~ Why you need to use The Proxomitron ~
         Petit image    altosax
Published @ searchlores.org in October 2002
~ Recover the control of your attention ~
(Why you need to use The Proxomitron)
Using a program like The Proxomitron you can transform the web page into pure content. A cleaned page, with just its content, is like a zen painting

Recover the control of your attention
(or: Why you need to use The Proxomitron)
by altosax.

The subject of this essay is the role of the attention in the information
era. The exploration of this field is still at its very beginning stage, so
the real mechanisms used by our brain to decide the amount of attention to
dedicate to a single information are still not well known. I'll try here to
apply the first results of these interesting studies to the web exploration,
from a searcher's point of view, and demonstrate that you need a program to
remove banners mainly to save your attention, regardless of the fact that
these programs can improve your navigation's speed or kill all those
annoying popups.

When you'll have read this essay and understood why you need it, I suggest
you to use The Proxomitron, realized by Scott R. Lemmon and freely
distributed at http://proxomitron.org/.

I'm a Proxomitron user since the day i knew Naoko3 and I hope you know it
too. I'd never used a program to remove banners before: simply I was using a
good hosts file (the best I know actually is the one maintained by Steve
Martin at http://www.smartin-designs.com/). But a hosts file is not able to
protect also your privacy and your security from tracking, redirections,
malicious scripts and so on like The Proxomitron does. If you are
interested, I maintain and distribute a customized filter set that you can
download from my proxo page at
http://virgolamobile.50megs.com/proxomitron.html. If you are able to write
yourself your own filters, there you can also download some tutorials about
the way to speed up filtering and write tricky filters. This is all I had to
say about the use of The Proxomitron, you can learn much more by reading the
help files distributed with the program. In the following part of this essay
I'll try to explain why you need to use it.

First of all, you must know that the true resource in the information
society is not the information itself, but the attention you can give it.
Every day we are bombed of informations from newspapers, from TV, from the
web, from the people. They all require our attention but, as the Nobel prize
winner Herbert Simon sayd, the wealth of informations creates lack of
attention. This happens because in the overload of informations our brain
has difficulty to identify the most important ones. In addition,
particularly on the web, when we spend our time to acquire an information
our level of attention often is not at its maximum due to the anxiety to
know what we are missing in the meanwhile. These are real problems and many
studies and researches have demonstrated them.

Clearly the spammers know all this too, so they use all the the dirtiest
tricks to get your attention. For example, if they can read your referrer
they can know the previous site you have seen: this could reveal your
interests so they can serve you a specific banner and have this way a
greater probability that you click it. But even if you never click a banner,
their main goal is to reach your brain and capture your attention for a
fraction of time: when this happens, their message will be processed anyway
at a subliminal level and, finally, will have worked.

The subliminal activity of your brain can be revealed in several ways, for
example by the so called "cocktail party's phenomenon": in a party full of
people, all talking, if someone pronounces your name you will hear it. This
phenomenon is not so difficult as it could appear because the excess of
informations is causing a change in the way our brain manages our attention:
unconsciously, it is becoming highly selective. All the informations that
reach our brain are filtered and discarded when they don't meet our
interests, but the worst in this process is than we are not conscious of
what is rejected. To better understand what I mean, try to remember the
pages you have seen when you were doing a search for something on the web.
Even if you have visited, say, 50 pages, at the end of the search you will
not remember more than 4 or 5 of them among the most interesting.

What is wrong in this? The fact that it is a closed and conservative
attitude. If the brain is focused only on the things we consider as the most
important, we risk to underestimate or neglect at all the new ones. Also, we
risk this way to have a wrong reaction when going into an unespected

And what can we do to stop this unconscious attitude of our brain when we
are on the web?

First, we have to reverse the relations between informations-attention-time.
The current assumption is that the time we can spend on a web page (or when
reading the newspaper, or in the life...) is a constant, so in that time we
have to analize all the informations and select the most interesting. This
assumption requires that we distribute the avalaible time among all those
informations so the more great is their number, the more reduced will be
both the time and the attention each of them will receive. The difficult,
for the people, is to notice this attitude, because it is unconscious but,
when they notice it, it is clear how much this is wrong. The right
assumption instead should be that the attention we must dedicate to a web
page (but this is true in the real life too) should be a constant and the
number of informations we can analize and the time required should be a

Second, we can use a tool to discard the useless informations before they
reach our brain, to avoid additional work but mainly to invert the tendence
of the attention to become selective, with the results I've already written.
And the useless informations, you can easily guess, are the banners in all
their forms: fixed or animated images, popup windows, redirections through
sponsored pages and the more recent webmercials or webstitials.

Using a program like The Proxomitron you can transform the web page into
pure content. A cleaned page, with just its content, is like a zen painting:
the only thing in it will capture all your attention. This way you can
recover your ability to manage consciously your attention and this is a
needed step to survive to all those trash-informations without being

September 2002.    

Petit image

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