Copy and paste is used all the time. It’s virtually the only way to move stuff around in a computer.
Yet, every time we ⌘C we’re creating a copy of something that’s being separated from its source. What’s more, we’re trapping it in an opaque place called clipboard, hidden until its pasted somewhere else, far from its source. The computer affords for easy copying of isolated pieces, but disturbs for creating robust links to the source.
Let’s say you are writing a note about a topic. You find a quote in a Web page. You copy and paste it into your note. Now you need to do extra work if you want to help your future self find the source context. You need to copy the URL, maybe the title of the page, etc.
What if every time you hit ⌘C a background process copied the fragment, title of the window, name of the application, and file/URL, and appended that to an observable history of objects. You could get anything stored in that history and embed it in a website, or maybe get a UUID link that when clicked recreates the original context (click and you the URL opens with the text highlighted, or whatever local file is opened that contains the fragment).
Thus, the act of copying becomes an act of linking.
Although I’m not familiar with the tech needed to implement this, I’ve been looking. It seems that the concept is doable at least in MacOS through the Accessibility API. Now, I know that you tool builders may benefit from a connector like this.
Let’s set the content of the clipboard free. Who’s with me?
A few remarks:
- There’s a browser extension called Quotebacks that proposes similar functionality within the Web, but without messing around with the clipboard. What I am aiming at here is broader. I’d like to link to my local files, I’d like to link to any UI bit that can happen in a computer.
- Also worth mentioning is Omar Rizwan’s Screenotate, which is the closest existing thing I know of. It saves a screenshot plus OCR-d text, plus context like app title and URL.