I’ve known it for a long time that it’s difficult for me to read long articles on the web. I thought it’s because of the screen. It made my eyes get tired so easily. However, when I started to read The Shallows written by Nicholas Carr, I realized that it’s not only the screen. The Internet itself is distracting.
I started to remember that, I often clicked between different tabs aimlessly. I repeatedly opened and reopened the Facebook page or my email inbox, wasting my time getting nothing. Indeed, I realized that I was so impatient that whenever the browser was loading a new page, I would switch to another tab, because I did not want to wait for it.
Once I noticed this, I started to think about possible solutions to overcome this problem – a new way of browsing. If I could get rid of the waiting time, maybe tabs would no longer be needed? If I could get rid of the tabs, maybe the Internet would be less distracting.
To focus on one time at a time when browsing, the first thing I would need to change is the bookmarks. Bookmarks are distracting. Whenever I open the browser, I need to choose between different websites, and this decision is difficult to make. Indeed, because those tiny icons always compete for my attention, I get distracted easily and forget my tasks. Instead of choosing between different websites, I should simply choose between Tasks:
Each Task is composed of multiple Steps, and each Step has its own history of pages. When I click on one Task, the browser would only display one page: the last viewed page of the first Step.
It shouldn’t be allowed to open two Tasks at the same time. I must complete one Task before I can go to the home page again. This makes me focus on one thing at a time.
When I am in a Step, I can go back and forth through history within the Step as usual. But once I proceed to the next Step, there is no going back. This design forces me to focus on one Step at a time and encourages me to complete one Step before I go on to the next. But of course, sometimes I may want to read some other references before I can complete a Step. In this case, I can push the current Step to the end of the current Task, so I can come back to it later. By pushing everything to the end, I can actually keep every Step open, but even in this case, a linear flow is still maintained.
Since I have no tabs, I cannot open a new page in a different tab. Instead, I open it in the current Step or in a new Step. For example, when I am reading an article, I can look up unfamiliar words in new Steps, so I can finish the current article and then look at those definitions later.
Whenever I complete one Task, I go back to the home screen. At that time, I have the opportunity to merge my history into the original Task or create a new one. In addition, I should have an intuitive interface to easily manage the Tasks:
History is a seldom used feature. Actually, sorting web pages by visited time simply does not make sense. Sometimes I want to find some pages that I visited before, but it’s often extremely difficult to locate the exact position in history. However, with Single-minded, the history is naturally grouped for each task. It’s easy to guess where the page might be. Also, because I can preserve all history into Tasks if I want, history becomes an useful feature that I can utilize to better manage my Tasks.
The linear browsing makes it easy for the browser to guess which page I will read next. So it should be easy for the browser to preload the pages and completely eliminate the waiting time for me.
I choose to publish this article because I realize that I may not have too much time to polish this idea and implement it. As you can see, this article is still very primitive. But I hope someone may be able to find something valuable in this idea, and help us escape from the distracting dilemma.