Reflections of a Tab-a-holic

So I tried. My little experiment in trying to tame my attention deficit by limiting the number of tabs I would allow open at one time — FAIL. I suppose it was doomed to failure from the outset, but I learned a few things along the way about attention and how we browse:

  • Hyperlinking is the life-blood of the Internet. Emphasis on the “hyper.”
  • 95% of the content you encounter on the web is about 25% as interesting as you hoped it might be. Which is why there are so many things crammed around the content itself — things like banner ads and links to other content some algorithm written by some programmer came up with. It shouldn’t be a crime to be interested enough to open up a link that intrigues you. Either we have to develop a better instinct (either from experience or some magical ESP) about what these links will lead to or we have to rely on filters to determine what links have a higher probability of being very, very interesting and valuable so as to be worth opening a new tab.
  • Web apps have a significant browser footprint. By default I tend to leave open tabs for webmail (Gmail), social networking (Facebook), and news (Nytimes). That’s at least 3 out of 7 already (if we’re trying to keep it below 7). I’ve heard productivity strategies that tell you to check these sites only twice a day or something crazy like that. Yeah, right.
  • Tabs = cognitive real estate. Throughout the day, you get links sent to you via email, or you stumble upon them or you see them on Facebook, and occasionally, you pop one open. And another. And another. And you forget to close them. Or some of them, you decide to leave open, because you want to re-tweet it, save it in delicious, or finish reading it later but you don’t want to go hunting for it again (where did I see that link?). Or sometimes you want them there as research for a blog post, and you want to refer back to it. You start your blog post, but you haven’t quite figured out what you want to say…
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