Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Speed feels good

Sitting in front of my computer typing at over 120 words-per-minute feels DAMN good.. damn good. or at least I imagine it would be if I could actually type 120wpm. Sadly, as much as I try, I can't type that fast, but.. I *can* cheat my way into working as fast as my fictional friend, let's call him Carlos, can (or faster, shhh!).

There are probably better methods of working faster out there, but in this post, I want to convince you that you should alias your already short commands to be even shorter and how doing that will make both your fingers more efficient AND your brain more efficient.

Efficient Fingers

How many times a day do you type "ls"? 100? 1000? If you
you would save 33% of the number of keystrokes used to issue that command (including the enter key). 33% is pretty damn significant. That's 100-1000 keystrokes less per day. Your fingers are already looking like body builders you type-a-holic, they don't need to be working out any harder than they need to.

What about "cd .."?
increases your productivity by 300%! That's like 200 less keystrokes a day?

Not to belabor the point, but how many times do you type "cd" and don't immediately type "ls" afterwards?

Here are some common ones I use daily.

You may have noticed that I chose "d" and "s" for these common commands. The reason is because "d" and "s" are on the home row of your qwerty keyboard. This means your fingers have a shorter distance to travel which means MORE SPEED. They are also for your left hand so that your right hand can sit on top of the enter key ready and waiting so that it can get all up on that enter key RIGHT AFTER you type your 1-letter command. 2 hands are better than 1.

You can alias all day long and find longer and longer commands that you type often. Things like "ssh -i ec2-keypair ubuntu@ec2.adku.com" or "cd /mnt/var/log/supervisor" each of which I do 100 times a day have their own aliases, saving me completely UNFATHOMABLE amounts of time. I seriously can't even comprehend the savings.

Anyway, the point is, (fictional) Carlos may type faster than me, but that doesn't mean he gets more done than me =)

Efficient Brain

In practice, after years of obsessing over aliases and reducing keystrokes, I've unexpectedly found that the productivity gain is actually quite a bit more than just the reduced mechanical overhead of hitting keys. It also allows you to work that much closer to the speed of thought, eliminating the costly context switch of deciding what to do vs executing the commands. We all know how expensive context switching is when writing code, but there is a much smaller, but more pervasive context switch that happens between the time you decide you want to look at your log files and when your actually able to see them. Sometimes you get to the right folder and forget what you were looking for. Getting to your log files in 3 seconds instead of 10 seconds turns out to be a big difference and lets you keep your mind on what your doing and less on telling your fingers what buttons to push == SPEED x 1000!

If you like working fast and getting a lot done, consider applying for a job at Adku.


  1. nice post! my favorite is (indent mangled):

    function u {
    while test ${PWD##*/} != $TARGET
    cd ..

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  3. Jessie!

    Nice post!

    Just wanted to add that when looking to increase speed, sometimes we forget the all important time it takes to recheck the actions that we have just completed before it gets lost in a sea of data and begins to look correct.

    Such as the 2nd 'your' in the 6th line from the bottom of your post (Inclusion of the "If you like working fast and ..." line). Which in relations to coding would be a dynamic semantics error that might end up causing a big headache later.

    Lol. This post wasn't meant to be taken that seriously. Just saying 'Hey, how've you been!' in geek. Glad to see you're doing well, bro! You deserve it.

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