Tech Life Embrace your handicap


The gist of the book Guns of the South is straightforward yet odd. What if, during the Civil War, the South became equipped with a lot of AK-47s? Long story very short, they would have won. Handily. The author, Harry Turtledove, chose not to focus on time travel or other delectable science fiction tidbits; he spends the time on, “Yay! The South won! So, uh, what are they going to do about that whole slavery thing?”

While I’m certain Civil War enthusiasts would enjoy this book, it is not geared for someone with my particular disability: nerd attention deficiency disorder, or NADD. While I read this book, this innocuous condition reared its head when it became clear that it was an in-depth exploration of the lifestyles and morality during an alternative post–Civil War period … ZzZzZzzZZzz.

Now, Guns is a fine read, but more than once I was flipping ahead through the pages wondering, “OK, how long is this chapter?” When I neared the end of the book and it became clear that some time traveler from the future wasn’t going to appear and, using some whizbang futuristic device, join the North and South together, well, I was disappointed. Sure, I’m happy that President Lee learned his lesson and started abolishing slavery on his own, but … no lasers? Please.

Folks, I’m a nerd. I need rapid-fire content delivered in short, clever, punchy phrases. Give me Coupland, give me Calvin and Hobbes, give me Asimov, give me the Watchmen. I need this type of content because I’m horribly afflicted with NADD.

If you’re still with me, it might mean you also suffer from some type of NADD-related disorder. Let’s find out.

Stop reading this book right now and walk over to your desktop. How many things were you doing when you were last there? Me, I’ve got Slack opened and logged into four different teams, I’m listening to music in Spotify, I’ve got Chrome open with three tabs where I’m watching stocks on E*TRADE, I’m tinkering with WordPress, and I’m looking at weekend movie returns. Not done yet. I’ve got iMessage open, Tweetbot is merrily streaming the latest fortune cookies from friends, and I’ve got two Sublime windows open where I’m capturing random thoughts for later integration into various to-do lists. Oh yeah, I’m rewriting this article as well.

Folks, this isn’t multitasking. This is an advanced case of nerd attention deficiency disorder. I am unable to function at my desktop unless I’ve got at least five tasks going on at the same time. If your count comes close, you’re probably afflicted as well. Most excellent.

A Nerd Diagnosis

My mother first helped diagnose me with NADD. It was the late 1980s and she was bringing me dinner in my bedroom (nerd). I was merrily typing away to my friends in some primitive chat room on my IBM XT (super nerd), listening to music (probably Flock of Seagulls—nerd++), and watching Back to the Future with the sound off (nerrrrrrrrrrd). She commented, “How can you focus on anything with all this stuff going on?” I responded, “Mom, I can’t focus without all this noise.”

The existence and amount of NADD in your life is directly related to how you’ve chosen to deal with the media deluge that has accompanied our insatiable thirst for new technology. You’ve likely gone one of three ways:

  1. You’ve checked out. You don’t own a TV, and it’s unlikely you’re even reading this chapter.

  2. You enjoy your content in moderation. When I asked you to count the windows on your desktop, you either said, “One, my mail client, to read my incoming e-mail,” or you made yourself a note to check this after reading this chapter. You probably own a day planner, which you can touch from where you are sitting right now.

  3. You surf the content fire hose. Give me tabbed browsing, tabbed instant messaging, music all the time, and TWITTER TWITTER TWITTER. Welcome to NADD.

The presence of NADD in your friends is equally easily detectable. Here’s a simple test: Ask to sit down at their computer and start mucking with stuff on their desktop. Move an icon here, adjust a window there. If your friend calmly watches as you tinker away, they’re probably NADD-free. However, if your friend is anxiously rubbing their forehead and climbing out of their skin when you move that icon 12 pixels to the right, there’s NADD in the house. Back away from the computer.

The Context Switch

You may think the core competency behind NADD is multitasking—and it’s true, NADD sufferers are amazing multitaskers—but it isn’t their fundamental skill. It’s the context switch.

The idea of the context switch is key to understanding NADD, and it’s a simple concept. In order to focus on something, you need to spend time and energy to get your brain in the right mental state. Think about your Sunday morning reading of the New York Times. You’ve got your coffee, your comfortable pajamas, your couch, and you’ve got whatever story it is that you’re reading. All of this is your context.

Now, halfway through your current story, I’m going to rip the paper from your hands and turn on CNN, which happens to be running exactly the same story that you were
just reading.

What. The hell. Just happened?

You just experienced a context switch. It’s not a horrible one, since you’re luckily experiencing the same story; it’s just in a different medium—TV talking heads with that annoying scrolling news bar at the bottom of the screen.

Still, it’s jarring, right? Forget about why I’m yanking the paper from your hands—I’m talking about the mental shift from reading a story to watching it. It takes time to switch. For you. A healthy NADD sufferer would barely notice the switch. In fact, chances are that they’re already digesting their news via random different media right this second.

What separates a NADD sufferer from everyone else is that the context switch is transparent. The mental muscle that drives the context switch is well developed because it’s spent a lifetime switching between random streams of data, trying to make sense of a colossal amount of noise to hear what is relevant.

Anyone can multitask. NADD sufferers multitask with deft purpose. They’re on a quest of high-speed information acquisition and processing.

Leveraging NADD

I’m making NADD sound like a trait of information-obsessive power freaks, and, well, it is. How else can you deal with a world where media is forced on you at you at every turn? You become very adept at controlling it. There’s more good news.

Folks who are not afflicted with NADD think those who are can’t focus because—look at us—we’re all over the place. Please stop clicking on things—you are giving me a headache. Wrong. Those with NADD have an amazing ability to focus when they choose to. Granted, it’s not our natural state, and yes, it can take us longer than some to get in the Zone, but when we’re there — boy howdy.

