It's pretty simple; each time the browser loads a website that has potentially distracting content (think: twitter, FB, reddit, hacker news, rotoworld, etc) that I tend to over-visit in search of new tidbits, the extension keeps track of my visit and the text content of the page.
The next time I visit, I do a text comparison that checks how similar the content is to my last visit. If there's too much overlap, the browser redirects.
There's a profound difference in using this approach versus existing distraction-detractors. When I see the browser redirect away while trying to load reddit.com, my rational side takes over and reminds me that I should be done with tidbit-seeking.
I ought to clean it up and put it on github; I'm sure someone else might find it useful.
whereas the desire to seek distraction is born from the brain's need of new stimuli, and information.
In which case a few minutes of browsing the fresh posts of the day could be a healthy stimulation. The diminishing returns set in when most posts are already seen.
at least, that's what I like to tell myself.
: see 'why do we get bored' - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qwd25JV-jnU
PS - Can you share your extension on the Chrome store, even before you clean up the code for Github?
By the time the cycle is done I've found nothing of value and wasted 3x the time normally spent.
This is going to be a huge health problem ten years from now (it must be already the largest productivity killer in the workplace), and great solutions for this will be profitable some day.
I've tried something similar, except when I see the browser redirect away while trying to load reddit.com, my hacker mindset kicks in and I try to find ways to bypass it. Finding ways to bypass the limitations is far more distracting (and interesting) to me than the site itself.
My motivation systems are screwy and hard to work around. I wish I could say I found a less radical solution than "disable wifi in the bios while I'm working", but I'd be lying.
It's a proxy DNS server that runs locally, and based on user-defined rules (which can be anything that can be described with code), will limit your access to websites.
I recently realized that one of the unfortunate consequences of this is the way many in my generation (I'm 41) brings up our kids.
Instead of teaching them one thing in depth we are forcing them through a million different subjects way before they even turn 10.
It's not unusual in my circles that kids are both playing football, taking piano lessons, learning french on top of their school and homework.
I believe this is fundamentally the wrong approach as it only teaches kids to skate over a subject rather than master one in full.
The difference is huge because learning to master something takes you through several ups and downs which you don't learn if you only have to learn something on an superficial level. So you spend a lot of time becoming good at only the initial challenges of a subject not the much deeper levels of mastering something. Ironically learning to master something is going to make you much better at learning to master more than one thing. Where as learning a lot of things aren't going to teach you how to master any of them.
So I am now trying let my kids just find their ways instead of forcing them into all sorts of subjects.
We are filling our kid's time with all these structured activities to "enrich" their lives. To give them a leg up in the adult world. To make them smarter and well rounded. We fill our houses with a whole bunch of "enriching" toys.
This is extremely misguided.
The majority of a child's free time should be self directed. They need to experience boredom for proper development. Only in boredom do kids learn to be creative and process their thoughts in a meaningful way. They learn to live with the anxiety boredom creates and channel it into new ideas.
Micromanaging their lives leads to very poorly adjusted and anxious adults. I am very sad when I see car trip filled with iPads and TVs. Kids need to learn how to deal with the boredom of car rides and sit quietly with their thoughts.
Structured activities are great in moderation.
*Adults actually require boredom as well but it is especially valuable for the rapidly developing brains that kids have.
Yup, that was my life.
Yet, I had plenty of free time. What gives? The missing variable is schoolwork. The schools that I attended assigned very little homework, and it was generally easy to finish, during class time, plus a few hours maximum, per week at home. Indeed, even with my structured activities, I still watched TV, played outside, and pursued my own interests. Today, our leaders tell us that kids should learn how to code. I taught myself programming and electronics when I wasn't doing homework.
Today, the kids have hours of inane homework every evening, and much of it is configured to practically require using the computer, with all of its distractions and productivity pitfalls. We still want them to have enriching activities -- my kids are as involved in music as I was. Yes, free time gets squeezed out, but I don't think parents are entirely to blame. A normal childhood should have plenty of time for both structured and unstructured activity.
There is no right or wrong here.
The point I was trying to make was just that my generation seem to be more impatient in general which is a shame as we do need people who understand things in depth.
Believing that a child will improve themselves and realize their potential without guidance and an appropriate amount of forcing is, in my opinion, misguided.
Nobody said you shouldn't guide your child sometimes but sometimes your child needs to guide themselves too. We are taking away the latter in the modern world.
