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Disconnect. Offline only (bolin.co)
601 points by danmeade on Aug 23, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 199 comments

Beauty. Almost a piece of art.

I was on a plane yesterday (literally on airplane mode) and I finished a book I've been working on for a month, and prepped/wrote half of a presentation. Quite often I produce much of my writing on a plane.

I find myself very productive on a plane. Especially on cheap flights that don't have in-flight entertainment. Literally no distractions for a preset amount of time. You're not only offline, you're also physically stuck. Best way to make the time fly by is by being productive.

Planes work wonders for development too. After several trips and being on a deadline, I built my dev environment to be offline friendly (cached data, local libraries, etc.). Airports became the most productive locations for me because I could shut everything off and just focus on finishing the development work. Not having an answer at my fingertips ended up being a fun constraint too.

I always think of that... unfortunately I get nervous while flying and cannot just concentrate in anything. I usually only try to sleep, although I would love to be able to use that time to catch up on my reading and also some writing.

This is me. Coding, coding, coding, whup there's some turbulence, we're all gonna die, ok it's fine, spend 15 minutes calming down, coding...

i'm better on long train rides. more room, more comfortable. no battery worries. don't notice the person in front of you bouncing up and down in their seat.

Ugh, I wish I could do this. Trying to read or write while in a moving train invariably leads to me feeling really sick :(

Agree 100%. Problem is though that many airline are starting to offer WiFi connectivity. I just hope that they've built shitty systems that won't work most of the time... :)

> Problem is though that many airline are starting to offer WiFi connectivity. I just hope that they've built shitty systems that won't work most of the time... :)

I take advantage of the cognitive friction induced by the fact that you have to pay (even though it's cheap); I don't think I've ever used WiFi on a plane. It's nice to have some time with (almost) enforced lack of connectivity. I also never get Internet when traveling, including on an extended backpacking trip when WiFi was hard to come by. It makes it more inconvenient, but it's more than worth the ability to be fully present while exploring new places.

Starting? Like ten years ago they started and now it's in nearly every plane.

In the flights I've taken in the past few years, I see wifi on about 1/3, and it's a fairly recent thing (a couple years, maybe). Obviously you're traveling on different planes than I am.

Really depends on: country, airline, price range you are willing to part with on amenities. Typically the Wifi costs extra, and most people are just trying to A-to-B it.

I fly probably a 15-20 times a year and I've never been on a flight with wifi. I'm super curious what it's like though.

90% of the time it's like really bad coffee shop wifi unless you get a nice airline with ViaSat connections installed, then it's actually pretty good.

Good enough to make calls via VoIP?

No, these satellite connections have bad latency and VOIP traffic might be filtered out.

I'm in Europe, and fly 4-5-6 times a year. It's only in the last 5 years that you're allowed have electronic devices turned on in planes here.

Huh? I'm sure electronic devices were OK in Europe flights a decade+ ago...

Yeah and you still get "told" to turn them off. Kind of a mixed signal of "put your electronics on airplane mode" and "switch off your electronics" where you're not sure which you're supposed to do. Really they don't care either way

I think you are referring to take-off/landing parts of the flight.

There is a reason behind that, AFAIK the airplane uses lots of sensors that these devices may interfere with, otherwise normally they are allowed.

Out of curiosity, why were electronic devices banned in planes on the first place? Is there any scientifical evidence either for or against it?

So? If you want to be offline you go offline. It's not like someone is forcing you to use WiFi... This seems more like a self-control problem.

I thought that a lack of self control was initially the point of the parent post hence the whole "being forced to be productive since there's nothing else to do' spiel

Don't fret; they have, and they don't

Also, web applications introduce sooooo much lag and delays when transitioning between sections or editing. Really finding that it breaks my flow.

I love long-haul flights for the same reason. Great way to catch up on some reading/writing.

For those interested in managing online time and getting ourselves offline regularly, the book Deep Work, by Cal Newport, has some very useful ideas. One that I plan to start experimenting with is the idea of scheduled internet access - allow yourself to get online only at certain times of day. This isn't just for work. Even if you're, say, standing in line at the grocery store, you don't get to pull your phone out and check your email.

As the author points out, we've forgotten how to be bored. We need to learn to engage that part of our brain again.


While I'm fond of "deep work the idea", the book was a real disappointment. It's mostly selling the idea instead of explaining how to do something with it.

I followed the author's blog for a while, and I'd say a few key blog posts are enough to get the point accross. Even there it gets repetitive quickly.

The idea is good, it just doesn't require so much elaboration.

> While I'm fond of "deep work the idea", the book was a real disappointment. It's mostly selling the idea instead of explaining how to do something with it.

Sadly, most self-help book are like this. :-(

Would you be willing to link to what you consider the key blog posts?


It's been a while so I don't remember specifics.

However, after looking around, it seem the category "Patterns of Success for the Working World" (http://calnewport.com/blog/archive/) captures what I thought the interesting content was. It's still 100+ blog posts, so you'll have to do a bit of sorting.

...aaaaand that's why it may be a good idea to disconnect in order to get any work done.

Well, what to do with deep work is up to you. I wouldn't expect it to be an instruction manual for anything but "Here is how you build your mind and work habits to be able to accomplish deep work."

> As the author points out, we've forgotten how to be bored.

I find outdoor activity to be one of the best way to be 'bored'. You have to focus on what your body is doing, you're back in nature, you'll be getting exercise.

Leave the podcast/spotify at home.

