Thursday, January 10, 2008


I was going to read this article...

Until I got to the bottom of the first (rather short) page and found....

It was 13 PAGES LONG and I'd have to click on the next page for each one.

And I asked myself, how can I do that (click through 13 pages - no next button! I'd have to hit the right number!!) and watch my email and the query I'm running and answer a question on asktom and keep up with the instant message chatter and ..........

Gotta love the title though

"The autumn of the multitaskers: neuroscience is confirming what we all suspect: multitasking is dumbing us down and driving us crazy. One man's odyssey through the nightmare of infinite connectivity."

about the length of the average news article today...

Funny, in conjunction with the article - tonight I was playing a game (called evolution - excellent game, Alan(15) and Megan(12) both enjoy it), and I let Alan put his ipod on my amplifier and play the background music. Alan has excellent taste in music (Led Zeppelin, Beatles, U2, etc...). As the music was playing and I was trying to concentrate on the game (it requires thought) I found the music was distracting to the point of "I cannot play".

What does this mean in practice? Consider a recent experiment at UCLA, where researchers asked a group of 20-somethings to sort index cards in two trials, once in silence and once while simultaneously listening for specific tones in a series of randomly presented sounds. The subjects' brains coped with the additional task by shifting responsibility from the hippocampus-which stores and recalls information--to the striatum, which takes care of rote, repetitive activities. Thanks to this switch, the subjects managed to sort the cards just as well with the musical distraction--but they had a much harder time remembering what, exactly, they'd been sorting once the experiment was over.

I know that feeling - very disjointed. I was listening to the music - because I liked it, and trying to play at the same time. Hard.

Unfortunately, my attention span only let me get to page 5... Maybe I'll finish it someday.

Just in case you are wondering.... I agree completely, multitasking is hard - hard to do and hard on you. I work much better doing one thing to completion. Always connected is bad - I've been going offline on the weekends entirely (with great effect!) for a while now.

don't be afraid to be serial.
don't be afraid to disconnect.


Anonymous Anonymous said....

you don't need to click on all the numbers to read the article. In these cases I always look for a "print" link, which sends you to a page that contains the whole article.

in this case:

Fri Jan 11, 03:42:00 AM EST  

Blogger Bill S. said....

I always used to think that I was very good at multitasking. I find, however, that as I get older my preference is to focus on one thing at a time, do it well, then move on. It sometimes drives my co-workers nuts, but it makes me more confident of the quality of work I do.

Bill S.

Fri Jan 11, 08:48:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

I have to second the comments by bill s. Earlier in my career I felt multi-tasking was one of my strengths, but now I'm not so sure. At 45 is it merely age, or were the tasks I was juggling not as plentiful nor as complex? Frankly, I don't remember.

Got a kick out of you mentioning your son's good taste in music and including U2....your profile under Favorite Music excludes the 80's. But then again they did form in the 70's. :)

Fri Jan 11, 10:17:00 AM EST  

Blogger Eric said....

Thanks for visiting the WiseTo Social Issues site, Tom. I help manage the website, and appreciate getting feedback on usability like this. I've taken this to heart, and am putting in a development request to add better pagination navigation on articles with multiple pages, as well as a 'View Entire Article' function; this should have been there from the start!

Thanks again for checking out the site.

Product Manager, WiseTo Social Issues

Fri Jan 11, 11:21:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Josh said....

Wow I must have a short attention span. Good article, but I only made it through page 2 before resulting to skim reading and then moving on altogether.

Fri Jan 11, 11:55:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Patty C. said....

You can tell me off the next time you see me Tom... My only response to all of this is, I don't see any women commenting that they have trouble with multitasking! I will stop now before I get myself into more trouble.

Fri Jan 11, 03:00:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Another option for navigating that kind of on-line document is to edit the url, which contains the page number:

Just make it "page=3" and presto-chango!

I tend to find this works faster than trying to click on those tiny links.

Fri Jan 11, 03:41:00 PM EST  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

Portrait of an Optimistic Prius

As of Jan. 1st, California Senate Bill 33 prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using a wireless telephone or any mobile device while operating a motor vehicle. Unlike the other new California driving law, there are no exceptions for hands-free devices.

word: ukkvkyk

Fri Jan 11, 04:45:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Chris said....

I know couple of female sysadmins who can hold a conversation plus IM while performing other complex admin tasks. It freaks me right out.

