Browser tab management, by taking advantage of People

Star Wars Garbage Compactor - Use People to Manage Browser Tabs Header

This is the story and walk-thru of how I resolved a lingering bad browsing habit using the People feature in Google Chrome.

Workspace Preference

Some people prefer working on a desk that looks like it has never been used.

For me, a bit of clutter can be helpful for focusing. Just like coffee, white noise, or glasses.

Although, after a while that clutter turns into a mess–almost on principle. If you’re trying to get something done, messes can feel like the converging walls in that garbage compactor on the Death Star.

Star Wars Garbage Compactor - Use People to Manage Browser Tabs Header

If you’ve got a mess…time to clean.

Messes happen on the computer too.

Browser Mess Screenshot


Let us speak expeditiously about our browser tab landfill.

When you have enough tabs open, that the favicon, the little browser tab icon, disappears, it’s time to evaluate.  When the keyboard gets noticeably warm/hottish, it’s time to evaluate. 

There were too many tabs for one window, so I added more windows. Then there were too many indistinguishable windows, so I opened up more browsers.

3+ different browsers (along with all the other applications I had open) ate through the better part of 16GB of RAM. That shouldn’t happen.

My proudest moments existed near the end, when private browsing sessions simulated a 4th and 5th browser.

And sure a few of the open tabs were important, but most were there to support my enthusiastic but scattered procrastination.

What burned the most about the browser tab situation was the overheating. Running YouTube on Firefox or Chrome amongst everything else was a recipe for heat.

Browser tab management - Overheating

This is a real problem now.  First, unproductive procrastination and second, lava legs.

Landfills are just not sustainable.

We need a new solution.

What follows, is how that solution came about.

Here was the browser tab management experiment.

I started with some target conditions

1. Maintaining a ‘useful’ level of chaos

2. Preventing creeping workspace disarray from windows, tabs, and browsers

3. Reduced overheating and computer slothness.

The Experiment

Between Safari, Firefox, and Chrome, I always return to Chrome because it’s reliably up-to-date with features and has the extensions that create the experience I’m looking for in a browser, specifically the metallic moniker.

So I decided to look into Chrome for a solution.

The Solution

*Bookmark and open this up again when you have 15 minutes to continue.

If you’re ready, here’s the plan:

  • 5 minutes to see what we’re doing
  • Thinking while you configure
  • 10ish minutes of your time to set up your new workspace

Step 1: Add a new Person (content category)

We are going to use the ‘People’ feature in Chrome to set up a content-based workspace.

The ‘People’ feature’s new job

The ‘People’ feature will allow us to keep our active tabs open, completely close “inactive” tabbed-windows, and re-open them at anytime.

And our workspace will be clean and speedy! And less likely to become an inadequately small electric blanket.

Think of a Person (content category) you might want. For inspiration, these are the People I have set up:

  • Social media: Used for Facebook, Hootsuite, etc.
  • News
  • Client work
  • Business
  • Design
  • Ideas
  • Learning
  • Programming:

If you don’t have something in particular in mind, begin with a ‘Social Media/Communication’ Person (content category).

Open Chrome.

ClickPeople’ on the Chrome menu bar. Click ‘Add Person.’

Browser tab management - add person

This will open a new window or tab, prompting you to login. DO NOT login. Instead, clickNo thanks’ in the lower left corner.

If you’ve done this correctly, in the upper right corner of the window, you should see: ‘Person 1.’

You should have two Chrome windows open. Keep both open, we’ll return to the default window later.

Step 2: Setting up your new Person (content category)

Browser tab management - edit person

Once again, clickPeople’ on the Chrome menu bar. This time, clickEdit…’ This will open up the Chrome settings page and provide you with an option to change the name of the Person and choose a picture.

** Change the name to one of your content categories and pick out your favorite picture.

Step 3: Making your Person (content category) useful

3a. Go to ‘View’ in the Chrome menu bar and enable ‘Always show bookmarks bar.’

Go to and drag down a new bookmark to the bookmarks bar. Then right-click on the ‘Apps’ shortcut and uncheckShow apps shortcut.’

