The Psychology of Letting Go

Let’s look at an actual user of computers: me. Here’s what I do with my computer on a daily basis:

  1. About 15 websites are always opened as pinned tabs in Chrome: gmail, google reader, Nirvana, evernote, and a bunch of work sites (e-mail, wiki, tickets, Zenoss). The bulk of my day is spent inside a browser window: reading and responding to e-mail, being all organized n’ stuff, taking notes, research, etc.
  2. The terminal. Among my less douchy duties, I’m a network/systems engineer, and so I spend a chunk of time inside SSH.
  3. Do is pretty much how I launch everything. Seriously, why screw with menus when I can just hit CTRL+SHIFT+Space and type “eclipn” and have it do what I mean. It’s like bash’s tab complete for stuff that it’s dumb to keep a controlling terminal for. And yeah, I know that the keyboard just feels faster than a mouse, mice are consistently faster. That’s not really relevant to my point.
  4. Taskbar/workspaces. Though this kind of sucks because after a while you’ve got 15 calculators open and can’t tell what the hell is what anymore.
  5. Eclipse. Yeah, I really wish this was higher on this list too.
  6. All the silly status things that seem locked in a constant battle to either beg, borrow, or steal my attention from whatever it is that I’m trying to accomplish: package updates, Empathy’s blinking icon and whoever’s IMing me right now, the clock, the weather, the battery meter and attending paranoia, Skype, Dropbox file updates, whatever.

Otherwise, things are organized so that I’ve got as much of my screen real estate available to the application as possible. That means one panel, at the top, with as little as I can get away with in there (currently there are 11 status icons, BTW).

To summarize: most of my computer time is spent inside a maximized application, and the stuff that isn’t is either a distraction, or typed into a key-completing form that pops up on a keystroke.

To put it another way, I actually use my computer to do actual work, rather than using it to faff off about the computer itself. From that perspective, the problem with the Shell is that it doesn’t go far enough. I’d like to see about 80% of the notification OSDs go away, and the other 20% get integrated into some kind of a unified task list of some kind. Yes I know I need to update packages. No, I don’t want you to break my concentration to tell me that or Yes I know you’re playing Reznor’s version of In the Hall of the Mountain King, duh.

I’d like to see Do-like (at least) functionality, and I think Zeitgeist is fairly awesome as well. But I don’t care about Applications/Places/System or the big always-on taskbar or whatever. Hide all that crap behind a keystroke because I honestly don’t care about your launcher. Unless it’s a search box too, then it’s kinda neat (but also not something I need onscreen all the time).

Also, the whole tile-windows-by-dragging thing? Definite win.

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11 thoughts on “The Psychology of Letting Go

  1. Ah yes, another ‘haters gonna hate’ comic. Pay no attention to anything negative that is said, they are just jealous that their workflow isn’t as awesome as yours, and upset that they can’t change it back to their dumb, old way of working. Mere haters. Hating for hates sake. Sounds about right.

  2. > “From that per­spec­tive, the prob­lem with the Shell is that it doesn’t go far enough. I’d like to see about 80% of the noti­fi­ca­tion OSDs go away, and the other 20% get inte­grated into some kind of a uni­fied task list of some kind. Yes I know I need to update pack­ages. No, I don’t want you to break my con­cen­tra­tion to tell me that or Yes I know you’re play­ing Reznor’s ver­sion of In the Hall of the Mountain King, duh.”

    AFAIK, you can set your availability to “Busy” in the user menu (the one on the top right, with your name in it).

    That should prevent all notifications from being displayed, except for the urgent ones. They will all still continue to stack in the message tray so you can go see them when you feel like it.

    That’s not exactly what you are asking for, but it should already make your life much easier when trying to concentrate.

    Note: I don’t know if that has already been implemented, I haven’t tried it yet.

  3. If do is how you launch everything, you may increase your productivity by giving it an easier keystroke.

  4. I think what you really want is a tiling window-manager like xmonad. Take it together with a pinch of dzen and some dmenu.

    Instant productivity boost.

  5. @Adam: Yeah, but it only searches the applications list, and the search is a little weird (I assume it’s doing a simple substring without historical weighting). I’d like to be able to type “The Social Network” and have “Play Album”, “Watch Video”, and a list of tracks and whatever show up in the results.

    @anon #1: I’ve not read anything in the last week that rises to the level of “coherent,” let alone “constructive.”

    @bochecha: I wasn’t aware that setting your status to “Busy” blocks all that nonsense now, thanks for letting me know (though I know what the User Switcher is… check the “About” dialog :-))

    @anon #2: I tried to give it just the windows key, but that doesn’t work, unfortunately.

  6. @anon #1: I’ve not read any­thing in the last week that rises to the level of “coher­ent,” let alone “constructive.”

    Of course not since you already sure that everything you do is perfect and dismiss anyone who dares criticize that behaviour and the results of that mindset.

    What I read in blogs and mailing list presents a very different picture: arrogant, dismissive and self-serving developers. Their attitude:

    I right! I know i’m and everyone else is wrong! This future, take it or leave it! You’re a bunch cry babies! You’re are all a bunch of whiners! I’m right because this study says so (even though that study doesn’t have anything to do with the case at hand)! and so on….

    Really, who’s the hater?

    I understand the mindset of the Gnome3 developers. Having spent so much time, energy and even, do i dare say, love, into something. Working mostly in isolation and becoming more and more ostracize (Meego and now Ubuntu). Only to have it to take so much flack, so much criticism. It’s tough. A grown man/woman would take on the chin, learn from its mistakes. But not in this world! No, we leave in a world of mediocrity, a culture of mediocrity, political correctness, and victimization!

    The typical behaviour of a group that feels attacked. Looking inward, everyone is the enemy. Common behaviour exhibited by among others, police, religion , etc…

    Not the behaviour of rational, intelligent beings. Cavemen!

  7. @Awat: I’m not a Shell developer, nor have I been actively involved in GNOME development in years.

    Could you give an example of the developer attitude you’re referring to?

    Otherwise, you’re psychoanalyzing people over the internet, who you’ve seemingly never had an actual conversation with. You’re calling them irrational cave-men, and claiming ties to a global culture of mediocrity for trying to change things, while at the same time claiming that response is totally coherent and constructive.

    Pardon me my LOL.

  8. @James carp
    Disable or change the keystroke for gnome do. In my experience gnome do doesn’t work well with gnome shell.
    Hitting the windows key and typing is great but it is too slow (roughly a secondish with my 8400gs) and not functional enough. Integrate tracker please.

  9. @James carp
    Disable or change the keystroke for gnome do. In my experience gnome do doesn’t work well with gnome shell.
    Hitting the windows key and typing is great but it is too slow (roughly a secondish with my 8400gs) and not functional enough. Integrate tracker please.

  10. That’s exactly what I’ve been saying. People who use there computer to __work__ just don’t care about all that silly stuff. What users care about is their apps, not the shell. I proposed getting rid of the top panel too, but apparently that was too radical. Gnome shell is heading in the right direction though.

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