Ted Chiang has a short story called "The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling", that describes how certain technologies have changed the ways we use our minds.
For as long as browsers have reopened the tabs of their previous sessions, I've been using the window and tab states of my browsers as extensions of my long term memory. We all have, sort of, but I'm an extreme case. And it's been empowering, but also very risky and limiting in certain ways.
In the past month, on two separate Macs, I've destroyed Safari by burdening it with my open, forgotten tabs. Why Safari? (Because Firefox and Chrome fare even worse.) On my work computer, I lost more tabs than I knew, and whatever ideas they represented to me.
On my personal computer, I managed to figure out where that data is stored. Surprise! It's a file. A hidden, proprietary-formatted file. I was able to extract it, and converted it to HTML.
In other words, I've been trusting a web browser's window management system to persist some very straightforward data, as an extension of my brain, but in a risk-prone way that has resulted in some significant data loss.
Combined with my latest macOS upgrade fiasco, switching OSes feels really appealing right now.
They used to say "In Unix, everything's a file".
If I'm going to extend my brain with a computer, the extensions should be text files organized in folder hierarchies.
Here's my idea for a mind bike.
1. The file thing. I shouldn't have to struggle to read, write and organize things that matter. Computers have excelled at this for decades.
2. I should be able to quickly turn folders of bookmarks into windows of tabs and back. More importantly, I should be able to do this with almost any open process.
3. My system ought to model activities as compositions of documents and the processes that interpret them. It should be trivial to organize activities.
My dad @josefsachs (Happy New Year dad!) pointed out that there are decades-old window management systems that support the memoization of window and document state to some extent.
I wouldn't be a Merveillian, would I, if I wasn't willing to explore a tool or paradigm that's collected dust for twenty years.
In summary, I'll probably be doing some serious OS feng shui this year, if I can manage it. And I hope to write about that here as I work things out.
I mean, where else would I share it?
@rezmason I feel like this is why I have some many tabs open all the time. It's like a tactile map of my current interests and mind state.
The fact that different tangents can rub up against each other as the tabs multilply at the top of the window lets me rediscover things that I was looking into weeks ago, like walking into a room and having a smell trigger a memory.
I'd love to see/support someone build a memex atop Teliva. Cc @zens for https://merveilles.town/@zens/107540522431580737 and @karolbelina for https://merveilles.town/@karolbelina/107363022378957548. Maybe not even just one. Let's just each try to build/mock up a core of what we want to see, and compare notes.
Anyway: cool idea, Rez! Perhaps we could collaborate/exchange ideas, I am also very tab/editor centric. [[project snapshot]] is meant to be in this space. What did you use to extract/massage tab information? I've been using [[tabfs]] but it's flaky.
@flancian I just went poking around the Safari folder in my user's Library directory, and find a file called LastSession.plist that contained data about every tab in every window. Xcode let me convert it from binary to XML plist format, and I'm pretty good at using Sublime Text to change that into JSON and HTML. 😊 But not every Mac app has a file like that, and I'm not keen on relying on Macs for bike parts in general 😅
@rezmason okay i should finish my meme project. (my markdown dialect for nested documents and the processes to interpret them)
@rezmason a major problem i want solved is that saving tab urls isn’t enough because of login states, website updates and edits and link rot. sometimes i want to capture what was at that url *when* I was looking at it
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