Shutting Off the Firehose

I enjoy the internet. A lot. Too much, in fact.

It was getting to the point where I would spend hours obsessively checking Fark, Digg, reddit, Metafilter, Facebook, and Google Reader. And then, by the time I had finished the cycle, the first site would have something new, and so I’d repeat the cycle again.

There’s a lot of interesting content on all of these sites, but it was becoming a firehose of unnecessary information. Have you ever tried to drink from a firehose?

So I decided to quit reading Fark, Digg, and reddit, the places I tended to waste the most time. And to prevent myself from accessing those sites accidentally, I blocked these sites using my HOSTS file.

Basically, adding a site to the HOSTS file tricks the browser into thinking that that web site is located on your computer rather than on the internet. It won’t be able to find it, and so it is effectively blocked.

It’s easy to undo, but it’s just enough of a roadblock to prevent me from getting to those sites on muscle memory. I have to deliberately unblock them if I really, really want to see them.

Here’s how you do it:

First, you have to find where your HOSTS file is for your system. A quick Google search turned up this reference page with locations of the HOSTS file on OSX, Ubuntu, and Windows. Vista users should check this guide if you’re still using the UAC.

Once you’ve located your HOSTS file, open it in Notepad and add lines like these at the end of the file:

The number of spaces between the and the site being blocked doesn’t really matter

Save the HOSTS file, then close and reopen your browser. If you try to open that website now, you should get an “Unable to connect” error instead of the site.

Oddly enough, since blocking these sites, I’ve found myself taking the time to enjoy the content from Google Reader and Metafilter a lot more. It’s made browsing a much more pleasant experience, while freeing up time for other pursuits as well.

It’s a lot more pleasant to drink from a water fountain than from a firehose.

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