Press-Republican

Columns

August 21, 2011

New products promote efficient lifestyle

This week a colleague sent me a subtle note about a productivity software program that is rapidly growing in popularity. I'm trying not to take it personally.

The software, called Freedom, doesn't actually add anything to your computer's speed, power or functionality. What it does — what you pay for — is turn off your Internet connection, for up to eight hours.

Why? Studies show that massive amounts of work time are lost by people who compulsively Tweet, constantly check their email and post Facebook updates around the clock. They don't necessarily mean to be unproductive; they just can't fight their addiction.

Huh. I just spent an hour-and-a-half after that last sentence shopping online for a deep fryer, instant messaging with a friend and checking my investments in Scandinavian textiles. The flesh is weak.

The software program — for $10 — essentially does what any user can do for free with a couple of mouse clicks. Its makers, however, are betting that citizens of the 21st century don't have the intestinal fortitude or willpower to turn off the temptation all by themselves.

Their product doesn't provide the same service your employer does — blocking websites, tracking your mouse clicks, secretly reading your emails, hiding tiny cameras in places you would never think to look. Instead, you tell it how long you want to remain undistracted, and you can easily disable it by restarting your computer.

Doing that, however, is the equivalent of washing down your small salad, no dressing, with a pair of gravy-topped jelly donuts. Shame on you.

The interest in Freedom, and several other software programs with similar features, has sparked a number of upstart companies with complementary ventures. Coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

"Fone Foe LLC" realizes that the cell phone suction-cupped to the ears of many Americans causes countless millions of hours of lost productivity. For a nominal fee, it will send a burly professional wrestler to your home to confiscate your phone and flush it down the toilet.

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