21 Mar 2021

Browser Tabs are not Bookmarks or Todos

I understand the title of this post as a concept but in reality I abuse browser tabs for both bookmarks and todos on a daily basis. Indeed, it is typically the case that I have around 50 tabs open in each browser on each computer I use. The tabs I have open on my work laptop are almost all directly for work and I do it so can always quickly access whatever resource it is that I need. For example, I have probably 5 Jira tabs, multiple AWS tabs, tabs for GoCD and RunDeck, tabs for all of the Salesforce sandboxes I need to access and a bunch of tabs for things I have looked up, whether they were recent or not. On my Mac for my personal use it is the same, just the tab content is different. Right now I have no less than 7 tabs open to YouTube videos which I have either already watched or want to remember. It works, but there must be a better way.

Of course this is where my friends and co-workers would say "make bookmarks." I have tried to use bookmarks in the past, which you can easily see from looking at the bookmarks I have saved but for whatever reason I have never gotten in the habit of going there when looking for something. Maybe this is because search is so fast and generally accurate. Whatever the reason, the result is that I just have lots of tabs. A lot of the tabs are kept in a specific order left to right so even if they are so small that I can only see the favicon I usually know which one I need. What is strange is that even though I have a lot of faith in search I still horde tabs for information I've looked up and might need to access again. This works less well than the tabs for bookmarks strategy because unlike those tabs these have no particular order and even the favicons don't help because they aren't accessed frequently enough for me to have associated them with the content. For this, I'm sure there is a better way.

Recently I've been putting quite a bit of effort into increasing what I use emacs for and org-mode is one of the main new things I've been using. Org-mode does a lot and I've been getting into it bit by bit. This morning I spent time getting org capture set up, including using org-protocol to capture both links and selections from the web browser (Firefox so far but I suspect Safari will work in the same way.) So now I actually have a nice, integrated way to capture not only the web pages I have open in tabs but also snippets of the content from those web pages. I have all of the captures going to my file which I intend to review on a regular (once a day or so) basis and use org-refile to place in a permanent home. This could include becoming a todo or just a section in another org document for future reference. I haven't configured refile yet so that is a pending todo.

So why bother? Keeping all of the tabs open isn't really a strain on the system (except for Windows where memory and task management both seem lousy, though that may be due to our corporate-imposed anti-virus system.) For the bookmark-style tabs my access to those resources is actually faster than it would be through either opening a bookmark or using search. What I am mainly concerned with is the cognitive load of seeing all of those tabs and the focus disruption that can occur when I click on a tab that isn't what I need. I can easily get sucked into a topic and start delving into the rabbit hole instead of focusing on what I should be doing.

This is a work in progress and I plan to follow up this post in the future. I may detail my configuration since I encountered numerous out-dated information when trying to get set up. But mostly what I'd like to do is to see if I can follow a new strategy and see what, if anything, comes out of it.

Tags: emacs gtd web
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