I advocate for taking time off to literally do nothing. No schedule. No purpose. No clocks. Just get up and operate based on the sun's movement and your own bodies needs. Be bored. Slow down time and fully disconnect from work. It's a hell of an experience.

I'm on vacation this week and did exactly this on Sunday-Tue. It's Wednesday now and I feel feel very, very refreshed and relaxed. Focus is much easier today than it has been for some time.

It's hell indeed.

As another person mentions, the book delivers a great nessage/idea, question is if a book is needed for sometthing which could have been summarized in a post. But 99% of self-help books belong to this category.

Besides, I am wondering if HN is a good and free lead generation channel for self-help books since I see many people pointing to the right book in the right thread and context. This could be easily scaled.

That would require it to be controlled, really. People recommend certain books because they're good. Word of mouth advertising.

You can't just take word of mouth and automate it and productize it somehow. That kills its nature.

This is what I subtly questioned: How do you want to know if it's real word of mouth or growth hacking?

I've bought lots of books through HN recommendations, more often than not they're great. I do always check a bit of the poster's submission/comment history though, because people definitely do try to pitch their eBook or SaaS here.

I bought Deep Work off a HN recommendation, that included a whole bunch of follow-on comments about how great it was.

And it was well worth it.

I cannot imagine the author of this book resorting to growth hacking.

> As the author points out, we've forgotten how to be bored. We need to learn to engage that part of our brain again.

This sounds like a contradiction. Isn't boredom precisely the state that results when one fails to engage their brain?

Kind of. But you can see boredom as the desire for novelty, a cue to find something new so we can get that dopamine hit. Phones, internet and media are fantastic at giving us that little kick to keep us going, so we don't feel the need to engage our brain in more useful ways. Without that easy access to the dopamine treadmill that is your phone, you are encouraged to seek novelty elsewhere. This might be in wandering thoughts, seeking interaction with people or things around you, or some other endeavor.

To think a little further forward, doing this tends to increase the time until the next novelty, so you get practiced in not constantly seeking immediate gratification. It helps increase your ability to be patient and to concentrate, which in part is the ability to not switch tasks at the first hint of boredom.

I would put it as, we've forgotten how to not be distracted. The mind needs time to wander.

He meant we can't stand to be bored anymore. At the slightest chance we immediately look for distractions, like the internet.

I agree with this but would emphasize that this is just an exercise to get free from a distracted state in your mind all the time.

I feel like this is a common semantic disagreement.

Some people want to encourage disconnecting yourself from external stimulus, and just enjoying your own thoughts, and use the word "boredom" to describe this. Whereas other people feel that "boredom" means the frustrating state of being entirely unengaged.

I sometimes wonder if people who don't disconnect very often haven't experienced much of the latter kind of boredom, and so aren't as aware of it as a negative thing.

Boredom is the state of not being satisfied with any of the sources of reward currently available in your environment.

thanks for the recommendation!

> your ability to Google something

In my opinion, this actually is something that makes me valuable. It doesn't matter how well you can synthesize information if you can't find it in the first place.

Having the ability to take a problem, figure out what you don't know, reprocess those parts into a format that Googles™ well, filter out the noise from the results, and only then synthesize the information gathered is actually not as common as you might think.

totally agree! maybe I was being too flippant :P

> Having the ability to take a problem, figure out what you don't know, reprocess those parts into a format that Googles™ well, filter out the noise from the results, and only then synthesize the information gathered

That's spot on.

I remember times when I had the PHP manual, the HTML reference, etc. saved offline to save bandwidth.

Yeah. Now I wish I could save Google offline :)

Agreed. When I worked in IT it was 75% of my job.

The funny thing is, smartphones are all but useless for many tasks the minute you go into airplane mode. There are exceptions, but you're basically holding a client to a distributed operating system which has appropriated many of the promises of wearable personal computing for corporate profit.

So yes, if you've already ceded your right to not be inturupted by running apps like Twitter and Facebook in the background, then I can see the appeal of cord cutting.

Of course there also exists the possibility of at least trying to use these devices without ceding this autonomy in the first place, but that requires admitting just how little today's social media offerings will have to do with this approach.

And no, a smartphone is not the right place to do research anyway. In fact, neither is the WWW using off-the-shelf browsers, but it's the version of Hypertext we're stuck with for now.

Although I would prefer to be very strongly critical of the corporate model of the distributed operating system, (and particularly I'd like to relate it to Marx's concept of alienation, commodity fetishism and the tighter control of the 'free market of ideas' which turns out to be a 'free market' dominated by monopoly of Google in particular as they freqently turn out to be), I'm not sure what else I would do with a computer.

Say I want to program on a laptop - I can't program without access to the relevant documentation, access to download the libraries I need, and I'm often completely lost trying to debug a problem without access to SO or finding what triggers a particular error. Is this beacuse I have become over-dependent on the Internet for help, or even because I never learned how to program sans Internet? Probably, and it's a shame.

I honestly have no idea what I'd do with a phone without an Internet connection, other than the obvious phone calls and text messages. Take notes? Add stuff to the calendar? I could do that with pen and paper anyway, and not have to give that up during takeoff.

Social networking is weird, I feel like I'm supposed to be chasing something, looking for it, and when I find it then I'll latch onto it. It's like me with computer games. But I have found myself becoming bored with Mastodon and Facebook doesn't keep me for more than five minutes. Other peoples' lives, or at least to the extent displayed on FB, just isn't that interesting to me.

Twitter is a different matter, I always want to track the discussions, create witty replies, etc. (partly due to my political stance), but I don't think I'm obsessive yet. And where does it leave me? Less time to pursue my hobbies that take time to tease out their enjoyment; language learning, getting round to learning music theory, hobby programming, reading Marx, etc.