The Internet is designed for NADD. Whether it’s the short delicious bursts of information that comprise each of your newsfeeds or the exponentially increasing apps that just want a smidge of your time, the Internet knows about NADD. It knows that any good website or application must be designed not to answer the question “Do you want to learn” but rather “How long do I have your attention?”

NADD can advance your career, if you’re in the right career. Ever worked at a startup? Ever shipped software? What are the last few weeks like? We call it a fire drill because everyone is running around like a crazy person doing random, unexpected shit. NADD is the perfect affliction for managing this situation because it’s an affliction that reduces the cost of the context switch.

If the building you are currently in is burning to the ground, go find the person with NADD on your floor. Not only will they know where the fire escape is, they’ll probably have some helpful tips about how to avoid smoke inhalation, as well as a vast array of likely probabilities regarding survival rates in multistory building fires. How is it that this junior software engineer knows all this? Who knows, maybe he read it on a Wikipedia two years ago. Perhaps a close virtual friend of his in New York is a firefighter. Does it matter? He may save your life, or, more likely, keep you well informed with useless facts before you are burned to a crisp.


I’m making NADD sound like a rosy affliction. There are downsides.

First, it’s a lot of work to figure out your personal regimen of digesting the world, and, sorry, you are going to miss things. This will annoy you, but it will also drive you incessantly to look for the next big thing.

Second, you’re going to sound like a know-it-all. Try not to. Most people don’t actually know that much random trivia, useless info, obscure facts, assorted news, current events, and complex mathematical formulas. These people are happy without it, and simply because you’re brimming with the latest and greatest information doesn’t mean that everyone is going to want to hear about it.

You’re not going to have much patience with those who have not chosen a NADD-like life. Occasionally, you’ll attempt to impart your fractured wisdom, only to throw your hands up four minutes later when it’s clear, “Crap, they just don’t get it.” Chances are, they might’ve gotten it, and you’re just afflicted with a disease where your attention span is that of a second grader.

Whether you’re afflicted with NADD or not, you need to understand one thing. It’s not going away. The generation that invented NADD in the 1980s and 1990s has been replaced by the generation that never knew a world without it, and they’re going to be annoying in their own unique way.

102 Responses

  1. I’ve fallen victim to the know-it-all issues you mentioned a few times. My introductory biology class was particularly bad.

    Teacher: “…so, that’s how some mutations can become very common in populations because of population bottlenecks and the founder effect, like minor enzymatic changes and certain genetic disorders.”

    Me: “Oh, like the common mutation in alcohol dehydrogenase among people of asian descent, which leaves the afflicted without the ability to expediently break down metabolic toxins from ethanol, causing a histamine allergic reaction that makes your face blush red like a lobster after a single beer.”

    Rest of the introductory biology class: “…”

    The point is, I’m just full of near-useless but interesting tidbits I’ve picked up over the years, from a number of sources but mainly stemming from the fact that I find this sort of esoteric crap pretty interesting, especially when certain quirks in systems (biology especially) give some insight into the underlying structure of the system.

    Or I’m just a huge nerd. Getting back to the point in the article: I’m going to be buying another 512MB of RAM for my laptop, given my newfound propensity to open up 40+ browser windows at a time, then leave them open for days, blessed by the near-crashless abilities of a unix-based OS X. Perhaps I should make with the tabbed browsing, but I find it mildly inconvenient to click links and have things open in new browser windows, then have to either stop the loading and paste the URL into a tab of an already existing window or dig around multiple tabbed browser windows to find the window I’m working in. There are still a few interface issues to be worked out. Why can’t I, for example, grab a tab out of an existing window, drag it outside of that window, and end up with a new untabbed browser window?

    Maybe in a few years.

  2. Carpathia 21 years ago

    “She commented, “How can you focus on anything with all this stuff going on?” I responded, “Mom, I can’t focus without all this noise.””

    I laughed at this. When I was about fifteen, I was watching TV (sound on), listening to music (one headphone), doing homework, and fiddling with the computer (probably more than one thing going on there).

    My father came in, looked at what I was doing and said, “I don’t understand how you can get such good grades when you’re always doing homework with all this other stuff going on.”

    I don’t remember how I responded to that, but I’ll always remember what he said afterwards. “Well, whatever… plug something else in if it will help you do better.”

  3. JayBees 21 years ago

    The biggest problem I had with Guns of the South was that since they changed the past so much in order to change the future (our present), how the hell were they able to keep going back and forth between the present and the 1860s, since the present they originally came from wouldn’t exist anymore? In fact, this problem would’ve messed up the story Turtledove wanted to tell pretty badly, which is probably why he completely ignored it. “Nothing to see here folks,” etc., etc.

    You will never realize the extent of your NADD until you go to You’ll have 30 different pages open before you’ll know what hit you. I literally fear going there when I have real life responsibilities to fulfill, because I’m a complete and total information addict. Getting up and leaving the computer when there are browser windows open that have yet to be read is an act I cannot contemplate. Also, I can never leave a link unclicked. Shift+click is my friend. I even configured IE so I can just type “gg *” into the address bar where * is the search string, instead of having to wait for Google to load. Same thing with, Everything2, and about 10 other sites that use http get for their searches. If you’re interested in doing the same thing, and use IE, check out

  4. eli sarver 21 years ago

    I’m also afflicted with this problem. Current apps/windows:

    safari (this article and one on BONGS HURR)

    iTunes (playing Jerry in the Bag by Wink and Trent Reznor)

    Quicktime (no idea)

    iTerm SSHed into my server

    NNW Lite


    My NADD is pretty minor. Unless I’m at work. Monitoring system performance while compiling code, while reading up on the latest Jerkcity, and listening to Bad Religion or LTJ on the iPod.

    It’s when people shake me out of my tech nirvana that I get a bit riled. The input that never fails to rattle my nerves.


