learned to recognize it and would later brand her “la vache de papa” (daddy’s cow).
Still, at the time, I was rather ashamed of my stance: eating *less* meat.
I only knew people who would advocate stopping entirely or proud meat-eaters.
But at some point, I dared to talk about it with friends and show them my cows, and I discovered that I was not alone trying to eat less meat.
In the Summer 2019, I decided to stop keeping this for myself and publish it by the end of the year.
Post-release (Dec 2019 - )
The app was released on December 132019
I posted it 2 months later on Product Hunt along with a demo video inspired by The Mandalorian, which was trending at the moment. The app ended up #5 Product of the Day.
By now, I had many cows, which were mostly looking the same. I thought it would be a good idea to celebrate particular days/events and let people get celebratory cows to celebrate those special occasions. I had designed Naomi with a simple shape so that it’d be easy to do so, and after months, it was finally time.
The story goes that these cows can acquire power as they enter the atmosphere. You see, depending on the weather that day, the power and look will vary.
The first cow celebrated Earth Day, on April 22, 2020, and I got featured by Apple for the first time.
I created more cows and discovered that it was really helping users stay motivated and got the extra mile. Since then, I’ve had the chance to get in touch and talk with many of my users. Some are vegetarian and just happy to get feel-good cows. But many use it to find a new balance and maintain it over time.
I talked with people who hadn’t thought about eating less meat until they learned about the app. They thought the only way to go was to be 100% vegetarian or even vegan. They never considered simply eating less, even though a single meal makes such a big difference already.
For this reason, people usually look at eating less meat as something they can’t do. Or they try and give up after a point because they aimed too high. I want people to believe they can do it. I want them to see how much they changed and to know they can do better. And I want it to feel easy and fun.
So I'll keep making cute cows for the foreseeable future.