I suppose that seeing that this is happening is a good start.

Richard Stallman was largely motivated to start project GNU because he took issue with the appropriation of source code by corporations and other proprietors, which he saw as replacing the communal way of writing and consuming software at the MIT A.I. lab.

My feeling is that we are seeing today a similar appropriation, not of source code (most people who use computers at this point now see them as appliances, and wouldn't have any use for source code), but of the ability to embed externally imposed media within (and subservient to) our own private scheme of organization. Let me explain: in the old days, when you subscribed to a magazine, you admittedly would be forced to navigate it so long as you read it, but you would be free to place it and store it anywhere you like in your house, and even cut clippings out from it and rearrange them as you may. But computers are not just appliances when used as such, but instead become giant magazines which overtake the role of your entire house and mind.

We really don't have the equivalent capability to organize things as we please in smartphones, and people are using such capability less and less in desktops (and not at all so long as they only use the PC as a glorified web browser). Ted Nelson thought about the kind of organizational tools the user would need to have at his/her hands, and John McCarthy wrote about it a bit too (e.g., look for discussion here on HN in other threads about his paper, "The Home Information Terminal: A 1970 View", in which he points out that because people will control what they see, online advertising, for example, wouldn't even be possible).

As with other systems of control, my feeling is that you're not going to peacefully overthrow it so long as a large enough segment of the population is in fact perfectly happy with it, or at least unaware of any reason not to be. John McCarthy admitted this much when he conceded that most Americans are TV watchers anyway and won't need a home information terminal to do research, and Neil Postman wrote about the negative effects of television in his 1984 book, "Amusing Ourselves to Death".

> John McCarthy admitted this much when he conceded that most Americans are TV watchers anyway and won't need a home information terminal to do research, and Neil Postman wrote about the negative effects of television in his 1984 book, "Amusing Ourselves to Death".

Zooming out just a little, Guy Debord's "Society Of The Spectacle" talks about this same stuff on a higher level.

It's important to note though that he wasn't only talking about TV and mass media, as people frequently attempted to interpret hials book.

> Say I want to program on a laptop - I can't program without access to the relevant documentation, access to download the libraries I need, and I'm often completely lost trying to debug a problem without access to SO or finding what triggers a particular error. Is this beacuse I have become over-dependent on the Internet for help, or even because I never learned how to program sans Internet? Probably, and it's a shame.

There are two issues-- smearing your computer's dev environment across the internet, and making the internet a hard dependency of your mental model for your project.

Downloading all the libs-- environment smearing problem.

Can't debug without SO-- internet dependency problem.

I found Zeal to be of some use as you can download a ton of documentation for offline use.

Thank you so much for this! Often when I'm online, it's only to access documentation. This might be the way out...

I wonder if someone has written a readthedocs importer for it.


It's definitely quite nice being able to code while mobile. I've often used a laptop while travelling, and internet connectivity can be something you get used to not having.

Sure, if I'm stuck with a particular error message, a google search is often the quickest way to resolve. And yes, if you have to add a library that you don't currently have, you're out of luck until next time you're connected. But I've definitely found some of my most productive time while disconnected.

I've found it depends on what type of coding I'm doing. Working on an Objective-C in Xcode? I most likely have everything I need. Working on the first stages of a Rails app? Dead in the water at the first sign of `bundle install`.

While I sympathize, that would be forgetting all that the net and online-ness has done for me. I would be a fundamentally different (and, in my current estimation, worse) person if I didn't have the net. It's been an engine of personal growth much more than one of distraction.

It might not be the same for everyone, of course. But I still think going offline is giving up too much.

The pendulum doesn't have to swing all the way to the other direction. Couldn't we just focus on being more responsible in our net consumption and promoting the good benefecial stuff instead?

I got stuck into a bad habit of browsing the internet idly anytime when I'm at home and then having to rush to get to work so I've created rules on my router to disable web access in the mornings before work and late at night before bed.

It is quite effective and I suddenly do other things but I do worry that it's a psychological crutch which is just going to make self-control even harder in the long term.

If you are an alcoholic, would not having 24 beers in your fridge lower your willpower? I think it is the reverse, just like this. Not in house = fight won, so you have more willpower left for when you DO need to fight a fight (say, friend offers a beer after work).

Self control takes willpower. Willpower is a finite resource (you can find studies on it. This is why after a hard day of work you are more likely to say screw it and eat an extra cookie). You just saved having to use a little bit of willpower each day. Which means you will have MORE willpower to spend on other things, not less.

The "ego depletion" effect makes sense to me on a personal level, but there's been some doubt cast on the studies:


I realise that I might be off an a tangent but this is a not a good analogy. If I were an alcoholic, I would rush off to the nearest drug store and get a fuckin' beer. I would not even own a fridge. :)

A book that has personally helped me is Kick the Drink....Easily! The idea is that there is no such thing as will power. The more you fight it, the more the psychological crutches grow, and then its difficult to jump off.

What the upper thread mentions is very true for porn addicts. They do this all the time. Program the router to shut off at certain times. Does it work? I doubt it.

Distraction is a very real thing. Hell, distraction is recommended as an aid for anxiety disorder :)

Get distracted, be human. Get back to work.

I respectfully disagree.

My vice is cookies. Cookies in house, I eat entire bag. Do not buy, I do not rush out to the grocery store at 11pm to buy. The high is low enough that the extra work is not worth it. So by setting that barrier high enough, it stops me from eating cookies, and I lose weight.

