Two-finger QWERTYUIOPing

From Vice

A new study from researchers at the University of Cambridge has revealed that people are now typing on their smartphones almost as fast as they can on a keyboard.

A good typist can type around 100 words per minute (WPM) on a desktop keyboard, but most of us only type around 35-65 WPM. According to the research, people using two thumbs can achieve typings speeds averaging 38 WPM on smartphones.

“[That’s] only about 25% slower than the typing speeds we observed in a similar large-scale study of physical keyboards,” Anna Feit, a researcher at ETH Zürich and co-author of the study said in a statement. Feit said the number of people who can achieve speeds of 100 WPM on a keyboard is decreasing.

The gaming of Medium by clickbait merchants

From an interesting post by Simon Owens asking Will 10 million people pay for personal essays?.

Last week I posted a tweet thread that you should check out. It starts with a screen capture of a headline for an article that appeared behind Medium’s paywall. This article fits into a content category that I’ve noticed is proliferating on Medium. It’s what I call “shitty personal advice column.”

In fact, anytime I see someone bragging about how much money they’re making through Medium’s partnership program — which allows users to place their content behind its paywall and get paid for the amount of engagement it generates — I then click on their user profile to see what kind of articles this person is regularly producing, and it almost always falls under this category. Often, the person is publishing upward of two or three articles a day, with each headline over-promising and under-delivering on its premise.

And this makes sense. If you’re going to make real money on a platform that’s doling it out based on the amount of engagement it receives, you’ll need to produce a high volume of low calorie articles that require very little original research and contain clickable headlines.

It’s the old story: anything with that kind of business model can be gamed.

A while back I became tired of getting emails from Medium highlighting apparently interesting posts that, however, lay behind the site’s paywall — i.e. they were only available to Medium ‘members’ (people who pay $50/year for the privilege). So, in a moment of weakness, I signed up. Big mistake.

I’ve cancelled my ‘membership’ (which, to their credit, they make it easy to do). But I’ve still blown $50 for no good purpose. Sigh. One born every minute :-(

Crooked Timber

Walking in some woods last Sunday (which was a glorious September day) I came on this tree, which brought to mind Kant’s sombre dictum that “Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.”

Which of course then reminded me of one of my favorite blogs.

Longhand

Quote

I’m insatiably curious about how writers write — and accordingly loved this section of Tyler Cowen’s interview with Masha Gessen:

COWEN: What is your most unusual writing habit?

GESSEN: I write by hand.

COWEN: You write by hand?

GESSEN: I write by hand. I write longhand.

COWEN: And someone types it into a computer? Or that never happens?

GESSEN: [laughs] No, I write books longhand, and then I type them up chapter by chapter. I write a chapter out longhand and then type it.

COWEN: Why is that good for you?

GESSEN: Because I think that the process of writing longhand is more linear. If you ever look at how you write, or if I ever look at how I write, if I just write on a computer, unless it’s . . . A column is also pretty linear. I outline it, and then I just fill in every paragraph, and I do that on a computer.

But if I write a very long piece, I don’t notice how much I jump around when I’m writing on a computer. You can’t do that on paper. You have to keep going. Then it poses a narrative structure that is unbreakable. One sentence has to follow the previous sentence. You can’t go back and reinsert it. It keeps me very focused, I find.

The other thing it does is that when I’m typing it up, I’m reading it on paper, and I think that there’s a difference. When the book is ready, I will then print it out and edit it again on paper. But every time you read, when you’re reading on paper and you’re reading on screen, you’re seeing completely different things.

Interesting. Maybe I should go back to writing longhand.

Denmark offers to buy US — with some conditions

From the New Yorker:

COPENHAGEN (The Borowitz Report)—After rebuffing Donald J. Trump’s hypothetical proposal to purchase Greenland, the government of Denmark has announced that it would be interested in buying the United States instead.

“As we have stated, Greenland is not for sale,” a spokesperson for the Danish government said on Friday. “We have noted, however, that during the Trump regime pretty much everything in the United States, including its government, has most definitely been for sale.”

“Denmark would be interested in purchasing the United States in its entirety, with the exception of its government,” the spokesperson added.

Lovely!