I should also note that I wasn't supposed to be doing any of that stuff, and I would have gotten in trouble with the teacher if they caught me doing it and "not paying attention".
Based on my anecdotal experience, I do believe that there's something to the 'boredom leads to children developing their creativity' assertion, as stated in that bbc article.
Boredom is very very important early on.
It's something you have to internalize and become familiar with and not fear. Way too many adults try and make sure their kids aren't bored IMO and thus the kids start fearing it because they never learned what a powerful engine for reflection and thinking it actually become.
Thats something you have to train.
This year, I won the timetabling lottery and got classes with fine art, graphics, fashion and media students.
Usual distractions (phones: Facebook, various instant messaging services &c). I gave each student a simple cardboard document wallet to keep finished work in and suggested that they put their name on the wallet and 'customise' it.
Silence: focussed activity for 15mins. I carry a box with a couple of sets of Sharpies of various colours plus Muji pens and pencils. Grabbed and distributed in a coordinated Mexican wave. Seriously, the full Csikszentmihalyi flow.
Now I have to find a way of channelling that into Maths... I'm taking Tufte's books in next week to see what happens.
TD;LR Digital natives can concentrate when they want to.
"I carry a box with a couple of sets of Sharpies of various colours plus Muji pens and pencils. Grabbed and distributed in a coordinated Mexican wave. Seriously, the full Csikszentmihalyi flow."
Sharpies: 2mm thick permanent marker pens in bright colours
Muji: Japanese stationery shop with a good stock of fine nib gel and ink pens
Mihali Csikszentmihalyi is a philosopher who has articulated the concept of flow-state. The relevant Wikipedia page is a good basic guide 
"While my students normally exhibited a substantial amount of distraction in our class, I was pleased to discover that since they were all artistically-oriented students, an impromptu art activity was able to occupy their full undivided attention for an extended period of time."
I was using the term as a metaphor for the way that particular group of students just all went for the chance to draw something.
Thankyou for engaging.
True, although on the other hand that's the best time to experiment what you'll potentially like and perhaps even base your interests and/or career on.
It is up to the parent to give direction to their child, not pressure them into something that they don't want but show them what is possible and out there.
Giving a child the freedom to do what it wants is probably not going to end up well in majority of cases.
I have never told my son he should learn skateboarding, be a scientist or play music.
I didn't come out of a musical family and ended up playing music professionally for a couple of years.
No one is talk about giving them freedom to do what they want.
Sure. They don't, but when they are just starting school they still don't know much about what is possible, and out there.
> No one is talk about giving them freedom to do what they want.
Little bit of guidance won't hurt. There is nothing intrinsic in child's wishes. No one is blocking their inner genius by guiding them to pay attention to learning maths instead of painting, or dancing, or vice versa.
Nobody is saying guidance is bad. The point is when the guidance become constant. It's not about some innner genius, it's not even about finding what you are are good at. It's about finding the engine that will allow you to become good at something which is a combination between many factors including parents guidance.
But it's completely lacking when parent's start pushing the kids to try out may different things almost as chores.
There is a big difference between finding an interest and then finding a career.
I remember reading about this expert - he spent 20 years becoming an expert on blade design for aircraft engines.
We need more people like that but its hard to think what incentives we provide to people to chug through grad school. Its only in countries like germany where such incentives exists - in the anglosphere - its up to the parents.
There are obvious problems with that model - the thing is you need both - a lot of generalists and an equally large number of specialists for society to function.
But given how centrally we try to control everything its always one or the other rather a mixed bag.
The point I was trying to make is that if you just learn a little bit of music, a little bit of football, a little bit of french you are still only learning the same and getting the same perspective no matter how many different things you learn.
The trick IMO is to dig deep into something as this will teach you how to dig deep into other things later. I.e. you are actually gaining perspective on other areas even before you learn about them.
By exposing a wide range of activities to kids, they gain breadth. They can then choose what to explore in depth - that is their call.
"Overspecialize, and you breed in weakness. It's slow death."
You can specialize in playing a sweeping technique on your guitar that does not make you a good musician.
And again. No I simply don't believe you gain breadth by being exposed to many different things. It's the other way around. Learning a lot of different things superficially is not going to teach you the real lessons.
It's not about acquiring a specific set of skills it's about acquiring an ability to learn how to learn.