Super nice idea. I remember when I was very young and the Internet was also young, maybe just two, three years, I experienced something strange. In this time we still used US-Robotics 56k modems to connect to the Internet. When I was offline my computer felt dead. Worthless. Useless. Only when I was online my computer felt right and I felt good.

You have to imagine that I loved my self-built PCs even before the Internet came. I spent so much time with them, upgrading them, spent night and day installing and trying new software, stuff like Sierra and Lucasfilm Adventures, Clipper/dBase, Turbo Pascal, QuarkXPress, Corel Draw, saving for hardware such as PostScript laser printers, AdLib later Soundblaster soundcarfd, SyQuest harddrives, flatbed scanners, all the typical stuff. And once the Internet came an offline computer felt like a dead computer.

I remember talking to somebody about this ages ago. I said exactly the same thing, a computer that is offline is of no use to me. Like a big expensive paperweight. That was also back in dial-up times with a 64k connection... (We had ISDN back then and i felt like a king when i discovered you could use both of our Channel Sand double the download speed! I was also pretty young back then...)

The thing is, we didn't even have internet access at home that long at that point. The transformation of my computer from a box of wonder without any connection, which i could spend hours in front of, to a mere gateway to the net, which seemed useless without connection, was very rapid and basically hasn't reverted to this day.

Needless to say i'm a pretty heavy internet user and smartphones with mobile connectivity have definitly taken that to another level. And i can't say that my attention span has benfited from that... These days I try to use the web less and get back to offline activities like reading books again.

Well done, I had the urge to google the second most commonly spoken language while reading the article.

I turned my phone in some kind of a "dumb phone":

- Deleted all games, news apps, basically all the apps I don't regulary need

- Turned off email. It's still configured, I turn it on if I need to read an email

- No push notifications at all

Next step: Turn off mobile data for browser and only activate it if I need to read something. I'm just not ready yet!

> Well done, I had the urge to google the second most commonly spoken language while reading the article.

The article claims it's Spanish, which is so when counting native speakers, but not right when counting total speakers (where it's English). In both cases Mandarin is in first place.

Next step: "dumb" phone.

Next step: no phone.

I have always been a big proponent of these, but I was literally running out of social life because people just plain refused using other means of communication.

I didn't have a cell phone until the summer of 2011, and I only bought it because I was moving to another city. I've had a smartphone for less than one year (with the minimal amount of apps; basically whatsapp, telegram and very little more), and very reluctantly so.

In theory it's a nice idea to let go of the phone and move into a different style of social and personal life. In practice, this makes you the odd one who still refuses to use the medium everyone else uses (and right now, I'm the odd one who only looks at their phone 4 or 5 times a day, so people can't expect me to read a message within an hour of it being sent). The pressure to stay connected is very real even if it's not intentional, and this pisses me off.

A common answer to all of this is that if people refuse to contact you using other means, they are not really your friends. While I see the point, the sad truth is that by avoiding the most common means of communications, you're just putting hurdles between you and your friends, and mildly incentivizing them to stop talking to you.

At least I have successfully removed facebook from my life. That was far easier than I could have imagined, and I didn't even do it on purpose.

> A common answer to all of this is that if people refuse to contact you using other means, they are not really your friends.

People who make this claim ought to stop speaking out loud to their friends, and insist on communicating in sign language only, or by writing things down on paper. They might realize that their friends aren't really their friends, either, when you start insisting on making them jump through arbitrary hoops.

> A common answer to all of this is that if people refuse to contact you using other means, they are not really your friends.

Maybe, except I didn't pick my friends based on the way I want to communicate with them. I dislike Facebook as much as the next person who dislikes it, but I would never expect my friends to change their ways for me or the way I want to communicate with the world. Thinking specifically of one of my friends, we will regularly switch between Google Hangouts, iMessage and Slack, depending on the context. If he pinged me tomorrow and said he was cutting Slack from his life (heaven forbid), we'd have backups, but if not, I'd probably follow to whatever means he prefers, because the alternative - losing one of my best friends - just isn't worth it. So, yeah, I check Facebook once a week for events and general life updates, and I move on. Seems better than the alternative.

Sure, the smartphone is a great thing to take with you when something unpredictable happened and you're forced to wait 1/2/10 hourse, and you didn't take anything with you (a book, your computer, etc).

But how often does this happen, and how often, instead, does a smartphone distract from better tasks? How often I choose not to pick a book when leaving, because I've got the smartphone "just in case" ? Of course I have ebooks on it, but many times I waste time on facebook/HN/twitter/surfing. It's TOO EASY to get distracted.

Interesting. I have a smartphone that doesn't interrupt me at all, because it doesn't run any of the apps that tend to do so — this is a Meizu Pro5 running the now abandoned Ubuntu Touch; I'll probably jump over the UBports soon. It does have a web browser though.

Last week I was in London as a tourist visitor, and being able to pull up the local public transit planner (https://tfl.gov.uk) and OpenStreetMap were just conveniences that a mobile computer seems particularly well suited for.

Effectively it's a pull-only smartphone. Nothing is being pushed to me, so nothing takes me out of the moment.

After I install a program in my PC, the first thing I do is to disable all the sounds... and after I install an app in my phone, the first thing I do is to disable all the notifications.

On the flip side of that, I keep all notifications turned on and only selectively disable them when they start pushing complete nonsense or spam or ads to me. I get very focused and will forget to check email, forget to check Facebook, forget to check text messages, sometimes for days at a time. When I got an iPhone 6 and could no longer depend on the vibrate motor making an audible noise (seriously how terrible is the vibrations on the newer iPhones?) I got a Pebble watch so when the phone rings it actually physically sends me a push notification by buzzing.

