Firefox Journal

What is it?

Right now it uses Firefox 3.  So you’ll have to download that and try it out.  The download is only 8 megs, so just try it out.

We’re taking advantage of Firefox’s new Places system, which is basically storing history, bookmarks, annotations, and tags in a local sqlite database.

The Journal takes over as your homepage.  What?  You read that a homepage isn’t useful? Yes, well this isn’t a “homepage”, it’s a journal and according to wikipedia a journal is a daily record of events or business.

Go, read the Firefox Journal wiki page.  The instructions are easy: download, run, grab the extension, and you’re done!

What is the Journal doing?

We have lots of plans for the Journal, but lets start with the basics.


The Journal rewrites history!  For the better of course, that’s the only reason anyone would rewrite history… The Journal tries to write your history to you like you’d want to read it.  It’s trying to change what you do into an adventure instead of a log, as if Theodore Roosevelt was writing for your browsing history.

For example, my browsing history might look like this:

Theodore Roosevelt – Google Search
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Battle of San Juan Hill
Battle of San Juan Hill

When it could look like this:

Searched for: Theodore Roosevelt
Found: Theodore Roosevelt
Fought in the: Theodore Roosevelt » War In Cuba
Fought at the: Battle of San Juan Hill
Charged up the: Battle of San Juan Hill » Kettle Hill

Obviously, I’m adding actions to the history that are fictitious but still quite possible.  By understanding URLs and websites the Journal can optimize the view of your history; shorten URLs, improve titles, remove useless URLs.

Look at your current browser history

Go ahead right now and open up your browsers history.  Ctrl-H is usually the access key assigned to your browsers history.  Firefox will open up a sidebar with folders for different time periods and a small search.  Epiphany does a much better job with a separate window for looking at your history and some grouping by host name is helpful, much better than the grouping by date that Firefox does.

However any of the current systems are only logging your history, and for what?  How often do you use that log?  Probably not very often and I think that’s because it’s not actually written for you to use.  Well we’re changing that, by writing the history in a way that’s useful for you to use.

Getting those links back

I’ve been using the Journal now for about 2 weeks and I was able to write this entire blog entry without hitting the network once.  All the links I needed were available from the Journal’s view of my history.  The search uses the internal Firefox search methods so it’s quite good at using multiple terms and finding the right thing.

So check out the code and try out the Journal.  Next up are other enhancements of the history, making it active with site information via RSS, grabbing microformats to save addresses and phone numbers.


The Document Journal

A little History

A while back when I was working on the OLPC project with Seth we took a good amount of time designing a new way for the people to interact with their documents. The design isn’t specific to OLPC, it was done because they were looking to take a new approach to documents and files. The approach we took is just as applicable to the desktop as it is to the OLPC.

Document Journal

What it is

I called it “The Journal”, it’s not the most inventive name. The Journal is an interface to the documents, images, movies, and other files you work with. It is designed to help you work with and retrieve your files, however it contains more than just files as it also understands events and people. It’s probably not the best approach out there, some of the ideas are a little half baked but it’s a new approach that I think gives interesting directions to take.

What it is not

While it may have strong correlations to many different existing projects and an implementation of the Journal will likely use some of these projects, they are not exactly the same thing. For instance the Journal requires a search across your documents, however the Journal isn’t a search service; it is an interface to finding your documents. An interface like the Journal could be fitted on top of a search service or a document store or another system, however the system or service running below isn’t the question to be answered yet, first we need to get a grasp on the interactions between a person and finding their stuff.

Currently the Journal isn’t any code, there are no secrets in it. It’s a bunch of designs based on a long time spent observing, researching, and brainstorming these interactions.

How it works

Imagine if your computer blogged about what you two did together every day. What would it say?

Bryan, you didn’t do much today (like usual):

  • You created GNOME Document Journal icon (30 minutes total)
  • You edited your GNOME Document Journal blog entry (4 times, 1.3 hours total)
  • You responded to emails (12 replies, 38 minutes total)

In a recent blog entry about re-designing my blog for the future I reworked my blog interface to enhance the experience of exploring entries for my reader. I added meta-data and tags and provided extra lists for recent posts, popular posts, and related posts on each post page. The Journal and a blog interface have a number of commonalities, re-designing my blog was a quick and easy way to experiment, understand and test some assumptions that apply to the Journal.

Similar Wavelengths

There are a lot of open source projects on a similar wavelength so it’d be great to get together and talk about these ideas to see where we meet. Here’s my incomplete list.

If you’re working on one of these projects and want to incorporate any of these ideas into your project, please do. These are simply ideas and if they’re good we should be sharing them, IRC or GUADEC or anywhere we need to start putting out our ideas for what to do next into something real.


So I’m looking for help. I’m hoping other people are interested in a new way of interfacing with their files, doing something completely different from Windows, Mac, and others that actually makes sense. I know the OLPC is interesting doing this 🙂

Since this is a new venture it’s going to take a while to cover and I don’t want to lecture, I’m hoping people want to take part in the design as a discussion. Before we go to a mailing list like desktop devel I wanted to write out a couple of entries describing what I think we know so far. So here it is, the first part in a several part series about the GNOME Document Journal.