Monthly Archives: March 2009

Help for distracted thinkers

Let’s limit our attention to one application—any application—at any time. Let’s make it easy to change focus when we have to. Let’s allow ourselves to bring other apps up quickly if we need them, but put them out of sight again just as quickly.

Let’s rediscover how to focus, and get back to thinking.

Think helps you concentrate on a subset of your visible applications in Mac OS X. Think is a contrast knob for your brain. Think is free.

Vanish distraction
Vanish distraction.

When you “illuminate” an app, everything else pops behind a full-screen mask consisting of any solid or transparent color you like. It could be prettier, smoother, more capable, and more configurable, but I love it. Its three hot keys are easy to learn and it works well with Quicksilver. And unlike “Hide Others” (command+option+H) Think also hides my desktop icons and wallpaper.

SXSW Interactive doesn’t matter anymore (why you need a Gold badge)

It might matter to you but it’s flat to me. No more fizz, no more buzz. Nothing that didn’t already cross my reader or that won’t be here soon enough. I should be able to watch the best talks at home on video anyway. Nobody will mind if I drink beer at the Iron Cactus until it’s time to stand in line for a world premier screening at the Ritz.

I’m no Tony Robbins myself but I dread sitting on conference center chairs while geeks practice their public speaking on me. Last year I spared myself half the misery by sticking my face in a laptop. This year I am sparing myself the whole misery by keeping my butt out of conference center chairs altogether. Theater seating is ten times more comfortable and there is good service.

SXSW Interactive is a well-built structure. It provides a definite time and place where dense social networking is encouraged in many forms but it guarantees nothing. The panel schedule is a gamble akin to playing roulette. Some panels are unforgettably good. Even so, many veterans will report and I agree that most of the best events do not appear on the schedule and many are not even restricted to badge holders.

Still, I like to have a badge with Interactive privileges. I maintain hope that smarter people than myself will fill me with knowledge and inspiration. So far I am satisfied with the interactions I have shared with people face-to-face. I am having a good time this week and nothing would spoil that faster than an hour on a stiff seat in a darkened room wishing I were anywhere else.

I wanted to give it a chance. I studied the schedule but nothing grabbed me and pulled me in. It occurred to me that I should at least attend my favorite panel but it’s not on the schedule this year. My heart sank.

Surely there are others who have felt this way. I know some who stopped attending because the strain outweighed the value. I know this about myself: experiences that echo the boredom that pervaded my educational career can also summon the discontent that was my reaction to that boredom. The similarity between a panel schedule and a day in the life of myself as a high school student is enough to commence the dark reverberations.

I also know that my moods and tastes are subject to change without notice. It would not surprise me to find myself excited about panels in the future. Nor would it to learn that my attitude had been soured by a temporary condition elsewhere in my life. Surely others have recovered from similar downswings.

Unless and until I am drawn to an Interactive event, I am thankful that my SXSW Gold badge includes Film. If you need me, look for me comparing schedule grids at the Iron Cactus. Or I’ll be working at home face-to-face with visiting coworkers. It makes me extra glad to live in Austin.