alternate naming?

  • daydream
  • meadow


  • bulletin screenshots only (how to optimize storage, see how good it looks at some absurdly small size
    • make spaced repetition actually work

mobile app that replaces urge to open social media first thing in the morning (or in periods of downtime). It is a feed-like interface that resurfaces content that you want to sit with not complete and archive

pithy statements to describe it

  • “a softer anki”
  • “readwise for poetry”
  • “your happy / safe place”

vision for how it could develop:

  • v0: mobile and web app where you can pull in are.na feeds of content you want to sit with, and cultivate answers to questions that you want to keep revisiting (gratitudes, what you’re proud of, affirmations, other prompts that i have)
  • v1: support popularly-requested integration feeds, shortcuts for intervening(?) for social media mobile and integrate with arc boosts for “injection” on diff sites like with the original extension
  • v2: open-source? open adapters / extension platform for people to extend feeds, collaborative so people can send you things directly into this “inbox” for you to discover

live version is kept here: https://coda.io/d/Programmable-Attention_d77uUWMjpMY/Programmable-Attention_suaA0#_luFa2


  • arena discord
  • SFPC?


Programmable attention is:

  • a way to reprogram your consciousness
  • cultivate rituals around behaviors and things that you want to pay attention
  • a method of noticing and seeing that encourages you to see more of what you want to see
  • a method of contextual intervention by a past you or a friend that redirects your attention in a healthy, nourishing way
  • building up containers for meaning
  • building the capacity for memory for things (ideas, places, people) that you care about
  • the ability to plant things in your peripheral vision that give you the nudge / opportunity / prompt to do something that your past self intended
    • i.e. leaving letters from friends on coffee table for reading with morning coffee
    • i.e. leaving newspaper clippings in your work journal on the page of your draft that are related to X article
  • automatically derived from the digital history you create by using your apps and the internet normally. It doesn’t require you to change your behavior significantly
  • embedded, contextual memory

what do we call the atomic unit?

  • attention prompts?
  • memories?

Kinds of programmable attention:

  • interruptive
  • intrusive but ignorable
    • wrist buzz, meditation bell
  • ambient awareness
    • peripherally there, planted in the path, sent as a letter to your future self, setting your gym clothes on your bed for when you get up
    • planting things into a specific digital context for the next time you visit the place
      • we create very specific “location” references in mind for digital places (the doc for programmable attention project, the calendar event, etc). when we think of it but don’t want to focus on it right now, want to defer that attention or focus for when you are there, so you don’t get distracted now
      • See mediums for input-texting

mediums for input

  • manual adding
  • pull in from integrations
  • screenshot
  • from browsing site
  • phone camera
  • custom physical device
  • texting
    • texting is a nice way of “deferring attention,” capturing some idea or thing in a very atomic unit to save for later, use this interface for sending things to specific sites? locations have namespaces for this purpose?


  • memories / attention prompts: these are the units of attention that can surface in different places, accrue feedback and data over time, and be created by users
  • memory sites / attention nucleation sites: these are units (namespaced using some intuitive format) of location (see environments or sites for programmed attention) that can contain memories and have some specified interaction model for surfacing those (single or multiple, duration, how content is chosen, who can see it, etc.)
  • people: different users correspond to different identities, and have some sort of corresponding ACL system for configuring sites?
    • provocation here is can everything that is collaborative be public? at least for digital-context ones planted on websites.

kinds of prompts?

operations on the prompt?

  • look at content and move on
  • visit source of content
  • give feedback
    • binary, (spaced repetition)
    • scaled rating
    • custom input? (you might want to build on free-form input, i.e. my fit of the day automation or “i love life” automation or “pick a photo of the day”)
  • do series of pre-planned actions (ala shortcuts)
  • seed for friend
    • what is the agentic version of those chain text messages (FWD TO 50 friends or suffer!!!)

environments or sites for programmed attention

  • embedded in browsing experience
  • on specific websites
  • on specific domains
  • when doing X thing
    • going to bed, sunset, moonrise, etc.
  • physical places (something like the echo buttons?)
  • a carryable device (apple watch / phone)
  • from jamie
    • scheduled
    • stochastic
    • content contextual
      • when encountering X thing in real life (maybe camera as an entry point?)
      • when typing X thing in digital world
    • location contextual (both digital and physical)
    • person contextual
      • embedded inside the communication devices?

Previous work has explored how to do this but has failed because it has been:

  • too intellectual: hypothes.is, spaced repetition, others
  • too outside of your normal behavior: are.na and others (consumption and creation are in different places, too many barriers and gates between the two)
  • interesting interface but not intuitive enough as a tool: hijack your feed, other things that become “art”
  • too much work / effort:
    • this need to build into you natural behavior
    • your digital history should become immediate material for this



people to talk to later:

Relevant Conversations

from conversation with Andy Matuschak and jamie wong

  • push and pull model
    • push is peripheral vision
      • bad is clippy
      • good is your therapist telling you when you do X, do Y
      • salience prompts
    • pull
    • direct energy to something specific
  • 80% of the time im on twitter, not issue that i have a preset intention to do something else
    • displacement activity right now, im avoiding doing something else very specific
    • reaction: ugh + “thanks”, don’t feel good **- skepticisms
      • hasn’t seen anything that is super compelling
      • this is a design problem, requires a very inventive designer**
  • novel progress mechanisms in spaced repetition
    • spaced repetition spend time on things you’re bad at
      • (false impression that i suck)
      • always see the whole rather than part
        • status of card but also entire chapter
    • spaced everything
      • collection of tasks to perform is larger than can be evaluated in the moment
      • “schedule semantic” is missing, want to spared out the diff kinds of exercises
      • timing is important — durations don’t matter in anki
      • binary no subjective rankings
      • no space for open questions / notes, etc.
  • programmable internet
    • “data extractor” tool
    • “create new widget”
      • write typescript
      • “available on this site” airbnb listing extractor, google maps display
  • programmable attention examples:
    • annotating things with deconstructions
    • randomly translate parts of the website
    • community consumption vs. community construction
      • alter collective consciousness
    • structure of church is very compelling
      • shared ritual brings that together
      • internet naturally has shared rituals, how can those be sites for programmed attention towards something positive and collective?
    • cities lead to emergent behavior in the way peripherael vision and programmable attention is structured
      • how can internet places do the same?

conversation with peter pelberg

  • language to something amorphous

  • “this has happened before” in moments that you really need it

  • the rehearsal show is the internet

  • “intervention”

    • you know how to intervene, they need to be embedded tho
  • losing memory with these diff interfaces

  • accumulation of meaning

    • physical world has containers
    • digital world always gathering
      • stream but we have a dam
      • everything is a stream, how can we control the stream and start building gardens everywhere?
    • interfaces for making meaning
      • look at something over time
      • histories
      • serendipitously discover priors
    • “coming back to”
    • growing seeds
    • holographic theory of memory, fractal l
  • physical metaphors

    • want to be able to send tings to attach to the mental place of an idea, i.e. i’m thinking about bulletin, i should be able to send the ideas there without pulling up the document for me to think about next time
      • I’m not sure that they’re canonical, so it’s fine for them to be ephemeral… this idea of ephemeral things that come up in daily life that then can be immortalized by you. Intentional accumulation but not giving up on any amount of capture or resonance