  5. Bosko 21 years ago

    Best blog entry at RiR EVER.


    I totally have NADD, too, to some extent; What I found most interesting about this entry, though, is that you point out a possible reason as to why blogs are in fact attractive to me; yes, you did mention how there’s a lot of Instant Information [tm] in blogs in previous entries, but you never, until now, linked it to a behavioral ‘disorder’.

  6. Hi my name is Darien and I have NADD 21 years ago

    I was having a related dicussion with a friend of mine the other day about changing my desktop res to go with my migration to a larger monitor.

    Everytime, I buy a larger monitor or switch to a new higher res, I feel sick. often I need to lay down but I get up and I go back to plugging away because I NEED the feed. (NADD Note: the obession with always being “jacked in”) I just have not adjusted to the increased information flow.

    I take in more info, like buying a new hard drive and filling it to the same percentage with needless crap and then realising it’s full of excess that I never had room for BEFORE, in this new world. every time I have room for MORE I will take it.

    I counted my apps… I’ve got 12 open. That’s awfully excessive… my tv is muted but one of my arcade cabinets is on. I’m also on the phone.

    Oh god, I am a spazz.

    and you’re right…the only thing that actually makes me angry is when I’m finally blocking out everything else and concentrating on ONE thing. The focus, the moment where you the blip junkie stop living on speed, is so annoyingly quiet though. you just don’t think about it ’till after and by then you have the pride in whatever you did to cover up any odd feeling you should’ve had during it.

    ~Darien, her blog looks funny at this res I should tell her.

  7. I rolled my mouse over the links NEXT BIG THING and just about jumped out of my skin. I use and advocate all 3 apps and can’t stand it when people “don’t get” why I’d use them all.

    My name is Jim, and I have NADD.

  8. Halfway through reading this article, I stopped to check my email. No kidding.

  9. rands 21 years ago



    Jesus, People.

    I’m rarely a super asshole except when I’ve consciously decided to enter the zone and someone tries to pull me out of it. I’m certain this is NADD-related. For me, when I finally decided to hunker down and focus on something, it does take some work because I’m normally paying attention to 27 things. Once I’m in the zone, it’s a fragile thing. When someone comes and asks me useless questions, it’s INFURIATING.

    I realize this is my issue, but LOGIC DOESN’T MATTER WHEN I’M PISSED.

  10. I always feel guilty when, say, I’m reading RiR at work or slashdot or whatnot and someone – anyone – makes her presence known behind me. And it’s ALT-TAB city.

    But guilty is stupid. I’m waiting for zip files to finish unzipping on desktop one while I’m searching our source tree for checked out files in another window and so forth. So I ALT-TAB to Emacs or some shit because it looks like work stuff, even though I’ll just stare at the window until the files are done uncompressing and I’m bored out of my skull because I’m not doing anything at all and I’M MISSING VALUABLE RECENTLY DIVULGED INFORMATION.


  11. half way through reading this entry i got distracted and ended up at an nblug board meeting. now three hours later i am finally finished reading it. excellent write up!

  12. Kindred 21 years ago


  13. mucus plug 21 years ago

    I read half this article before checking my e-mail, and then read the last half 3 days later. I don’t have NADD, but I have ADD, and I’m a nerd.

  14. Glad to see that I use two of the three apps in NEXT BIG THING, and I know what the other one (Hydra) is. More useless knowledge drunk from the information firehose. ‘-)

  15. Klaatu 21 years ago

    RiR is a good read while you are checking your email, pulling records on MS. Axcess, waiting for the scanner to warm up,waiting for Fedex to update your shipping/tracking record, and submitting a bid on eBay that’s going to close in 15 minutes 🙂

    …I have NADD; maybe a can Starbuck’s Double Shot

    or home made sangria might help (self medicate my sorry ass 🙂

  16. I’m sure self-medicating for NADD has a long and robust history through the ages of career intellectuals and college students. Hunter Thompson had NADD.

  17. I read the first to sentences of this and said hey that’s me and.. BRB.

  18. rands sir, you are the man.

    At this time of writing, I am coding 2 seprate projects, I have 5 tabs open in mozilla (RiR, my site, robotskull, phpmyadmin, and /.), I am involved in 2 IM conversations, am queueing up my next song in foobar2k (BEST AUDIO PLAYER FOR WINDOWS EVER!) modifying my firewall settings, idiling on IRC and writing comments in two seperate websites.

    Hell, I didn’t even realise that i was doing half of that stuff until I went through and catalogued it all, damn.

    I’d like to join the elite club of NADD’ers, please.

  19. ahpook 21 years ago

    Apologies if this is on a too-serious tip. It’s not directed at anyone in particular, it’s just one random jerker’s response to Rands’ post.

    There’s pretty strong evidence that untreated ADD in adults is implicated in addictive / compulsive behavior. At the risk of being too reductionist, my understanding is that it is fundamentally a dopamine deficiency which can be masked or compensated-for by self medicating with alcohol, pot, amphetamines, smack, extreme intake of caffeine/chocolate, etc. is a pretty balanced summary of medication options. Personally, I had zero luck getting a handle on my various appetites until I met up with a doc who understood this stuff and got me on 150mg/day desipramine.

    NADD might, in fact, be a mental optimization for operating in today’s fractured mediascape (or whatever) but if the same behaviors extend across the rest of your life and start causing problems for your quotidian functioning… consider talking to a doctor about it.

  20. Jerkass 21 years ago

    This is the absolute best RinR post ever.

    Outlook, 5 browser windows (3 on, Notepadding a half-completed Perl script, fixing links on my work site, and NOFX on the MP3 player. And I’m at work – home is even better.

