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Continuous Partial Attention

samzenpus posted more than 8 years ago | from the one-thing-at-a-time dept.

245

ubercombatwombat writes "While answering my softphone and checking my mail simultaneously I ran across the following article by Steven Levy. In it he writes about a speaker named Linda Stone and something she called "Continuous Partial Attention." I finally had a phrase for the reason I turn off wi-fi, asked people to turn off their cell phones and put away their crackberrys when I am speaking to a group. I suffer from this too. Starting today I am going to do something about it, brb."

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R. Keller at Legoe Bay Wireless, LLC (4, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14980865)

The author's e-mail address is rkeller@legoebay.com (Legoe Bay Wireless, LLC) which is actually a domain for a wireless internet provider [legoebay.com] for San Juan Islands near Bellingham, Washington.

In other news, R. Keller of Legoe Bay communications was fired today after he ran through his office complex preaching the horrors of wireless devices.

His manager later commented that his "Continuous Partial Attention" campaign wasn't very good for business.

Whoa! Look guys! (5, Funny)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14980974)

The author's e-mail address is rkeller@legoebay.com

A whole Ebay just for Lego!

Re:Whoa! Look guys! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14981415)

Is the plural of lego: lego, legos, legoes, or legolas?
I've never been able to figure it out...
-CmdrWacko

Re:Whoa! Look guys! (2, Informative)

Ahnteis (746045) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981518)

It's Lego bricks.

There is not plural of Lego because it's a brand name. And they kinda insist that you use "Lego" in that manner. Seriously.

Re:R. Keller at Legoe Bay Wireless, LLC (1)

m_vand (18198) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981556)

But he made the cover look just like Catcher in the Rye

Amazing! (2, Funny)

akheron01 (637033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14980867)

And I just discovered that I can increase my productivity my ten-fold by not opening up my IM client as soon as I get into work ;)

Re:Amazing! (4, Funny)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 8 years ago | (#14980880)

Now just imagine what would happen if you never opened slashdot!

Re:Amazing! (1)

akheron01 (637033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14980964)

Oh wow, I could be a millionaire!

Re:Amazing! (1)

Lord_Slepnir (585350) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981217)

Too late

Re:Amazing! (4, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981291)

Well, had I not opened slashdot, I wouldn't have seen this story informing me of how I can be more productive. So in essence, slashdot had made me more productive!

Re:Amazing! (2, Funny)

bubblesonx (962991) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981328)

Funny how that works, isn't it? ;) If I ever really want to get any work done, I've got to hide myself away in a corner of the library, while leaving my laptop at home. Too much effort!

Re:Amazing! (2)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981425)

and I just realised that my productivity has no real impact on my salary. I could sit here and flick my fingers and still make the same money.... ::flick:: ::flick:: ::flick:: ...
There is the sound of increasing shareholder value.

-Steve
(but my good friends call me wally)

Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14980868)

What? Sorry, I wasn't listening.

You know... (4, Funny)

suso (153703) | more than 8 years ago | (#14980870)

I was thinking about this and

fp lol (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14980878)

Are you gay? Are you a nigger? are you a gay nigger? If so, FRIST PSOT

too kind a description (4, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | more than 8 years ago | (#14980883)

Continuous Partial Attention is way too kind. It begs forgiveness at the promise of continuous, then betrays with partial.

Anyone who's majored in Mathematics (I did) must spend one semester carefully defining, understanding, and proving continuity. What's described by today's "etiquette" clearly and egregiously violates the notion of continuous, rendering the euphemism "Continous Partial Attention" nothing more than an oxymoron.

And, it's pretty easy to tell when the person on the other end is giving CPA... in person, vague and inconsistent eye contact while constantly glancing at some screen (be it PDA or computer). Remotely (phone) it's even more annoying.

I've taken my own path to self-correct.

  • I leave my computer in computer places (office, den, back room) rather than sit mesmerized in front of a laptop screen in the kitchen, avoiding the partial-contact with friends and family.
  • I also turn off my cell phone ANYWHERE where it intrudes and is unnecessary (actually I mostly don't even carry one).
  • I don't fire up my PDA at kids' concerts and recitals to carry on text message and e-mail conversations.

Of the last ten social events I've attended (movies, parties, recitals, concerts) every single time I saw, heard, and was distracted by someone using some PDA, or other gadget... and not one of those times did it seem appropriate or necessary (not saying there weren't necessary times, but I'm guessing there weren't).

I've yet to meet anyone important enough they must be connected and engaged every waking moment. The world worked well before all of this, it would be a better place if we turned down the volume on the gadgetry (not that Verizon, SONY, Apple, et. al., will ever allow that to happen on their watch (literally)).

It doesn't help that we somehow come up with a positive sounding euphemism for it.

Re:too kind a description (1)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981011)

I've yet to meet anyone important enough they must be connected and engaged every waking moment. The world worked well before all of this, it would be a better place if we turned down the volume on the gadgetry (not that Verizon, SONY, Apple, et. al., will ever allow that to happen on their watch (literally)).

Santa Claus. Alright, I guess you haven't met him either.

Re:too kind a description (4, Funny)

grahamlee (522375) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981258)

I can't tell you how disappointed I was when I found out my Dad wasn't real; it was just Santa Claus in a funny suit.

