Archive for the ‘Mark My Words’ Category

Changing History

Monday, July 26th, 2010

I’d like it if my browser history was ordered by when I closed a page rather than when I opened it.

More precisely: The history would work as usual, with pages added at the top as they’re opened, but when a page is closed it gets bumped to the top of the list.

Most of the time your history would work as before. For example, if you browse extremely simply — opening a single page, reading it, then closing it — this new rule would make no difference. However, I think this new behaviour would match a lot more closely with my mental history, and there are at least a few situations I encounter regularly where I would find it helpful:

Accidentally closing a window.
With a regular history, the page(s) you closed could be anywhere in the list. Most browsers have an Undo Last Closed Tab / Window command now, but in Safari at least this only appears to go back a single step. With a changing history, you’d find your pages right at the top.

Following links from a large article.
When I have an article, gallery or other “hub” page open, I’ll usually briefly visit linked pages, then return to continue reading the main page. If I wanted to find the article again after closing it, a regular history would require me to scroll past all of the sub-pages I opened, looking for their start point. As the main page is normally closed last, it gets popped to the top of the list and acts as a header for the associated pages while leaving them in the order you would expect from a normal history.

Leaving a page open to read later.
Often, I will read pages in a very different order from how I opened them. This means that the order in which I remember interacting with each page is disconnected from their order in my history. Ideally, my actions and the browser history would match up perfectly, but until computers can read minds, the time the page was closed serves as a good approximation of when I last focused on it. Now, instead of searching for the effectively arbitrary position in history of something I left in the background for a few hours, I just have to remember when I actually read it.

Is there a browser (or browser extension) that does this already? I haven’t been able to find any way to do it in Safari or Firefox yet.

Security Colours

Friday, July 16th, 2010

I fell for a password phishing email once. The moment I clicked the login button I thought “Wow, I’m so trained to do this all you have to do is show me the button and I’ll click it.” I realised a split second later of course, and felt like an raging moron for not paying attention.

The thing is, why should you have to pay attention? Even if you’re not quite as dim as me, it still takes a little bit of mental effort to tell a well made fake email from the real thing, and it’s a lot harder if you’re not tech savvy enough (or too groggy from just waking up) to spot the warning signs. I think there’s a very simple addition to normal security measures that would make recognising fake emails and account pages universally effortless, while requiring no extra input from the average user.

When a new user signs up, they’re presented with a randomly chosen “security colour”. They can pick a different one if they prefer, and from then on the colour is displayed as a banner or badge on every official communication from the site.

I use Pirate Facebook, of course.

Security colour as a badge on an email.

The colour would be kept secret, like your password, so any potential phishers would have to guess at what colour to use. The actual way the colour is displayed could be styled a little to match the site, but as long as it’s used prominently and consistently enough to become part of the expected branding, an off-colour message would appear as obvious as one with the wrong logo or name.