My varied types of Firefox windows
When I wrote about what I want out of my window manager, I mentioned that I have a plethora of Firefox windows, generally iconified to my desktop. This may sound like things are out of control (and in a way they are), but there is some method to my madness. I actually have a number of different sorts of Firefox windows.
In no particular order, I have Firefox windows for:
- things that I'm actively working on or using. These are the
windows that are most likely to be open, instead of iconified; I
tend to iconify them only if I'm running out of space.
- things that I'm relatively actively reading. I'm one of those
people who gets distracted or just doesn't want to read one thing
for too long (and sometimes I get interrupted), so I tend to have
several things that I'm reading through at any given time.
- things that I refresh and look at on a regular basis, either
temporarily or on a regular basis. Now that I'm writing this,
I've realized that I should shift some of these to my browser
start page, because that's part of what
it's there for.
- things that I'm holding around as references for other things I'm
doing. In theory these aren't permanent; in practice, sometimes
the other thing falls down my priority list and its reference
windows wind up sitting around for a long time.
A related category is web pages I'm going to mention in email, a Wandering Thoughts entry, or something like that; here I have the web page still around as a way of both keeping its URL and reminding me of it.
- things that I have aspirations of reading (or getting to) but in practice I'm not going to get to any time soon, or perhaps ever. This includes things that I've stopped being that interested in (but I can't admit it to myself and close the window), and things that I feel I should be interested in but, well, I'll read them later, someday.
Sometimes these windows have multiple tabs; this is especially common for references and things I'm actively working on.
I can't pile all of these different types of windows together in one clump (such as a bunch of tabs in a single window), even sorted by title, because I need to keep what type of window they are straight. Right now I keep track of that primarily based on where each window is iconified on my screen; some areas and some arrangements are for one purpose, other arrangements and areas are for others.
Some of these (the 'aspirations of reading' windows) could be dealt with better if I had a good way to archive a window and list and track my archived windows. This would probably take a Firefox addon; the ideal one would archive the entire window state (what Firefox currently saves in its session store, that's used to restore all your windows when restarting Firefox) and be able to completely return it to life, as if I'd never closed that window and all its tabs.
(Right now I have a little local HTML file where I sort of do this by hand. You can guess how often this happens, and it just has URLs and titles (and the date when I put them there), so it's less convenient than 'just give me the window back'.)
Some method to group and then de-group specific Firefox windows on demand would also help, because then I could have a group for each sort of thing and put windows into it that I'm not actively looking at right now. I'm not sure if I'd want this to be the same 'archive' mechanism as for things I don't expect to look at for some time, because that would probably put these other web pages a bit too far out of my mind. That probably means it's not something that should be done by Firefox but instead by my window manager somehow.
(It's quite possible that there are some good Firefox addons for dealing with this sort of thing. I haven't looked into the area very much, or even really thought about what might be possible to do inside Firefox.)
I now think that blog 'per day' pages with articles are a mistake
Back in 2005 when I wrote DWiki, the engine that is used for Wandering Thoughts, there was an accepted standard structure for blogs that people followed, me included. For instance, it was accepted convention that the front page of your blog showed a number of the most recent articles, and you could page backward to older ones. Part of this structure was the idea that you would have a page for each day and that page would show the article or articles written that day (if any). When I put together DWiki's URL structure for blog-like areas, I followed this, and to this day Wandering Thoughts has these per-day pages.
I now think that these per day pages are not the right thing to do on the modern web (for most blogs), for three reasons. The first reason is that they don't particularly help real blog usability, especially getting people to explore your blog after they land on a page. Most people make at most one post a day, so exploring day by day doesn't really get you anything more than links in a blog entry to the next entry and the previous entry will (and if the links have the destination's title, they will probably be giving you more information than a day).
The second reason is that because they duplicate content from your actual articles, they confuse search engine based navigation. Perhaps the search engine will know that the actual entry is the canonical version and present that in preference to the per-day page where the entry is also present, but perhaps not. And if you do have two entries in one day, putting both of their texts on one page risks disappointment in someone who is searching for a combination of terms where one term is only in one entry and the other term is in a second.
The third and weakest reason is a consequence of how on the modern web, everything gets visited. Per-day pages are additional pages in your blog and web crawlers will visit them, driving up your blog's resource consumption in the process. These days my feelings are that you generally want to minimize the number of pages in your blog, not maximize them, something I've written about more in The drawback of having a dynamic site with lots of URLs on today's web. But this is not a very strong reason, if you have a reasonably efficient blog and you serve per-day pages that don't have the full article text.
I can't drop per-day pages here on Wandering Thoughts, because I know that people have links to them and I want those links to keep working as much as possible. The simple thing to do is to stop putting full entries on per-day pages, and instead just put in their title and a link to them (just as I already do on per-month and per-year pages); this at least gets rid of the duplication of entry text and makes it far more likely that search engine based navigation will deliver people to the actual entry. The more elaborate thing would be to automatically serve a HTTP redirect to the entry for any per-day page that had only a single entry.
(For relatively obvious reasons you'd want to make this a temporary redirect.)
There's a bit of me that's sad about this shift in blog design and web usage; the per-day, per-month, and per-year organization had a pleasant regularity and intuitive appeal. But I think its time has passed. More and more, we're all tending toward the kind of minimal URL structure typical of static sites, even when we have dynamic sites and so could have all the different URL structures and ways of accessing our pages that we could ask for.