Re:too kind a description (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14981021)

Oh goodness no, not new things, or any kind of change! Those damn kids better stay off my lawn, too!

Re:too kind a description (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981042)

Exactly, my cellphone is to keep with in touch of emergencies.. You have a flat tire? Call me. Printers not working? Either wait till I get in the office or leave a txtmsg. People tend to userstand this and respect it. Whats really strange is not so much the people who get called a lot by while they are at social functions are the people who are constantly calling others. Its akin to the I'm bored of this, I'm stepping off to the bar.. So why are you still here?? If you don't want to be here.. Leave..

Re:too kind a description (5, Funny)

Cat_Byte (621676) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981084)

Wait a minute. Sending an email from my phone to my PDA is how I get out of meetings. Don't think it's all bad.

Oops I just got an email. gotta run.

Re:too kind a description (2, Funny)

siwelwerd (869956) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981142)

Anyone who's majored in Mathematics (I did) must spend one semester carefully defining, understanding, and proving continuity. What's described by today's "etiquette" clearly and egregiously violates the notion of continuous, rendering the euphemism "Continous Partial Attention" nothing more than an oxymoron.

Somehow I think an epsilon-delta proof in the middle of the article would trigger a discontinuity in the attention span of the reader.

Re:too kind a description (4, Funny)

exi1ed0ne (647852) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981326)

During my last outing a woman answered her cell to tell the caller she was in the middle of a movie and couldn't talk. She had to repeat it several times because the caller couldn't hear her whisper.

Just confirms my theory that technology accentuates stupid.

Re:too kind a description (4, Interesting)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981475)

See I have done that... but its usually more like "Hey this is a bad time, is this important?"

Tho not at a movie... I am a firm believer in excusing myself and walking away from whatever social situation while answering the phone.... even in a bar, I prefer to walk all the way outside while answering the phone.

Generally tho... if I am even having a mildly interesting conversation and I have no reason to believe the issue is pressing... the ringer gets silenced.

The reason I rather do that (and put in on vibrate during movies) is I can look at the caller id, and I let people know if I slienced the ringer and they call immediatly back, I will assume its an emergency...

mostly because when someone calls me back immediatly after hitting my voice mail, I usually answer like "Hey, whats the emergency?" then hang up on them if it isn't one.

I dunno... I think cell phones would be alot less annoying if people just exercised a little common courtesy in their use.

Remember landlines? What ever happend to going into the other room to take a call? or saying things like "can I call you back later"?

-Steve

important? (1)

nozpamming (664873) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981398)

It is my understanding that the more important one is, the less one wants to communicate. If people need them, they will do their best to find these people. And people need important people all the time it seems. I'm pretty sure presidents, popular star & very young children get all the attention they want (perhaps the last group is the exception, although there might not be that much difference...).

Bottom line: all those people you see communicating do it because they feel they want to or have to. Very important it probably isn't, and neither are these over-attention seekers.

Re:too kind a description (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14981405)

I've proved continuity! What exactly does that mean? Proving classes of functions are continuous? If that's what you mean, you should have said it. So much for rigor...

Re:too kind a description (1)

tm2b (42473) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981430)

I've yet to meet anyone important enough they must be connected and engaged every waking moment.
Obviously you don't interact much with the medical profession.

Sorry, sunshine, some people actually do need to be continually accessible. Engaged, no, but connected, yes (for the cellphone example).

Re:too kind a description (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14981517)

Obviously you don't interact much with the medical profession.

Ahh, the arrogance of the M.D. rears its ugly head.

Doctors are as interchangeable as hard drives. Turn your shit off or stay at the hospital.

Re:too kind a description (1)

arkanes (521690) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981591)

Stupid and trivially false. The technology to be continuously connected is barely 20 years old, and yet somehow we managed to survive without our doctors always having pagers. It's *convenient* for them. And it might be more cost effective - when you can page a doctor wherever, you don't have to employ as many of them. But it's hardly essential.

Re:too kind a description (3, Interesting)

Ahnteis (746045) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981567)

Change the term slightly to understand better:
continuously partial attention. :)

Re:too kind a description (2, Insightful)

booch (4157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981602)

I think an oxymoron is entirely appropriate to describe this problem. The whole point of the technologies is to provide us with continuous access, and yet on the whole, they're providing us with the opposite -- disconnectedness from those around us.

The Article Mentions Micro$oft user tests (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14980886)

and not maintaining complete attention during tasks

Certainly this is not a problem of Linux users, who are obviously superior.

Re:The Article Mentions Micro$oft user tests (1)

Cros13 (206651) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981410)

agreed.

Not just work... (5, Interesting)

fosterNutrition (953798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14980922)

It isn't just that this kind of thing affects our productivity at work. I find it drastically affects our interpersonal relationships in general. A rather pathetic and depressing example: Whenever I and my girlfriend are talking in person we get along amazingly - we discuss interesting things, and find each other to be amusing and fun. But when I try to talk to her online or on the phone, it's impossible. She is constantly talking to about four other people, and even when she tries to devote more attention to me, it is really not possible, and these conversations usually end with me giving up in frustration, which needless to say is slowly killing our relationship, especially if I try to ask her to shut off the other stuff.