Slack has this annoying habit on my work computer to not make an audible noise when I get a message even though that setting is turned on and I never check my Mac's dock when I'm working on something so I had to unhide the dock so I could see the notification come in.

Then again at one point in time I had alarms set on my phone telling me it was time to eat or time to go to bed because I will focus in on something so much that everything else disappears for hours at a time. Notifications help break me out of that to get back to the real world.

Serious, non-snarky question: In what way is a book better than a link on Hacker News or Facebook?

The problem I see (and have yet to get a good answer for) with all of these extreme productivity tactics like shutting off all internet access is that carry a value judgment that older > newer, for all values of information absorption. It reminds me of how some of the financial advice for people in debt is to eschew all forms of credit and live on cash only. Which is fine until you need to buy a house...

If the problem is being distracted from the real world, and that's truly a negative, rather than filling dead time that couldn't really be used for anything else (waiting in line, etc), being absorbed in a book is functionally no different from being absorbed in a newsreader app. With that in mind, where and why is this value judgment coming from?

I see a poster upthread mentioning we've "forgotten how to be bored".

I don't know about people here, but I saw boredom as an awful state of mind even before the proliferation of smartphones. Could someone help me understand what the bigger picture here is?

One of the major underlying issues people are calling out with the indictments of "smartphone culture", and trying to fix by going offline, is a sort of progressive shrinkage of the attention span. It involves progressively less continual attention paid to progressively more individual topics or items; the (current) apotheosis of this paradigm might be Twitter, where you read a constant feed of conceptually disconnected 140-character messages, and any longer-form thought needs unnatural gyrations of the underlying technology to express. Web surfing, or news reading, encourages this style of interaction, with the surfeit of links away to tangentially-related content that is usually not of a form to encourage deep immersion in a single piece.

Books, meanwhile, are of a form to encourage deeper immersion in a single input. Generally speaking, the obvious mode of interaction is to read a single book from start to finish, taking at least hours during which you remain focused on that topic. This kind of long-term focus is required to actually accomplish anything; therefore, a mode of information absorption that trains long-term focus is more effective of personal cultivation than one which encourages mayfly attention-hopping.

Nothing about this necessarily disparages the Internet; it's quite possible to focus on long-form pieces that are Internet-published, or to hop from topic to topic using offline media. But because friction costs encourage longer-term focus when offline, going offline is one effective way to incentivize it.

> In what way is a book better than a link on Hacker News or Facebook?

Most individual links on HN and FB don't have a few hundred pages long of organized material delving into a topic, and most collections of links won't have the same cohesive nature that a good book does. Some do, but it's atypical. If you put any belief into the idea that other senses contribute to learning, then a book covers more senses than an electronic reference does. And it's easier to go sit in a corner with, without worrying about how much you're draining the battery in some device, or being distracted by other things on the internet. Books don't receive push notifications, and that's a wonderful thing!

> I see a poster upthread mentioning we've "forgotten how to be bored".

> I don't know about people here, but I saw boredom as an awful state of mind even before the proliferation of smartphones.

I see it as a statement that we've forgotten how to drift a bit, contemplate, and allow ourselves to be alone with our thoughts; most people grab for a quick bit of entertainment or information when they've got a few otherwise unoccupied seconds.

> It reminds me of how some of the financial advice for people in debt is to eschew all forms of credit and live on cash only.

Look at it from the perspective of an addict. Sometimes being forced to rent is a smaller negative than crippling piles of credit card debt. And sometimes inaccessibility of your accustomed distractions is a smaller negative than being able to focus on something important for as long as it takes to get it done.

It's also a great thing to take with you if you need to check a map, check on the opening times of a shop, or check when your train is. These are things which many people do daily.

While I do understand the point you're trying to make, I think it's a bit unfair to insinuate that their only advantage is as a way to pass the time.

For me smartphone was the way to get back into book 'reading' in a way. I now mostly consume audiobooks and I have probably read more in the past year than in the ten years that preceded my subscription.

Of course I have ebooks on it, but many times I waste time on facebook/HN/twitter/surfing.

I use a smartphone without a mobile data plan. Not because of addictiveness, I just don't think it's worth the cost, but it does avoid that problem. I keep it stocked with ebooks and audiobooks.

That's a great way to convince yourself you're becoming some sort of productivity Übermensch and never end up speaking to your friends again.

> and never end up speaking to your friends again.

No, you just need to move to a place where nobody has a phone. It's great to spend every day outside having adventures, face to face with people!

I have friends who live in different physical locations than me or work different schedules than me. Should I decide the friends I just saw off to grad-school are now dead to me, able to speak to their other friends but not me, the zen master who has moved beyond the need for communication?

You can't write that kind of comment and not give examples of such places.

Africa has a wide selection of such places, but there is a fairly high chance any 'adventures' may be interrupted by child soldiers.

Funny you would say that, I am in West Africa right now.

I have explored 15 countries in about as many months, never seen a single Child soldier.

Please, please don't just parrot things out when you clearly don't know what you are talking about.

There are about (estimated) 300,000 child soldiers in the world at the moment and Africa is home to about 120,000 of them at the moment. So to imply there are a lot of child soldiers in Africa is not unreasonable.

I think "moving to a new, strange place" still includes "get rid of all of your existing friends".

