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Open tabs are cognitive spaces (rybakov.com)
45 points by spython on Mar 25, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 27 comments

We couldn't agree more, Michail. So much so that we founded a company (Workona Inc.) and built pretty much exactly what you've described.

Workona's extension turns your browser windows into "smart windows" (workspaces) that remember the tabs you open in them. This allows you to shut a project and pick up right where you left off later.

Your workspaces will help you split up your 477 open tabs into the 70 projects, topics and ideas you talked about. Workona also lets you "switch to these groups in your workflow" seamlessly so you can focus on one thing at a time. Soon workspaces will be sharable and even have URLs that can be used to access them, which will open the set of tabs in their own window. To ensure workspaces open quickly, we prevent the tabs from loading the content until you click on them.

We haven't officially launched yet, but we recently opened up the beta if you want to try it out (only Chrome for now, but support for Firefox coming soon). We'd love to hear your thoughts: https://workona.com

Also, saving the workspace requires naming them, which may be a flow-breaking meta-question. "How should I call what I'm doing right now" is not always an easy question to answer. Maybe some favicon-based graphical collage would be viable?

This is an awesome idea, I just installed and tried it out. A few things jump out at me: if you have fifty tabs open, the first use experience is a little painful--you want to be able to create workspaces and quickly file things away, but it's a very slow process. Opening a workspace pops you into a new view, and it's not immediately obvious what to do from there.

I get that the first use may not be the case you're optimizing for, but it was a bit frustrating.

Glad you like it! You’re right that onboarding can be tough for users with lots of tabs. We're working on a few things that will make it easier.

The intended initial set up flow is: - Create a workspace (+ button next to the word “Workspaces”) - Switch to the window with all your unsorted tabs - Drag and drop the tabs into your workspaces (multi-select coming soon)

Things get much easier once you’re set up. Workspaces are essentially smart browser windows, so you can just open a new (unsaved) window and browse like you normally do. If at any point you decide you want to save the window as a workspace, you simply click on our icon and give it a name.

That is amazing!

I've only tried it out for a few minutes, but it already functions really well.

One of the more important issues is the privacy - as I was installing the extension into chrome it asked me for permission to know my e-mail address. While as a user I might get easily deanonymized through my browsing patterns, but associating my browsing data directly with my e-mail is something I'd like to avoid. Especially in light of current facebook discussions it would be very important to get privacy right.

There's something about saved/unsaved/open/closed workspaces that doesn't feel right. Maybe because I came to expect that everything gets saved. I'll think about it more.

Uninstalling and reinstalling the extension doesn't recreate the 'saved' workspaces, which adds a feeling of fragility.

Otherwise it looks great and search is a nice touch. Looking forward to shareable works spaces!

Thanks! Our founding team is very privacy-conscious ourselves and certainly understand your concerns in light of the recent news. Right now the extension stores all your data locally (hence uninstall resulting in loss of workspaces). We’re working on building online backup / sync and are doing so very thoughtfully with regard to data security.

Glad to hear that you like the search feature! Clicking on a workspace in the search results is very similar to what will happen when someone opens the workspace URL from a calendar invite, etc.

Your point about workspace naming is one we have considered carefully. We think it’s important to have a name to use as a handle to reference later or your workspaces quickly turn into your tab graveyard. The last thing we want is for people to say “I have no idea what any of this is.”

If you don’t want to give it a name, that’s fine, just don’t close the window. When you’re ready to close it, take a moment to give it a name you can remember it by, then shut it.

That is an interesting problem - creating, naming and remembering spaces. Can a space have a name, a real name before it exists and can be experienced? How does naming a space influence its content?

I've run into a bug of duplicate workona tab, do you have an email address to send a screenshot to?

Thanks for letting us know about the bug. Please send the screenshot to the email listed on our HN profile: https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=workona

I was about to mention how I started using this neat new extension called Workona just this month but you guys are here yourselves. Been loving the organization and cleaner browsing so far!

Glad you're enjoying it!

Interesting service. How do you plan to use the info you gather from users? Do you filter our intranet sites?