Apart from this little side rant into bitterness, my point is that we are becoming so inundated with communications, and we are trying so hard to talk and connect with everyone, that it is impossible to talk to anyone. Mobile communications can enhance productivity and relationships if used properly, but God knows they can be a pain.

Re:Not just work... (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 8 years ago | (#14980970)

Obviously you need to give her a new messaging tool. One which will cut off other means of communications until she is paying full attention to you. And you'll be able to sell it to marketers, who may be interested in acquiring the full attention of advertising consumers when the only thing the consumer can view is that single ad.

Re:Not just work... (1)

NDPTAL85 (260093) | more than 8 years ago | (#14980987)

Maybe your gf just isn't any good at multitasking. I can carry on multiple conversations at the same time without negelecting any conversation.

Re:Not just work... (4, Funny)

Cat_Byte (621676) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981126)

I can carry on multiple conversations at the same time without negelecting any conversation.

Then answer my emails. Do you want this Viagra and penis enlargement stuff or not?

Re:Not just work... (1)

SeeMyNuts! (955740) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981337)


Both! Then, we can finally have a tag-team match between King Kong, Godzilla, Stay-Puft, and...

Re:Not just work... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14981259)

Bullcrap. A 2003 study carried out by ASU proves that this is compeletely false. Ask those multiple ppl you have been talking to, to find out how false your claim is. Also, its time to take your head outta your own ass.

Re:Not just work... (1)

NickFitz (5849) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981059)

You're lucky she pays attention when you're together. A few years ago my then GF and I were in the pub catching up on each other's day; as I was replying to a question she'd asked me, she picked up her cell phone, called a friend and started talking to them about some totally unrelated matter when I was in mid-sentence. Then she wondered why I got pissed off...

Re:Not just work... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14981186)

It's not often I say this, but you need to take a page from Eminem's book:

"I'll slap you off that barstool
There goes another lawsuit
Leave handprints all accross you"

Since this is Slashdot, I'll make a snap judgement based on a single anecdote of one side of the story: It's time for a grudge fuck and dump, my friend.

Re:Not just work... (1)

NickFitz (5849) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981304)

Since this is Slashdot, you should have guessed that she cleared off with some other guy years ago :-)

Re:Not just work... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14981249)

But when I try to talk to her online or on the phone, it's impossible. She is constantly talking to about four other people.
So "your girlfriend" is always on conference calls? It's not a premium rate number by any chance is it? This is slashdot after all. :)

Re:Not just work... (1)

GKevK (519962) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981344)

...but God knows they can be a pain.
Actually, ultra-mega-hyper-CPA could pretty much explain the behaviour of God.

Re:Not just work... (1)

JTek (5392) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981483)

What you're describing is just the way online messaging works. People do other things while they talk to you. Get over it. If you had a problem with your girlfriend sitting on the computer and ignoring you while you two were together, I would sympathize. But right now, I'm sympathizing with her for having such a needy boyfriend.

not really new (4, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 8 years ago | (#14980926)

this has existed since humans had the ability to think about more than one thing at a time. i can be sitting in a room with zero distractions, listening to a presentation and i still drift in and out.
 
my wife has vivid memories of sitting in church as a child while her dad made to-do lists during the sermon.
 
it is a valuable skill, being able to give partial attention to multiple inputs. it keeps us alive in many situations. when i worked on a flight deck we called it 'keeping your head on a swivel'. and never getting too locked in to one thing. that was the way to get blown over or some other nastiness.
 
and i'd be very surprised to find a person who would assert that surfing the web or whatever else they may do at a presentation had no effect on their attention. they know it degrades it, but the point is, most such venues don't warrant the attenders full attention. in the case that it does, they will quickly shift away from the other inputs.

yabut (1)

slo_learner (729232) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981091)

As others have commented, the distractions are so pervasive that we are losing valuable interpersonal communications. As painful as it was to be stuck in a car for hours on end when I was a kid, I still feel a little sad these days when I drive along listening to my mp3 player while my wife chats on her cell phone and both kids focus on their own dvd players. It's like we're together, but we're not.

By all means make a todo list during the sermon, but don't stop talking to your kids.

Re:yabut (4, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981157)

well yes, you still have to avoid the distractions, but they've always been there. don't feel sad when you're driving. turn of the mp3 player and ask your wife to talk to you instead of someone else.
 
i remember when walkmans got big and people would just sit in the middle of social situations with headphones on - not nearly as unobtrusive as ipod headphones- and it's dumb and rude. (still is with the ipod).
 
my point is not that it isn't a problem if you are going through life paying more attention to things other than people (things being your own inner voice or any other distraction) but rather that this is an age old issue being manifested with new technological forms of distraction. it is a lot like taking everything we've always had and adding an 'e' or 'i' to it and acting like it is brand new.

Re:yabut (1)

clydemaxwell (935315) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981279)

...adding an 'e' or 'i' to it and acting like it is brand new.
Yeah, the original pods were much cooler.

Re:not really new (1)

booch (4157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981629)

One point that she makes (I RTFA in Newsweek last night) is that it would be OK in moderation, but the pendulum has swung way too far.

