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Show HN: How many miles do you think you've scrolled today? (chrome.google.com)
178 points by prashantb 68 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 92 comments

Can "Read and change all your data on the websites you visit"

Chrome extensions that require such extensive permissions make me extremely nervous and I don't think I'm alone. Is there a way to build this in a way that didn't require such elevated privileges?

It's been a while since I dabbled in Chrome extensions, but if nothing has changed, then not as a Chrome extension, unfortunately. If you mean theoretically, then of course; Chrome could let extensions subscribe to particular event hooks and whatnot and get very fine-grained about it. I expect that would actually be too fine-grained for most users, but what they have at the moment is a system where installing almost any extension feels quite risky. I'm not sure that Google really want Chrome extensions to exist, though. It feels like a very neglected part of Chrome.

On the last part, I agree with you from a developer's point of view as well. The review process is a shambles at the moment. Sometimes the review process can take weeks and one can still get rejected with no explanation. I understand the need for a manual review when an extension asks for powerful permissions like this one does but an approval time of more than a week is a bit much. And every subsequent update to the extension (even a small description change) also goes through the same review process. Imagine a critical bug fix taking more than a week for approval! It feels like they want to shut down their doors for individual developers. In comparison, firefox took only 2 hours to approve the same extension.

Firefox only does manual reviews on "Recommended Extensions"

I expect that would actually be too fine-grained for most users [...]

Even with that level of detail on the backend, there's no need to expose it all the user by default. That is, you could tell the user about group various related events together (eg. mouse, page load, etc) and power users could also drill-down if they like.

Yeah, that would be a good way to do it.

I don't think there is a "scrollbar usage" permission.

We need an extension firewall extension!

One thing I always do is use the Chrome Extension Source Viewer (also an extension)


Which lets me view the source code of any chrome extension right from the chrome store install page, lets me see for myself if the extension is going to try to make any covert external web requests or whatever.

… in its current state.

Just don't update it?

You can't avoid Chrome extension updates

Pretty easy if you’re a security concerned software engineer. Clone repo, read the source, and Load Unpacked...

Last time I did this it was easier than typing this comment.

You could inspect the source code and build it yourself (about 300 lines of JavaScript + JQuery): https://github.com/prashantbaid/scrolltrotter

The problem with any chrome extension is that there's no guarantee that the git repo matches the bag of bits that you're installing. No-prompt auto-updates exacerbate the issue.

Installation of software will always require a leap of faith that the publisher doesn't have ill intent.

You can install the extension directly from a cloned copy of the Github repo (basically as if you were the extension developer). No auto-updates or anything since it's just loaded from some files on your disk. Chrome will nag you about it from time to time though since getting people to install unsigned extensions is a common attack vector.

Try this: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/chrome-extension-s...

Views the source code straight from the google store

Thanks for sharing, but that's yet another publisher I have to trust with "read and change your data on clients2.google.com, read your browsing history, manage your downloads."

It'd be great if chrome and firefox allowed open source chrome extensions to be compared with their git source tree, possibly with diffs between releases.

Still, though, how many people will go through that effort?

I was once in a seminar led by one of the world's pre-eminent primate researchers who explained that, without any irony or humor, he refused to scroll when reading emails--Anything important should be immediately visible.

This is also standard journalism practice, and I use it all the time as a somewhat heuristic for news article credibility.

Journalists are taught to put the most important details at the head of an article, and the least important at the end. This is tradition from print newspapers, where your article would be cut if the editor didn't have enough space. Sometimes only the first paragraph would make it into print, so you'd better make sure all the important details are in there.

If I'm reading an article and it doesn't have all the important information before the fold, there's a high probability (in my experience) that other issues exist (eg shoddy sources or plain factual errors).

> Journalists are taught to put the most important details at the head of an article

In online journalism practice many do the exact opposite. They make you read paragraph after paragraph of speculations and bullshit before elaborating/explaining their click bait headline. Anything to make you stay and scroll so their ads get more screen time.

Relating to another HN submission today about site optimization: my brain interprets this as "a slow loading site" and I just abandon the page after the first paragraph or two (exception: some private blog pages).

Then again I started reading print newspapers about 40 years ago and this was also the approach for reading the paper so I learned a long time ago to be parsimonious with my time.

I stopped reading several links from HN today when it was clear the author wasn't getting to the point. If they had told me the point at the top I might or might not have continued to read but at least they would have gotten their point to across. As it is they got nothing across.

