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Back in the good old days when I had time to think

So much information, so little time to think about it.

I had lunch with Gavin Clarke (The Register) and Dave Rosenberg (MuleSource) today at the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC). We ate in the hotel restaurant, rather than getting free food at the conference, because I needed a break. I was willing to pay for solitude. I needed to go "offline" for a bit.

Throughout lunch Dave was checking email on his Blackberry, and took a few calls (from his wife, so no foul called on that). It was probably the only time all day that I was disconnected. (I'm typing this from the back of a taxi.)

Gavin and I reminisced about our days in Canterbury, England, where we both did some of our studies. I used to walk to class - 45 minutes through "downtown" Canterbury - and remember having thoughts. I haven't had a thought for years (as regular readers of this blog will know). I don't have time. I'm too busy emailing, blogging, checking Arsenal scores, or doing something online.

Kim Polese asked my opinion on software distribution strategy the other night at dinner. Opinion? That would require thought. Instead of answering I sought an exit so that I could fritter away hours in front of the Mac overlord in preparation for an early start to OSBC.

Why has technology become so all-consuming? Or is it simply that work is all-consuming in an entirely different way from "the bad old days?" A farmer in the 18th Century likely spent most of his time farming. As Nick Carr writes in The Big Switch, homemakers in the same time period had little time for anything else. Ditto for those idyllic hunter gatherer types.

Maybe they hated how "connected" they were, too. Maybe they wanted less time prodding the oxen to pull the plow and more time to just chat.

But at least they could think. The web and the technology world that gives it birth is so noisy, so chatty, that I find it hard to be thoughtful except in bursts.

Am I alone? Or do you suffer the same affliction? Is there a solution beyond the advice to "Just unplug!" which I've tried unsuccessfully to follow?

One idea that just hit me (when I looked away from the screen long enough to have a thought): My next team call will require all laptops closed so that we actually communicate. It's a start. Now if I can just hit "Publish" and focus on beautiful Los Angeles traffic.