Pot meet kettle (0, Redundant)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14980937)

From the very end of TFA
But during our conversation, some auditory clues led me to ask her one more question. "Linda," I asked, "are you taking this interview while driving your car?" She admitted that she was. But as long as she didn't have to slam the brakes or dodge a pedestrian, I had her continuous partial attention.
http://www.thebscorner.com/archives/Hypocrite.jpg [thebscorner.com]

Right... (4, Insightful)

mgblst (80109) | more than 8 years ago | (#14980944)

I have difficulty focusing on one thing when I am only reading a webpage like that one. With hundreds of links on the page, nice big flash adds, and the text taking up a quarter width of the page, and split aroung an add, how can I help it. What a joke. Please don't link to that site again. What were they thinking. Can't I just read an article, without a thousand distractions on the page.

Re:Right... (5, Funny)

generic-man (33649) | more than 8 years ago | (#14980998)

The printable version [msn.com] (pops up "Print" dialog box, which you can safely cancel out of) has no such distractions.

Meanwhile, I've noticed that many of the people (not you necessarily) who complain loudly about cluttered web pages run Firefox with dozens of extensions and have at least 5 tabs open at any given point not to mention all the ultra-important widgets that tell them exactly what the state of the universe is and do I have mail already. I prefer to keep things simple. [splasho.com]

Right indeed. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981598)

With hundreds of links on the page, nice big flash adds, and the text taking up a quarter width of the page, and split aroung an add, how can I help it.

Yeah, I run Konqueror with flash turned off to stop that. Anyting that actually needs something fancy is a right click, open with firefox button push away. Garbage like M$NBC loads much faster, but still needs a tab of it's own to hide the ugly.

Imagine the life of a M$IE user who can't easily turn off flash, has multiple adsservers installed and problems with popups to compliment all the intended spam. Unbearable browsing.

ironic (1)

brenddie (897982) | more than 8 years ago | (#14980976)

She is giving an interview about how people do many things at once and how thats "bad" because you cant focus but at the end of TFA
... during our conversation, some auditory clues led me to ask her one more question. "Linda," I asked, "are you taking this interview while driving your car?" She admitted that she was. But as long as she didn't have to slam the brakes or dodge a pedestrian, I had her continuous partial attention.

Re:ironic... and dangerous (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981545)

I wouldn't have called it this before reading the article, but "Continuous Partial Attention" is exactly why talking on a cell phone while driving is as dangerous as being at 0.08 blood alcohol and driving, and why "hands free" headsets don't actually help much.

Driving requires a lot of attention (barring interstates in Nebraska), and someone talking to you on the phone is themselves expecting a lot of your attention and isn't aware of the driving situation to know why you aren't giving it to them. As soon as you stop paying attention to deal with something on the road, it's "Hello? Hello? You there?" as I know from the times I've done it, which is why I refuse to talk while driving. This is also why talking to a passenger isn't dangerous, because when the semi-truck swerves into your lane they see it too and know that you have more important things to focus on.

So it isn't just ironic that she'd be splitting her attention between driving and her electronic communication device -- it's just plain irresponsible, and from someone who has every reason to know better.

Continuous Partial Attention (0)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14980983)

The summary didn't define "Continuous Partial Attention"!

Notice it in chats (4, Insightful)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14980985)

I notice myself typing BRB a lot as soon as someone messages me through MSN. Usually it's not that I don't want to talk to them, it's just that I was putting off something else I was going to do, and they've broken me out of what I was currently doing, so before I get attached in a new conversation I can leap over to what I should be doing.

Some days I just throw myself at one task and get it done, rather than dabbling in everything. Dabbling in everything is fun, and feels like a busy day, but it tends to produce a lot less than a dedicated day [which is usually away from the primary computer(s) I use].

Re:Notice it in chats (1)

akheron01 (637033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981031)

Which is why you don't open your chat client when you have work to get done

Re:Notice it in chats (1)

From A Far Away Land (930780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981088)

What if it's your mode of contact for works sites though?
Status messages don't keep everyone away, because it's about the same as sending an email, as long as the other person doesn't answer the message as soon as they get it.

My favourite quote from the article was this:
"during our conversation, some auditory clues led me to ask her one more question. "Linda," I asked, "are you taking this interview while driving your car?" She admitted that she was. But as long as she didn't have to slam the brakes or dodge a pedestrian, I had her continuous partial attention."

Yes but... (4, Interesting)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981016)

I think that many presenters have forgotten that if they WANT our attention, they must earn it. Keep speeches and presentations SHORT! Anything over 20 minutes is overkill in my opinion unless your doing a demonstration. Ultimately, one can only be bothered by what others do if the let themselves be bothered. Too many times in this day and age people don't simply learn how to mind thier own business. If my PDA or phone is silent while I work with it, then why is it a distraction? Same goes with a laptop. If you want to avoid the picket fenc deal, then I would suggest a change....either get rid of tables at the presentation or design them such that the laptops can be used with out distracting the presenter.

Re:Yes but... BUT nothing! (4, Insightful)

MacBoy (30701) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981167)

If my PDA or phone is silent while I work with it, then why is it a distraction?

