Geeky Things

I’ve had a couple things cross my radar recently that I’d like to see be improved somehow… either in Flock (or browsers in general), RSS aggregators or blogging tools.

Better Reading through Columnization

Web reading vs. TofuWhich do you prefer? I think it’s quite apparent that Tofu makes reading webpages and blog posts infinitely easier and more enjoyable. So where’s the Firefox extension? Huh huh? I guarentee you this will get into Flock eventually… if not my next RSS aggregator. Or both…?

Well, looks like the recent Firefox betas already have this. Now to just see some smart Tofu-like uses of this feature!

DOM state in history

With all the hoopla about AJAX-based interfaces, it’s about time that browsers get keen to the fact that the DOM state is part of your history. It’s not some scripty side-effect — no, when I use the back button, I expect the page to be in the same state that I left it. This should be the case whether I navigate off to some other page or close the window or tab. The only way to restore the state of a page back to its original state should occur if I clear my history or exit out of my browser (or somehow reset the DOM through some other intentional mechanism).

And this should exist in the browser because it’s the thing that’s storing my path history. So what does it mean when the browser adds DOM state to my history? For example, when I use Gmail and navigate off to some other page and then return, I would no longer lose the email I was reading or composing. In fact, I could even load up Gmail in a new tab or window and find myself in the same place where I left off. Which is exactly what I want.

So the effect would be in effect to maintain your session state across tabs, windows… no matter where you are or what you’re doing, the browser would be staying with you, never skipping a beat, making sure that every little action you took was recorded and there for you to return to until you decided to start afresh.

It’s time the browser got wise to the current state of web application design. If not to encourage the further development of fast webapps like Basecamp or Flickr, but to make the browser reflect user expectations about the purpose of the back button!


BlogbarsThe last thing on my list concerns a rather recent feature that Matt just launched on It’s just like the Blogger toolbar, except that his bar applies to account holders instead of general visitors. It’s a good start, but I think it can be better. He’s open to ideas — as am I. How can this tool help you blog better?

Hmm, if only the browser could facilitate blogging somehow… heh.

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Author: Chris Messina

Head of West Coast Business Development at Republic. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Hashtag inventor. Previously: (YC W18), Uber, Google.

4 thoughts on “Geeky Things”

  1. The DOM state should be an option. More often than not, I want to be back at the top of a page rather than where I left off. Another example: I use Google as my home page, and I navigate back to it frequently (at other times, I’ve had a local portal page with a google search box embedded). By your lights, when I perform a search, my search should be saved in the textbox. This’d cost me effort, as I’d have to clear out the search box any time I hit my home button. So, good idea, but let me turn it on or off.

    Also, regarding columns, if it’s a long page, am I going to have to scroll all the way down reading short lines and then back up to scroll all the way down again? I’d find this painful. Or are you thinking the mechanism’d chop content into columns based on available vertical screen space. That is, you read two columns in the available screen height and then scroll down a screen to read two more columns, etc.? That seems more usable to me but might not be especially intuitive.

  2. DOM state:
    Not suer about safari in this, but konqueror (‘also’ based on KHTML) does the DOM state thing very well (all exept JS/AJAX set states). Everyone seems so excited about something like this in the new FF, but konqueror has done this for a while already. And I am not sure if it is really all that great. Yes, it is nice to use back- and get the blog entry you were just typing back, and to go to the comment on the page where you were last, on /.
    But I find myself hitting [refresh] awfully often. That is no good sign.

    I am just not yet sure if it is the way to go. That is all 🙂

  3. @Daryl: The way tofu works is that it uses the available vertical screen real estate. I’ve mocked up something to show this concept in Flock 0.2+/Firefox 1.5+. Check out my latest post about this.

    @Ber: Firefox does okay at remembering text in input fields, but it’s not great. Kevin Dangoor has an interesting post about this. I think that there is a smart balance somewhere in between retaining full state and degrading wisely. Obviously having to refresh all the time means that the solution isn’t quite right, but also blowing out whatever you were doing when you navigate elsewhere and return isn’t satisfactory.

    So from an experience design perspective, I think that there is something better that we can do… though it’s not an exact science and will require much debate and iteration. That’s what we designers are supposed to do, right?

  4. Chris:

    Seems like you have a hand in the new Flock browser so I have a idea for future feature.

    This feature would enable users, like myself, to post our MS Office “My Pictures” to Flock, similiar I believe to Flickr’s concept. Also, not unlike Picassa. But each photo I post to Flock would be tagged with the names of the people in my photos. In the interest of openness and transparency, Flock would require that any person listed in my photos have the option to opt-in or out of the service. This would be achieved by requiring that an opt-in email be sent to the 3rd parties listed in the photos I post. If they don’t opt-in then their names are not shown.

    That being said, once there are a critical mass of photos posted on Flock, anyone could do a search with their own name and all photos of him/her would appear and be available for downloading into a photo album. In this way, the service would be an opt-in photo sharing service.

    The cool thing would be that there might be photos of myself out there that I don’t know exist (such as those taken by a classmate at a recent reunion, or by my sister-in-law at 4th of July, etc) but would be psyched to have for my photo album. Lastly, in addition to ones’ self, others could give permission to their friends/family to “gather” their photos (i.e. I might give my mother permission to “gather” photos of my daughter Dasha.

    The key value-added feature is that the tags would be name specific with perhaps an area code of some other further filter.

    I’m sure there are other apps and extensions but I wanted to share this random idea with you. Thanks, TGP

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