Found Original Post

My name is Albert Chang. Among many other things, most relevantly I am a typist. With some background, I started typing using Dvorak in November 2012. After nearly two months without computers and sparse practice, I returned. As of the posting, my record is 143 Words/Minute, while an average is in the high-120 range, sometimes in the 130’s.

More interesting might be the reason which I decided to make this blog. I am fond of writing, and I feel that releasing frustration and anger at my own abilities through writing is rewarding and possible interesting to others, despite my moderate hopes for my posts. I will attempt to analyze my own performance and reasons why they occur. A basis and superior example would be the blog of ex-professional video game player, Robert Wright  (compete-complete.com) who posts extremely insightful articles about game and general psychology.

Today is the first web log. After many efforts and extreme frustration, I was not able to break the 130 wpm mark at all today. However, I would like to spend time to analyze this rather than continuing to depress myself further with self-berating thoughts. In activities such as typing, there is no element of luck at all; it is simple the ability of the user to translate information into actions and perform them with complete accuracy. More specifically, the ability for one to convert words into finger strokes and have them practiced to such an extent that errors are not made and that the fingers respond readily to the urges of the mind.

First, I will say that I am an extremely demanding person of myself. Most activities in which I perform I have gotten into late, and thus I practice extremely hard to compete and defeat those who have practiced for multiples of the amount of time. I am quite intelligent, as tests and the like would show, which is probably the only reason that I am able to do this. Typing, specifically, is an area in which I have great demand of myself. Given that the website on which I conduct tests deletes results older than 50 tests ago, there is a constant pressure both to improve average speed as well as keep up a high ‘best’, which is often difficult, However, given the brevity of the time I had typed and the amount of improvement I had displayed, I had always managed to easily surpass my old best well before fifty tests elapsed.

That changed quite readily. Several weeks ago, my record was 137 words per minute. After over sixty tests, I had still barely managed to come within 5 wpm of that; and my record was reset to 136. Not a large drop, granted, but enough to remind me that growth is not infinite. And in the months since, i have had wonderful results and exceeded 140, and kept an average usually with many 130+ results. But they fade.

I would say that the inability of people to recreate very good situations is due largely in part due to an expectation of success. We expect to become greater than ourselves in the past, given the circumstances, but often fail to consider or overly downplay the amount of influence that a particular mindset has on that particular test. Because of the frequency of errors, typists generally cannot type as fast as their fingers can move, due to the fact that it would be unrecognizable. But given the right situation, the state of the mind in which it has intense, single-area focus can be achieved; namely, through repeated success of normally difficult tasks (in this case, difficult words) and relaxation.

As an athlete, I have read books on psychology and sports psychology, and one of the most interesting things that I learned about was the flow state. A simple diagram is used, some more simple than others, but always a graph comparing challenge level and skill level. Low skill and challenge leads to apathy; one is not challenged at all but the amount of skill required to engage oneself is not present. The greater the challenge with low skill, the greater the anxiety and almost inevitably, failure. The more skilled one is bored at low challenge and aroused at higher; ready to transcend and improve. Finally, the pinnacle of training, the people with complete control over their bodies and skills remove all the negative paths relegated to lower skill. As challenge increases, the emotion ranges from relaxation, to control, to finally the flow state.

The flow state is complete and utter concentration. Its achievement is influenced by the model between fine motor skill and arousal level; a simple inverse relationship. The least motor skill involved, such as for weightlifting, resoundingly gives greatest results at extreme arousal- cheering crowds, boiling anger, overpowering determination. But on the opposite spectrum, for fencers and sharpshooters, for instance, the mind needs perfect concentration to be able to perform at its highest level. To be able to ‘read’ the opponent, to be able to focus one’s aim and breathing are extremely difficult with a huge, roaring crowd. But in the flow state, curiously, we find that this is all unimportant. The focus leaves the surroundings, which are conditioned away by thousands, if not tens of thousands of hours of training, and all power is focused on the task at hand.

