Turn everything around: Page numbers on the web and why they’re currently mostly useless
You’re browsing someone’s ffffound collection. You’re on page 26. You bookmark the page with the intent of coming back tomorrow, or on the weekend, to browse through the rest. You open page 26. It has different content than when you last saw it. The same with any tumblr blog, Wordpress, Soundcloud user pages, really anywhere where a list or stream is paginated.
Why does this
mean something different depending on when you look at it? Doesn’t that completely defeat the original purpose of numbering pages?
The current convention is that the newest page, the front page, is numbered 1, and all older pages are numbered incrementally from there on. Not only is this useless, as just demonstrated, but also semantically wrong. It should be the other way around: the first page of articles published on a blog should have the number 1 (because it was the first), and all newer article pages get higher numbers. The front page of a blog would no longer be page 1, but something like 47, because the front page of a blog isn’t the beginning of the whole thing, but the end. This has the added benefit of URLs actually being deterministic and showing the same content every time, which really is the whole point of URLs in the first place.
So why not turn your page numbering around? Your first posts are on the first page, and your newest posts are on the last, which is just how page numbers were expected to behave for most of their existence. The programming is trivial, your URLs will suddenly make sense again, and visitors can actually sensibly bookmark their position in a paginated stream, regardless of how fast it moves.
Where’s the problem? I suppose it would take some minor getting used to, but in my opinion the benefits far outweigh the initial confusion. More descriptive wording, like using “newer” and “older” instead of “next” and “previous” could already go a long way.
Now I’ve used the word “stream” a couple of times, but I have to admit that the streamiest of streams, such as Facebook or the tumblr dashboard, which have little archival use and no page numbers at all, are really no obvious fit for this method. Endless scrolling brings it’s own challenges, with my favoured solution being item-based URLs that update depending on scroll position (see here: http://warpspire.com/experiments/history-api/).
On a more philosophical note: does pagination even deserve this much attention as an absolute identification system, much like it used to be in books, or should we embrace this new relativity the web has brought upon page numbers, making them no more deterministic than “previous” or “next”? Is transience good? Should we let things fade and be lost in the void? Or might the reversed page number proposal even be a decent UI solution for finding one’s way around the ephemeral depths of the streams of Facebook and twitter?
And, just out of personal interest: How did we actually get to this point, and when did the flip occur?
The Aztec Maiden, run aground off Amsterdam. Photo by Olaf Kraak.
Quo vadis, America?
photo by Andreas Gursky, São Paulo 2002
One of my favourite photographers and one of my favourite buildings. It’s also very good on the inside:
More at deathproofarchitecture.
Silver Lake Operations # 2, Lake Lefroy, Western Australia, 2007
Burtynsky filmed the documentary Manufactured Landscapes in 2006, which accompanies him on his shoots around the world, showing the very worst of what industrialisation has to offer, and how oddly compelling it can all look. The film’s pace is somewhat glacial, but it’s well worth watching.
Three feet under, 48x36”, Oil on canvas, 2011: 5900.00 USD
It’s not about detail or precision, but an intimate understanding of light.
from Yangtze - The Long River, 2009
Another fantastic photographer with a dysfunctional Flash 8 website. Sometimes I think they just don’t care. When your pictures sell for tens of thousands of Euros, you can probably afford not to.
Cueva de los Cristales, Mexico.
300 meters underground, scientists in cooling suits explore the cave of crystals, enduring extreme humidity and temperatures up to 58°c.
All I want is a bright room that is wider than deep.
Gary’s Manhattan Penthouse, a rentable event space right next to the Empire State Building. The rates are a couple of thousand dollars a day. There’s a roof terrace, skylights and one of those old free-standing bathtubs. The windows are huge and low, like windows should be, and the views are staggering. The furniture, however, is pretty terrible. But the space itself is ridiculously amazing.
From back to front:
- Mud Circle (2011)
- Basalt Ellipse (2000)
- Sandstone Circle (1977)
- Autumn Turf Circle (1998)
- Berlin Circle (1996)
- Black and White Circle (1988)
- Turf Line (1990)
26.05.2011 — 15.01.2012, Hamburger Bahnhof
Mud Circle was especially pleasing, a coarse, muddy version of Eliassons sun. Mud from the river Avon, hastily spread on the wall by hand, spraying wildly over the circumference and drawing a nice curve along the base of the wall, like a chart describing the amount of mud used at any given point on the x-axis.
As someone who has a rather irresistible urge to arrange things in patterns for others to find, I found this very enjoyable. If I had thought big, I could possibly have made a living out of it.
13.05.2011 - 25.09.2011, Hamburger Bahnhof
mir geht so
schlecht wie nie
nur ein leichtes
Wall of daily polaroids. The quote is one of the last entries in his calendar. Thousands of pages and polaroids, obessively filled with almost illegible handwriting, 2-3mm line height at best.
Driven by a wish to chronicle an imaginary physical phenomenon, he took photographs and measurements of his surroundings every day, for over 20 years, and annotated every single one in the manner seen above.
In the end, it becomes a chronicle of his degenerating health, with photographs of bruises, excretions, anatomic details, recollections of doctor’s appointments, his diet, his pain, his gradual decay. The writing grows larger, but only just. His dedication is unwavering.
The last word he wrote in his life was Joghurt.
Untitled (Capsized), 2002
119.7 x 152.4 cm
Sold for £43,250 (48 550€)
Conversion Mate I - Better Window Management in OS X
I switched from Windows to Mac recently, and while the transition has been amazingly great, one thing annoyed me a bit: window management. OS X has this design paradigm of only making a window as big as it needs to be, which clutters everything up immensely. At the same time, full sizing a window is surprisingly inconvenient. In fact, arranging windows in general is surprisingly inconvenient: no one-click interaction for proper, distraction free full screen, and the only bit of flexible resizing UI is that terribly tiny, fiddly thing in the bottom right corner. Meh.
So, Divvy! I thought. Divvy is a 14$ app designed to help you with this. But it’s actually only marginally less annoying: you have to define and remember keyboard shortcuts, and there’s an extra interface that pops up whenever you resize anything. There must be a more unobtrusive way of doing this.
And there is. If you have a magic touchpad, that is. So imagine these gestures:
- five finger tap: expand window to fill screen
- four finger tap: revert to previous window size
- rotate left: resize window to fill the left half of the screen
- rotate right: resize window to fill the right half of the screen
No UI, no keyboard shortcuts, no remembering anything, just four simple gestures that integrate wonderfully into any workflow. And seriously: doing that splitscreen thing? I need that about 20 times a day. And now arranging two windows side by side is a three-second process involving exactly four simple touch pad interactions. Neat.
So here’s how to do it:
- Download BetterTouchTool and install it
- Under Gestures → Trackpad / Magic Trackpad, set up the four gestures shown in the above image
- Arrange windows for 5 minutes because it’s just become so stupidly convenient
Sure, it’s not as flexible as Divvy et al., but personally, I’m not missing anything. This setup has sped up and de-annoyed my work day immensely, maybe it will do the same for you. If so, consider donating a few of whatever your local currency is to the author of the tool.
Also, I can’t help but like an app that has a checkbox marked “Only activiate this if I told you to.”