  21. holly 21 years ago

    all i have to say 15 and right now ..i have music (linkin park) going, msn messengers (3 conversations), yahoo messenger (one conversation), aol instant messenger (one conversation), mirc (finally down to one server, but four rooms), reading this site, playing rummy in real life with myself, playing solitare on the computer, checking my mail, (just started a second yahoo conversation), writing random sayings that i make up, and waiting for a phone call. i dont know if that qualifies me…but my mum hates me for it. she has icq, her art and music going.

    considering its only 1:34 pm im doing pretty well…by 8 tonight ill have my normal 10-15 conversations plus 3 servers on mirc going on, two or three people on the phone and my music still going….

    my dad once told me ” holly, you dont run a one or two track mind, you run a 5 track mind.” and i still live up to that. iv kept up with that many things and still managed this past year a 4.2 gpa (4.2 because im on the honors classes gpa scale)and enough credits to graduate a year early. plus i have a job.

    i feel like im 30 at the end of the day…. but then again..all this going on could be the cause of why i drink so much coffee…aye?

    just another useless person on the internet (holly)

  22. If you really want to explode your brain, take a look at Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Very long, jumps all over hell, but some of the passages are galtish in thier length…

  23. Hey Rands, quit calling N/ADD a “disorder, disability, and words with negative conotations to it”! It’s a GIFT! A useful tool for the crazy environment we live in.

    Also for someone who can’t write a book, what you wrote was more entertaining than many books I’ve read. Had me laughing in delight.

  24. I have never felt compelled to comment on articles like this before but I have to. I have over 30 windows open right now (big twin LCDs help here). I have a NADD job: not heavy duty coding but graphics for print, a bit of HTML, JS, Office VBA, etc etc. I am writing this in between emails, working on 3 different designs in Photoshop, Quark, Illustrator, scanning BlogLines, bicycle parts prices, image libraries, a few websites. If left unchecked I’ll buy a different magazine or newspaper every day. I enjoy waiting for trains as it gives me an excuse to browse more articles in newsagents. If there is nothing else to read I’ll scan food packaging, financial small print… anything. I must have something to read.

  25. simon 21 years ago

    well how about metaNADD – I won’t admit to how many windows are open, but while editing a couple of source files I also have the syntax colouring file for the source language open for tweaking too.

  26. My case of NADD is so severe that I ended up writing a metacontent management system, which brings my daily websurfing to whole new levels of efficiency. In bash. (you can get the source with the link at the bottom if you want it).

    It works best if you just go down the hilighted column, middle-clicking each link which comes up, in a tabbed browser configured to not jump to new tabs as they’re opened.

  27. This post was so cool that when I was about half-way I just had to go open two tabs to get it into my blogmarks.

  28. skipjack 20 years ago

    It’s nice to know that I don’t suffer alone 😉

  29. ph00 b@r 20 years ago

    That’s funny, I suffer from a related disorder, Nerd Attention Deficit Syndrome.

    Otherwise known as: NADS.

  30. The post and subsequent comments are too long. I simply wasn’t able to attend to all of it. The part about guns was cool, though.

  31. Frazzled mom 20 years ago

    So I have the 16 year old with NADD, who isn’t a massively impressive honors student like the kids in previous comments, but who should be. What do I do? Great kid, but I can’t seem to convince him that homework is not optional!!! I only have AAADD (age associated attention defecit disorder) not NADD so I can only relate slightly!! Any advice?

  32. Shadowsinger 20 years ago

    Oh. My. God. They have a name for people like me.

    [laughing my a&% off and e-mailing the link via mass post to everyone I can think of.]

    I am not a coder by nature. Ask me to program anything, or even read programming code, and I’ll glaze over and start to drool. I had two nervous breakdowns in five years because of that kind of working environment.


    I have [counting on fingers] about six dead-tree books going at once.

    At the moment, I am doing the laundry and the dishes as well as reading this blog and counting open tasks on my computer.

    On the computer, I have two Windows Explorer windows, twelve IE windows (five of those are class assignments on Forward Motion, three are Google searches), Microsoft Word (two documents; a cover letter and a table spreadsheet for my meeting with employment insurance), Ultra Edit (three tabs – one’s part of the novel, one is my Utopia stats and one is a text cover letter that I’m tweaking), Outlook, Trillian (one active conversation, it’s a slow day), and Utopia Angel.

    That’s not counting the TSRs that I’m not actively doing anything with. There’s about 10 more of those.

    This is a slow day. I’ve been out running errands most of the day. I haven’t launched Opera or the ATI Multimedia Center or K++ or any of the other things I usually have floating in the background. And I haven’t turned on the stereo yet, so there’s no music.

    The only thing I don’t do is television. Never been big on TV. I paid to install a TV tuner card in my computer almost purely so I could continue using my PS2 when my television died. Can’t watch TV and do other stuff – it’s that whole moving pictures attention span thing.

    I looked into ADD when I was a teenager. I don’t have ADD. If anything, I have clinical depression and anxiety disorder, which has been under treatment for five years. Still doesn’t help keep me from changing topics every five seconds. *lol*

    It’s comforting somehow to know that I’m not the only person who fluctuates between ‘easily bored’ and ‘bloody obsessed’ at the fire of a synapse.

    [bookmarking site and blog to return to later, ambling off to turn on the stereo and start lunch]

  33. Recovering NADD sufferer 20 years ago

    In a fire, definitely find the NADD dude on your floor. He will not only have lots of useful info to impart, but also, he won’t know there is a fire. 😉

  34. *ahem*

    or having a hyoooge aircraft carrier before Pearl Harbor…

    “We are going to fight a battle that was lost before most of you were born. This time, with God’s help, its going to be different….Good Luck. ”

    Personally, I think he should have been clad in gladiator garb when he did this line…

    It’s all about period costume.

    Tasty. Cheezy. And you thought it was just for kids.

