Simon Willison’s Weblog


Bjørn Borud blogs

4th April 2003

Bjørn Borud (a Senior Software Engineer at AllTheWeb) has recently started blogging. His thoughts on wikis make interesting reading. I also rather liked his description of something he calls the “Hansel und Gretel” mode of browsing:

If you have ever watched someone browse for information you’ll notice how they are really afraid of not finding their way back. They’ll find an interesting page, they want to hold on to it, but they also want to explore its out-links -- so they open up more windows with the out-links. I call this “The Hansel und Gretel mode of browsing” because these people leave a trail of breadcrumbs in the form of open browser windows to find their way back. (Sometimes experiencing that their breadcrumbs are eaten by the gremlins that make browsers crash).

People who have developed an understanding for how the back button works (yes, a lot of people do not understand the semantics of the back button) often seem to employ a different strategy. Their browsing looks like a depth-first traversal of a tree -- always making sure that they can use the back button to find their way back. Occasionally bookmarking a page or opening a new page for later perusal, but always preserving the history stack in a state that ensures that they can traverse the link structure sensibly.

I can really identify with the above. I open links in new tabs far more often than following them normally, partly because having them load in the background means I’m never left waiting for something to load but mainly because I’ve never felt comfortable using the back button for some reason. Browser crashes, when they do happen, can be extremely disorientating.

This is Bjørn Borud blogs by Simon Willison, posted on 4th April 2003.

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