There is a recent trend in online video where the default is “you are going to keep watching the things I throw at you until you tell me to stop”. Modern ad blockers do a pretty good job, but they are both damaging to content creators and fail to stop distracting content embedded in the products we use.
I tend to be disciplined about work and highly focused on the task at hand, but I am also easily distracted, so I have to be very aggressive with what I allow to interrupt my daily routines. I love “do not disturb”, I disallow push notifications from as many apps as I can but every once in a while I need a video explanation of something, and that usually means looking it up on YouTube.
The issue is, YouTube bombards you with options for what you should watch next, and those options are usually clickbait intended to keep you on YouTube as long as possible, they are optimized to be interesting and that’s super distracting if you need to get back to work. There’s also the other issue where these suggestions are often NSFW, plus watching YouTube makes you look like you’re slacking even if you’re watching something work related.
I’ve created a very basic chrome extension, called Undistract as a proof of concept, and it seems to be working fairly well. It also blocks intercom – a customer engagement startup that blasts you with an annoying PING and text message box whenever you visit a website.
In it’s present form the extension only blocks the annoying sidebar suggestions. I’m also hoping to eventually block the content suggestions at the end of embedded YouTube videos and also block the autoplay features on Facebook and Netflix. The blacklist of elements to block will grow over time, and there may eventually be a machine learning solution to block content by it’s distracting-ness.
If you’re a developer interested in contributing to the development of the chrome extension, feel free to add a PR or an issue. I would love to see Google, Facebook and Netflix acknowledge how damaging these distracting media methods are and allow users to opt out, but it’s going to take a lot more than a single chrome extension to make that happen. I envision this could eventually become a separate browser optimized for work and focus but for now a chrome extension will do.
The extension is Open Source and can be found on my GitHub