  35. crankysysadmin 20 years ago

    NADD has another, better, earlier name — context switching.

  36. Melissa 20 years ago

    Can I get an Amen? 😉

    Nicely written. Very true. I feel that there’s more to it, but I think you covered the larger points. Sadly, this most likely won’t help Non-NADD people to sympathize, but will only confuse them more.

    Hi. My Name Is Melissa And I Have NADD.

    We don’t need no steenkin’ 12 step programs.

  37. Le Roux 20 years ago

    My name is Le Roux and I have NADD.

    I’m also a linux geek:

    desktop 1:

    2/3 terminals, gaim (instant messenger. probably tabs open for multiple people) and something to play music (anything good at handling playlists) Every window has it’s own set location. Nothing overlaps. Even my icons are visible. Sometimes I might run something like an emulator or some new app I’m trying out. terminals are probably downloading/installing gentoo updates or I’m managing files or editing something in vim.


    browser (epiphany) with lots and lots of tabs. overlaps with my download window. (probably multiple downloads at the same time. window not full-screen because most sites look crap at resolutions higher than 1024×768)


    email client (Evolution) with lots of folders and mail filter rules.


    reserved for whatever I’m actually trying to do. probably some code editor or another 4 terminals. maybe vmware running windows xp.


    probably an rss reader or some other app. (possibly graphics related)

    At work I use windows. Outlook, outlook express (yes. I use multiple email clients. don’t ask), homesite+, ms sql query analyzer, internet explorer (only for testing work), wincvs, mozilla firebird (lots of tabs) and msn chat windows. (in that and ONLY in that order! If something crashes it annoys me like nothing else, because I have to close EVERYTHING and open them up in the same order again) And winamp overlapping the window titlebar area ALWAYS playing music. (headphones)

    I am such a geek. Nice to know I’m not the only one.

  38. Some may refer to this as a syndrome, rather than a disorder.

    I have NADS.

  39. jesse 20 years ago

    The previous comment I typed was much longer, but my attention span has significantly shortened for the topic now – thanks for the great term for what I do, I can explain myself a bit better now 😉

  40. We need an icon!

    We need an icon!

    Ooo… what’s that?!?

    (*drifting away*)

  41. No, I mean so that we can use it to recognize each other (put it in our blogs) or use it to warn away non-NADDers.

    Back in the Fido-Net days, the local university used to burn off the left-over end-of-semester bits (pennies left in each account, etc.) by pooling them and running a four-channel dial-up chat session. Between that and Compuserve, a coworker and I developed a serious chat habit.

    (Remember this was pre-web so it was just about the only form of “live” entertainment.) Our addiction was so bad that it bled over into working hours. He and I were able to carry on at least four unrelated conversations at the same time. You just had to be able to carry multiple contexts in your head. It annoyed the girl (who’s now my wife) to loud fits of frustration, trying to figure out what we were discussing. (She’s still stuck in serial mode but puts up with me now.)

  42. Jenny Brewer 20 years ago

    I tolly have NADD and I am not even a tech girl, I am an artist! Right now I only have 5 windows open but usually it’s eight or ten- instant messenger, notepad, tripod filemanager, outlook inbox, 2 or three open outlook messages containing e-mail news digests, photoshop, publisher, KaZaA, media player, and sometimes three different browsers all at once (MSN, Mozilla, IE, depending on desired window size and composer functions). There are at least six bolgs I watch besides keeping my own, plus ongoing research for my blog, plus looking for recipes for St. Patrick’s day dinner party, plus several desktop publishing projects (tracts and study Bible for my personal church). All of this is going on while I perform the not inconsiderable duties of my totally non-related day job (Loan Officer). Then when I get home I have two paintings and a sculpture I am working on plus I am refinishing some chairs and learning to play the trumpet. PLUS I go to online graduate school full-time for Library Science so I am always in chat rooms and forums for that too. PLUS I am on tv on the Public Access channel doing my alt-televangelism schtick. I love it. I want more projects. I want more information. I want more stimuli. I want to be able to do all of this AND drive around in my car at the same time taking pictures out the window with my digital camera while a webcam takes pictures of me.

  43. Holy living fuck.

    So I finally read this. I started trying to about two weeks ago. The first time I had to restart so I saved the link into my notes file. Then after rebooting I loaded it back up and it sat there in an open IE window for a few days. Then I started to read it but stopped because something else required my attention, so I closed IE.

    Now, two weeks later and it had been sitting here open for close to five days, I figured it was time to read it all.

    9 IE windows, Microsoft Word, UltraEdit with 12 files, tabbed AIM, and Putty.


  44. This article made me suddenly re-consider why it’s termed a *deficiency* of attention. It may be that we have too *much* attention.

    I wrote that up in some detail here:

  45. doofus mcpaddleboat 20 years ago

    isn’t it just so chic and nerdy that i have a short attention span!?!?! isn’t being a “nerd” just so damn trendy and hip and savvy!??!?!? oh my god i’m turning myself on so much right now.

    *fap fap fap fap fap*

    *splurt* (aka blog entry)

  46. -Tex- 20 years ago

    Zen Nerdism.

    This probably wont be read with so many other posts but I thought I would share. I am the opposite of NADD, I am a Zen Nerdist. I keep one window open at a time, focus on only one task if I can help it. I wear headphones with the sound off and just listen to the quiet hum of my best friend. My desktop is my very own zen garden, with files and folders liberally dotting the screen in lines and rows, occasionally interrupted by a cluster of downloads. My RL desktop is a calm forest of soda can trees and natural outcroppings of cds. If my chair creaks, and im not there to hear it, does it make a sound? Purely hypothetical since I do not leave my chair.

