Weekly Thesis Post #17

February 2nd, 2011

I made some good progress this week. I picked a name for the project, released Historygram. I’ve also started working on wireframes, but I won’t be ready to share those until next week.


First up, the big milestone this week was the release of Historygram, my extension for visualizing browsing habits.

Technically, it’s still in beta while I gather feedback and fix bugs. But, I don’t expect it will change too much. I hope to release the 1.0 when I have some more time to put together a nice website for it and incorporate some of the feedback I get.

Now, back to the thesis.

Technology Loop

There was a sketch called “Technology Loop” from the TV show Portlandia that provides a funny take on distraction:

Hopefully this project can help break the technology loop?


One thing that I’ve done before starting the wireframing is to remind myself of a few results from research that I think have started to escape my mind as the project has gone on.

What is distraction?
Distraction is something that prevents you from reaching your desired goal.

What kinds of things are distracting?
Potentially, everything. It’s a relative term. Anything that gets in the way of your stated or desired goal is a distraction. Twitter might distract you from your work, or your work might distract you from Twitter. It depends on what you want to do.

When do people get distracted?
Primarily, in three situations: when they are bored, frustrated, or have completed a milestone.

What is underlying the decision to act on a distraction?
I have identified five different qualities of activities that influence the decision: priority, ability, interest, excitement, and pleasure.

How will my project help distraction?
It has three primary features:

  1. It will provide a way to measure distraction so that people can figure out how distracted they are.
  2. It will codify milestones and breaks, so as to try and compartmentalize some distractions into those breaks.
  3. It will add a social element to work so that coworkers can easily share how they’re doing, and by doing so, get help when they feel bored or frustrated and get (semi-)public recognition when they reach milestones.


I think I’ve decided on name for the project: Obtract.

The name comes from the roots of the words “obstruct” and “distract.” Ob-, meaning “against,” and -tract, meaning “drag or draw.” Because in a way, the project should push against the draw of distraction.

Also, it’s short, it sounds kind of like “subtract,” and the .com was free. So there you go.