The clickity-clickity of a person (or multiple persons) thumbing a reply to every super-urgent e-mail they receive on their crackberries during meetings or presentations is not silent. Nor is someone pecking at a laptop keyboard. Nor is a cellphone vibrate alert. Yes, even that is distracting, not only to the presenter or speaker, but more importantly, to the other people who are there to participate in the meeting, discussion, or presentation.

Re:Yes but... (1)

laklare (204915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981275)

I agree with you. People shouldn't presume that their speech or conversation is interesting to you. A lot of times I keep my mind more active by doing something else (planning the rest of my day or writing down notes for some other project) in boring situations.

The computer gui/desktop needs work, however. I'm constantly getting distracted by IM, email, or browsing the web to look up random unimportant factoids. Also, I get distracted when I see directories that don't pertain to my current task (because I have all kinds of other projects that I'd rather be working on and often start working on them at the wrong times simply because they are accessible to me). I'd like to find a way to self-control my access to tools on the computer in such a way that I can choose to lock out unproductive things when I don't want access to them. Yes, I could do that with willpower, but it's far easier for me if I just make the choice to close my email or IM. Actually, unplugging from the net does wonders, but that's getting more and more unrealistic as I use it even to look up the temperature outside.

If there were some way that I could put my user shell into "work mode" or "play mode" or set up specific projects and control permissions within that project, it would be helpful. When I'm working an task A, all the open applications that pertain to task B are distractions. Rather than swishing through windows, I'd rather switch between tasks and see all the windows that pertain to that task on that desktop. But also, I want to have literally no access for myself to non-crucial files or applications during these times. I don't want to see anything except the files and applications I need and that I have personally granted myself permission to.

Maybe i should just make different user accounts for myself?

Re:Yes but... (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981471)

People shouldn't presume that their speech or conversation is interesting to you.

If you're not interested, why are you there?

Re:Yes but... (2, Insightful)

lpevey (115393) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981467)

Imagine if the Lincoln-Douglas debates had been kept to under 20 minutes? Or do you think maybe Douglas did some demonstrations to keep his audience interested? I tend to think the people listening had fewer immediate distractions and longer attention spans.

(If you think this argument sounds familiar, it is lifted from Neil Postman. circa 1980ish?)

There is an answer for this (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981034)

There is an answer for this, well, several answers that partially fix the problem. I'll wager that MS won't write the software needed, nor will any educational institution instruct people on how to use technology.

Mobile devices, computers, all this technology that serves to distract us is capable of being moderated. That is to say, my phone should only ring when the call is from list X while I have it set this way, so that while I'm attending certain functions, only list X callers will interrupt my activities. I should be able to have many such lists, and using ring tones, know which list the caller is from. The same goes for computers, any activity on the computer that demands attention can be moderated (except /. of course) so that my attention is interrupted not by every little thing, but only those things I'm interested in at that time.

This limits the distractions, and gives us more time to concentrate on other things, to be more effective at multitasking. This, I believe, was the original reasoning for executives to have an assistant. Now we have PDAs and they are not moderating the interuptions to our lives... not really very good assistants!

The simple idea of moderating alerts, notifications, emails, and such is just not catching on. In some 10 years or more, I can see computer programs that have some kind of AI built into them to make them really good digital assistants.... till then, pfft, people will still wreck their cars while typing an email, driving, and trying to eat lunch at the same time... There was a word we used to use - Dictation, why don't PDAs allow for dictation of emails?

Well, so much for technological 'advances'

We have this already (1)

planetmn (724378) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981209)

my phone should only ring when the call is from list X while I have it set this way, so that while I'm attending certain functions, only list X callers will interrupt my activities. I should be able to have many such lists, and using ring tones, know which list the caller is from.

My two year old cell phone can do this. I can specify different ringers to different people and answer based on that. Also, there's this little thing called caller-id. In a meeting, if I need to be reachable, my phone is set to vibrate. If it goes off, I look at the caller-id to decide if I should answer or not. I can set it to always vibrate for certain people, or I can set it to never ring for certain people.

On the computer, set your messaging status to away, or set up email folders for different people and set a notification to inform you when you get an email in that folder, or again, get the notification, and only open the email if it's from specific people.

-dave

In the mean time, get priorities right. (2, Insightful)

twitter (104583) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981439)

I'll wager that MS won't write the software needed, nor will any educational institution instruct people on how to use technology .... my phone should only ring when the call is from list X while I have it set this way, so that while I'm attending certain functions, only list X callers will interrupt my activities.

If M$ made it, would you trust it to work? M$ "Smart" phones have not been very smart.

In the mean time, I'm keeping the thing on. My duty to my pregnant wife and four year old girl are more important to me than what you think of my manners. Nokia has a ring tone or two that don't sound like a cell phone and are not nearly as obtrusive as the typical cell phone spam song defaults. The "meeting mode" works too, providing an ascending ring as does the choice of vibrate instead of ring. Doctors, first responders and many other people have even greater needs for constant contact than I do.

Most people should view other's loyalty to their friends and family as more important than most things in life and tolerate a few interruptions. People who talk about "crackberries" and think their particular talk is more important than God don't have their priorties in order.