    2:00, inner peace

    4:00, maybe some quake


  47. What does it mean if you have more than one computer doing multiple things? I have found that a single laptop just isn’t powerful enough to do all of the things I like to do at the same time. I have off-loaded the mundane things like music and web surfing to a linux box so that my Windows machine won’t whine like a baby when I try to open Outlook. 🙂

  48. I like to run my desktop at a very high resolution with very small fonts. Is this another NADD symptom, or is it my own personal quirk?

  49. Cheeky One 20 years ago

    Nope. That’s plain old A.D.D. (a misnamed and misunderstood condition)

    We don’t say that females with A.D.D. have F.A.D.D.

    We don’t say that blacks with A.D.D. are B.A.D.D.

    We don’t say that Ho’s with A.D.D. are H.A.D.D.

    We don’t say that mothers with A.D.D are M.A.D.D.

    Thus a nerd with A.D.D. does not have N.A.D.D.

    PS: Chances are that you left out your attempts to self-medicate with caffeine.

  50. I have mozilla open with 2 windows open(1 window with 28 tabs and the other with 6 tabs. I have Putty (ssh) with email open, eMule open search for new crap to download, Calculator open for working out BMR, Litestep installer zip file open (that reminds me I should reboot soon to load litestep). Sharpreader is craving attention. Oh and I usually need sound/music while doing anything like coding or studying for uni.

    It didn’t start until I was put on anti-depressants. But then again I was always day dreaming in primary school.

  51. It’s not a problem with you. Harry Turtledove isn’t a very good writer.

  52. I’m late to the game, but I have NADD. I found the link from a link from jole on software. It’s nice to know who/what you are. I have to stop passing the know it all on to my kids (at 3 one said to thier grandma, “no Nana that’s not a monkey, it doesn’t have a tail. It’s an ape”)

  53. Boomstick 20 years ago

    Yah, im definetly afflicted with NADD. Right now, i’m making a website layout in Photoshop, Looking up Tutorials for various graphic design programs, listening to Classic Rock music (hell’s bells right now), talking to another victim of NADD, talking to some other friends, and writing this comment!…. i’m lonely hahah

  54. So that’s what it’s called. NADD. Cool. Listing the apps I’ve got open? Let’s put it this way: my taskbar is on the left so it can fit more apps and sometimes it still goes into two columns. And that’s just one of my three systems….

    Same skills also come in handy when listening to news, having breakfast, making lunch, reading paper, dressing kids, checking schoolbags…

  55. Anonymous 20 years ago

    Mail open, IE 3 times open to 3 different sites, notes before me for 2 projects I am working on, phone ring, reading this, having word open for 2 short articles I am writing… thinking about a new website (and making notes) NADD, NADD I’m a mama…

    eerrhhhmmmm, mama, mama I’m a NADD!

    (thank God finally somebody found a name for it, now it’s official!)

  56. I am not sure i believe in ADD, but i do believe in NADD.

    I have it, I have outlook, source control, joel on software blog, scooby doo project mgmt intranet, aqt, excel, and this, plus textpad.

    I have to multi-task, it’s an obsession, like my obsession with seguaying.

    You feel this need to keep on pushing hard, getting more done in less time…

    Oh well…

  57. DarthGnosis 20 years ago

    So this is what is wrong with me. I have known for a while I was not afflicted with run of the mill ADD, as there were many times when I could trigger a period of hyper focus,(I termed it “the zone”), which those I know who have standard ADD have told me that they cannot do without medication.

  58. whitespirit 20 years ago

    hmmm… i guess i don’t have NADD. I finished reading all the comments hear without going to another site. ^_^

  59. enlightening… there ARE others like me out there 🙂

  60. Have yet to read the entirety of this article without getting distracted by shiny URLs and iTunes. Have iTunes, two Safari windows, TextEdit, sorting through my desktop, attempting to do homework, listening to a Remix of Darth Vader’s theme…I have NADD. I just finished blogging, too!!

  61. Hi, I just followed a link to this article from… somewhere. Highly amusing, and speaks to a real truth in many of us.

    Sometimes it’s a blessing to be capable of digesting such a torrent of media and information, but frequently it’s a curse against actually getting anything accomplished. Occasionally, if there’s something really crucial I need to be doing, I’ll actually shut down the computer and start it again, vowing that I won’t pull up a web browser or related app until I actually need it.

  62. At this moment I have four tabs open in Firefox, I’m translating a document into Spanish, chatting with my brother over yahoo messenger, corresponding through email with my sister and commenting about this article. OH well… Time to do something else.

  63. Does anyone find that NADD also affects your ability to ‘focus’ on anyone person, as in say, a relationship? Once the initial zip is gone, you just desperately want to get out and get to the next?

  64. i thought your article was going to be boring the moment i saw the title “Guns of the South”

    Soooooo, i skipped down and read the last paragraph, felt it was good, and then read the rest

    at the moment i have outlook express open reading email, 6 browser windows, 4 windows explorer, and i’m talking on the phone 😉

    The deluge of information available around tends to bog me down a bit sometimes though. At times I’ve spent 14 hours straight, on the internet, reading and browsing articles.


  65. Steve 19 years ago

    In an essay I read years ago, Susan Sontag referred to a similar sort of affliction – “Attention Surplus Disorder” – too much stuff to work on and pay attention at once with all of it being a deep dive into more and more.

  66. Hey! I was just reading The Lost Boys” an article by Frank Rose in the August 2004 issue of Wired Magazine – Yeah, I know. I am a little behind in my reading. and he mentions the exact same situation as NADD. Page 119, left column, up to the beginning of the paragraph above the shoutbox starts with…

    “”This younger generation has a filter mechanism,” observes [some yahoo, blah blah blah …]” They can be doing their homework, listening to music, watching TV, on the PC, and on the phone, all at the same time. It drives my wife crazy. You assume they’re just screwing around – but they’re not.” This ability to focus is governed by a complex neural network called the reticular activating system, which filters sensory input to keep the brain from being overwhelmed.”

