QH W5 HW: Quant Self Intervention

I’ve been in grave danger ever since discovering Sex and the City on Amazon Video.

I normally avoid all media like the plague, partially because I find the content objectionable for SJW reasons, partially because of my own insecurities which I will probably intellectualize away with SJW reasons forever, but mostly because I can’t trust my addictive personality to watch even one video without immediately downward-spiraling for ten hours into a pit of shame and self-loathing.

The one exception I make is for SATC, for no good reason other than the fact that I was able to cobble together the entire series on the cheap during my phase as a Housing Works regular (this is generally how I consume media: once everyone’s completely over it). Despite this DVD collection’s efficacy as a coping mechanism, its inconvenient—and now obsolete, thanks to Apple’s sanctimony— physical form was never a threat to my daily functioning.


By some loving grace of God, I only discovered this year that SATC was included with Amazon Prime, but somehow I’ve already watched three seasons of it, plus the first movie, and 1.5 seasons of SJP’s new show, Divorce, which I highly do not recommend, and only watched while nursing the sugar headache that SJP’s younger self tends to cause (I’m Team Kim).

So this week, I decided to put an end to this nonsense. RescumeTime, a tracker that I installed near the beginning of QH, converts my activity into a handy “productivity” score—one that I get to define by categorizing any website or application I use on a scale from “Very Productive” to “Very Distracting”:

I decided to use python to grab this score every hour through RescueTime’s API, and open my slightly meditative, mostly masochistic, brain entraining p5 sketch if the score dips under 50%:

Here it is in action:


The idea of this intervention is to allow myself the room to indulge in “very distracting” activity if I need it, but to catch myself before I spiral out of control and have to live with the concomitant guilt forever. The “entrainment” part—regardless if it actually entrains my brain or not—is, at the very least, a way of resetting myself and my OCD.

This d3 sketch illustrates how my activity changes before and after “entrainment”, and I’m working on automating the chrome history collection so that I can have a viz that automatically updates in real(-ish) time.

3 thoughts on “QH W5 HW: Quant Self Intervention

  1. […] first step was to automate the python scripts that retrieved the data. The productivity scores are requested from the RescueTime API, and my Chrome history is just a JSON converted from a SQL file that Chrome locally maintains. Both […]

  2. The addictiveness of TV is real! But not all of it is bad and you’ve clearly identified that it is possible to design your interactions with these services in such a way that you can stil enjoy them without hating yoruself afterward.

    Your intervention seems like it would be a natural plugin or setting to a service like RescueTime. I’m aware of other browser plugins that track website usage will prevent you from accessing the pages after a certain amount of page views or time spent there. Since you’re brewing up your own solution, there’s certainly a lot of potential to tune up the reward and punishment feedback.

    Great documentation! Are you versioning and developing in github or some kind of other online code repository?

    Some interesting reading: “Everything Bad is Good for You” – discusses the nuances that have emerged around our engagement with once stigmatized forms of media

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