A lot of coworkers on Zoom have been asking me lately: “What’s that thing around your neck?” No, it’s actually NOT a fetish thing (sorry Mark and Esther - believe me I wouldn’t hesitate to join you guys if I was into that stuff!), it’s a new productivity hack I’ve been deploying lately with tremendous results. As you may be aware, I follow the productivity community quite closely and there’s certainly been a lot of incredible innovation within the space lately, a particular favorite being Simon Berens’ strategy of paying women off Craigslist to sit behind him to keep him accountable while he worked from home. He even had them cook and clean for him as well, just the kind of efficiency you’d expect from a master of productivity!

However, I feel like there’s still plenty of alpha available in couple directions that have been left neglected, for whatever reason. I came to this realization while replaying Fallout: New Vegas the other day. I started thinking “Wow, this Father Elijah dude really has people running around doing his bidding on the double by outfitting them with those bomb collars!”. Obviously making a bomb collar in real life is probably super difficult (and most likely illegal I imagine!), but it occurred to me that there’s something along the same lines that’s already in pretty common use: shock collars for dogs.

Right away, I went online and purchased a shock collar intended for training particularly large and unruly dogs, activated by pressing a button on a remote. I took the remote apart and hooked the button activation circuit up to my RasPi board instead. I was already using it on the local network as a Pi-Hole adblocker, so it wasn’t hard to write up a little program that would detect if anyone on the network tried to access Twitter and send the shock signal.

When I tested it out, it worked beautifully. Navigate over to Twitter – and sometimes even before the page was finished loading – ZAP! Next up was trying it out “in the field” - by which I mean at work on Monday. Naturally I got a lot of questions about it after the morning standup meeting on Zoom, but once I explained people were for the most part very understanding, though often a little amused. From then on it even became a little bit of an inside joke - somebody would see me wince on the facecam and say “Checking Twitter again, Kit?”. It was a bit awkward when it happened multiple times during a one-on-one with the boss (I just couldn’t help it, he makes me nervous sometimes so I check Twitter to distract myself) and I caught some disapproving glances from him, but now I’m much better at hiding my reaction to the shocks.

There was also one coworker who that he was being REALLY clever and started calling me “Kitty” (Ok, I admit, it was my work rival James who you might remember from my prior post about the Slack emoji debacle). He would snicker while saying stuff like “Woah, bad Kitty! No birds for Kitty!” every time he saw me wince. This was even after I explained to him MULTIPLE times that shock collars are for dogs, nobody uses them for cats! We’ll see who’s laughing once I get the promotion instead of him for being so much more productive now… You might think wearing a shock collar is a bit demeaning but I like to think about it like this: the reason us humans are superior to animals is because we can choose to put on the collar and punish ourselves like this, in the service of greater goals like productivity.

Unfortunately, I have some doubts about how much longer this technique will remain effective. I have begun to notice that rather than associating the pain of the electric shock with scrolling Twitter and thus avoiding Twitter, instead I’ve begun to associate the dopamine hit from scrolling Twitter with the electric shock. As a result, now I’m able to trigger the same Twitter dopamine hit just from shocking myself once or twice. I guess an addiction to sudden electric shocks is better than being addicted to Twitter though (especially for productivity!).

I do still feel like this shock collar definitely has some legs though, maybe as some kind of PaaS (productivity as a service) startup where we rent the collars out to tech companies for their employees? You could fine-tune it so that the collar could detect and deliver a shock every time you navigate away from the IDE or something. Anyways, I sold the intellectual property rights for it to my friend Jeff (he tells me his name is actually spelled with a “ph” but that cannot possibly be true) the other day for twenty dollars and a 16oz draft of that new really strong double IPA everyone has been talking about lately. I couldn’t finish it but it was pretty good.

Je(ph?)ff says he thinks he can get something going with it since he’s connected to Peter Thiel through his nephew, who is Thiel’s personal masseur. Isn’t your nephew in high school? I asked him. He said it didn’t really sit right with him either but there are many people in the Valley who would give anything to be connected to Thiel like this. I made Jeff promise to make me CTO or at least VP of something if it ever gets off the ground. Exciting!