I can do one, and only one thing at a time. If I'm working on a problem, quite often I won't even hear a person speak to me.

Sat Jan 12, 09:03:00 AM EST  

Blogger robert said....

Bill, exactly the way I try to work. I was never comfortable with doing two or more things in parallel. SE is such a complex business that you easily forget something if you have too many context switches. I even sometimes switch off my email client at work, which has led to some, um, weird situations - but if something is really urgent, people usually phone or stop by anyway.



Sun Jan 13, 06:54:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

great blog entry, Tom !

don't be afraid to be serial.
don't be afraid to disconnect.

absolutely agree with you !

( I think I'm quite good in multitasking - write a java class, read about 11g new Features, update an SR on metalink, prepare a meeting, fix a bug in a package, look for a holiday house for me and my family for summer, read 4 or 5 blogs on my list, follow and reply to my emails - private and business - , tune one of the production dbs I am administrating the same time [and have a dozen more more or less impotant tasks] and still follow the newest asktom threads )

however, I know for sure: the unbeatable grandmaster in multitasking is nobody else but Tom Kyte hisself, isn't that true ?

like dizwell said once about you (in jest), you were on something, because nobody can post something of interest without noticed by you at first

Mon Jan 14, 03:14:00 PM EST  

Blogger Opra said....

You see, there are articles or things that we can't but read or do... Sometimes we even can't explain why it happens.

Wed Jan 16, 08:13:00 AM EST  

Blogger Lisa said....

I am a woman and prefer not to multi-task. I find that focusing on one thing is more rewarding and I do a better job. That being said, I do frequently listen to music when I wash dishes, drive, cook or quilt, and sometimes when I am developing code, but if I hit a particularly challenging piece of road, code, or quilting that requires added concentration then I will turn the radio off. But I never watch TV and read at the same time as I can't do both and get anything out of either, nor do I exercise with other stimuli as I prefer to tune into what my body is telling me.

Thu Jan 17, 07:38:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

I dont have to stop the music in the ipod when i need to concentrate on some other work. I just need to stop my ears from hearing it. And it happens automatically. Most of the time when iam reading or doing some programming. When i get into some critical situation i dont take my ipod and turn it off. My system starts to ignore the music and concentrate on the programming. I believe its the way it works for most of us?

After a wile i wont even know what song i was hearing. Most of them must have experienced this.

Fri Jan 18, 07:21:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

If article is interesting I read them from start to end. Sometimes I'm boring reading so long articles. See.

Sun Jan 20, 11:44:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Pete Finnigan said....

Its a good point Tom, I read quite a lot of papers on the web, mostly Oracle related but often coding (C, Win32, VB, Perl and more) and often science as well - when time permits..:-(, multi-tasking for me usually involves trying to do a lot of jobs at once when they are not directly client related, although for client work I like others above find concentrating on one is best.

The issue for me is pagination, I am often frustrated, particularly in coding sites that have articles over 10 or more pages and you need to keep waiting ages for each page to reload. I just wanted to say thanks to the posted above who suggested looking for a print link, i checked that out on a fav link i had for a C article I saved and i found a print link. Great, idea, thanks



Wed Jan 23, 03:05:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Lee said....

Hi Tom,

I just wanted to know...what Zep album? I'm partial to 1 & 3.

Also, do you still shoot pool?

Tue Apr 15, 11:48:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....


albums are such an old concept - my kids have never owned an album (on CD or vinyl) really - they buy individual songs...

still shoot pool - yes :)

Wed Apr 16, 05:54:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Lee said....

You are right of course, I guess I'm an old fashion guy.

On the Zep DVD, the "ol grey whistle test/chapter" I think, Robert talks about the importance of an album from the artists perspective, but that was ~30 years ago.

In August I'm heading to a family reunion (wife's side, majority I've only met once at our wedding...) so this Evolution game looks like a nice ice breaker - thanks for sharing.

Finally on pool, for as many hours as I've logged on the table I should be nearly the second coming of Willie Mosconi, but sadly last time I played league I still had a 3 handicap - oi.

If you enjoy pool trick shots, this one is quite good:
Dominos Trick shot

Wed Apr 16, 10:01:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Very Good article , this article make some interesting points.
Tactical Flashlights
r c helicopter
video game
Tactical Flashlight

Mon Jun 23, 02:55:00 AM EDT  


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