Monday, May 20, 2013

Slow down, you move too fast

If you're Sean Wrona and have won the $2,000 first prize in the 2010 Ultimate Typing Championship at the South by Southwest Interactive Conference, you're Paul David, Brian Arthur and Douglas Puffert's worst nightmare.  That's because Sean typed 163 WPM on the supposedly inferior QWERTY keyboard, besting all other contestants.

[Udate] Mr. Wrona is apparently also inconvenient for the Daily Telegraph's Harry Wallop who seems to now hold the record for most recent repetition of the urban myth that is QWERTYnomics;

...typing using a Qwerty just isn’t very quick. Also, the spacing out of common pairings of letters is responsible for millions of people developing repetitive strain injury.
There are many other machines that allow people to type more swiftly and safely, most notably the Dvoˇrák board (invented by a distant cousin of the Czech composer), developed in the Thirties. Crucially, this version allows your fingers to jump and stretch less and your left hand and right hand are used equally – with a Qwerty, your left hand does well over half the work. The world record for typing on this version is more than 200 words a minute, a speed that would cause snapped fingers with a Qwerty board.


  1. About market failure. Suppose for argument that QWERTY is 30% less efficient than DVORAK, but QWERTY won the marketing competition.

    () Is it market failure any time that one can look back with 20-20 hindsight to say "They could have done it better?"

    () In the actual case of QUERTY, just what do the market critics propose? Should there have been a National Standards Typing Board with the power to prevent the marketing of QUERTY? Should there be a National Standards of Everything Board to intervene in current businesses to head off current market failure? Should everything wait on the approval of some government board?

    () If there is no proposal as to how government would have imposed DVORAK instead of QUERTY, then why is that issue relevant to other areas of invention?

    For example, we know what happens when government decides the design of health insurance. Health insurance is regulated, manipulated, and distorted in every state. Lobbyists at the state level arrange for their particular offerings to be covered by insurance, such as accupuncture, chiropracty, and health clubs, but not head injury in some states.

    The rational process by which some things are included or excluded from mandated coverage is determined by lobbying and political contributions. So, give me market failure every time, rather than Government Lobbying Failure.

  2. Sorry Andrew, but you can't embarrass the QWERTYphiles, they're their own parodists. For instance, Paul David in 1997, trying to recover some dignity;

    'One thing that public policy could do is to try to delay the market from committing the future inextricably, before enough information has been obtained about the likely technical or organizational and legal implications of an early, precedent-setting decision ... [P]reserving open options for a longer period than impatient market agents would wish is a generic wisdom that history has to offer to public policy-makers, in
    all its application areas where positive feedback processes [like network-effects] are likely to be preponderant over negative feedbacks. Numerous dynamic strategies can and have been suggested as ways of implementing this approach in various specific contexts where public sector action isreadily feasible. Still more sensible and practical approaches will be found if economists cease their exclusive obsession with traditional questions of static welfare analysis and instead of pronouncing on the issue of where state intervention would be justified in the economy, start to ask what kind of public
    policy actions would be most appropriate to take at different points in the evolution of a given market process.

    David has been over to the future...and it works!

  3. Yes, I see Paul David's point: "Preserving open options for a longer period than impatient market agents would wish, is a generic wisdom that history has to offer to public policy-makers".

    If government would just delay everything by say five years, then the implementation of everything would be much better, given the lessons learned from thinking about the implementation, rather than rushing in to do it.

    This is very Aristotelian. Pure thought and bureaucracy can implement the future without the rush, much better, and with time for long lunches and coffee breaks.