So lets get some high-level steps here;

1. Cut all ties and move to either an Amish settlement or a country with no or little access to electricity.

2. Locate the local stand-up of disillusioned 10x'ers.

3. Romp and play among the trees and hills 24/7.

I guess more work could be done around limiting features on a device when outside of a set period. For instance, Data services could be restricted outside of a person's normal working hours. Or if not just data, limiting all features that aren't core to a phone, taking it back to simple calls and text messaging.

I've got an older Nexus, and it noticeably strains whenever there's some sort of network event going on - signing onto wifi, coming within range of known wifi, re-gaining a network connection - I suspect it's all the apps trying to desperately play catch-up ("MUST UPDATE MAPS!")

I wish I had a way to toggle selective-airplane-mode. That is, only the current app gets to know that I'm connected - Slack, Twitter, Google Maps all get to quietly run in the background and do nothing.

Yeah, my Nexus 7 runs well, except for the five minutes after connecting to Wifi.

If you have yours rooted, the Disable Service app can help reduce the problem. I have a bunch disabled with no (visible?) ill effects.

Mine is also a prime numbered Nexus, but it's not 7 :P

Check to see if your phone has a power saving mode that limits the background activity of apps. If you're only concerned with how the foreground app is functioning, then this would probably work perfectly for you.

Also within the settings, you can select what to do with apps that are pushed to the background. It'll be under the developer settings.

I would trade my smartphone in an instant for a dumb phone with a great camera, 3.5mm audio port, and LTE/WiFi for tethering. The closest thing out there right now is the LG Exalt LTE.

GPS is the killer app for me. I'm young enough to have never had to get around without it, would be a heck of a transition.

   > Next step: "dumb" phone.
   > Next step: no phone.
   Next step: no nothing
   Next step: achieve zen

Once you have nothing, you have everything.

I have tried the same, it does not work. At least for me it didn't. Its like smoker saying I will keep my cigarettes in the box but won't smoke them.

> I had the urge to google the second most commonly spoken language while reading the article.

:) love it

This is a great example of the daily minor enrichment we get from being connected.

I love this line:

"Do your research online, but create offline."

A lot of times, I'm working on something and in the zone and then all of a sudden I see an iMessage notification and forget my thoughts almost instantly.

How is this page implemented for Chrome? It looks like it is using service workers. Is there a tutorial?

EDIT: Tutorial for Chrome here: https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/getting-start...

I have a question after skimming that tutorial. When I knew there was some content on a web page in the past, and it was being obscured by some css/js code, I would often just view source and search for some of the content I knew was there. I'm finding this harder to do sometimes.

So if I go to this page (Disconnect. Offline only) and view source, I see a link to a js file. No matter where I go with this, I can't find the content of the article. But it's somewhere on my system, isn't it?

Is there a way to use dev tools to see this content?

I'm not sure what you're asking. "View source" will only show you the "source" text of the HTML page as the server sent it to you. Since this page is built with React without server-side rendering, said source just contains an empty div where the content would go (the one with id="root").

If you mean you want to see the DOM tree that has been generated with JS after you've loaded the page, you can see it in the corresponding tab in your browser's devtools. Eg in Chrome that's the "Elements" tab.

If you mean you want to know how the page works when you're offline, the information is again in the JS. You can use your browser's devtools to prettify it (both Chrome and FF have this feature) and search for "Do you want to be productive?" to see the code.

The Service Worker is only involved in that it returns the page and JS from its cache. It's the JS that detects whether it's offline or online and renders different content on the page accordingly. [1]

[1]: https://github.com/chrisbolin/react-detect-offline

That's really helpful, thank you. I have no real understanding of how React works, and your explanation helps me know what to look for.

In Chrome's dev tools, there's a handy Offline/Online checkbox in the Network tab.

Somewhat brilliant in that by forcing me offline I was distraction free in reading the piece. Basically it fostered an environment in which I was more likely to read to the end of the article

y'all have been very kind. the productivity tips are very helpful. here's my system:

- sit down at my desk with laptop and phone

- disable wifi on my laptop

- turn my phone face-down on the desk, muted, with wifi/data still on

This lets me check if I have any new messages via my phone, but it is a polling system vs an interrupt system. I have to opt in to check. And I am very aware that using my phone looks and feels less productive, so I try to avoid using it too long.

I've been able to be pretty productive (as an software engineer) with this system. I find that I have to reconnect on my laptop about every 30 minutes to do something or another. Of course, every day varies.

This is a very interesting idea. I do like the strategy of separating connectivity along the boundary of phone and workstation, and with the phone face down / muted to create space for yourself.

As for having to connect your workstation now and then, I can't help but think we all ought to be running parallel, sandboxed VMs, and then importing resources like internet connectivity from the connected VM, but with limited scope. (Who would have thought that something like Plan 9 could have also implemented these kind of productivity hacks, along with all of its other superior approaches to things....)

I am probably one of the few techies in the world that does not own/use a smartphone. Since 2011 I have used a cheap Verizon flip phone for exactly this reason; I want more control over my life. NOTHING is that important that I need to be plugged in 24/7. My wife has a smart phone which is great for when we travel (maps, Yelp, Fandango, Uber, etc.) Don't get me wrong, I was standing in a long line outside the Apple store the day the first iPhone came out. However, over the years I came to realize that in order to have the amount/type of work/life balance I desired, technology would have to take a back seat to my relationships and interests outside of my career.

I haven't looked back.

This seems a bit disingenuous - you definitely still use a smartphone, you just claim to not directly own one. You essentially said this:

> My wife has a smart phone which is great for when [I want to use a smartphone].

