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Old 06-05-2010, 08:15 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Not Real America, according to St. Sa家h
Posts: 21,798
Default Dealing with distractions while reading online

I think you speak for many people here, George. I have a couple of suggestions, which may be of interest to you, and possibly some others.

First, a technical fix that comes close to what you asked for: Readability. The developers' tagline is:

Readability is a simple tool that makes reading on the Web more enjoyable by removing the clutter around what you're reading.
It works by adding a button to your browser's bookmarks toolbar, which, if you click it when visiting some page, will make a guess about what's the main article on the page, and display only that.

Below are screengrabs of a typical NY Times article page (left) and the same article as rendered by Readability (right). Click 'em to big 'em. (Sorry about the size info in the thumbnails -- it's not there in the full-size images.)


[Original article URL, for the record.]

Now, you'll note that the links in the story are still present, but at least all the links surrounding the article are gone, not to mention the other assorted visual distractions.

I haven't played around with it much since I came across it. At that time, it was still a little early-beta-ish for my taste, but I am going to give it another try (thanks, in part, to you). Also, you should be aware that when I came across it, it was due to pourmecoffee, who called it "the greatest Web tool ever developed." Further, when I blogged about, 100% of my commenters (i.e., all nearly-two of them) agreed with the thrust of the emotion.

An additional benefit: you can use the site's interface tools to adjust your preferences as to how Readability will render an article: type face, font size, and layout style ("Newspaper," "Novel," "eBook", etc.). Looks like they've added some options since the last time I dropped by.

Anyway, you might give Readability a look.

The second suggestion is a little more low-tech, but it does have the advantage of addressing your link-switch wish more directly, even concerning those links within the article you're reading. As you may or may not know, you can open links in a new tab by clicking on them with the middle button of your mouse. Or, if you have a two-button mouse with a scroll-wheel, odds are very good the wheel can be pushed down, just like a middle button. I have gotten myself in the habit of middle-clicking links as they pique my curiosity, which causes the links to open in new tabs, which remain "behind" the one I'm currently looking at. Then, at the end of reading the article, I can go look at the other tabs.

Or not -- the real beauty of this approach, for me, at least, is that doing that background opening of the links, as it were, defuses the temptation I have to click the links, which means it's significantly easier for me to stay focused on the original article. I have to say, I suspect developing this habit has been part of the reason I haven't spent more time playing around with Readability.


[Added] One more suggestion here.

Last edited by bjkeefe; 06-05-2010 at 08:44 PM..
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