    Wow. It’s like they read your post but didn’t credit you.

  67. Finally made it to the bottom of the comments with only 5 interruptions. Slow day for the NADD in me. *lol* 6 tabbed browsers, (Google, RiR, MadProf, My Blog,, & an itchy trigger finger poised on the next link).

    Diagnosed w/ Adult ADD 10 years ago, but I knew that way b4 the doc confirmed it.

    My NADD equation: Google + Paltalk + Blogs + Message boards + MP3’s X Changing desktops every so often = Blissful tranquility.

    Ok. I need a life. Anyone have a link? 😉

  68. I will keep it straight up simple. *bows and worships bows and worships* now if only we could get the American Medical Association to recognize this as a actual disease as you described it…

  69. Randy 19 years ago

    Sums up everything in my life pretty well. I watch movies 15 minutes at a time, often putting them away for months before coming back to them. Sometimes, though, I’ll watch 15 minutes of one movie, 20 minutes of another, 15 minutes of a third, then pop back to the first for another 15-20 minutes of viewing. My wife hates watching movies with me. I can be watching something, and right in the middle of it, I’ll get up, go get a drink, and forget I was watching something and head to check my email and 5-6 forums I frequent. After I’m gone 10-15 minutes, my wife will call upstairs to ask if I’m coming back to finish watching the movie.

    Medication does help. I’m too ADD to perform well at much of anything without some treatment. That’s the other side of this issue.

    While reading this, I had to stop and post a link to it on one of my web sites – – and email the link to a few family members. If you check out my site just listed, read my 2nd post ever there. Sounds like it is probably related to this exact issue.

    I only have 3 things open, but I’m at work, so have very limited applications available on the desktop. Fortunately, I’ve got Firefox running, and typically maintain 10-15 open tabs. Some (3-4) I usually leave open to come back to another day, but others (5-10) I flip between, typically while waiting for something to load in another tab. Or, I’ll get tired of one forum I’m visiting, and hit another in another tab, and then load Slashdot in another while I wait for the forum I’m trying to get to to open.

    I love this article.

  70. miard 19 years ago


  71. haha, wow. that is me. and im about to be taken over by zone mode. no talking!

  72. DTOWN 19 years ago

    ya all aint bullshitin dogg i suffer from dis shit my self im sittin here listin ta muzik downloadin muzik readin dis talkin on aim fuckin wit a couple programs n got a movie on pause n tryin ta ingore my cellphone but it jus aint happenin so peace out n ya all take care

  73. This sounds like a schizotypal disorder. I definately have this. Every been in a NADD rambling mood where you can’t stop talking about everthing and nothing all at once?

  74. chaoticset 19 years ago

    I’m sick of being the guy who was told that he should major in Miscellaneous.

    How do I get rid of NADD?

  75. matti 19 years ago

    Finally – I’ve discovered the name for my affliction.

    I’m 28 and for years I’ve wondered what my problem is, to my friends and colleagues I appear to be a know it all for all the useless information I’m able to spout on pretty much any subject at anytime.

    I’m a pain in the ass to those I share an office with due to the amount of noise and chaos I require to undertake my daily routine.

    For example

    It’s late – I’m working offshore on a vessel in th middle of the ocean – at the moment I’m currently writing a procedure, watching a survey monitor though I have no clue what any of it means – I think it could have something to do with positioning (I will have to find out before I finish typing this email), watching a video display of what’s going on on the seabed listening to reggae have 12 web pages open, writing this email and most importantly planning my next holiday.

    If there was a television available to me right now I’m sure it would be switched on – most probably the Discovery channel as well!!

    The fact remains that if I did not have all this happening at the same time there is no way I would be able to perform by job efficiently and affectively.

    The problem is no one else understands.

    It’s frustrating but at the end of the day who cares really – I sincerely believe those who embrace this condition and prise themselves from there P.C’s for a while could actually end up fitting as much in to life as is humanly possible because those who are like this actually get a little done of everything.

  76. barbobot 19 years ago

    Do Virtual Terminals count? what about screen sessions?

  77. miller (do I really do that) 19 years ago

    I kinda thought that I had a problem, but I wasn’t sure. I leave things to the last minute trying to cram as much stuff that I had to do as I can into the final minutes before going to work. Sometimes I’ll be listening to music, cleaning my room it always needs it and never lasts. Recording a T.V. shows, instant messaging, downloading, making lunch, starting the truck, moving tracks to my mp3 player or burning a disc, and who knows what else. I’m constantly late for stuff including work 3 strikes and your out, funny I haven’t been fired yet 3yrs. Always alot of stuff to do but never enough time. Never did read the book never heard of it til now. Hey a least I know what the problem is now. I could go on but I won’t

  78. Peter 18 years ago

    Don’t care so much for the name but I definitely recognize the symptoms 🙂

    Like the term ‘zone’. When I’m up programming all night again, there’s a point where I get into a sort of trance and spit out code like ya wouldn’t believe!

    I can see how *ADD can be a real problem to people, as is has been for me. For those that recognize ‘the zone’ / trance: you can also try to see the advantages: Think of it as an ability rather than a disability. I think that’ll get you alot further than trying to get rid of something that’s deeply ingrained in your character.

    Cheers for the great post!

  79. billyswong 18 years ago

    I am unsure should I be called NADD. The point is I concentrate only one thing at a time. But the fact is since I have installed Firefox and SessionSaver, there’s like 15+ tabs opened every minutes. And I should be doing homework at this moment…

  80. I’ve been accused of being a multi-tasker, a “Type-A” personality, Know-it-all, “Tech Geek” and “TechnoSexual” (Last one from a friend who keeps open all the time.)

    However, even 3 years later, this post is relevant. I’m even worse now 3 years later with all of the technology and access to information.