If you don't want to carry a smartphone around that's totally fine, but you definitely still use one. I carry a smartphone myself and only use internet-aware 'smartphone' features like maps, yelp and uber when I need to. I don't use social networks.

> This seems a bit disingenuous - you definitely still use a smartphone, you just claim to not directly own one.

I think you're misreading the comment (or at least not acknowledging the degrees of use that the author seemed to intend to convey).

There's "using a smartphone", in the sense of using one to respond to messages quickly, having an entertainment device on hand for idle moments, and generally "[being] plugged in 24/7".

Then there's "using a smartphone", in the sense of being able to borrow one for a specific use, then giving it back to the owner. The difference in usage patterns us the distinction that was being made.

To say "I don't use a smartphone" in order to qualify how disconnected you choose to be is dishonest if what you really mean is, "I don't use a smartphone for [some really specific context]." or perhaps "I don't use a smartphone because I lack discipline regarding notifications/social apps/etc."

Using maps/yelp/fandango/uber covers a majority of the functionality that a smartphone provides.

> Using maps/yelp/fandango/uber covers a majority of the functionality that a smartphone provides.

What? That's a minority of my use.

Saying that the comment is dishonest or disingenuous implies that you think there was an intent to deceive, and I don't think there was any such intention. I'd say that you're taking an unusually and unnecessarily rigid interpretation of what was said and possibly ascribing deception where none exists.

Humans are imprecise. Natural language is imprecise. What ever happened to allowing some leeway for imprecision and even inaccuracy in a casually-written piece of text?

> What? That's a minority of my use.

I said functionality, not usage.

If we're having a discussion and not caring about being imprecise or inaccurate then we should all just stop wasting our time on this discussion.


Welcome to hn :)

For clarification, she uses the smart phone, not I. I might touch her phone to solve some technical issue, but that is about it.

And it's not like I'm a Luddite. I still consume my news and watch some HBO Now on my laptop, but I set boundaries. Relationships, life-long learning, and hobbies are all very important to me, and I see technology as something that has the strong potential to compete with these things.

Do you text?

EDIT: someone downvoted me, probably interpreting my question as a snark. It was a serious question: I'm considering to do what you are doing and I'm wondering whether you ditched texting too and whether that got you social repercussions.

In my country it's a bit more complicated even because everybody WhatsApps and nobody uses SMS, so a true dumb phone won't cut it if you want dumb + text.

Yes, I text (albeit rarely). I'm one of those people who would prefer to hang out with my friend rather than spend time writing walls of text or firing texts back-and-forth ad nauseum. I'm very much a minimalist at heart and this pervades most aspects of my life.

Hmm how about a dumb rom?

It's not all black and white

I'm reading your comment on my smartphone, while in a bathroom, while on a conference trip.

Instead of thinking about what was said at the conference, who were the best speakers, which people you should talk to more, or one of the million other, possibly much more beneficial, things that would pop into your head if you didn't occupy yourself with this thread.

I'm as guilty as everyone else here, admittedly. What's making me think seriously about something like this is that while I was on holiday recently and kept leaving my phone in my room, I had more random thoughts than I've had in a very, very long time.

A number of years ago I did a year without the Internet (except at work, but only for work purposes). You would be amazed how much I got done without the distraction. To be more specific, I designed over 12 table top games, wrote numerous stories, and learned a ton by reading good old fashioned books.

On old Nokia phones you could create profiles, like "work" and "weekend" and configure it's possible functions and also distractions.

I figure there's something like that for android but on iOS you can only put on: do not disturb. It works though.

Using a WP7 device has really forced me to come to terms with all the online cruft and clutter I look at all day. When I only have email, calls and text, I really do seem to see a lot more in life.

This article seems to discuss similar stuff to The Shallows https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shallows-internet-changing-think-re...

Doesn't work on FreeBSD/firefox? First I put interface down, so no network access, second try I physically pulled cable out. Nothing happens.

As a workaround, run this: window.dispatchEvent(new Event('offline'))

That worked, thanks.

I found it worked in Firefox by going to File -> Work Offline but I'm on macOS.

Same with firefox on debian. I sure hope this article is good after I put so much work into enabling it.

What a stupid and annoying gimmick. Author couldn't even be assed to check if it isn't horribly broken in a major browser.

Major browser and specific OS. The gimmick works fine in Firefox on Windows 10.

Didn't work on my machine; it was FX and Win 10. Didn't even test it with my Linux laptop.

to me, using cron to disconnect my internet every half an hour just to remind me to break the loop has been immensely helpful. And annoying. But mostly helpful.

My brain switched to offline mode has about three times better focus.

Similarly to this, I'm using my browser in full-screen mode most of the time to eliminate distractions. It was very surprising to me, how big an effect it has, to not see the tabs.

a cron job to disconnect - love it! do you use the break to get up and stretch, too?

Most of the time, yes. But if you wanted a break from PC instead of internet, I can recommend workrave, it's built exactly for this purpose.

Cron job mostly serves to remind me to use internet as a tool, not as something that is constantly on. Building this awareness of how I am using it is immensely helpful.

If you are, like me, interested in reading the post but do not want to get offline:

> window.dispatchEvent( new Event( "offline" ) );

The real mvp is always in the comments

The point about chasing links in articles is interesting to me. One of my favorite activities is loading articles up in Pocket for all-but-offline reading and Pocket's Listen feature, which uses Android's text-to-speech (?), to listen to articles.

The point about articles being written differently according to whether the author expects that the article will be read offline or not interests me, though, especially if a decent amount of background/context provision is outsourced via providing a link to documents that cover such material.

