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    Calling it a day

    • Started by jammycakes
    • 9 Replies:
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    • From: Horsham, West Sussex, UK
    • Registered: 11-Jun-2007
    • Posts: 86

    I'm afraid that I've decided to throw in the towel with Colemak.

    You guys are all great -- I love the way you're so keen and enthusiastic, and I don't doubt that some of you have had a lot of success with it. Unfortunately, after about four and a half months on Colemak, I had to face the fact that it wasn't taking me anywhere.

    I must admit that I've ended up disappointed. My top speed of 71 words per minute on Colemak may sound fairly impressive to some of you, but when you compare that with my previous top qwerty speed of 90, it's a different picture. I was hoping to get up to 100+, and at the rate I progressed initially this seemed like a realistic expectation. However, it plateaued after about a month and I just haven't managed to improve on it at all.

    The problem as I see it is that for Colemak -- or indeed, any other keyboard layout -- to achieve widespread adoption, it needs to demonstrate an advantage over qwerty that is not just marginal but so clear, definitive and obvious that it outweighs the disadvantages of using a non-standard layout (e.g. time taken to switch, annoying everyone who uses the same computer as you, awkwardness when pair programming and Windows switches layout on your partner at random as Windows is in the nasty habit of doing, and so on) by a definitive margin.

    As far as I can see, Colemak comes closer to reaching that goal than any other layout, but the differences just don't seem significant enough to me to make it.

    So sorry to disappoint you all. This hasn't been an easy decision -- after all, I think I probably out-fanboyed many of you, especially back around January/February time when I was seeing impressive progress, and the vibrant community aspect to it makes it all the more difficult. But don't be put off by my assessment -- it's just my own experience, that's all. If Colemak works better for you then all I can say is stick with it, and have fun doing so.

    Last edited by jammycakes (02-Jun-2008 14:03:19)
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    • From: Belgium
    • Registered: 26-Feb-2008
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    Frankly, I don't think 90+ wpm Qwerty typists are the "target audience" for Colemak.

    I think Colemak has most advantages for people stuck at 30-40 wpm with Qwerty, or people making many mistakes (I count myself as (formerly) under that category), or those with RSI or other typing discomfort.

    If you can type 90 wpm with Qwerty comfortably, Colemak probably just doesn't have a lot to offer you...

    Perhaps Qwerty with Caps Lock->Backspace can lift you over that magic 100 wpm limit? :-)

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    • Registered: 27-Apr-2008
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    Hi jammycakes. I made the switch about six weeks ago and up until a few days ago, I too was obsessed with speed. I had been touch typing in QWERTY for about eighteen years and my speed was pretty poor, probably about 50-60wpm with fairly low accuracy. If I had made a conscious effort to be as accurate as possible, it'd probably have been closer to 40wpm. Part of what made learn Colemak, and Dvorak before that, was a desire to type faster with better accuracy. So far Colemak is doing a very good job.

    The last few days I have been slowing down, typing in a bit of a jerky fashion, making a deliberate effort to make no mistakes. I think it is now paying off. I did a couple of typing tests at typeracer.com and my speed is about 50-55wpm, with only a couple of errors (up from mid to high 40's).

    In short, I think worrying about speed is not going to help you type faster. Being accurate and relaxed seems more important to me. This from Ryan Heise's site may be of help:

    Tips for learning

        * After the plateau at 50 WPM, I decided to pay attention to my weaknesses, and I noticed that my most commonly mistyped character was "G". After simply focusing on "G" as I typed, my speed instantly jumped up into the 60s.
        * When I got into the 90s, progress was quite slow getting up above 100 WPM. What helped was to practice by typing with a steady rhythm, using the same amount of time to think about each character. This forced me to take the time I needed to catch common mis-presses before they happened, something that I think would have taken much longer to correct otherwise.
        * Now that my speed is above 100 WPM, my typing technique works something like this: by default, force myself to type at a steady pace -- but, when I see words or strings of words that I know I can type very quickly (e.g. using known finger rolls) then I remember to speed up on those, -- and, when I see words that I know I have problems with, I remember to slow down and type carefully. This, I have found, is the fastest way for me to type, as it tends to eliminate a lot of wasted time introducing and correcting mistakes. However, it requires being aware of your strong and weak words.

    How long were you typing in QWERTY  by the way?

    Edit: One of the most compelling reasons for me to stick with Colemak is just how comfortable it is to type on laptops. I always hated using laptops with QWERTY, fingers dancing around like mad, failing to hit the right key. And that uncomfortably long stretch to the backspace key.

    Last edited by simonh (02-Jun-2008 18:03:00)

    "It is an undoubted truth, that the less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in." - Earl of Chesterfield

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    • From: Oslo, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
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    Ah, too bad James. As Geert says, you're among the top QWERTY typists given that most lie around 35 WPM and most who care about and/or do a lot of typing lie around 65 WPM or thereabouts. So you'd have a lot of muscle memory to fight and a long way to go before any new layout could perform to your standards for you.

    Best of luck in whatever endeavours you replace Colemak with! - "fanboying" with you has been fun. Maybe, just maybe you'll be bored/fiddly/silly/intrigued/whatever enough one day to come back, but then again maybe not. Aw.

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
    *** Check out my Big Bag of Keyboard Tricks for Win/Linux/TMK... ***

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    • Shai
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    • Registered: 11-Dec-2005
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    If you hit some problems, I'm wondering why didn't you just ask for ideas to overcome the problems instead of letting the frustration build up until you finally quit.