    High, my name is Shane and I suffer from N.A.D.D. I think it started back with my father who also suffered…….

  81. marnie 18 years ago

    Yes, an open channel, reading forum posts, doing

    research on eight different pages, while running

    down info on a question I had on something that I

    can’t remember why I wanted it.

    The frightening thing is that I’m starting to twitch

    if the computer slows down for more than a second.

    Yeah, I love it.

  82. Hm, Nerd? Check! Working on many things concurrently? Check! Retreat into a zone? Check! Music or TV? To distracting, but when I listen or watch I am zapping like crazy. Unless I make a choice to totally loose myself in something.

    However, many of the multitude of things I have open are just “soaking”, but this is a more recent topic on this site then this article about NADD.

    And I do tasks “breath-first” (It is a term programmers use for a way to process trees; it’s an alternative for depth-first). It’s like first enumerating possible ways to proceed, then quickly get some idea about each alternative and at last the explore the more interesting alternatives deeper. E.g. after googling I first open every interesing link into a tab and then read/close each and leaving open those I find more interesting. This process can be interupted for any number of reasons, even new topics to google.

    Same when I read a blog or an article: each interesting link becomes like a todo.

    The funny thing about being a know-it-all, is that I am who gets to be the one who introduces people to new things. And what I tell people, if they were interested, they might repeat it to others and I get to hear “echos” of my explanation from different directions. I really enjoy that.

    There is a risk, however. People assume I already know things and at times I seem to miss something important.

  83. Thanks!!! Very nice site.I enjoy being here.

  84. Sónia Luginger 18 years ago

    I didn’t knew that you meet my boyfriend!?! 😉

    Thank’s for divulging that N.A.D.D. exist. :*

  85. Thank you for writing this blogposting, you made me laugh. I think lots of people recognized themselves in your description.

  86. LOL N.A.D.D? It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one suffering from the disorder! I looked at my desktop and I found that I have a Word document open, the iTunes app, the Quicktime app, a folder, a screen capture program, and 8 Firefox windows. I didn’t count how many tabs are open in those windows but I think you get the picture. LOL When’s the N.A.D.D rehab meeting? I think I ought to go! Great posting. Thanks for the laugh! 🙂

  87. This is me to a T……………You pretty much nailed it.

  88. Ben Perry 17 years ago

    Too funny….had to make this for fellow NADD sufferers:

  89. I constantly hear, that alcohol in small amounts even is useful. It is the truth or an invention of alcoholics? WBR LeoP

  90. Woohoo! I didnt really get it at first. I wanted to go check CDC and for N.A.D.D! Now, Im sure I have it. All the symptoms. Has got the good and the bad, but I love it.

    Great read! You inspire me 🙂

    N3RD AL3RT_

  91. OMG You just described my life and the response of many of my colleagues and family… “You can’t possibly work with all that on”

  92. Marie 17 years ago

    NADD describes me quite well, although it extends to many other things when I’m at home, including cooking, cleaning, and other projects I have laid out all over the place. I find it fitting that my favorite music has many different layers and may sound chaotic and static-y to the “normal” person.

  93. I’m married to a NADD . . . any support groups out there??? I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time . . . atleast now I know what he’s got!

  94. I’ve had NADD going on 40 years now ;p

    But I think you should refer to it as Nerd Attention Deficit Disorder 😉

  95. Rishi 17 years ago

    There really should be a NADD support group. The last time I looked up something like NADD I found an Internet Addiction site, but its not nearby the same thing. Internet Addiction isn’t about multi-tasking.

    Anyways, I have 7 browser tabs open, and 4 applications. Oh yeah, I skimmed through 7 Articles on NADD in the last 10 minutes 🙂

  96. Coooooooooool blog man….i enjoyed…..

  97. I recently figured out that I can be in a phone meeting and carry on 3 IM conversations at once … but not 4. When I hit 4 I have to ‘snooze’ some of them until I finish some.

  98. Joe Sanders 14 years ago

    Not three sentences in, I got to “what if, during the Civil War, the South became equipped with a lot of AK-47s” and at that precise moment I began to scan through the remainder of the article trying to determine where the relevant information was, became aware of what I had done, and then continued reading where I left off. Ironic much?

  99. My goodness. I’m NADD to the n-th degree. My firefox has got facebook (with 3 chats), my Amazon cart, “Is Nerdiness Hereditary?”, a blog post in progress, my sociology homework, and information on online graduate programs in Library science. I’ve also got some wizard rock playing in the background, Spirted Away (on mute) on the TV, a drawing I’m working on my desk, and The Stand by Stephen King open on top of that.

  100. Mike Credits 14 years ago

    I rolled my mouse over the links NEXT BIG THING and just about jumped out of my skin. I use and advocate all 3 apps and can’t stand it when people “don’t get” why I’d use them all.

  101. It is interesting to read this theory and parade of its appendix in gambling.

    That I know on every side it – it concerns statistics, is applied to the resolution of the nonlinear equations.

    Vastly much the explanation to the pretty pickle arbitration (for till at this very moment anybody so plainly explain nothing a smog) interests:

    There is a teleshow – the athlete and the leader.

    There are three doors. Behind joke of them the windfall, behind two others is not present.

    The leader offers a choice to the gambler that justify chooses any of 3 doors (their probabilities are tally with).

    After the prize is made, the principal who knows where lies a trophy, opens in unison of those doors that are not chosen by means of the player and shows that there the purse is not present. Also suggests the player to choose aeons ago again already between 2 doors.

    Beyond consideration – how to arrive to the player? (In a beginning it is specified that it is necessary to replace a desirable, the odds of a pickings behind a door on which was specified nearby the trouper who is doing not direct = 66.7 %.

    Profoundly much I wait in compensation councils or at least references where to look.

    An eye to more intersting look