Keyboarding Failure

Sometimes, I try something that I can just work harder at, spend more time practicing, and reach a level where I’m happy with myself.

Sometimes, I am not so sure it is worth it.

I wanted to pick up Dvorak. I really wanted to. I like being an edge case. I like that I run a multinetwork multisite (putting me in the 0.25% of WordPress sites1) and I like that I run trunk/master of as much stuff as I can in production. I like having three monitors and have a physical proof to the world that I am a geek.

I had heard that Dvorak would be better for me. I didn’t do too much diving into real research since it was from authorities I trusted, and would massively up my geek cred. Who besides a total edge case changes their keyboard layout to something else?

Alas, I’ve done it for a short time now and I’ve hit a wall. I am falling flat on my face. My wrists hurt from all of it. And I’m slower for it. Instead of spending 30 minutes typing 30 minutes worth of text, I’m spending 30 minutes to get 5 minutes out. This post is longer, already, than anything I’ve written in my Dvorak days just because I couldn’t allow myself to slow down the train of thought long enough to type. I forgot how to spell words. “Instead” took me far too many attempts. I don’t know how to spell anything—I’ve done a fair job of purging stuff from memory that I don’t think I actively need anymore. I just have muscle memory.

I feel like a failure. January is the highest-volume month at work and I underestimated my productivity decline. Between frustration typing, frustration on output relative to need (and the related frustration of being unable to help out the team as much as I know I can), I’m getting frustrated enough for it to spill over to at home.

I’m not closing the door on Dvorak (or Colemak), but rather stepping back to reassess what I need to do around me to reduce the friction of the attempt.

  1. Based on internal stats. 

2016: The Year of Bad Typing ⌨️

I type a lot. All day, everyday. My primary role at Automattic is of a communicator. 99.9% of which occurs via a keyboard. ⌨️

I haven’t had any problems, except maybe once a week, my wrists hurt a little toward the end of the day. I wouldn’t typically think about it except typing is my life. It is like when a marathon runner feels something at mile 5. Scary.

Our keyboards aren’t made for this. The QWERTY layout that we all know and don’t understand was standardized when typewriters needed people to slow down. People were typing fast enough to make the types (the thing with the letter that smashes the ink into the paper) stick together. The layout makes us a bit more to work around this 19th century limitation. More work, the faster things break down.

I’ve been considering the Dvorak layout for sometime. This is a layout developed to overall reduce the work of your hands and, according to some, faster. I am pretty darn fast on QWERTY and, honestly, am already to the point where my thought process is usually my limiting factor. I am not expecting a speed increase. The potential reduction in strain is a huge benefit though.

I switched cold turkey about a week ago.

Using it exclusively is hard. It is humbling to suck at typing. I don’t know if it will make anything better or not, but figure it is worth the experiment. I return to work after a long break today—will my patience make it without ripping off the keyboard overlay?