On Web Sanity
When I browse the Internet, I always fight the temptation to waste time by visiting distracting websites. By telling my computer what sites are worth visiting, I've offloaded that drain of willpower to the machine.
The DNS Level
There are a few sites that I 'block' in
/etc/hosts because I have
no desire for them, whatsoever. I will never want to 'cheat', and
visit them, for any reason.
Here is the relevant section of my
0.0.0.0 www.facebook.com 0.0.0.0 facebook.com 0.0.0.0 connect.facebook.net 0.0.0.0 facebook.net 0.0.0.0 fbcdn.net 0.0.0.0 www.fbcdn.net 0.0.0.0 badge.facebook.com 0.0.0.0 blog.facebook.com 0.0.0.0 en-gb.facebook.com 0.0.0.0 developers.facebook.com 0.0.0.0 touch.facebook.com 0.0.0.0 de-de.facebook.com 0.0.0.0 stories.facebook.com 0.0.0.0 it-it.facebook.com 0.0.0.0 hu-hu.facebook.com 0.0.0.0 peace.facebook.com 0.0.0.0 et-ee.facebook.com 0.0.0.0 az-az.facebook.com 0.0.0.0 0.facebook.com 0.0.0.0 apps.facebook.com 0.0.0.0 reddit.com 0.0.0.0 www.reddit.com
I would love if there were a central repository of distracting sites, and if my hostsfile could be updated automatically against this repository.
The Browser Level
Earlier on I used the WasteNoTime Safari extension. It helped regulate the time I spent on distracting websites, in a reasonable way. The process went something like this:
- I would make a list of websites to blacklist. There's a whitelist functionality, but I never figured out how to use it in a satisfactory way. I would necessarily exclude useful sites I was unaware of.
- I would decide how long I would allow myself to visit the distracting websites in total. For example, I would allow myself 45 minutes on each weekday, and then disable the timer on the weekends.
- I would browse distracting websites until I ran out of time, and then go do work.
This process isn't horrible. I imagine it would work for a lot of people. For me, however, it was simply too complicated, and invited distraction. Every time I wanted to add a site to the list, I would have to go to the existing list, and see all my personal vices there (Oh yeah! I haven't checked Hacker News today!)
And so I discovered Mindful Browsing. It works in a subtly different way. It's designed to encourage you to consider your decisions, rather than be put off by an admonishment page every time you try to access a distracting site.
It works like this. The extension defaults to always being in effect, though this can be modified. Then, while you're browsing, when you find yourself on a site that's distracting, you press a button. The site is added to a blacklist that you never see. That's it.
What makes it interesting is this: When you try and access a distracting website, you get a warning, and the option to temporarily allow it. This is fantastic in and of itself (sometimes I need to check a distracting forum which also contains useful news and information), but there's another variable: the button to enable the site temporarily is disabled for a configurable amount of time. I set mine to ten minutes.
So if I want to visit one of the distracting websites, I have ten minutes to either go do something useful and come back, or change my mind and close the tab. This is the eponymous 'mindful browsing': the ability to actively decide how you want to approach distracting websites, and the ability to give yourself time to set other goals.