Meetings are nice now and then, but electronic communications are making them less useful and less productive. If the Linux kernel, GNU, Gnome, KDE, can all be built online without regular meetings, what task can't be done this way?

ugh ... Author is a moron. (2, Insightful)

twitter (104583) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981529)

Wow, the author is a bigger ludite than I though. I should have guessed it from M$NBC.

During the presentations the faces of at least half the crowd were lit with the spooky reflection of the laptops open before them. Those without computers would periodically bow their heads to the palmtop shrine of the BlackBerry. Every speaker was competing with the distractions of e-mail, instant messaging, Web surfing, online bill paying, blogging and an Internet chat "back channel" where conferencees supplied snarky commentary on the speakers. ... Your world turns into a never-ending cocktail party where you're always looking over your virtual shoulder for a better conversation partner.

What a small minded slam. How does he know that people are not googling for the author's articles or hitting wikipedia for terms they don't understand? Even the chatting with your peers can be useful and informative. It sure beats the hell out of whispering back and forth. People want to share and your friends have more pertinent information than anyone else. All this "spooky" talk about betrayal and badmouthing misses all the good things you can do with the tech at hand.

If I want to tune out of your speech, I'll leave in your face and go to a presentation that holds my interest. You should not be afraid of my cell phone or Zaurus. It's my time and you should respect my use of it, so long as I don't bother people sitting around me.

Redundant Department of Redundancy department (4, Funny)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981035)

So... she basically gave a name, applying mostly to geeks, for the small amount of ADD that all of us h- ooh, shiny object!

Re:Redundant Department of Redundancy department (1)

Cat_Byte (621676) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981163)

Hey pay attention. You didn't even finish that....hey look a puppy!

Re:Redundant Department of Redundancy department (1)

clydemaxwell (935315) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981305)

To be fair Cat_byte (suspicious!), puppies are a really good reason to leave slashdot.

Re:Redundant Department of Redundancy department (1)

SeeMyNuts! (955740) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981365)


Would a shiny puppy be a weapon of mass distraction?

Wannabe academics are going to suffer badly (4, Insightful)

Zelph (628698) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981054)

I've actually been in church when some guy took a cell phone call. My mother was at a funeral when someone was gabbing on the cell in the back. That when CPA is REALLY a problem.
But my comments, from a former computer science undergrad major that changed his mind in senior year to become a history major is this: I am now working on my PhD in history and I know one thing: Today's grad school students are suffering from this (even the historians!). And either they will ALL suffer from this, or most will and a select few will avoid this problem and become the real experts in their academic study. You cannot become an expert in a particular field of study without TIME and STUDY. Both of those aspects are compromised with CPA.

Re:Wannabe academics are going to suffer badly (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981132)

I have just one question - Is it really so heard to just turn off the damn gadgets? Technology was made to be used by man, not the other way.

Ask yourself... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14981082)

Ask yourself...

How many people do you know deserve your full attention?
How many lecturers (hot air bags) deserve your full attention?
At best, speech has a disgustingly low information density, why waste time listening to blow hards?

And if you haven't skipped my message yet...I'm not even part of the IM generation. For some things, even age does not bring patience.

Jon Kabat-Zinn and Midfulness (2, Interesting)

bunratty (545641) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981095)

If you want to get deeper into total awareness, I suggest looking into Jon Kabat-Zinn's [mindfulnesstapes.com] work in mindfulness. He's a Ph.D. and Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School who teaches mindfulness as a way of relieving stress. Even when you turn off your cell phone, your mind might still be elsewhere.

Thank God (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14981096)

At least it didn't say Continuous Partial Abortion. That'd have the anti-abortionistas up in arms.

Good or Bad depends on how you use it (3, Interesting)

SCHecklerX (229973) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981105)

I agree that I fail to see any pressing need for crackberries. While at work in front of my main computer, however, my teammates and I run an IRC server for ourselves. Rather than be interrupted by phone calls, emails, and meetings, we are able to be in constant communication and it enhances our work rather than distract from it. Add to this a wiki for publishing documentation on what we are working on, and our own group is pretty efficient. Now the company as a whole, however, that's a different story.

Live Nodes (4, Interesting)

way0utwest (451944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981128)

As a corporate worker for years, it seemed that this was more prevalent in the upper management areas where directors, VPs, the "Crackberry class" always wanted to know what was happening.

And like everything else, they succeeded or failed wildly. Some can handle two things at once and some couldn't.

But more, they never had a life, being too connected. That was one thing I hated and refused to get a Blackberry for that reason. I don't like being "live" on the network all the time. There's a time for it (when I'm on call), but many other times I want to work on something else. We even had a wireless service inside the campus where your desk phone would be forwarded to your cell phone anywhere in the building, which worked great in the data center. But when I'm away from my desk, I usually don't want to be interrupted because I'm doing something, so I never used it.

I see this at home as well, and as mentioned in the other posts so far. My wife will call me like 4 or 5 times on the way home, for these little snippets, "did you hear?" or "stop and get this" or "what about this?" and it's annoying.

The mobile phone doesn't mean that we are always available. It's a tool and should be used as a tool when appropriate. Not for every little whim or distraction.