Reminds me of this Rich Hickey piece:
I don't think the "social disparagement of professional athletes" is with regard to a lack of skill at "what they do", but the sacrifice of what they don't, coupled with a view that what they've sacrificed for isn't actually important.
My views on the matter are mixed.
You can master something without taking it into extremes. It's more going through the ups and downs of learning and experiencing progress and lack thereof.
Removing the device removes the temptation.
Typically I can be in the middle of something else, sit down in front of the laptop to quickly check the news or something, and end up walking away from it a few hours later. It's very easy to get sucked in. I guess I'm weak minded.
I recently bought a new phone that feels physically different than my old one (Nexus 5x vs first-gen Moto X) and I haven't yet used Facebook on it. I think I'm going to keep it that way; I so far haven't found myself automatically going to do it the way I would on the old phone.
Among them, I realized that accountability and a human being next to me aided in productivity. So I did what any normal person would do. I hired someone to slap me in the face.
The results were mindblowing. My productivity quadrupled. I got Important (but non-urgent) work done fluidly, and easily.
I posted the article online and it went viral. Many people thought it was crazy, but others understood.
So I decided to take it a step further. What if the world could improve as well as I did? Unfortunately, slapping doesn't scale, so I tried to build the next best thing.
Pavlok --- the wearable device that uses vibrations to reward good behavior, and a mild electric stimulus to reduce bad behaviors.
My first app was a Chrome extension that allows me to choose which sites I want to blacklist. If I spend 5 minutes on Facebook, it will beep my wrist. If I spend 30 mins on Facebook, I receive the electric zap --- and the longer I stay on line, the more powerful the zap becomes.
People use it in hundreds of ways. To beep loudly when they enter facebook. To vibrate if they bite their nails. To send a zap to wake them up (shocking alarm clock --- it just works).
It's actually pretty freaking amazing to see what our users are doing with it.
Anyway, I thought you all might be interested --- what do you think? Could you see yourselves using the chrome extension to train away your bad habits?
http://buy.pavlok.com is the site to check it out. or on Amazon: http://amazon.com/Pavlok-1/dp/B011U2QYO2
My partner monopolises the main living space, and always switches the TV on. She's out with the tablet and surfing in seconds. I don't have a mobile internet device at hand. So it can feel lonely and desolate. Once I also pulled out my laptop alongside the telly. So do get it. It does feel rude if one sided. Especially when you are left watching some crap that you wouldn't put on yourself. I could fetch my book, but I find it difficult to read while the telly is on. One day I might challenge her to a conversation.
I enjoy space and silence. In the garden I can just stand and listen for an hour or so at a time. I'm almost completely vacant. It feels good, but I'm not sure if it is good for the brain.
Yet, I'm here, replying to you.
I see what you did there.
See ya. Off to Google Analytics.
These days I'm more and more distracted, have issues concentrating, and I don't have a smartphone, which I'd probably gravitate towards. It is in part, why I don't own one.
I also have congnitive difficulty reading from the screen, so if I stumble across something I think is worth reading, I send it to my e-reader. There I have a ton of unread articles. But I do tend to do one at a time, and it sticks better.
The young ones seem to be able to happily multitask, they sit next to each other on the bus or in cafes talking and surfing simultaneously. I find multi-tasking increasingly difficult, they don't, what gives?
There are, perhaps, some activities which most people can multitask at - such as, driving a routine route while carrying on a light conversation. (But even that might distract from one or the other) But try something more complex - such as even trying to carry on a simple conversation while driving in an unfamiliar area or when you're lost - and quickly you'll find you can only focus on one thing at a time.
So, my sweeping generalization of people surfing and talking simultaneously is that if the two activities are very unrelated, (different topics) it's likely far less attention is being paid to each than the level of attention you're giving to reading your single article.
I'm now going to close the six other HN articles + comment pages I just opened before this one, and just not read them. See you all in a couple of days!
Batched Inbox would like to:
+ View and manage your mail
Sorry, but any solution which involves giving a third party access to all mail is not a solution.
> any solution which involves giving a third party access to all mail
- Creating a filter that puts all your mail in a label, skipping the inbox
- Write a cronjob that takes all the mail with that label and labels it back into the inbox
That's probably active procrastination, though. :)
How is that anything but a massive imposition of disutility to the parent and to anyone else that uses the tool?
