Typing Skills and IT Productivity (TypeRacer.com)

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About a month ago I came to a realization: people who don’t know how to touch type are less productive than people who can. It dawned on me as I was watching another manager painfully and very slowly type out an e-mail to send to upper management. It took him about 30 minutes to compose this message, all the while grumbling. The same message would have taken me about 3-4 minutes at the most. How much does that person not get done compared to someone who can type.

How much communication is not happening because it is too slow or painful for people. This is especially true in IT where we have to use computers for absolutely everything. How much more productive could a department be as a whole if everyone knew how to touch type?

I did an informal survey and found that about 1 in 3 people can’t do it. I realize that one of my peers, another manager, has only written about 20 e-mail messages in the past three months and of those more than 75% were one line only. He never wrote more than 3 sentances ever. This isn’t even because of Blackberries either.

So I started an campeign among my employees to learn how to touch type. To this end I found a fun website that just started up recently that helps you practice your typing AND is fun.

TypeRacer.com is a website where you can race (compete) agaist others of similar skill level to type a paragraph of text. It is a fun way to practice and build skill. Enjoy!

What is your favorite font?

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In the past few weeks I’ve been taking a hard look at fonts again. I think the power of typography in every-day communication is of more benefit than some people would imagine. As part of that I have been asking people what their favorite font is.

What is your favorite font?

For those who enjoy typography they will usually have several fonts the employ for different uses. I, myself, use two different fonts in regular e-mail coorespondance and I vary the color of the font as well to maximize the effect I’m trying to achieve.

One thing I do is vary font families between headings and the body of text. If I choose a sans-serif font for a heading, I use a serifed font for the text and vise versa.

Personally, I’m partial to serifed fonts especially those with lower-case numbers such as Georgia and Minion.

I used to carefuly constuct CSS for my blog, which you are reading right now (although if you use RSS you miss out) but I found that it was dificult to port those modifications from version to version of my blogging software and at some point the security and new features outway my dislike for the standard styles. Here I am with default styles again.

One tool that I like to trying out new fonts is Typetester, which you can find here.

So I ask again, what is your favorite font? (Papyrus is not allowed, nor Comic Sans)

Model Rocket Fun

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Last week my kids saw some other kids launching model rockets at their elementary school. Not surprisingly, my kids were dying to do it as well. My wife told the kids that we had lots of model rockets at home and Dad would be happy to do it with them. My kids didn’t believe her.

But last Saturday I bought the kids their own rockets, and we built them together. Then we went launching them. This week their two cousins wanted to build rockets and join us again. I said “sure!”

Three launches were particularly exciting. I have a really cool rocket that looks like R2-D2 from Star Wars. It has an interesting construction where the top doesn’t come off, instead the engine mount ejects and takes the parachute with it. I’ve always had great launches with it. This time, the rocket shot off and went into a small arc smashing it into the ground about 100 feet away still under power. A couple of seconds later it blew up (or rather, it ejected the engine mount). It was hilarious and sad. It’s damaged beyond repair but it still looks cool.

I also have an X-Wing Fighter from Star Wars and it always flies a little erratically. This time it never got off the launch pad and it sat there while the engine burned a hole through the metal deflector plate on the launch pad. The rocket is still fine but there is a big whole in the launcher.

The last rocket was one built by my nephew and is a very little one. Very light. It is supposed to be launched with a fairly weak motor but my nephew was lucky with the first engine (A4-2) and decided to step it up. The next launch was with a bigger engine (B6-4) and it went really high and came down about 700 feet from the launch pad. He was thrilled. For the last launch of the day he wanted it to go as high as possible. All I had was a really powerful engine (for that rocket anyway, a C6-4) and I warned him that he would probably loose the rocket. He didn’t care. So we launched it and it went up and up and up. It went insanely high and we couldn’t even see the rocket anymore, just the smoke trail. Amazingly, it came down in the perfect spot, about 300 feet away. I swear that thing was in the air a good 30 seconds or so. I’ll have to watch the video and find out.

But it was terribly fun and I hope the kids will want to do it again soon.

There is a rocket I really want to get that has a digital video in the nose cone and will film itself as it launches and comes back down. The rocket is about $100 but I still think it would be worth it.

I have the old-school version of this rocket. The one with the camera in the nose cone that will take one exposure on 110 film each launch. I’ve never been able to get it to work.

If anyone would like to come with me next time, just let me know. It’s pretty fun.

Funny eBay Feedback

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A few years ago my brother tipped me off to the art of leaving eBay feedback. At the time he worked for a company that sold hundreds of items every day on eBay and they would get and give a lot of feedback. Most of the feedback on eBay is lame and usually involves the words great, awesome, A++++++++, and more !!!!! than you would ever conceive using. How boring.

So I decided to give people some fun feedback on the items. My feedback to others is fun but also relevant, unlike some people out there leaving outrageous entries like this guy.