Single-minded : an Internet reader, made for readers, made by readers

By Yong-Siang Shih / Sun 20 October 2013 / In categories Ideas

Internet, browser

Realization

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.

Single-tasking

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:

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.

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.

Never Going Back

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.

New Steps

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.

New Steps

Manage the Tasks

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:

Manage the Tasks

A New Way to Utilize History

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.

Never Waiting for Loading

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.

Final Words

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.

Yong-Siang Shih

Author

Yong-Siang Shih

Software Engineer, Machine Learning Scientist, Open Source Enthusiast. Worked at Appier building machine learning systems, and interned at Google, IBM, and Microsoft as software engineering intern. Love to learn and build things.

Load Disqus Comments