Using this tool, you can decrease the bandwidth going into your computer, increase the number of packets being dropped, and increase the delays while doing DNS lookups. The effect of this is you may bring your network speed down enough that your mind can keep up with the torrent of things trying to distract it. By imposing on yourself the network connectivity of 10 years ago, you may regain the focus you had back then as well. The difference is very noticeable, you'll realize right away that your doing something unessential when you're waiting +10 seconds for it to download.
Food for thought.
During working hours, I've blocked all sites that I find distracting - except for Hacker News. NYTimes is blocked so can't go read the referenced article. With so many sites self-blocked, I end up getting the TL;DR summary here on HN, and find that works most of the time. The discussions here are generally of high quality!
Of course this is no solution for self-distraction. I can still Google some topic of interest. But that is a more active process as opposed to a "reflex" distraction.
If you're actually addicted to something, you feel so trapped and subservient to your addiction that you concoct the idea of a higher power simply because you have no power left within yourself to fight.
Addiction is so bleak and hopeless that death seems like a decent alternative to living without your addiction.
Even then the strength of dependence varies rather than exists as a binary thing. You might feel anxious without your daily doses of caffeine or sleep worse and get the sweats after discontinuing weed. In the worst cases, with alcohol especially, you might even die during abrupt withdrawal.
But there is also the psychological component (habituation, compulsion, behaviour). For example you might still be left with the strong compulsion to smoke even if you satisfy nicotine addiction through other means or feel empty or distressed if your computer dies and you can't get online.
There are people with really severe addictions, sure. In rehab there was no shortage of people who had to be monitored 24/7 and medicated because suddenly stopping their drug could actually kill them. There were others who were not as desperate. But I think it really is the same underlying phenomenon: substance abuse as well as gambling or some people who overeat or whatever else people typically need to go to rehab for - those addictions simply are greater and tend to have worse impact on a person's life. I was in rehab for alcohol having already quit every other drug at that point (causing my precariously balanced array of simultaneous addictions to cause one of them to dive head-first into the ground) and I wouldn't say that my addiction was the same as the heroin or cocaine addicts' problems. It simply was not in the same class, so I think there's already a recognition that everyone's addiction is different and unique to them.
Also, fuck, I'm clearly addicted to internet distraction. I'm writing this post instead of finishing my research paper.
Just like it is possible to fix alcoholism by having someone remove alcohol from the house and gambling by having someone prevent the gambler from walking into a casino.
If using the internet in a harmful way (eg. spending six hours a day reloading 9gag, FB, slashdot or whatever up to the point where it hinders your normal activities), how is it different from alcoholism or gambling?
It's different because alcohol withdrawal can kill you. It can give people seizures and hospitalize them for weeks. Telling someone to "remove alcohol from the house" as a cure is so left field for me it feels like you're missing the very real medical struggle long-term alcoholics go through. I'm livid but I know this should be a civil conversation.
I haven't seen someone's facebook+9gag habits tear a community, family, or person apart. Maybe that's my ignorance.
Someone who's really addicted to something will seek the object of their addiction and think about it constantly. As you mention, there are also physical components to some addictions, such as alcohol addiction.
Well, sure. I'm wasting time all the time on the internet, even though I know I shouldn't. Sometimes it have real negative effects on my life, it's certainly a real addiction by that definition.
I've actually experimented a bit with chemical addiction to caffeine and nicotine (consuming a lot of caffeine/nicotine for a few weeks then stopping completely), and it was way easier to break than my internet addiction.
Are you claiming that chemical addiction/dependence isn't really addiction/dependence if you can "override" it?
To claim that my addiction to procrastination isn't really an addiction because I recognize it and doesn't feel so powerless than I would want to kill myself is absurd.
> Are you claiming that chemical addiction/dependence isn't really addiction/dependence if you can "override" it?
No, and you can't read that from my comment.
> To claim that my addiction to procrastination isn't really an addiction because I recognize it and doesn't feel so powerless than I would want to kill myself is absurd.
I didn't claim that, and to think I did form what I wrote is absurd.
> I didn't claim that, and to think I did form what I wrote is absurd.
I wasn't referring to what you wrote, I was referring to what the poster I originally replied to (which I assumed you agreed with because you replied to my questioning of his statement with "Because ...") claimed. Sorry for the the assumption.
And an alcoholic could just stop buying booze. Not so easy, right?
(Of course alcoholism is in a different league, physical dependence and alcohol withdrawal syndrome are no walk in the park.)