Bonus: Right-click on the Google shortcut and clickEdit.’ Delete the name, hitSave’ and you’re left with only a recognizable icon and more space for bookmarks.

3b. Go back to your very first Chrome window—not the new person you just created.

Think for a second on the following questions:

  • What bookmarks are specific to the new person you created?
  • Do you have any browser extensions previously installed that are relevant to the new Person?

Add any relevant bookmarks and/or bookmark folders to the new Person from the original setup you had.

3c. Install any browser extensions relevant to the new Person.

Here are a few favorites:

  • Diigo – Bookmarking system
  • Hootlet – Easily share a web page (Part of Hootsuite)
  • Ghostery – Control some of your personal data

Step 4: The key to the whole thing

Go to Chrome > Preferences on the Chrome menu bar, or click here. See the options for ‘On startup’–This entire setup only works if you select ‘Continue where you left off.’

Browser tab management - chrome settings

Step 5: Repeat this process for each category of content you want.

And ‘Scene!’

Before you go, the following is important to know

This approach isn’t flawless victory. Embracing its nuances is part of the deal.

However, three weeks after putting the solution to work, I can EASILY say that my computer is no longer overheating, my sanity is restored, I’m far more productive than I have been in a long time and I will never again have a mess to clean up—until I innovate on cleverer sabatage techniques.

In order to reopen your category, keep all tabs in one window. Only the last open window in each category will reopen. Test it out.

Close down your current category when you switch to a new category. This will keep your workspace clean and your computer fast and cool.

Put communication in its own window, hence the suggestion earlier. It’s easy to get distracted by Facebook’s notifications or the endless Twitter streams. Keep ‘em separate!

An exension to further improve performance

Super Mega Bonus points for someone to turn this browser tab management process into a Chrome extension.

Please leave a comment. Tell me this was helpful or stupid or unrealistic or ABD or whatever you’re thinking. Thanks!

Charted Territory & The Road Well-Traveled But Not By Us

Chicago to Seattle Header Image

“So why’d you move?”

I’ve gotten that question a lot. And frankly, I was excited to get it.

But I didn’t anticipate answering it differently almost every time it was asked of me.

So then, why did I move?

Let me get back to you on that.

What I do know, is that the drive out was fucking beautiful.


Day 1

We were up ’til 3:30am and had planned to leave just 3.5 short hours later.

So naturally we slept in and went out for breakfast.

One-Way Road Trip 2015

Wisconsin: Open road, blue skies and a fear of getting pulled over by racist cops.


Day 2

One-Way Road Trip 2015

First stop – Sioux Falls, SD. I got to see my old friend Lindsey from Lake Owen. It hadn’t not been 6 years since we got to see one another. Yuck. Too long!


One-Way Road Trip 2015

I can’t speak for many other parts of South Dakota, but I’m not sure why we made such a big deal over going to the Moon when it was right here.

Sorry for ripping off the same bad joke I made on Instagram.

One-Way Road Trip 2015


One-Way Road Trip 2015

I was down below at the edge of the cliff taking pictures when I heard a faint rattling sound in the distance. Soon enough there was a small crowd where this photo is shot. I went to investigate.

There was a rattlesnake hanging out on the side of the stairs.

The snake had sought refuge and I was too late to catch a glimpse.

So the only thing left to do was to snap a picture of my freaked-out sister getting in an impromptu workout…As any good brother would do.


One-Way Road Trip 2015

I’m admittedly bitter about Mt. Rushmore. All information said “open until 11:30pm.”

Bullshit. This is as close as we got and also the best and only shot I got.

The silver lining was that we got to drive through Deadwood–The town where that show I never saw, took place.

Sardonic comments, check.


Day 3

One-Way Road Trip 2015

I never knew about the Bighorn Mountains. Now I do. They’re amazing.

One-Way Road Trip 2015

One-Way Road Trip 2015

Beauty on the way to more beauty. Nature is pretty cool.


One-Way Road Trip 2015

I almost wanted to sneer at the $30 entrance fee to drive through Yellowstone.

