Keeping Tabs

Some people have a hard time getting rid of things in their houses or apartments. Some people let their email inboxes pile up. One such person, whom I know and love dearly, has both of those problems—with hundreds if not thousands of plastic bags in the home and more than 50,000 unread messages in the inbox. My hoarding instincts don’t typically involve items in the home. With the possible exception of books and my favorite comfy sweatshirt, I can usually give things away or pitch them when they’ve outlived their usefulness. So, too, with emails. Although I have seven or eight email addresses, none of them have more than five or six messages in their inboxes.

For me, the desire to hoard hits the hardest with browser tabs. I’m plagued with the feeling that any web page I look at—no matter its content or relevance— might be useful some day. So I keep the tab open and vow to get back to it later when I have the need, or at least the ability, to really take it in. Every so often, I go on a “cleaning spree,” in which I close most if not all of the tabs in a browser, but usually not without adding them to my bloated list of bookmarks. The problem became so bad that I wrote a browser extension to show the contents of a special bookmark folder in a grid layout whenever I open a new tab. That way I could see the pages that required the most urgent attention at a glance. It worked pretty well, too, until that folder itself was teeming with loosely categorized remnants of my fleeting interests. At one point I thought I could skirt around the problem by just opening another browser. So, a surfeit of tabs in Chrome or Safari might lead to a fresh start in Opera or Firefox or Brave. That didn’t last long.

iPhone Safari: 23 Tabs

Still, amid the clutter in my browsers, I’ve held onto some pages that I’m glad I didn’t discard. Here are some standouts from the 23 tabs I currently have open in Safari on my iPhone:

  • 52 Things I Learned in 2019, a list by Tom Whitwell with a bunch of very interesting (to me, at least) things. For example here’s #4: “Harbinger customers are customers who buy products that tend to fail. They group together, forming harbinger zip codes. If households in those zip codes buy a product, it is likely to fail. If they back a political candidate, they are likely to lose the election.”
  • Is Sunscreen the New Margine? in Outside Online, a fascinating article about how too little sun exposure could be more dangerous than too much exposure.
  • CaseLaw Access Project from Harvard Law School, making available “all official US court cases published in books from 1658 to 2018” (over 6 million total).
  • Why gun violence research has been shut down for 20 years, a Washington Post article from October 4, 2017. It’s likely that this has been sitting on my phone for over two years.
  • More Guns Do Not Stop More Crimes, Evidence Shows, another October 2017 article, this one in Scientific American.
  • Workaway.info: A website claiming to be “the leading community for travel exchange, working holidays and volunteering in 170 countries.” Fun for when I’m feeling that wanderlust.

iPad Safari: 16 Tabs

Of the 16 open tabs in Safari on my iPad, more than two-thirds are related to my work as a web developer. Here are the ones that aren’t:

  • Official trailer for TENET, directed by Christopher Nolan, on YouTube. I’m very much looking forward to seeing this movie.
  • The World’s Most Annoying Man, a not-exactly-glowing piece in Current Affairs about Steven Pinker.
  • Judge finalizes $25 million Trump University settlement for students of ‘sham university’, a USA Today article from April 10, 2018. I think I’ve kept this to remind myself that Trump’s corruption isn’t limited to what’s breathlessly reported at any given moment but extends to pretty much everything the guy touches.
  • “I’ve Got Nothing to Hide” and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy, from SSRN, is an article abstract, with a link to download a PDF of the full thing. I haven’t read the article yet, but the abstract is compelling: “According to the nothing to hide argument, there is no threat to privacy unless the government uncovers unlawful activity, in which case a person has no legitimate justification to claim that it remain private. The nothing to hide argument and its variants are quite prevalent, and thus are worth addressing. In this essay, Solove critiques the nothing to hide argument and exposes its faulty underpinnings.” Also, after a cursory scan of the SSRN website, I wasn’t able to figure out what SSRN stands for. Maybe it’s “Social Science Research Network”?
  • 99 Good News Stories You Probably Didn’t Hear about in 2019: because we all could use some good news these days.

MacBook Chrome: 18 Tabs

On my laptop, almost all of the open tabs relate to problems I’m currently trying to solve at work. The first four below fall into that category. The fifth is an app I’ve been meaning to try for the past few months but haven’t pulled the trigger on yet. Anybody with a passing interesting in life outside of technology will likely find this list stupefyingly boring. My apologies.

And you?

Maybe 20 or so open tabs per browser isn’t so bad, after all. Maybe this browser tab “problem” of mine, like most things, is relative. I’m curious: how many tabs are open in your browsers? Are you a tab hoarder or a tab minimalist? Which web page have you kept open the longest?

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