So Long as there's a Jingle in your Head, Television isn't Free


Yesterday I switched from an ancient version of the "free" Adobe Reader to the current version 7.0. I spent the morning studying some fairly tricky technical documents. Within that interval I often caught my eyes glancing to the top right of the Adobe Reader's display window where an advert button flashed as it changed its content. Needless to say, this change of focus interrupted my train of thought, and got me out of "flow mode".

Adobe Reader add button In an article discussing the effect of digital video recorders on the broadcast TV industry, my former PhD student C. Chorianopoulos and I used a quotation by Jason Love, who suggests that advertising-supported services aren't really free.

So long as there's a jingle in your head, television isn't free.
I became painfully aware of this fact every time the flicker on the top right of my screen made me lose my concentration to look at the changed Reader's ad button.
Adobe Reader add button Adobe Reader add button Adobe Reader add button Adobe Reader add button
Each such interruption was more than a small distraction: in two occasions it interrupted me from a flow mental state. According to Wikipedia, in this state "the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, characterized by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity." As DeMarco and Lister discuss in their brilliant book Peopleware, it can take us more than 15 minutes to enter into flow, and, consequently, the same amount of time to recover from an interruption during our immersion. Under this light, Adobe's "free" Reader cost me 30 flow minutes in a single morning.

Adobe Reader add button Fortunately, I found a solution. I originally switched to the new version of the Reader, in order to print some diagrams that the old version printed incorrectly, so going back was not an option. However, I found out, that if one removes the Reader's toolbar, the ad button doesn't have a place to draw itself and (almost) disappears. No doubt this bug will get fixed in newer version, but until then I'll be able to work in peace.

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Last modified: Saturday, November 25, 2006 5:19 pm

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