Re:Live Nodes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14981540)

I see this at home as well, and as mentioned in the other posts so far. My wife will call me like 4 or 5 times on the way home, for these little snippets, "did you hear?" or "stop and get this" or "what about this?" and it's annoying.


This annoys me to no end as well. I'm one of the "hang the hell up and drive" brigade, and every once in awhile I'll slip up and just answer the phone (as opposed to ignoring it) when driving home. My usual response is "On the road, gotta go".. and then I hang up.

It pissed her off the first few times but I think she's catching on now.

Projection to the future (5, Funny)

master_p (608214) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981129)

Stardate 46539.5, USS Enterprise NCC 1701 - D...

Picard: I am going to sleep now...Data, you have the bridge (I hope nothing wakes me up this time).
Data: ok Sir.

After 20 minutes:

Data: Data to Picard.
Picard: (sleepy) ommm, what is it?
Data: we are 3 days away from our rendesvous point, sir.
Picard: good...night.
Data: yes sir.

After 5 minutes:

LaForge : Engineering to Picard.
Picard: (grrr, this can't go on for ever!) what is it this time Geordi?
LaForge: I couldn't sleep sir, so I thought to check up on the engines.
Picard: so? you wake me up for that?
LaForge: the engines are not performing as they should, sir.
Picard: ok, run a full diagnostic and notify me.
LaForge: yes sir.
Picard: in the morning, that is.
LaForge: yes sir.

After 10 minutes:

LtWorf: Security to Picard.
Picard: (outraged) what????
LtWorf: sorry sir, I did not mean to bother you.
Picard: ok, tell me.
LtWorf: I think that the teenage people on board are a little behind their physical training schedules. We need to:
Picard: damn you Worf, don't you have anything else to occupy yourself with? it is 3 am in the morning!
LtWorf: duty first, sir.
Picard: GOODNIGHT!

After 5 minutes:

Data: Data to Picard.
Picard: WHAT NOW???
Data: I have never seen such a beautiful star cluster, sir. I am actually thinking of a poem for it, right now. Do you believe that...

Picard: THIS IS THE CAPTAIN SPEAKING...ATTENTION ALL CREW MEMBERS. PLEASE SHUT DOWN ALL YOUR COMMUNICATORS AND GO SLEEP! GOD DAMN IT!!!! :-)

moral of the story: technology and instant communication with anyone, anytime in any place is not always desirable...

Re:Projection to the future (1)

rewinn (647614) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981238)

It's a little-known Phact that holo-technology [www.exn.ca] was originally developed as a sort of virtual answering machine, e.g.

Wesley: Captain Picard, will you talk to me?

Holo-Picard: Sure, sonny, what do you want?

Real Picard: (Snoozes)

Hey that's from an actual TNG episode! (1)

tiltowait (306189) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981449)

I don't know if that was intentional, unconscious, or not, but the script above is very similar to the opening scene of A Fistful of Datas [memory-alpha.org] , except they all bug Picard in person.

Some stuff is just too important to put down in writing, after all. I have several coworkers who practice the advice of AG Eliot Spitzer [cnn.com] (speaking facetiously about criminal behavior, but if the shoe fits...) and "Never write when you can talk. Never talk when you can nod. And never put anything in an e-mail."

Not a technological problem (2, Insightful)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981138)

I see things like this at the gym where people are reading books/magazines while using the treadmill. I watch them get so involved in their reading that their workout suffers. Yet I am sure they think that they are having a worthwhile workout.

There is an old chinese saying about living life that sums up a good way to live it:

Sleep when tired, eat when hungry.

Teenagers do this even without technology .... (1)

rewinn (647614) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981187)

Parent: "ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?"

Teenager: " Uh, yeah, dad. You're right!"

Just try it at home (1)

Tchaik (21417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981190)

Just try it one evening with someone important: close MSN, and don't answer any phone. Maybe I'm just a dinosaur, with no cell and a habit of not answering the phone when in good company. Maybe the fact that I have multiple lovers has something to do with it too!

Re:Just try it at home (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14981474)

Maybe the fact that I have multiple lovers has something to do with it too!

Is that what they mean when they say the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing?

Attention! (1)

springbox (853816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981211)

If you're not planning to do one thing right, then be prepared to do multiple things with a notable degree of mediocrity! And I'm being totally serious here. (Also note how many people complain about their distaste for multifunction devices.)

I can see it now... (1)

ft silent (567019) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981242)

So how long until some reject decides this is a disease and demands compensation?

Some loser is going to sue the boss on the grounds that their work-environment has cuased this menacing, life robbing, depression afflicting, makes-you-bald, and worst of all sex-drive-killing disease known as C.P.A. to fall upon them and ruin their life. Becuase the boss made them carry a walky-talky cell phone with both Yahoo AND AIM.

I agree with the article in that people are getting too easily distracted, but the solution is a matter of restraint, respect, and discipline...Just turn it off or down or dont answer unless you are in an appropriate situation. Live communications=1st priority.

The Off Switch (2, Insightful)

SeeMyNuts! (955740) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981271)


Turning things off is perhaps the single most important activity people can do, today, especially when children are around. Turn the TV off, turn the radio off, close the web browser, and realize that silence is quite enjoyable at times. Toddlers' heads aren't spinning off trying to "multi task" at TV and toys, and parents' heads aren't crunching trying to watch a show while pretending to give their children attention. The same goes for co-workers in the office. People are offended when they can't get undivided attention. I can't stand it when I'm trying to talk to someone, the phone rings, and I might as well leave. Nothing important gets done.