But I digress. Bringing this back into the realm of typing: the state of flow is achievable and amazing accomplishments which are normally unthinkable can be accomplished. But pressure on achieving this state are completely counterproductive, explaining why those who actively seek to set records are often unsuccessful. Despite any initial success, the focus of the mind drifts when not in flow and the fingers follow; by slowing down, by becoming inaccurate and sluggish to a point normally unthinkable. By relaxing, however, we enable the mind to shift into flow when the correct challenge is presented.

Alright, that is enough for today. Hopefully people actually read this monstrosity and come to the finish, despite the lazy path that I took by finishing early.

Albert

Note: 10fastfingers is the website I use to gauge speed.

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7 thoughts on “Found Original Post

  1. Hi Albert,

    I have found your blog during a visit to 10ff. The story of your progress is remarkable! :-)
    Being a qwerty typist for many years, without any particular interest in bettering my speed, which has been hovering around 60 wpm, I’ve been toying with the idea to try the Dvorak layout for some time now and decided to make the switch roughly a month ago. This time I would like to improve my typing speed as much as possible.

    As performance seems to be your aim (if I remember correctly your first progress milestone has been: 120 wpm, 5 months after your switch to Dvorak) I am aware of the fact that the first stages after your switch were not interesting for you to mention, but I would be really curious to hear stories about the first months of your development.

    My current top speed on 10ff is 59 wpm, which I am quite satisfied with, after one month with Dvorak, but my goal is to reach or even exceed 100 wpm. I hope this is not beyond my physical limitations…

    Robert

    • I really apologize for this late response, I didn’t seem to see this in my notifications until just now. Anyways, let me hopefully give you some interesting information.

      When I started for the very first time, I was browsing around, searching for ways to improve my speed when I found the little tidbit that Blackburn was the fastest typist using Dvorak; it prompted me to take a look at the layout and it really intrigued me how they had the punctuation on the top left: at first it seemed rather awkward, but given a few minutes of thought it seemed genius. The possibly apocryphal story of QWERTY being designed to slow down typists helped make me wonder why I was sticking with a flawed layout, and it nagged me in my mind for all of a few minutes until I decided to switch.

      Practice was very long; it may have been a month of total time, but the amount which I practiced sometimes exceeded two or three hours a day, given how bored I was and how little time was devoted to other things. In fact, my progress is different from those of some typists I’ve seen, who can hop onto 10FF after two months and get 60 wpm after a month. For the first two months I couldn’t even break 20 wpm (I gave up after the second or third try of being unable to formulate words for seconds without the handy little guide on my practice site), but in the third month something changed drastically and everything became easy for my hands to remember.

      About your goal, it is my earnest belief that anyone, regardless of their cognitive speed, can break 100 wpm without undue effort. If you give it three-four months of hard practice dedicated to speed and improvement, I am certain that you will be able to surpass that easily.

      • Just when I thought that my comment is totally lost to oblivion… :-)

        Dvorak is definitely a more ergonomic layout than qwerty and I can really feel my fingers move less than before, but somehow the reduced amount of finger travel doesn’t automatically result in the potential of top typing speeds. It seems that the limitation isn’t so much related to the layout, as it is related to the amount of practice and also “talent”, if the ability to type fast can be called that. Qwerty, being still much more prevalent then Dvorak, seems to produce better results as there are simply more users.

        Related to my current progress, it seems that I have hit a plateau with a top speed of 68 wpm this week. I feel that I am able to type faster, but the speed bursts are plagued by unwanted and seemingly uncontrollable pauses. Maybe I just have to be patient, but this week has been really frustrating.

        For the moment I am typing on a cheap Fujitsu rubber dome keyboard that I am used to and have been using for years. I intend to give a Qpad MK-50 with brown switches a try. I hope the tactile feedback will help with my rhythm.

        I am surprised by your “beginnings”. I wouldn’t have thought that you had problems like that!

    • Argh, my reply was lost. However, what I’d like to say is that in essence, a lot of times you really are faster and the plateau just requires a little break for your mind to refocus and your fingers to rest; give it a day or two and see how you are when you come back; for me I become lighter and quicker.