We won’t ever sell your data under any circumstances. Our business model is focused on increasing your productivity at work, not data collection. In other words, no one will ever see your URLs but you (except for the collaborators you explicitly share your workspaces with).

I agree with the premise, but I think that I actually want something closer to the opposite. >95% of the things I look up are dead ends. Because these externalized cognitive spaces have weight and complexity, I often want to just wipe them out completely and start over.

I've turned my Safari "remove history items" preference to a short interval, specifically to minimize the cognitive overload that URL completion will have.

(I was disappointed to learn that Firefox removed the history expiry setting entirely. All of the forum questions asking for it are met with answers like "We use an efficient database now, so you don't need to set an expiration time!" Cool, but the implementation architecture had nothing to do with why that was a useful feature.)

I also use private browsing a lot. Need to check a quick fact on Wikipedia, that isn't directly related to my main work? Private browsing window. Some people are obsessive about keeping their Git history clean. I'm obsessive about keeping my browser history clean. In a sense, my browser history is the workspace imagined here, only with a less efficient UI.

Instead of a separate concept of "private browsing", though, I would love it if I could option-click a close button (on a window or tab) and have it erase all history/cookies that were generated by it. That would make history curation much easier.

For Chrome I like to use the "Bookmark all tabs" option (Ctrl-Shift-D). When I am in the middle of researching a topic but want to shift gears, I save bookmarks to a new subfolder in my "Working Tabs" folder. Then I delete all tabs. That way (1) I know I can restore to this state if I need to, (2) I keep separate trains of thought from getting muddled, and (3) I can keep a relatively Zen workspace.

Vivaldi literally does everything this article wants. Without addons or extensions. Also does what https://workona.com does. See: https://vivaldi.com/features/.

And before that, Opera has had tab stacking and sessions saving for years.

Don't remember if they were shared, and there's no way to test now that the cloud for version 12 and earlier has gone offline.

(Moral of the story: don't rely on clouds for things you want to have in five years)

I really like this idea. I use Pocket pretty heavily for bookmarking, but there has been something off about it and nearly any other solution that I used that I couldn't quite pinpoint. I think this is part of the issue. I save a set of bookmarks on a topic over a period of time, but it isn't easy to get access to all of those bookmarks again. Searching doesn't quite accomplish the goal because I might have been looking into a similar topic months ago, but a search will return results from both "mental sessions" together and I have to separate them myself.

I have tried saving all of my bookmarks also, but then I usually have to remove my pinned tabs that are part of my overall workflow and not part of the mental session.

If you're using Qutebrowser you can save your sessions and name them whatever you want, switch between them, and come back to them later if needed. That's your immutable tabs collection.

Tabs are ephemeral. I just lost all my tabs after restarting Firefox to free up some memory, even though I set it up to restore them: https://www.gkayaalp.com/blog/20180326_quitting-firefox.html. Be careful using them. This is probably the weirdest HN post that gave me glistening eyes...

Look for backups of places.sqlite in your Firefox profile folder. ~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles on mac.

If you didn't restart Firefox again there should be a backup of opened tabs saved in your profile folder!

I'll try, thanks, but I did restart it again... I was able to recollect some of the tabs via remembering them and searching through recent feeds and emails. Some importand to-be-read stuff are gone though.

As a stepgap for Firefox, I found that TabMarks fills that purpose. It keeps working spaces (windows) synced with tab folders.

There's one mismatch though - closing a window clears a space. To save it for later, I switch to an empty workspace first.

This is a fantastic idea. I use Firefox containers for this purpose, but they do not utilize Firefox Sync, and so the grouping is limited to a single device.

Do you mean the Firefox multi-account containers? Wouldn't that just add some coloured bar on the tabs (and separate logins etc) without hiding the currently unused tabs?

The UX/UI is very poor in my experience, since I'm a heavy user of Firefox Containers, know about the feature, need it, and never use it, but if you click the Containers icon and have some container tabs active, it will display a right arrow indicating there are more actions available where you can hide the tabs of a specific Container group so that you can unclutter the browser and access them later.

My open bar tab agrees.

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