I wonder how productivity is measured, because it doesn't seem to be increasing. At least, people are being stretched until productivity simply cannot increase, without some sort of bionic implants.

= Continuous Total Screwups! (1)

Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981283)

I've been in training sessions where 7 of the 12 "participants" were answering email instead of listening to the instructor, and most of them came to me after the training because they didn't know how to do what he was explaining.

I've been in project meetings where I meticulously explained the plan, only to be whacked later because someone who was typing and reading stuff on her laptop screen as I explained what I planned to do realized she didn't know what I was doing ... and had to report on the project to her manager.

An alternate view/experience (1)

david.emery (127135) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981286)

In my personal case, most of the time what's going on is not sufficient to keep my attention. So I've found that I actually respond better if I'm able to do priority-based multitasking, i.e. listen when there's something interesting being said, but have something else to do otherwise.

I guess if I were an "old lady", I could knit. Failing that, if I have web connectivity I'll surf around the net.

Do others have a similar perspective? Or am I just weird? :-)

          dave

eh sorry... (2, Funny)

JaJ_D (652372) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981312)

...missed what the article was covering as I was reading /., doing a build, doing two code releases, responding to emails, answering the phone and listening to music...

What was the general gist again

:-]

Jaj

As someone who suffers from this... (1)

Churla (936633) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981370)

I feel I can pretty confidently talk on it. Like a poster above my wife and I can have wonderful conversations but if it's on the phone then there's always something else vying for my attention, and it ends up distracting me. This same thing happens when talking to friends as well, and co-workers.

To help overcome this I have done a few things.
A) Calling me on my cel phone doesn't mean I will answer, some phone numbers don't even ring on my cel, others have rings to tell me if it's someone who probably has urgent needs. This let's me filter out my mother with her latest e-mail not sending crisis. Most cel phones now will let you classify contacts and only ring for certain classes of contacts and maybe vibrate or not ring at all for others.
B) The cel phone does not come into the bedroom or bathroom.
C) Explain to my wife that if I'm looking at one thing then probably she won't have my attention until she gets it BEFORE asking me something.
D) Disabled all notification sounds on my IM clients, and have the IM clients on a separate screen from the one I'm working on. I check them from time to time, but if someone needs me that urgently they know how to get in touch more directly than IM.
E) Never carried a Crackberry, never will.

Does this make me some type of "disconnected Luddite of the instant access age"??

PA systems in workplaces - Chap. My. Ass. (1)

schwerve (830335) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981403)

Continuous Partial Attention? Try maintaining any attention when you have this blared out from overhead every three minutes:

Im Selfimportant, you have a call parked on 666. Im Selfimportant, 666 please.

I'm a "knowledge worker." I don't appreciate a voice interrupting my thoughts all the sodding time. I'm scatterbrained enough as it is, but I feel like Harrison Bergeron [westvalley.edu] some days. It's usually a call for someone in Sales or Support anyway; why the fuck not forward the caller to their bloody cell phone, instead of blasting the grating voice of the receptionist to everyone in the building?

Come out with your hands up! (2, Funny)

brouski (827510) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981408)

We have you partially surrounded!

Maybe the Professor Bans Laptop article yesterday (1)

drhamad (868567) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981432)

That article yesterday about a Professor banning laptops from her classroom (although I don't know why that's major news - most of my undergrad classes wouldn't allow them, though all my law school courses do) seems to fit perfectly under this. Maybe that prof was on to something. Personally I use phones (txt msging), laptops and PDA's all the time, while doing other things - including my laptop in class - and I know for sure that I am not paying full attention to any one thing - even if I'm only using my laptop to take notes.

Is Slashdot turning into Kuro5hin? (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981512)

Please, no more blog-crap like this!

> I finally had a phrase for the reason I turn off wi-fi, asked people to turn off
> their cell phones and put away their crackberrys when I am speaking to a group.

Some random blogger quoting an author, who is in turn quoting some unimportant MS employee who's come up with a typically naff corporate buzzword for a well known concept is neither "News for nerds" nor is it "stuff that matters".

When I was at school, it was called "not paying attention". Why does it have to be given a faux-medical/scientific term now?

Learn to meditate instead (1)

FishandChips (695645) | more than 8 years ago | (#14981589)

Focusing on one thing at a time is a skill that takes lot of practice, imho. Generally in the West we are not brought up to do that - just look at the trouble most folks have with meditation even for a few minutes. Focusing just on listening is hard, too, and taking notes is often a way of not listening. IME, many of the laptop/crackberry/mobile toting characters in an audience are not showing Continuous Partial Attention so much as trying to assert their dominance in the pecking order. If they are carrying all this kit and need to be so connected, well then they must be big, alpha cheeses. Usually they aren't and the ones to watch are those concentrating and not even taking notes. If I make a habit of lugging all this stuff around, then I have become my own slave-driver and show, too, that I cannot organize my own day. That is really not alpha at all.
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