    I'm a big fan of pair programming myself, and I didn't find using Colemak a big hindrance; a minor annoyance at worst. In the first case, the issue completely resolved itself when against all odds the other programmer converted to Colemak as well!

    In the other case, I never found it to be a big deal anyway, as we generally just communicate to each other what to type, instead of butting in each others' keyboard. The other programmer knows that they have to hit a certain hotkey before they type (which is the same hotkey regardless of what keyboard layout active), and it's not that of a big deal. Specifically, the AutoHotKey solution solves most of the issues you're mentioning, because with AutoHotKey's the keyboard layout is global (not per window), and it can be configured to automatically switch to QWERTY whenever someone hits the Backspace key (so after a typing a letter wrong, and correcting it, it will automatically switch layouts). I'm sure that there are other possible workarounds as well.

    As said beforehand, the key for faster speed is accuracy and rhythm, the tip by Ryan Heise mentioned above are very good. When you say that after a few months you're still making "just as many typos and mistakes", then perhaps not enough emphasis has been put in regard to accuracy. 

    Sorry it didn't work out for you. On the bright side, now the "live webcam" on your blog will now match your actual keyboard layout.

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    • Registered: 07-Aug-2007
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    jammycakes (oh!  Just realized it's an anagram!) makes a good point in his blog about how the Colemak home row makes reaching for everything else so much more onerous than in QWERTY.  It may seem counterintuitive, since the distances are never worse than in QWERTY, but the much-maligned QWERTY happens to distribute your effort better over all your keystrokes, whereas in Colemak, when you make the reach, you're fighting against a lot more inertia.  This also explains why on Colemak people routinely find it hard to reach for g and b and j, even though they didn't find the corresponding t and b and y particularly hard on QWERTY, even though t is actually a very frequent letter!

    But it's very difficult for me to return to QWERTY now, even to make nice with my colleagues.  I never did surpass my QWERTY speed on Colemak (I am stuck at the same 70 that jammycakes is at, even though I've been with Colemak even longer than he has (11 mo)), but unfortunately I can't type QWERTY as fast I used to before the switch, so I am stuck. 

    People should consider that trying Colemak is not only about learning a new skill, it is also about unlearning an old one.  Sometimes you find out the value of what you lost only after you've lost it.  I am OK with my choice (well, I have to be :-) ), but newbies should be more circumspect than I was before making the leap.

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    • Registered: 27-Apr-2008
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    I decided to watch the replay of Jammycakes's top Colemak score of 71wpm. I counted that twenty two mistakes were made, resulting in about forty characters that needed to be corrected. Had these not been made, his score would have obviously been higher. I'll bet that if he had slowed down a little and attempted one hundred percent accuracy, his score would have been at least 80-85 wpm. Maybe even the 90 he was hoping for...?

    "It is an undoubted truth, that the less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in." - Earl of Chesterfield

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    • From: Horsham, West Sussex, UK
    • Registered: 11-Jun-2007
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    @ds26gte: You've summed it up about as well as I can. And well spotted with the anagram btw :)

    @simonh: Bear in mind that that was back in early February, at the tail end of some pretty rapid progress. Unfortunately, it tailed off at that point. Perhaps you're right, but my qwerty speed is still about 20% faster even though I'm no more accurate with it. What I've been finding trips me up a lot on that typing test with Colemak particularly recently is the keys that are further from the home row, such as numbers, quotation marks (I'm British, so for me the double quote is shift-2 rather than shift-single quote) and so on, for the reasons outlined in the follow-up comments on my blog and re-iterated by ds26gte. That in particular is why I lose it with Colemak a bit for programming. The typing test also frequently has words in ALL CAPS -- as does real life, I should add -- and the absence of Caps Lock is a bit of a pain when you have to handle that kind of thing.

    @Shai: I get your point about pair programming with colleagues that you know well, but how do you handle it when you're interviewing candidates for a programming job, who almost certainly haven't even heard of Colemak? We're recruiting at the moment and one thing I'm keen to do is spend at least part of the interview conducting a pair programming exercise -- something that I personally think should be a routine part of any interview for a developer job. Also I'm spending a lot of time these days in remote desktop sessions on a fairly wide variety of high traffic business critical servers, and I'm cautious about running any third party software on them that's only a luxury rather than a necessity, even if I do trust it wholeheartedly on my laptop.

    I think on balance if you were to ask me whether I thought Colemak is better or worse than qwerty, to be truthful I'd say that on balance, they're about the same. I can't say that one's better than the other -- they have different strengths and weaknesses, and as far as I can see it depends on what kind of typing you're doing and what kind of keyboard you're using how much you're likely to get out of it.

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    Jammycakes: I'm from England too. I use 'portable colemak' which as you may or may not know is based on the US layout. Double quote is swapped with the '@' symbol (Shift + ') position on UK boards. To me this makes much more sense. Also, CapsLock is available with Shift + CapsLock, which to me is perfect. Fingers remain on home row (as I mentioned in the technical forum). Would love to see this in a future version of Colemak.

    I find it interesting that some people find that Qwerty is a better fit for them after trying alternatives. I'm in no position to challenge your experiences or conclusion, but I never liked Qwerty. It all seemed too much work for me. I am finding Colemak to be brisk walking compared with Qwerty's all out running. Each to their own as they say. All the best.

    "It is an undoubted truth, that the less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in." - Earl of Chesterfield

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    Just thought how funny it would be if Shai said he was going back to Qwerty! I hope he would keep the forum online.

    "It is an undoubted truth, that the less one has to do, the less time one finds to do it in." - Earl of Chesterfield

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