For the price of seeing two movies or buying one popcorn at the theater, you can see some of the most breathtaking scenery this country has to offer.

One-Way Road Trip 2015

Yellowstone Lake


One-Way Road Trip 2015

We stopped at Ol’ Faithful which had a massive and mostly empty parking lot. It was the most unimpressive sight in the entire park.

Neither of us gave any thought to the name…Ooops.

We were on a tight time budget and off we went.


One-Way Trip 2015

We saw a bison. And almost ran over into a moose.


One-Way Road Trip 2015

The Grand Prismatic Spring was far and away the coolest. The air was a brisk 35 degrees but not at the spring. It was like a sauna that didn’t induce a sweat, didn’t get too hot and didn’t uncomfortably house old naked people.

In the end, it wasn’t much like a sauna. But it was gorgeous.

One-Way Road Trip 2015


One-Way Road Trip 2015

We stayed the night in Butte, MT at this neat little hotel called, “The Rocker Inn.” Our room key was an actual metal key. And there was a dive bar mere feet away from the check in desk.

The Internet reviews for this place said: “They need to get with the times.”

I disagree. It was perfect.


Day 4

We headed a [relatively] short distance to Missoula, MT to see Gretchen’s friend, Natalia. We caught up over breakfast and toured the town.

One-Way Road Trip 2015

That patch of white water in the middle is called Brennan’s Wave and is a surf spot! Dig it.


Unfortunately there are no pictures from most amazing driving of the entire trip. Thanks, Gretchen. (She was sleeping.)

But fortunately, I was driving and had tons of fun from Montana into Idaho and up to Coeur D’Alene. There were constant twists, turns, inclines, declines — I felt like I was in a video game — minus the fast car, tight handling and prize money.

I never really heard or knew much about Idaho and definitely had not been there before. I had an idea in my head that if I hadn’t known much about it, it couldn’t be that cool. Wrong. It was amazing.

Onward to see our cousins!

Over the Hop Beer

Our cousins Cathy, Dave, AJ and Sam took us out for burgers where I experienced huckleberries for the first time. Idaho’s state fruit works incredibly well in bbq sauce!

Dave is a beer judge and beer is good. So we had them. I managed to not take any pictures during our time with there except one for Untappd. Can I blame the beer?

Sorry guys, I really do feel bad about that. We’ll be back!


Day 5

Eastern Washington is far from mountainous twists and turns — and full of golden rolling hills.

One-Way Road Trip 2015

I missed a handful of great photo opportunities as we headed to Leavenworth, WA, (a small Bavarian-esque town) where I was sure to take advantage of all the German I had learned.


One-Way Road Trip 2015

The only Deutsch I spoke was rehearsing conversations I would have had, had there been anyone there to understand my semi-coherent ramblings. We did however find an amazing subterranean cheese (the English word for Käse) shop and stopped for a pint at the local brew pub.


One-Way Road Trip 2015

Next stop: Seattle

That was both the longest and fastest road trip in my life.

The next time we do that drive, we’ll do it in twice the time it took us!

All 82 road trip photos

Creating Contagious Happiness

A blend of rich minds assemple on Twitter every Tuesday at 11am for a discussion hosted by @ChicagoIdeas. Mick Ebeling of Not Impossible Labs broke from 3D printing for humanity and joined us as a co-host this past Tuesday. He led a discussion on “Help One, Help Many.” Of the customary five questions proposed throughout the #ideaschat hour, the second question recollected a theory/thought I had several years ago that was accompanied by a diagram.


A woman with short hair, glasses, in her early/mid 40’s and the brightest smile you’ve ever seen was a checkout clerk at the Dominick’s grocery store a few blocks from my apartment. I’d see her there regularly. And every time I checked out, I would seek out her line—even if it meant waiting an extra five or ten minutes (Avoid grocery shopping immediately after work if you can help it!).