SEO also has encouraged this.

I wonder about the national differences. Hungarian news portals do as you said, jump straight in, lay out the overall idea, then go into details. Even for long form articles.

German news on the other hand, especially long form, starts from a very personal tone, sets up an emotional texture, introduces a person by name and makes them likable etc. till finally in the middle they get to the matter. It's really frustrating getting used to this.

I fell like the US is sort of in-between.

The German articles you're describing sound more like long-form journalism. I think their style differs heavily from short news reports.

It's not simply a function of the genre. I find that Hungarian investigative journalism articles tend to start with matter of fact things, like "we have uncovered the XYZ. As you may know, politician XYs connections came under scrutiny recently. We met an informer who..." While the German equivalem would start "we are sitting in a café just outside the Cathedral, as the cars wizz by on a rainy Tuesday. The documents are all prepared in a big red folder and Herr Schmidt looks at us perhaps a bit anxiously."

I'm not a writer, but that's the jist. They are often the same length, but German articles are much more pondering, feeling, moralizing, moody and focuses on personalities and making the reader be part of the story, like a novel.

In Hungary this is regarded more as beating around the bush. Just give us the facts and the actual story, like how the guy did his fraud etc, not the story of the journalist uncovering it etc. It's obviously not as extreme as I wrote above but strikingly noticeable.

It may be a cultural thing, my partner is Hungarian and she has your stereotypical programmers level of bluntness/intolerance of waffle.

She is (hilariously to me since I know her) direct but never rude, her family are all much the same.

i'm so happy reading that i'm not the only one using that criterion

A rare person whose productivity is increased by installing more browser toolbars.

Sounds like my professors, except they refuse to open the email at all.

so anything important need to be in the subject. sounds about right

Or use clickbait advertising techniques.

You won't believe this one crazy thing about my cs 203 coursework!


(It's gonna be late)

For a transactional mail or newsletter, perhaps. But overall I find this often-cited attitude made up by a bunch of productivity hackers highly arrogant.

Seems like a trait of those who either don't know how to delegate properly or who have attention deficit issues.

He was unaware of recent important primate conflict studies that found that top posters were in different tribes than bottom posters in emails.

Sadly, software has made it highly inconvenient to do bottom posting on e-mails. I gave up on that war years ago. Maybe around once a year—if that often—I may do an old-school interlinear reply to an e-mail.

I have been developing my email habits to fit this. If my email is turning into a novel I make a point to bring the important information to the top as a TL;DR. If I forward an email chain longer then two emails I condense the email chain in my forwarded email so the reader sees and understands exactly what I need them to see.

I have found that if I forward a long email chain/write a novel of an email no one reads the message. The email was a waste of everyone's time. Many of my colleagues simply FW: a chain with a simple FYI in their message. My inbox receives >100 emails a day. I am not going to spend my time reading through a +15 email chain forwarded to me attempting to decipher what ten people are conversing on in that chain.

I keep remembering computational kindness idea from the marvelous book Algorithms to Live By:

Try not to pass the cognitive load to others. Make them do as little work as possible -- be computationally kind.

I like that term 'computational kindness' and will use it within my team. I've noticed that for some engineers this is a natural thing to do - they summarize threads, highlight salient points and document information so other don't have to waste time. They rise within the organisation as tech leaders who communicate well. For others, this doesn't even occur to them as something worth doing.

I started writing a tldr or brief summary above my posts / emails, and then I realized if I summarize properly I can just delete the original text.

"I wrote a long letter because I didn't have time to write a short one."

( https://quoteinvestigator.com/2012/04/28/shorter-letter/ )

Now I'm curious what this comment originally looked like.

Immediately visible on what size screen and font size?

end user screen real estate is a function of viewable vertical resolution of the email client.

A long time ago when I used to spend almost all my day in front of a computer, I wrote a program that would measure the physical distance my mouse cursor had moved thinking surely it must be several hundred meters a day. In fact it was only about 30 metres per day. I imagine to scroll a mile would take several months for the average web user.

It seems like cursor acceleration (breaking the linearity between pixel and physical distance) would make this non-trivial; curious how you implemented it.

Well I wanted to specifically measure cursor distance rather than mouse distance so acceleration doesn't come into it. As long as you can sample the mouse position frequently enough, you can get an idea of how far it has travelled. All I had to do to convert pixels to physical distance was use a tape measure to get the width and height of the visible part of the screen.

