Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
Mirabai, Plover, and Common Spaces
Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2010 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.
I am so proud of my friend Mirabai Knight for many reasons, not least that she founded and leads the Plover open source stenography project. With a USD45 gamer's keyboard and her free software, you can try out the typing method that could get you double or triple your typing speed! You may not realize what a communications bottleneck your typing speed is till you've seen a stenographer in action.
When I was in steno school, I noticed something interesting. Even though the school had an overall 85% dropout rate -- meaning that only 15% of matriculated students passed the three 225 WPM speed tests needed to graduate -- nearly everyone got up to 100 WPM within the first semester or so, and it was in that 100 to 200 WPM window that people started getting frustrated and quitting. Steno is so ridiculously more efficient than typing every word out letter by letter that it's possible to exceed the average qwerty speed in a matter of months, once you've got the phonetic system in your muscle memory. Then, as people start to use steno for all their daily computing tasks, the speed comes gradually and inexorably. It might take years of consistent use to get up to court reporting speeds, or some people might permanently plateau around 160 or 180 WPM, but even so it's a huge improvement over qwerty, and there are significant ergonomic benefits as well.
Mirabai is amazing and I'm privileged to know her; for a taste, check out her recent essay How I Got Here.
Mirabai also introduced me to Common Spaces, a laid-back Brooklyn co-op coworking space. Everyone gets 24-7 access, flex space is only USD200 per month, you get free coffee and laser printer use, and there's a kitchen and a conference room and a phone booth and often free cake from the cakery on the same floor. It's near a bunch of subway lines. If you live in NYC and work out of your home, consider trying Common Spaces for a month and see whether adding this physical infrastructure helps you work, think, and feel better.