Joseph Hallenbeck

Deep Work suggests doing an inventory of your network tools and identifying if they substantially positively impact, negatively impact, or little impact the success of your personal and professional goals.

Looking through my bookmarks, phone, and logs, I come up with the following in order of usage:

  • Slack
  • Mastodon
  • RSS
  • Email
  • Discord
  • SMS
  • Voice and/or video phone

Notably missing from my list, thanks to a continuing effort to pair down the destractions and shallow work in my life over the last few years are Hacker News, Reddit, Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook.

The first three were rather hard. It’s easy to become caught up in the belief that keeping up on industry news, watching conference recordings, and reading about the latest tool (that will never appear in your working stack) is a productive use of time. I’ve reached the conclusion that reading about a new tool or technique is only useful if you intend on immediately putting that tool or technique to use. Otherwise, it’s just another form of entertainment. By the time you actually need that tool, whatever reading you did on it will long gone from memory.

Twitter was easy. Twitter was amusing, but ultimately pointless.

Facebook. I still keep an account there. After several years of doing “internet sabbaticals,” it occurred to me that the only use I have for Facebook is it’s original use – as a personal rolodex for reaching out to firends and relatives via other mediums. Liking the latest iteration of someone’s vacation photos is not maintaining a relationship with them. Calling them, or taking them out to lunch when you’re in town is. So Facebook sits, and I log into it once a quarter. It’s draw for distraction entirely broken.

This leaves the remaining network tools and the question: Do they provide a substantially positive impact on my personal and professional goals?


Ther are two Slack servers that I am on and while both are for work they serve substantially different purposes.

There is my dayjob Slack server. Fortunately, my CTO is of a similar mindset in terms of keeping distraction down. We treat slack as an asychronous channel. Unless you mention someone, there is no expectation of an immediate response. Mentions and channel-wide broadcasts are pretty much unheard. We don’t have bots clogging up the main channels, although individuals are free to add bot for their own personal distraction.

My second Slack server is {az}Devs, which is a free-based server for the development community in the Arizona area with a heavy lean towards remote developers. As a rural developer, {az}Devs is a great way to keep in touch and network with the Urban based developers. One of my big insecurities of being so remote is that networking opportunities can be hard to come by and difficult or expensive to orchestrate.

My current configuration is Slack on phone and computer – but tuned to only notify or display a visual indicator for mentions. If there are no mentions, I keep to checking Slack strictly to Internet blocks. {az}Devs are not on my phone and all notifications there are disabled.

Does it provide a substantially positive impact? Yes.


Mastodon is perhaps my greatest time waster lately. It very much reminds me of the old web. Small communities, international in scope, but very niche in their interests. On a small instance, you meet people, learn about their hobbies and interests. It doesn’t take long to start recognizing a name from day to day and a community forms around it.

As a remote worker it also serves as a nice water cooler to chat with like minded hackers about work.

It’s hard to say that Mastodon has a substantially positive impact on my personal or professional goals. It’s definitely in the shallow category.

I’ve worked on cutting Mastodon down from being too much of dopamine-hit. I think the big movements are 1) take Tusky off my phone and 2) no more developing and chatting on Mastodon at the same time during the work day. Keep Mastodon confined to dedicated Internet blocks.

Does it provide a substantially positive impact? No. Little impact.


RSS replaced Hacker News and Reddit as my source for industry and entertainment news. It works much more off the “pull” concept where my reader pulls stories from a selection of blogs rather than the “push” you see on Social Media news feed where articles are foisted upon you.

Is RSS an improvement or merely a replacement for Hacker News/Reddit? Ocassionally, a solid article comes along with truly fascinating information. Yet, I am often troubled with the notion that I could be spending that time reading a good book or researching a particular topic that interests me.

I’ve established a handful of rules for adding an RSS feed to my reader. It must 1) not update more than once a day (an exception is made for the local paper), and 2) it has to pass the Konmari test. That is to say, does the feed spark joy? When I see that a new post is in my feed does my heart jump with excitement to read the article? #2 is hard to keep true since a blog might have a handful of killer articles and degenerate into personnal rambling. Regular culling, flipping through each feed and seeing if the last few articles sparked joy is needed.

Does it provide a substantially positive impact? No. Little impact.


Email is the traditional villian in these discussions of distration. Yet, I’ve never felt too troubled by e-mail. Perhaps it’s a generational thing. I find inbox to zero and ignoring e-mails rather easy. I do get a couple dozen log files each morning that takes all of 30 seconds to review. I try to tune Jira and Github notifications to as minimal as possible. Email is generally useful for my professional work and certainly less distracting than Slack.

Does it provide a substantially positive impact? Yes.


Discord, far more than Facebook, has been a great resource for reconnecting with friends. What better way to connect than over some random shared PC gaming and voice chat? That almost all of my gamer friends already have Discord installed makes it an easy excuse to fire up a game.

There’s also local servers for connecting with other gamers in the White Mountians looking to play board games, roleplaying, and Magic. It’s by far the best resource for meeting new people with shared interests in my remote mountain town.

Last, Damasca community, after years of failing to rekindle things over Minecraft, IRC, etc. has actually congealed around a Discord server, sharing music, chatting about old times, and daydreaming about ventures in indie games.

Still, it should probably follow the same kinds of limitations as Discord. Not on the phone, and limited to Internet blocks only.

Does it provide a substantially positive impact? Yes.


I never really got into texting. I exchange the occassional text with the spouse through the day to keep abreast of our schedules. On ocassion I text family, but very rarely. It never caught on with me.

Does it provide a substantially positive impact? Yes.

Voice and Video Conferencing

Voice and Video Conferencing (regardless of the application) are perhaps my least used network tools but also perhaps provide the highest quality when they are used.

Work tends to realize that any time spent on a conference calls is time spent using 100% of a developers capacity. They don’t make these meetings lightly when an asynchronous solution is available. Hotfixes. Daily stand ups. That’s about it. That said, I would always be careful of maintaining this high standard of asychronous first and video conferencing only when it is the best medium for the problem.

Personal phone calls to friends and family are also high quality exchanges. If anything, I should make more phone calls.

Does it provide a substantially positive impact? Yes.


So far, with a couple rules in place for avoiding distraction, there are no substantially negative impacting networking tools in my regular usage. There two items of little impact that I’ve put some rules around and I think should be monitored each quarter to ensure that they continue to be either of little or moving into a positive impact.

"Deep Work Network Tools Inventory" by Joseph Hallenbeck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.