Why Apple’s Safari is inadequate for knowledge workers

Knowledge management is important to all organizations as well as individuals. Losing all your documents, pictures, music, videos, SSH keys, e-mails and bookmarks is one thing. Another is slight degradation of your knowledge base.

As a kid I used to make a lot of drawings of cars, houses and technical stuff. When I reviewed my collection after a few years I noticed that it would be a good thing to put dates on everything because you could track the development history of ideas. This became even more important when drawings weren’t just for fun but part of professional work.

The first thing that I do in a meeting with domain experts is to put the current date in the upper right corner. Even under heavy work pressure, when managing scribbles is not the first priority the development history of ideas is never lost. I’ve often noticed confusion when people had different versions of scribbles and could not tell which one was the right one after a month or so. Even though a lot of project managers do write protocols they often do not capture the key ideas as good as the engineer’s “real-time” scribble.

Now, what does this have to do with Safari? I use a browser’s bookmarking facility (I use several browsers on several different machines) to have a rough documentation of the set of sources that were involved in a problem-solving process. Sometimes they are so specific, for example a search on a certain bug, that one might not find them again easily. Bookmarks and googling are cheap, so one should use them both.

Bookmarks are not exactly rocket science – they basically they consist of a title (often the page title), the URL and the date they were added and often the last time the document was accessed. With just creating bookmarks you usually have a good knowledge base when sorted by their timestamps.

You might guess what Safari does (not): It does not safe the creation date time stamp of a bookmark. I bet even Netscape 1.0 did it. Safari doesn’t support tagging out of the box as well. So all you can do is sort you bookmarks immediately into folder structures, which is not the way to do efficient knowledge working. Trust me, I have seen to many useless folder structures in my life to ever invest more than minimum effort into moving bookmarks or mails or pictures into folders.

This is a strong reason for using Firefox or Chrome on the Mac. As Mr. Alan Kay says, the computer revolution has not yet taken place. The next step in successful knowledge work will maximize the efficiency of information retrieval by tracking tagged resources in different contexts, aided by the history trail.

My advice on managing resources:

  • Studies suggest, that about 70% of all data loss is caused by users, not storage or software failures. This includes accidental deletion of files, formatting of media or throwing backup CDs into the shredder. Apple iTunes is famous for deleting mobile bookmarks, music and pictures in the synchronization process. You are not alone if you do not understand iOS syncing – even Apple itself doesn’t!.
  • Use the right tools for all your resources. Make sure you’ll not be trapped in a vendor or technology lock-in. My rule is: If I cannot imagine how to economically come up with an alternative implementation of my own, I don’t use it. That’s why you should never rely on data stored on web- or cloud services. Or Microsoft Outlook.
  • Know your tools.  Check if they are really doing what you expect. If a feature sounds to good to



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