In Firefox, just use Alt-F to open the File menu, and check "work offline" to view this page.

I use an iOS app called Freedom to disconnect. I can block the entire Internet (excluding iMessage and FaceTime) or a list of sites (social media, news, etc) for a period of time. This way I can still contact people, but cannot browse idly.

Is it a crutch? Sure, but crutches work. If you were dealing with alcoholism, the best thing you could do would be to remove your ability to easily access alcohol.

My phone bricked a week and a half ago and I've been using a phone I walked into a lake on accident two years ago that still completely works except for cell service, so it only updates when I'm connected to Wifi now. I also have google voice number, so my texting works from that phone as well, but again only where there's Wifi.

I'm going to make a claim, pay a deductible, and get a new proper phone at some point, but I've been a bit lazy and delaying it a bit because it hasn't been too bad going without.

Although I did have one bad experience since it happened (almost immediately after). My car's battery died and it required me walking for almost an hour next to a dangerous street to get to some place that had Wifi and sort out getting my car towed and being able to open Uber to have someone pick me up.

It really does require a lot of discipline to stay focused nowadays. In my personal life I'm terrible at it. I wish I read more, like I did before the Internet are my life.

But at work, I HAVE to be disciplined. I start my day with 1 hour of communications catch-up, including stand-ups and slack. Then I turn off slack, and get to work. My phone is set to do not disturb automatically starting at 10am. I check messages when I'm on a break, going to the bathroom, on lunch, etc... But the messages are never allowed to interrupt me.

Works for me, at least.

I just created a new location on my MacBook's network settings, called it 'getitdoneland', and removed all the network services from it. Now my laptop has an 'airplane mode'. Thankfully, it takes just enough seconds for connectivity to return when I switch back to my regular location that I think I'll be dissuaded from distraction. Friction is good sometimes. Back to work...

For those that don't want to, and 'miss the point'. View source and go to the .JS file

The text of the off-line site is about a third of the way down.

Or chrome dev tools -> toggle device toolbar on -> switch "Online" to "Offline".

Or run in your console: window.dispatchEvent(new Event('offline'))

Yup exactly what I did :D

Console -> Network -> Offline [x] also works.

Totally agree. Unfortunately, 90% of my work is development in a SaaS platform, so getting anything done will require my device to remain online.

Does anyone know of a Chrome Plugin/hack that might block all but a few web pages? Then I can enjoy the silence of working without distractions while still plugging into the application that I'm working with.

This is what you're looking for. Blocks everything except whitelisted sites:


SelfControl on OSX works well for me: https://selfcontrolapp.com/

I would love to work offline. But my work involves constant use of a commercial software that won't run without a license check connection to its central license server.

edit: just occurred to me. I should try to script my connectivity, so the connection is established just before the software is used, and terminated soon after. Looking into it.

> But my work involves constant use of a commercial software that won't run without a license check to its central license server.

Through your own choice, or something imposed on you by an employer or circumstance?

Circumstance. I'm under a bit of a deadline, and the software is complex enough that creating an open source version of it would take me a couple years, or more, of domain learning and s/w design and implementation (and of course I would need to be funded during that time).

Doesn't work at all for me on Linux Chrome, Linux Firefox, Windows Firefox, or Windows Chrome.

Is it a joke? Or just poor tradecraft?

Doesn't work for me because my work internet blocked some Javascript that's necessary to fetch the post. I end up with a blank white screen. Apparently, other people are able to read it though.

Also: When used on a mobile device, it does something to detect whether the device is in airplane mode. It refuses to display the text of the article until it is.

I got it working on mobile, too. I don't get why he choose such a nom-standard way of doing it.

Works for me on Firefox on Ubuntu Linux.

What is the bounce rate on your page?

Personally just knowing that wasn't of much help, so I made a simple application to help me stay disconnected https://github.com/mistnim/coin-op-web

The irony was that I was unable to upvote this well written post since I was in airplane mode.

Au contraire, mon ami: javascript:window.dispatchEvent(new Event('offline'))

Would be great if the website worked. Went offline and nothing happened.

(for chrome) open devtools, network tab, tick the offline mode box :)

With Firefox reader view do event listeners still work?

If so it'd be nice to have an extension or option that goes into offline mode when reader view is triggered.

Hmm, in Chromium developer tools, in the Network tab, I set throttling to "Offline", but nothing happened in the page.

It listens to the online and offline events (using https://github.com/chrisbolin/react-detect-offline which is really cool). You really have to turn off your network connection.

Or fire the event yourself using window.dispatchEvent(new Event('offline'))

Worked for me in Chrome 60.0.3112.101

I am on Chrome 60.0.3112.101 too and it works.

Firefox 54 on linux, didn't work.

Thanks for that `window.dispatchEvent(new Event('offline'))` option though.

I had to be online and read the article at the same time :P

Ctrl+Shift+I on Chrome opens developer tools. There is an "offline" checkbox you can click.

or simply, in your browser's console, enter `window.dispatchEvent(new Event('offline'))`

The page is not working in Safari for me. I was struggling for a bit to understand that.

This is too good. We should really re-think how life should be.

dispatchEvent(new Event('offline'))

Don't blame the internet, numerous sources of distractions existed long before. If you are easily distracted, the real cause lies elsewhere.

The article won't load for me.

Same for me. Chrome (stable) on Fedora Linux. I flipped the wired connection switch in NetworkManager and nothing happened. Maybe Chrome on Linux doesn't fire "offline"?

Very cool

in your console put

> window.dispatchEvent(new Event("offline"))

This worked for me

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