It sounds like they measures the distance the cursor on-screen moved, not how far they physically moved their mouse. So accelleration wouldn't be a factor.

You mean to translate from pixels moved into mousepad-meters?

I think my scroll distance varies greatly depending on how many Terms of Services I have to "read" in a given day.

One of the best modern uses of the “End” key (or [Cmd/Shift][Up/Down])

Right up there with “who even wrote this article” and “wait when was this published”

It also depends on the type of user you are, for someone like me who does almost everything with a keyboard it would be pretty minimal, but for say a fps gamer I'd say it would be pretty high

This would be interesting to see on my phone at the end of the day. Even having decreased my social media and news consumption considerably over the last few years, I still catch myself mindlessly scrolling from time to time.

I would love the shameful alert that told me “you’ve scrolled twice as many miles as you’ve walked today” since I know the second set of metrics definitely exists. It may be what I need to quit the habit completely.

I think that would actually fit very well alongside eg Apple's "You've had 30 minutes of screen time today" messages

The Apple Lisa had a "mouse odometer" in software that tracked the number of pixels moved since startup.

That kind of visibility could be really helpful. Doesn't have to be shameful, but it does have to get you off your ass!

No it doesn't! In fact it could be as rewarding as seeing those bar graphs that do track my physical activity – only inverted.

I'm not sure if that would be possible on iOS. But they do already report app usage and allow you to set timers on your own usage to make sure you aren't spending more than your allowance. "Screen Time": https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208982

I'd like to see a leaderboard there

Cow Clicker 2.0

I wonder how well the "pixel distance scrolled" translates into the actual distance your finger moved the wheel.

This is a bit hard to calculate because of scroll acceleration and inertial scrolling.

My Logitech MX mouse's wheel keeps spinning and spinning, so not well at all.

You'd also need to identify the size of the scroll wheel, which is particularly hard if the user has multiple input devices and you don't even know which one they used :)

(e.g. touchpad + mouse)

Some system-level code would be ideal here. I wonder if, say, Apple logs this info locally (iPhone, iPad, Mac) for touching the screen, the trackpad, or moving a mouse across a surface.

My rough estimate is: 2cm finger movement per 800px scrolled.

Or scrolled through swiping on the phone. I think this would be pretty difficult considering the different pixel densities on touch devices.

Within the last six months I've developed arthritis in both my hands (and ankles). Each morning when I wake up both of my hands are stiff like they've been in ice water.

My right index finger which I use for scrolling using my mouse scroll wheel (and typing). when I bend in in the morning my index finger it will make a snapping noise. None of my other fingers make the snapping noise.

The odd thing is it isn't the joint. If I bend my fingers in the morning and my index finger snaps you'd think it was the joint. I experimented and cracked my index knuckle after it made the snap and the knuckle snapped.

Anyway that's a tale of my bizarre life somewhat related to this topic.

I find scroll wheels dangerous on the index finger, as it gets quite a workout. I prefer touchpads/ mousepads for scrolling, but I'm curious if foot pedals would be better.

Interesting—I scroll with my middle finger, always have. I thought everyone did. Makes sense in retrospect that different people would find different "intuitive" ways of using a mouse, though!

I do now!

I will log this as the first appearance (to me) of the "light mode also available" pendulum swing! See you all in a year!

Thanks. This was a very intentional decision to keep light mode as "also available".

https://whatpulse.org/ has been doing this sort of metrics gathering for years. Keyboard and network stuff too.

If you're tired of scrolling on your phone's browser: https://www.jumpbrowser.com/

Shame that's only iOS - is there something similar for Android?

How long until web sites start offering Frequent Scroller Miles?

I scroll for light-years because of my logitech mx master 2s which has a ball bearing on the wheel so it can go flying.

With a high refresh monitor it's just fun to scroll around!

How did you go about developing this? Am curious to see what 'level' of chrome its implemented on

They should make it so the distance you run today becomes your allowance for how much you get to scroll

I've always joked that some people run a marathon and some people scroll a marathon.

I want a system-wide app measuring scrolling distance for smartphones

Any firefox equivalent?

"You will need Google Chrome to install most apps, extensions and themes.

Download Google Chrome"

Yeah buddy, just wait for me to install that. Any Firefox equivalent?

How about WhatPulse? (which doesn't work on my linux distro, sad ...)

Nice one PB

1/64th of a mile

3 parsecs

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