I'm Aza Raskin @aza. I make shiny things. I simplify.

I'm VP at Jawbone, focusing on health.

 

Help! Your train of thought is sacred.

You can only really think about one thing at a time. If you’re thinking about paying your taxes, you can’t be thinking about your vacation in Tahiti. Indeed, thinking about that vacation in Tahiti will actively prevent you from thinking about your taxes. That’s why when you want to get something done, you want to get everything out of your head except the task at hand.

So when you’re working and dialog box pops up, asking you an unrelated question — or when you have to fiddle with your software to make it work the way you need it to — it really hurts.
Asking someone to think about their software and their work at the same time is like asking someone to press two ten-feet-apart buttons at the same time.

Quite simply, we need to make sure we never endanger our user’s train of thought. And that means that the interface we’re creating can never derail it. No talking paper clips bothering them from the sidelines, no making them fiddling with windows and tabs to find their work, and no dialog boxes questioning their judgment mid-thought. No distractions. Just them and what they’re doing, mano-a-mano.

Question: What sites on the web have done a great job helping you focus? What apps on the web are constantly derailing your train of thought?

RT @aza Help! Your train of thought is sacred. | Follow @aza on Twitter | All blog posts

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Royall

joesgoals.com helps track goals, but as for focus, I’m not sure…. in some form of the definition, I suppose Google Reader helps by keeping you from going to 20 different websites to check things…

Facebook will destroy your productivity. Sites likes Digg will follow. Also, Project Euler has been distracting me lately.



Jimmy

I think one site that works with my flow is buzzword. It has so many nice features but they never seem to get in your way. Also I personally like songza. For it’s simplicity. I don’t know if this truly qualifies but dropbox is the one piece of software that I’ve never had to make a decision about the software. It just works.

Myspace constantly makes me make decisions. And so does facebook. There never seems to be a simple way to get to the exact photos I want on facebook.

P.S.
That Social plugin thing doesn’t detect digg for me.

Sorry one more thing.
Could you make the Aza at the top corner a link to the home page? Would be very useful.


MySpace derails my train of thought. Not because I use it, but whenever another site has a “Post this to your MySpace” button I always think about what a complete trainwreck MySpace is in ALL aspects of its interface, and then I get sidetracked.

Well, okay, in all seriousness, here’s my thoughts:

The good:
- Facebook. As much as I dislike their policies and crusade against OpenID for no good reason, they have a great UI. Want to edit your AIM name in your profile? Click on your AIM name, and you can edit it right there. It’s the kind of thing that makes you think, “Duh, why has nobody done this before?”
- Sites that also do that.

The bad:
- Wikipedia. After reading one article and constantly middle-clicking on every random link that looks interesting, by hour number 3 I usually have 24 tabs open containing wildly unrelated things. I like learning stupid trivia as much as anyone, but I much prefer how VisualWikipedia gives you a quick preview of a link.
- WordPress Admin Panel: Why do I have to click Appearance and THEN Widgets to change my sidebar? This is especially annoying since I use SuperCache, which I have to clear every time I change anything. Adding some AJAX to the menu would fix this, probably, since I wouldn’t have to load 382575783 pages. Speaking of which, is there a good plugin for AJAXifying WP-Admin?
- Sage for Firefox: Not a web-based app, per se, but this confused the hell out of me and led to a quick uninstallation. How do I subscribe to feeds with this thing? Selecting it from the “Subscribe to:” menu just opens the feed in it. Oh, well, maybe if I say “automatically subscribe with Sage”? Nope, now it just bypasses the Firefox feed reading page. OH! I drag the favicon into the Sage sidebar! Riiight! Except when I drag the favicon of the feed being opened in Sage, it gives me an error. I guess I was supposed to drag the icon of the Firefox feed page. Which I can’t see anymore because I defaulted my subscriptions to Sage. Now I could change my about:config or whatever, but no thank you.


Thats an interesting question Aza. Generally sites that encourage and promote individual identities are distracting especially if they are used for that purpose. Sites that serve as tools, and are actually used as tools for productivity are generally not distracting.

Mix the two types of sites and things gets really confusing.

:D


Hey Aza… I find that listening to Music on Songbird increases my train of thought and creativity. Whereas sites like facebook or ANYTHING that google owns, ruins my train of thought.

Hope this helps,
-=Ben=-


I just close my laptop to remove all distractions.


    любовь Posted on I think she would hate that name when she gets older, but it is cute. Yuffie it a cute name (short for Josephina) or Kikyo, Kagome, Mae, Lyobov, Svetlana, or Mariska. I’m going to name my baby London, if its a girl, If its a boy, sasha Alexy, Andri, or Luloush or pblsiosy Ming.



Jason

internettypewriter.com does it for me. Nothing quite like the sweet blank page. (requires Webkit)


Saliem’s previous comment has it down. There’s a definite difference between identity promotion and brand promotion. Great brands are able to exist independent of their creators. Your question is tough because it needs to tie one concept of a user as a “creator” to the whole concept.

Almost all tools that regress to requiring a bit *too* much personal info to access or use an accessibility feature distract from the ultimate purpose of the tool I think. There’s a fine line, and I’m not quite sure where it is drawn.



Dan

Hmm, this is a good argument for justifying the use of adblocking software.



tylerstyle

Googlemail, Calendar and Documents really helped my online work flow a LOT. Simple UI, no blinking ads, just, what you need is there. Nothing else.
Great online apps!


On LinkedIn, when you sign up and get started they keep feeding you the “next” thing to do. It really kept me from having to switch to meta-thinking. (What should I think about next?)

I always thought LinkedIn did a great job of keeping the ball rolling and not de-railing my train of thought.

On the negative side is Outlook Web Access. I am constantly forced to think about how the thing works and not my email. I haven’t used the latest-latest, but it’s not a fun email system.



JustinOpinion

There are some sites that have pop-overs that ask “would you be willing to be part of a survey?” Those totally destroy my train of thought. They especially annoy me when I run into them on a site I rarely visit, because I will usually be in a hurry. For instance I’ll be doing a search for a driver, go to a manufacturer’s page, and as I’m trying to find the right link to click, the box will pop up and cover my page.

Similarly, any kind of ad that shows up before you can get to the content derails the thought process.

In terms of web-apps that help productivity, I agree with the Google Apps being well-designed. Google Reader, for instance, allows me to focus on a particular task (this is true for any good aggregator, of course). I also like web-apps that allow me to visualize alot of data at once, giving “the big picture” instead of forcing me to click through links (and inevitably forget what I was trying to do…). For example this site lays out the top news stories:
http://marumushi.com/apps/newsmap/newsmap.cfm



Kim Sullivan

Remember The Milk helps me to keep a list of things I want to do “later”, so I don’t have to indulge in them “right now”.

As much as google reader helps in productivity (not having to check a bunch of sites manually), it’s too easy to add new feeds. Getting the “new post” count to zero is a serious detraction for me almost every day.



flashparry

http://ninjawords.com/ – online dictionary, but very elegantly done, it’s a pleasure to look up words.


The web clips in gmail are really distracting to me.

Also, Vienna on my desktop is kinda distracting because it tells me how many unread items I have. If there are any, I feel compulsion to go read them right now!


I find the Firefox Add-on update dialogue when I open Firefox quite distracting. Usually when I’m opening the browser, I have the intent to go to a site, or the browser is opening a link from another app – and this dialogue interrupts my flow from one state to the next.


one site rules them all as far as im concerned… fffound.com
that place will KILL your focus.


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