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The Advantage of Logging: Browser History

January 23rd, 2012
logging, future, tech

Often when I suggest that we should log everything people don't see the value. What would you do with a giant audio or video recording of your life? You're not going to sit down and watch the whole thing. Recording all your conversations is inconvenient without a specialized box; perhaps the initial costs have kept us from finding out the benefits. But what if recording and transcription were free? This is kind of like what we have on the computer, so we should look there.

Your browser logs every page you visit in a giant list of URLs stored with the time you visited them. For years this was mostly just used to let the browser know when to turn links purple. Occasionally people would look back through the browser history to find something, but that was annoying. Then FireFox integrated history search with the URL bar and suddenly I could easily find places I wanted to go back to:

This was actually a pretty small change (they just moved the location of the history search bar) but it made it enough more valuable to me that I went from being ambivalent to actively glad that my browser was keeping track of where I'd been.

(I get similar value from logging the commands I run but people who spend less time on the command line would appreciate this less.)

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