Ambient Interventions for 2018

I’ve been on the lookout for digital products that embody the principles I’ve begun outlining in my Ambient Product Design research.

Essentially: products with a tiny footprint that empower us, promote calm and protect our humanity.

One class of “ambient products” are ambient interventions. They consciously intercede against existing products on the user’s behalf. An intervention can take any form: a digital product itself, or add-on/plugin/extension into an existing product, a written guide on reconfiguring a piece of owned technology, etc.

For 2018, I’ve set up the following interventions:

Collects online material for offline access. There are several use cases for this, but I personally want to leverage it to disconnect from the Internet while preserving access to materials I need for work.

Hardly Everything
Another project by Jon-Kyle Mohr. Defined as an “anti-feed”, it helps you control the cadence of your online content consumption, through a user-defined period of rest. You add a URL, set the period of rest (a day, a week) and once you click on the link, it disappears for that period of time.

Device Dulling
Late last year, I adopted my friend Edouard’s iPhone setup. The premise is simple: reduce the phone’s distractive potential by restricting its access to you.

  1. Set a pure black wallpaper.
  2. Move all the apps into a single collection within your dock.
  3. Remove badge notifications
  4. Reserve the remaining dock space only for functionally critical or positive apps, e.g. ExpressVPN, 1Password, Kindle.
  5. (Optional) This wasn’t expressly articulated by Ed, but restricting call access to your immediate family + friends is simple and effective to implement too.

Device Demarcation
Building upon the reconfiguration of my phone, this year I’m demarcating two distinct spaces:

  1. My phone, for external communication & consumption.
  2. My computer, for productive, focused work, creativity, and contemplation.

This is simple: I’ve deleted my email client, Slack, iMessage et al from my computer, so I can only access them from my phone and I’ve setup URL restrictions against the few non-work sites I check regularly.

By creating a physical demarcation with these two devices, I intend to establish a new set of habits around focus, consumption, and time management. as All-Seeing Eye was one of the best things I came across in 2017 (alongside Learning Gardens). It has become an indispensable resource, both for my work and for my own personal development - thanks to the best community on the Internet.

By default, is centered around a user-curated feed. It’s a great mechanism for creative discovery & idea generation, but it’s increasingly at odds with how I want to be using the site, moving principally from discovery to more “development/management” tasks – managing my research, organizing & tracking my notes, synthesizing and building upon my ideas, etc.

A couple of days ago, Jon-Kyle shared his homepage/approach and that has given me some initial context for how I’d like to utilize going forward. A mix of project index, daily to-do list, journal, and note app.

This is an open area of inquiry for me, and I’ll be sharing my approach as it evolves.

Chrome Tab Management
Tabs are one of those great-in-theory-terrible-in-practice features, courtesy of a lack of constraints and poor user education.

I’m now using SessionBuddy to create curated collections of tabs that are project, task or idea specific. They can be saved and loaded at will, letting me leverage the power of tabs while staying organized.

I’ll update this post as I implement new interventions throughout the year.


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