Consequential Strangers

At this point in time, I was reading an evocative social science book called Consequential Strangers. Imagine a spectrum of interpersonal relationships with complete strangers on one end and intimate friends and beyond on the other. In between are varying degrees of consequential strangers. One segment I find particularly fascinating is nearer the complete strangers and the impact they can have on one’s life. Think of your mailman or barista or …grocery store checkout clerk.

Here’s a brief clip of the author Melinda Blau explaining this segment of consequential strangers:

Why I waited in line for Sharon

Sharon was one of those people that just shines. Radiating happiness, it was impossible not to smile when you’re talking with her. It’s the kind of feeling typically reserved for momentously positive occasions like scratching off $500 on a $2 lottery ticket from the gas station. We knew one another as ‘consequential strangers.’ She always recognized me and in our brief encounters we might speak about our upcoming plans with friends and family but nothing much beyond. We weren’t strangers but we weren’t friends either. Oddly, my favorite moment of each of those abbreviated conversations took place outside when I reflected upon my trip along the conveyor belt and impulse buys.

From a distance, it seems silly that a visit to the grocery store could create an impact so positive. Particularly because grocery stores typically elicit remorse for having to drudge through the cold. And the only redeeming factor is buying a box of cookies sold with regretful satisfaction.

An interaction with Sharon though, could set the mood for the next hour and sometimes the rest of the day. I would make it a point to pass on good vibes to all those I encountered.

Several ideas came to me one day.

Contagious Happiness/Positivity

Happiness like negativity, can be contagious. But it seems to be more difficult to transmit. Certainly compliments can be effective, but what about general demeanor? Sharon’s disposition for instance. It comes naturally to some and others need a bit of inspiration. My natural state is upbeat but it takes more than waking up on the right side of the bed to make it contagious to others.

Some people are more sensitive or receptive than others. Some are in states of mind that cannot change and some won’t care.

How does one break the barrier of those that aren’t initially open to the idea of changing their mindset, whether conscious or unconscious?

How long do the effects last? By transmiting the positivity yourself, can you reinforce the effects so they last longer?

In the end, there will always be one who doesn’t pay it forward, but we can at least try.

To the interested #ideaschatters: I found a first draft of my diagram but it was drawn as a cycle (and it was rather incomplete). This idea makes more sense as a network.

Social Contagion Network Image

Help One, Help Many

Social and positive psychology can provide some answers and this contagious happiness theory seems to be comprised of at least internalization, a broad category of social influence. According to Wikipedia, internalization is when “The individual accepts the influence because the content of the influence accepted is intrinsically rewarding..” And it also looks to be a behavioral contagion — “a spontaneous, unsolicited and uncritical imitation of another’s behavior.”

We can also derive ideas from network theory, particularly diffusion on networks. But I’ll leave that for another day.


Have you experienced anyone like Sharon? 

Do you have any thoughts on contagious happiness?


**Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on any assumptions

Yossarian. The Curious Search Engine.

Fast Company, this week, published an interesting article about a new search engine called, Yossarian. It’s promise is that it can make you more creative. But the diagram below the headline was more eye-catching than the click-baity hook!


Instead of returning results matching your search phrase, Yossarian returns metaphors. It tries to counteract group-think/ filter failure. They claim, “With Yossarian you can increase the diversity and frequency of your aha moments.”

So far this sounds like a pretty damn good tool for writing! This could really push the “ideas from ideas” philosophy. What sounds even more is the psychology behind interacting with Yossarian.

J. Paul Neeley, its founder, mentions that it takes us a moment to recognize a metaphor when it’s heard or seen because metaphors are not “directly” true by nature. Hence, a metaphor. What’s so fascinating about this, is that through repetition, we can speed up that processing time.

And with repetition, it’s also a fantastic primer! It’s similar to listening to stand-up comedy before writing or speaking. It really loosens up your narrow focus and allows you to think in different ways like inverting or fragmenting ideas to create new ones. Much in the same way comedians or anybody with a bit of wit can do.

There’s also no need to worry about search results being too far fetched either. There’s a sliding scale for search result randomness!
This is no doubt a powerful tool and it’ll requires a thoughtful mind. It’ll show us paths, but it’s our job to choose one. Overall, this sounds like an exciting project.