Too much of a good thing

A new Surfulater customer e-mailed over the weekend wanting to know how to get Surfulater to automatically save each and every Web page he visited in his Web Browser. He commented that disk space is cheap and a 1TB drive only costs $150, so there is no reason not to do this. Well Surfulater doesn’t have this capability and it isn’t even one I’d considered, nor do I think has ever been suggested. I have to wonder is this wanting “too much of a good thing”?

I see several issues. First up out of all the pages one visits how many are of any real valuenot many. Every time you do a Google search, do you really want the Search Results pages saved, and out of all the pages you visit from these Search Results, how many are of interest; when you are watching a Video on YouTube do you want that page saved, and on on it goes. Then there are issues of security! Do you want pages saved when you are doing your On-line Banking, or purchasing some goods with your credit card number shown – I don’t think so.

Yes disk space is cheap, no doubt about it. But if all these pages are so important, then backups must be just as important. We all know disk drives die, usually the day before you go and put a backup system in place! So you need a 1TB External Backup drive; no big deal and reasonably cheap as well. But this alone isn’t enough, well not for me, and would have to be complemented with a secure, reliable off-site backup. Ok now we are set with backups. But how long will it take to back up all these web pages, and how often will you perform the backups? And what about disk clutter, are these pages splattered all over the place as lots of individual files, or stored in a database. And what overhead is there in actually capturing them all in the first place.

This leads on to findability. There is little point storing large amounts information if you can’t quickly and easily find the specific gems of interest again and again. The more information you store the more difficult it becomes finding those needles in the haystack. If say 60% of the saved information was never of interest in the first place, then you’ve just made findability all that much harder. Computer people have a saying “garbage in – garbage out” and that is what we have here.

Organizational capabilities, such as Tagging, placement into Folders and adding Cross-Reference links along with the ability to add Notes and edit Captured content all aid greatly in findability, but I find it difficult to believe anyone would undertake such tasks for each and every web page that popped up in their Web Browser. And everyone that uses Surfulater knows just how important organizing content is, in aiding findability.

Now I doubt any of this will make any difference to the aforementioned customer and others like him and that’s fine as we can and should be able to use our computers in whatever way we feel works best for us. This simply seems like a bad idea to me, or for me. I want to be in control, saving the information I consider to be of real value and not cluttering my world with lots of useless crap I need to weed through.

Let me finish on something which is a good thing and that is the next release of Surfulater should be out this week.

4 Replies to “Too much of a good thing”

  1. “Let me finish on something which is a good thing and that is the next release of Surfulater should be out this week.”

    A good thing indeed! And here I was wondering why you had been silent for so long…

    Cheers, Alexander

  2. Alexander, yes I have been quite remiss in my blog posting of late, primarily because I have had my head down working on extensive changes to the code base in Surfulater. More information on this soon.

  3. Actually, I could see this being a reasonable feature but only in certain situations. If I have a number of web pages that I know I want to capture but I initially found them when Surfulater wasn’t available to me – like maybe on another computer – I could have a list of the specific pages and have Firefox open them all in separate tabs at once. Surfulater could them grab them all and I could end my browsing session quickly.

    However if this would require a significant effort at all – and I suspect strongly that it would indeed – then the value to all users would not be there. Too big of a change to accommodate too few users IMO. But I did want to mention the circumstances where this would actually be a helpful feature, since at first blush it appears to be completely useless. 🙂


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