On Social Media

Unfortunately there is no better way to publish photos, writing, or other personal content without using social media. The corollary is also true, there is no better way to follow content from someone you are interested in than using social media.

The open web and RSS were not successful enough to escape out of the tech crowd in the way Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have. I’m a firm believer in owning and controlling your own content. However, even if I publish all my content on my own personal sites, which I do, no one will see them unless I syndicate them out.

I try to use Twitter as a glorified RSS reader, both as a means of publishing links back to my content and viewing others. The problem is Twitter is also a communication platform, filled with all the problems of the internet like nowhere else. It is rarely an enjoyable place to visit, so I find myself doing it less and less and less.

Instagram is quite a bit better staying out of the gutter, especially if you take the effort to cull your follow list to quality people. However, a few things happen on Instagram:

  1. It feels that everyone tries to stay consistent and “on brand” because that is supposedly the best way to build your followers, so everything gets stale. After browsing Instagram over a period of time, it just feels like seeing all the same stuff over and over again.
  2. This may be related to above, but the recent feed changes away from chronological order make me feel like I’m always missing stuff. It removes any sense of timeliness which is especially profound on posts that are around events. It’s confusing to see things out of order. Plus, in trying to be smart it is showing me more content from people I interact with, and less from others I follow, which only reinforces that I won’t see all the content from who I follow.
  3. Instagram has tremendous lock-in which as a photographer I quite dislike. You are locked into their format, limited links, no control over presentation and how sets are delivered. I find myself thinking how do I transform my work so it looks good on Instagram, which is not the same as how do I make the best work I can.

Unfortunately, there is not much choice. Instagram has the biggest and most engaging audience, particularly for photography. If I post to Instagram I’ll get a dozen likes and a few comments – more if it’s a popular cliche shot. If I post the same content on my personal blog, I’ll be lucky to get a few views and maybe a like or two, definitely no comments.

Likes and comments aren’t all that important, though the platforms really suck you into the popularity content aspect. I’m not posting for the popularity, but as a means of sharing and connecting to other. There are numerous family and friends I want to share my photos with who wouldn’t see them otherwise.

This is the great catch-22 of social media. It is hard to live with, and living without just leads to isolating from other’s work and obscurity for your own.

Week #20, 2017

Engineering

Design

Week #19, 2017

Engineering

Creativity

Switching to Colemak

On Dec 23, 2016 I switched my keyboard layout to Colemak. Colemak is an alternative keyboard layout moving keys around with the intent of a more practical and improved ergonomic layout. This reduces the distance your fingers travel when typing English.

Why switch?

The primary reasons behind different keyboard layouts is preventing repetitive stress injuries and/or improved speed. I’m fortunate I don’t have any hand pain, and have been using a QWERTY for 30+ years and fairly adept, my QWERTY speed is around 80-90 WPM. My best Keyhero speed is 96 WPM. So any speed improvements would probably be negligible.

So why switch? Basically to see if I can teach this old dog a new trick. A good challenge to force my brain to work, create new grooves, and get out of a comfort zone. Plus I need to up our numbers here.

Why Colemak?

There are several alternative layouts, the most popular being Dvorak. I choose Colemak for a few reasons: (1) most of the punctuation is in the same place, (2) the most common keyboard shortcuts are in the same place. These two should make it easier to learn. Thirdly, if you’re going for an alternative layout you might as well go with an alternative to the alternatives.

Additional hack

An additional change I made is mapping the CapsLock key to Backspace, I need an extra backspaces key due to all the new errors I’m making.

How to switch?

My method was to switch cold turkey, just flip the operating system’s mapping and start practicing. I saved the keyboard mapping image for reference but it was just an hour or so to learn the key locations. Now it is just retraining the years of muscle memory.

Here’s the quick how to:

Mac OS X

Settings : Keyboard : Input Sources : + Colemak

While transitioning, I recommend Show Input Menu which allows for quick switch back to QWERTY if you need to, helps for long passwords.

switch-layout

I use the Mac utility Seil to map the Caps Lock to Delete.

Also, you probably will want to show the input menu on the login screen to save yourself; both before you learn and after in case you use stickers or move the keys around.

show-input-menu

Linux

Command line: setxkbmap us -variant colemak

In Ubuntu use Tweak Tool to map Caps Lock to Backspace.

Practice

As for practice, I switched over Christmas break which was a good time since there is no expected productivity, so I had about 10 days practice. Plus an easy thing to do in bits of free time that doesn’t require any real concentration like programming.

The two main sites I use are Keyhero which has a good typing test, and TypingCat which has better practices.

My methodology is nothing more sophisticated than lots of time, practice, practice, practice. I switched without stickers or moving keys around, but will likely get stickers for consistency.

So far

I’m making slow and steady progress, an interesting thing I’ve noticed is I do much better on the typing tests than elsewhere; such as this post which I’m typing in Colemak. For typing tests, I’m only focusing on my typing, when I do other tasks which require thinking, my mind is less focused on typing and falls back to old muscle memory.

Also, oddly when writing with pen and paper my mind needs a second or two to figure out writing is the same.

typing-speed

See interactive chart on Codepen

Further Reading