      On talent, however, I do disagree. Typing, rather than something which requires any knowledge into others, is simply an exercise of repeated muscle memory and training; Dvorak provides, according to a few studies I have seen, a nearly universal 2-3% boost in speed no matter the speed, and for some the psychological component or simply the way the letters arranged may be more natural, thus facilitating speed. I also hope that you enjoy your mechanical board. I can type almost as fast on a scissor switch board, but I getting a nice keyboard (MX Blues at first, now I use Topre for the most part) makes me want to practice more, haha.

      • Hello teens. Thank you Linkbane for responding. I posted a comment: guitar player says:
        March 9, 2014 at 5:37 pm
        CAN YOU PLEASE REPLY LINKBANE? AND IS THERE ANY WAY TO DELETE YOUR OLD COMMENTS? THANK YOU.
        Thank you Linkbane for responding. I wonder how you teens find time for so many things which I included in my comment: guitar player says:
        March 9, 2014 at 5:33 pm
        Hello Alisterp. Thank you for mentioning that you have typed since you were 12 years old and that you are 19 now. You have been typing for 7 years. It took you over a year to reach 60 WPM. You were 13 when you reached 60 WPM. When you were 17 you were typing at a speed of 70 WPM. In two years you have reached 135 WPM. IN TWO YEARS YOU HAVE IMPROVED YOUR WPM ALMOST TWICE! FROM 70 WPM TO 135 WPM. DURING LAST THREE MONTHS YOU HAVE IMPROVED YOUR SPEED FROM 118 WPM TO 135 WPM. HAVE YOU BEEN TYPING FOR MANY HOURS A DAY? WHEN DID YOU DO OTHER THINGS LIKE HOME DUTIES AND HOMEWORK? I HAVE BEEN TYPING FOR ALMOST A YEAR NOW BUT I HAVE ONLY REACHED 70 WPM ( 60 AND LESS CONSTANT ), 87 HIGHEST. I HAVE BEEN TYPING FOR MANY HOURS A DAY AND I DIDN’T HAVE TIME TO DO OTHER THINGS LIKE HOME DUTIES AND HOMEWORK. NOW I HAVE TO CATCH UP WITH MY HOMEWORK. I CAN’T TYPE FOR MANY HOURS NOW. I HAVE TO DO OTHER THINGS. HOW DO YOU TEENS FIND TIME FOR MULTIPLE THINGS? HOW DO YOU FIND TIME FOR HOME DUTIES, HOMEWORK, TYPING, THINGS THAT YOU LOVE TO DO, GOING OUTSIDE, AND TALKING WITH YOUR FRIEND? I DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW YOU FIND TIME FOR SO MANY THINGS. HOW DID YOU FIND TIME TO TYPE FOR MANY HOURS A DAY IN ORDER TO IMPROVE TO 135 WPM? I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT A FAIRLY REGULAR PERSON MEANS. PLEASE TELL ME YOUR USERNAME ON 10 FAST FINGERS AND YOUR NAME IF YOU CAN. THANK YOU. I LOVE YOU TEENS.
        PLEASE RESPOND TEENS. I love you teens.

      • I forgot to mention that I am not a native English speaker, so I hope eventual errors will be forgiven…

        I’ll try to rest for a couple of days, as I haven’t skipped a day of practice since I’ve switched to Dvorak in February. Maybe I am suffering from some type of “neural overload”! / consider this an unsuccessful attempt at humor :-p

        On talent, I disagree with your disagreement. People are different, as are their abilities. Let’s take athletes for example. If you don’t have the ability to run fast, you will never run 100 meters in less than 10, or even 12 seconds, regardless of the amount of dedication or training you are putting in. We all have our limitations, physical or mental. Muscle memory (and the speed of finger motion) is a combination of mental and physical abilities, which has a limit too, general (that determines top performances for a given population) and personal (that determines your top performance). I apologize if I have digressed too much, but there is an element of talent, or call it innate ability, that has determined your current top speed of 160 wpm. Other people may have never been able to achieve this level, regardless of the amount of training, or it would have taken them more or less time to get there.

        My mechanical keyboard should arrive today. I will share my impressions. Mx blues were not an option for me, because I like it more quiet (I intend to do an o-ring mod on the Qpad). How do you like the Topre switches?

        P.S. Is it just me, or are guitar player’s comments a bit “disturbing”?!

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