TurboNav’s Vision: A System to Manage Knowledge Discovery Effectively
September 11, 2021
In this article, I’ll unpack my goal with TurboNav, what I aim to achieve, the big picture, and the steps I’ll take to get there.
What got me interested in the space of tab managers was the constant context switching I go through when working on multiple projects and my hobbies. This situation caused tabs to pile up quickly. I tried out many extensions, tips, and strategies. I couldn’t find an extension that was easy to use and helped manage a load of information efficiently.
While I was brainstorming ideas for a better way to manage tabs, I made a connection with my workflow using IntelliJ, my IDE of choice. One of the hacks I’ve been using for years now (and preach constantly) has been to disable file tabs altogether and navigate files through command shortcuts. This article No tabs in IntelliJ IDEA was my gateway to this setup.
For programmers, we are constantly having to shuffle information in our heads about codebases and debug across multiple files. We do this with relative ease.
File organization has been solved by file directories, which provide a tree-like structure to nest files into folders that cover a concept easily. Advance features in the IDE exist to quickly search for a file, navigate to a definition, and keep track of your recent files to navigate back, among other things. All these actions can be done through keyboard shortcuts and command palettes. The thought of transferring those concepts over to a browser was fascinating.
The rise of apps like Obsidian and Roam, which are rapidly becoming the IDE’s for our notes, gave me more reason to pursue this area. Check out this great article on the concept of “Integrated Thinking Environments” - Obsidian, Roam, and the rise of Integrated Thinking Environments—what they are, what they do, and what’s next - Axle
As I was thinking about what such a system would look like on a browser, I immediately focused on the core user experience, the Command-Line Experience.
The Command-Line Experience
For users to stick to something, the user experience needs to be fast. It needs to feel like you’re interacting with the computer at the speed of thought.
A new experience is making its way into great products such as Superhuman and Linear, the Command-Line. Not a new concept, but it’s starting to gain popularity with prosumer applications. With a few keystrokes, you type what you want, and by selecting a command, the software excecutes it for you.
What if I applied this experience to the browser. Without touching the mouse, interact with tabs. Become efficient in navigating through all the open tabs to tame massive numbers of tabs and information you’ve accumulated. This needs to be the future.
Do you find this concept interesting? Check out these articles:
- The History of Command Palettes: How Typing Commands Became The Norm Again
- The Command Line Comeback. In consumer, everything old is new…
- So you’re building a “Superhuman of X”?
Tab Hoarders, You’re Not Alone
I had to slow down and see where I was heading. What problem was I actually trying to solve? After all, I’m working towards something that can help others and provides a sustainable living for me. 😁
It turns out I’m not alone, and there’s research out there that shows why we suck at managing tabs. Take a look at “When the Tab Comes Due: Challenges in the Cost Structure of Browser Tab Usage”. The research paper discusses different pressure factors that play into why we tend to keep tabs open. The research paper lists six.
- Reminders and Unfinished Tasks
- Revising Frequently Accessed Pages
- Avoiding Costly Re-finding
- Sunk Costs and the Aspirational Self
- External Mental Models
- Uncertain and Changing Relevance
I find these factors highly relevant when it comes to how knowledge workers approach research and investigation. Knowledge workers often require information to make decisions, and the information can span across multiple information domains and web pages. This problem leads me to the end goal of why I’m building TurboNav.
Being In the Flow and Processing Discoveries
When it comes to juggling all sorts of information on your browser, we are experts. But effectively managing that flow of information is another story. You’ll notice you are constantly jumping from one topic to another, from one project to the next. There seems no end. But we ignore the cost of piling tabs in exchange for the right nugget of information, for the discovery that will expand your knowledge to the next level.
I recently had the revelation that information discovery does not happen in a linear path. It can’t, we are constantly bombarded with distractions, external and internal. Furthermore, discoveries happen serendipitously. A system should exist that can accommodate these moments. Only then do I believe we can tame information and, in turn, also tabs.
At the end of the day, I believe we seek knowledge at the expense of too many tabs.
I see managing tabs as a layer to Personal Knowledge Management. Weblinks are gateways to a vast amount of information, where you can make discoveries. A link is at the forefront of knowledge discovery. We live in a world where we consume too much information but are making minimal effort to make sense of the information and findings we encounter. It’s time to put a stop to this.
I plan to work on a system that makes it easy for you to manage information from links you encounter by:
- Keeping track of long investigation sessions that span days (via multiple tabs and multiple devices)
- Easily keep track of your working notes to construct thoughts and ideas effectively (instantly while browsing online)
- Making connections with previous information
So that’s the vision. What’s my next step to making this a reality?
Well, I have a basic tab viewer that will lay the foundations for what I have planned. A basic Command-Line text input interface to continue the journey of a fast-feedback experience. TurboNav also supports the ability to schedule tabs for later through the Command-Line experience. Scheduling tabs help with the problem of accumulating too many tabs.
The next feature to complete the basic foundation is saving links on the cloud. From there, I can expand to the areas of PKM. When I reach this point, I’ll design and architect how to effectively manage the information you find. I have ideas, but for now, I have my work cut out. I’ll share updates as I continue this voyage.
I’m also validating the idea. I need to make sure I’m taking the right path and not going in circles, building something no one will use. So I’ll be chatting with folks who are interested in this space. To investigate what their existing flow is like and what gaps exist from existing products. Doing so will help shape the core user experience for better managing information.
This idea behind knowledge discovery will likely evolve, so I’ll be deconstructing the concept in here:
If you are interested in chatting about tab management and personal knowledge management. Let’s connect: