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Is It Time To Get Rid Of The Caps Lock Key?

"At its worst, it's a waste of precious space, an annoyance, a solution to a problem that doesn't exist any more," complains Daniel Colin James, a writer, developer, product manager. In a recent Medium essay, he called the Caps Lops key "an unnecessary holdover from a time when typewriters were the bleeding edge of consumer technology" -- and even contacted the man who invented the Caps Lock key (Doug Kerr, who had been a Bell Labs telephone engineer in the 1960s): I reached out to Doug about his invention, and he responded that while he still uses Caps Lock regularly, "we don't often today have a reason to type addresses in all caps, which was the context in which the need for the key first manifested itself to me."

I would go a step further, and say that most of us don't often have a reason to type anything in all caps today... [A] toggle with the same functionality could easily be activated in a number of different ways for those who really want to write things in all capital letters. (Say, for example, double tapping the Shift key, like how it already works on your phone.) Caps Lock is one of the largest keys on a modern keyboard, and it's in one of the best spots -- right next to the home row. It's taking up prime real estate, and it's not paying its rent any more.

Have you ever been in the middle of typing something, and then you get the uneasy feeling thaT YOU FLEW TOO CLOSE TO THE SUN AND NOW YOU HAVE TO REWRITE YOUR WORDS? You're not alone. Accidentally activating Caps Lock is such a relatable mistake that it's the introductory example for a research paper about accessibility issues with modern computer interfaces. Caps Lock is so frequently engaged unintentionally that password fields in software have to include a "Caps Lock is on" warning.

I've heard of people re-mapping their keyboards so the Caps Lock key becomes "Esc" or "Ctrl." But maybe it comes down to consumers. If you were shopping for a computer and were told that it shipped without a Caps Lock key -- would you be more or less likely to buy it?

Share your own thoughts in the comments. Is it time to get rid of the Caps Lock key?
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122 days ago
I pry it off when I can, disable it when I can’t.
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2 public comments
107 days ago
I use the caps lock key to switch layers and have a key down at the bottom-right side of the keyboard as a caps lock. I will never buy another non-programable keyboard. QMK FTW!
Atlanta, Georgia
123 days ago
I like it for compose (I like to be able to type the áçcentêd characters on my otherwise standard US layout), and of course so many emacs users like it as a place for ctrl. On my newest laptop, where I haven't bothered remapping it yet, I keep hitting the thing at random and ending up stuck in caps-world, ugh.
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm

Investigations into a present but silent Garfield

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A three-panel Garfield strip. Panel one: Garfield, Jon, and another man gather around a sprouting plant. The man says 'Then, once the potato is dug up, it is sliced, deep-fried, and bagged. Voilà, you have your potato chip.' Panel two: Garfield wanders away. Panel three: Garfield lies down. End of strip.
An example “silent-Garfield” remix by Astrid Giese-Zimmer (original context here)

I began yesterday with an idle visit to a certain news website where an opinion writer quipped a comparison between some current item and Garfield Minus Garfield. And because I hadn’t commenced my day’s work yet, this meant that I could bend the entirety of my mental attention towards an unresolved mystery that has bothered me ever since that particular bit of comics-remix tomfoolery rode its own shooting star, a few years back.

I summed it up in a tweet, thus:

Delightfully, this within minutes had caught a double-digit amount of reactions from both friends and strangers, all of whom agreed with me that, yes, they all remembered something matching my description, and yes, it was funnier than Garfield Minus Garfield. As Leon Arnott so excellently summed it up, this dimly recalled work was basically the Threes to the other’s 2048: something amazing and original that became almost immediately eclipsed by an inferior clone, which then through some fluke managed to capture all the world’s love and attention — and leaving the fist thing’s tiny cadre of fans forever bitter at the injustice.

Expanding this a little: Garfield Minus Garfield turns the strip into nonsense, deriving its humor mainly by playing on life-long familiarity (for anyone born after 1970) with Garfield characters. Read with no cultural context, it merely depicts Garfield’s owner Jon as a gibbering lunatic, shouting at the walls of his empty home. Its untitled predecessor — let’s call it Garfield Can’t Talk — does better than this: it transforms Garfield’s greeting-card pabulum into the chronicle of a pathetic man who talks to his cat all day, and the cat responds only by staring back, or wandering off, or glancing wearily at the reader. Sometimes these staring silences stretch across multiple panels.

I would not make the case that Garfield Can’t Talk is a good comic strip; I wouldn’t want to read it daily, no more than I would its source material. But it did present the world with such a wonderful example of a purpose-built but elegant remix-filter: just cut this little bit out, and watch this comic strip about a snarky cat and his silly owner turn into that comic strip about an indifferent cat and his pathetic owner. When considered in this light, Garfield Minus Garfield feels like the creation of one who liked this a lot too, and thought that cutting out twice as much would make the result twice as funny, and thus missed the point entirely.

Anyway, I posted that tweet. And then a beautiful thing happened: so many of the people that it unexpectedly jolted on a Wednesday morning felt compelled to scour the web for evidence as to the forgotten project’s existence. Collectively, they did some excellent detective work, some of which you can see for yourself in the replies to my first tweet.

If I may summarize their findings: As best as anyone can tell, what I call Garfield Can’t Talk first appeared on the forums of Something Awful, a pre-Reddit cultural trash compactor responsible for a great deal of the infectious remix-catchphrasing of the early web. (Remember “All Your Base”?) It may have started to vector into the wider world by way of a now-defunct website called “Truth and Beauty Bombs”; this 2006 article by Eric Burns-White describes the phenomenon from a point of view contemporary with the game’s discovery, and points to an apparently lost-to-time thread elsewhere.

From these origins, other websites joined in on the fun, including this LiveJournal community (hollow with age, but with a few strips still clinging to its rusting skeleton), and these comics by Tailsteak. We can see how quickly folks started their own twists to the game, such as redrawing the strips from scratch in their own style, but otherwise remaining faithful to the originals. And Garfield Minus Garfield seems to have begun in that spirit: well, what if we erased even more, ha ha? And then, because nothing in life needs to make sense, that became the permutation that caught the world’s favor for a while.

Interestingly, the subtler humor of Garfield Can’t Talk looks like it gets independently rediscovered and re-implemented every so often in our fallen, post Garfield Minus Garfield world. See, for example, Realfield, which finds another in-between spot for the gag, replacing every appearance of Garfield with a more realistically drawn (and therefore always blank-faced) orange cat. See also Silent Garfield, which apparently re-posts a pared down Garfield strip as soon as the original appears on its own website, with a mechanical fervor that cares little for the humor value of the result.

So, that’s my report to the internet on this topic. I wasn’t imagining this older, funnier Garfield permutation, and neither were you. Some, indeed, keep its candle lit, more than a dozen years later, standing in the long shadow of Garfield Minus Garfield. This BoingBoing article re-discovered the joy of the original joke in 2014, describing it as something new. I see this as emblematic as anything that for long as Garfield continues, people will continue to rediscover and re-share this mutation of it.

I shall conclude by noting how my pal Joe misread me as casting shade on the more popular work. I do not mean to disparage Garfield Minus Garfield, or suggest that it does not deserve the attention and financial reward that it caught. I merely claim its utter inferiority to that which came before. Indeed, I can only find it on-brand for a late-aughts web project to have taken the sloppy beauty of a many-handed effort spread across multiple domains, and create fame and fortune for one artist through a slickly packaged effort that all but snuffed out any cultural awareness for its predecessor.

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181 days ago
Some good investigation of a brief meme.
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Sedna symbol encoded in Unicode 11.0, added to sightings page (February 26, 2019)

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Sedna symbol encoded in Unicode 11.0, added to sightings page
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261 days ago
Bragging a little: a symbol I invented is in Unicode. The BMP even.
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RT @SwiftOnSecurity: A K12 student has filed a Chromium bug complaining that their school's admin turned off the Chrome browser dino game h…

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A K12 student has filed a Chromium bug complaining that their school's admin turned off the Chrome browser dino game pic.twitter.com/uK0cCAuKuM

Posted by SwiftOnSecurity on Sunday, February 3rd, 2019 2:26am
Retweeted by internetofshit on Sunday, February 3rd, 2019 7:26am

2087 likes, 477 retweets
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283 days ago
My junior high had to do this in 1987 with the racing game hidden on the back of the apple ][ Print Shop disks.
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How to handicap the 2020 Democratic Primary: a view from the base

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by Doctor Science

If you're going to do horse race journalism, at least do it right.

I'm writing as a long-time member of the Democratic Party base, a rank-and-file voter and regular volunteer. There are certain factors that come up when I and other Democrats talk about 2020, talk that began months ago. Now we're entering the invisible primary, with more discussion to sort out which candidates we might to support--and which should probably think that they're in it for the experience.

Spoiler: all these factors point to Bernie Sanders having zero chance of getting the Democratic nomination, while Kamala Harris is the (current) front-runner.


1. A white man starts out behind. This factor is going to be *very* hard for journalists to recognize, because they're so deeply embedded in a system where white men are taken seriously much more than other people. For instance, they almost all work for white men.

I'm not saying that there's no way a white man could win the Democratic nomination. But he would have to be exceptional, because he starts out with a deficit. Specifically, a white man has to show a strong alliance with and support from some Democratic subgroup that is *not* mostly white men. This is a big reason why Beto O'Roarke's long-term prospects within the Democratic Party are so good: he respects, works with, and is supported by black women, among others. He's too inexperienced to be viable in 2020, but he's got a future.

Discussing our options for the 2016 primary, I said to a (black woman) friend, "I'm sick of being yelled at by white men." I am *so much more* sick of it now, words cannot express.

2. Candidates lose points with every year before 1950 they were born. Since World War II Democrats have a preference for younger candidates, which has increased as we've learned more about Reagan's health problems in office. We want a candidate whose health can reasonably extend through two terms of one of the most stressful jobs on the planet, and someone who's going to be over 70 in 2020 is not the best bet.

Elizabeth Warren was born in 1949. Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg were born in 1942. Bernie Sanders was born in 1941. Warren is the only one who has a serious chance IMHO.

3. The candidate will have to release their tax returns. Bernie got away without doing it in 2016, but it will not fly this time around. Even if there are no state laws or Party regulations in place to enforce financial transparency, we in the party base will insist on seeing where the candidate's money is coming from and going to.

4. The most important demographic in the Democratic Party is black women. The largest race+gender demo in the party is white women (like myself), but black women are the most loyally and consistently Democratic.

I make a point of following a lot of people of color on Twitter--since it's hard *not* to get white people's opinions about everything, getting different points of view takes work. I do it on Twitter because it's a medium well-suited to listening to people talking to each other without my presence influencing their conversation.

What I see is that black voters, women in particular, are small-c conservative in their choices. That is, they don't tend to fall for trendy or stunt candidates. They want to see a track record of policy and accomplishment, and they *will* have the receipts. Democracy and government aren't spectator sports for them, their lives and those of their children are frequently and literally on the line. They vote, and they take voting seriously.

So far there's been one straw poll of influential women of color, and it showed Kamala Harris as the runaway favorite. More important IMHO is that the pollees' #1 suggestion for "how to inspire and engage" them is "Hire more women of color in leadership positions." Thus: if a candidate's early hires do not include any women of color, they are not trying to connect with this crucial demographic--or at least they will not succeed.

So: if you're looking at journalism or commentary about the 2020 Democratic nomination, anyone who says Kamala Harris is *not* the frontrunner has to explain why. I've seen a lot of analysis over the past year or so saying Joe Biden or even Bernie Sanders is the "obvious" frontrunner, or that there's a place in the Democratic primary for a random billionaire, but that's laughable. Such people will only be comfortable with a Democratic candidate who has the look and feel of a Republican: old, white, male, moneyed. Nope, not gonna happen.

Adam Silverman's analysis sees the same factors I do (though he phrases them more coothly), but he points out that Sanders is likely to keep in the race as an Independent after he loses the Democratic nomination early in the process. There is a very real danger that he'll be a Nader-like spoiler in the general election,

And if he decides he’s going to be a team player and not do so, his trusted agents won’t play ball and you’ll have the same problem regardless. And we can now add Congresswoman Gabbard to the potential spoilers category emanating from Sanders orbit.
Silverman is a deeply experienced military analyst, and he emphasizes
that the US is at war. Putin has made it very clear since 2014 that as far as he was concerned Russia was, at least, in a new cold war with the US and the US was the aggressor.
We need to expect and plan for Russia to continue its program of manipulating US elections in its favor, which currently means in Trump's favor.

The Russians would be fools not to make a big push to have Sanders run third-party--and they are not fools. The Democratic Party and everyone who opposes Trump needs to start thinking and planning now about how to forestall, combat or defuse such a run. Can Sanders be persuaded to back Warren? Can some Democrat-friendly billionaire (not a terribly common animal) buy him off? Should we insist on seeing his tax returns before the 1st debate, so he leaves in shame and/or a huff?

That's the only justification for horse-race journalism at this point in the cycle: so that party members like myself have info we need to figure out who to support early and who to discourage.


At the Races, Before the Start by Edgar Degas. [source] I wasted spent a lot of time looking for good picture that wasn't by a really anti-Semitic artist, and failed.

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289 days ago
Some solid analysis here.
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Project: Wallenius Wilhelmsen Ocean Trade Route Maps

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Earlier this year, I was commissioned to create a series of trade route maps for Wallenius Wilhelmsen Ocean, a leading global provider of deep-sea ocean transportation for cars, trucks, rolling equipment and breakbulk cargo. The client had already developed some rough “subway map” visualizations for their network, noting that their current geographical maps of longer routes compressed many ports into very small areas while leaving vast swathes of empty ocean taking up the majority of space. Their theory was that a subway map visualization could expand the denser areas (especially Europe and Japan/Korea), while vastly reducing the amount of wasted empty space – a problem not too dissimilar to that faced by H.C. Beck when he first drew up his famous Tube Map in 1931.

It was my task to take this rough mockup and develop a design language that could be scaled from a single short trade route all the way up to a global network map, all while remaining simple and legible enough to work within the confines of a PowerPoint slide. Adding to the challenge was the fact the company completely rebranded themselves about a month into the project, which meant that I suddenly had to work with an entirely different colour palette. The list of ports that each route called at also changed a few times, and there were a lot of back and forth revisions to make all the stakeholders happy.

The map above shows all the possible trade routes from Europe to the Americas, and was the map that I used to develop the look and feel of the entire series, setting up all the design rules for every map. As a result, it went through the most iterations – this final map is the 12th version – but it was definitely worth the effort. Earlier versions also included numbers between the ports that indicated the average number of days it took to sail between them, but this was deemed unworkable after a couple of rounds of revisions.

Likewise, transshipment routes – incoming routes to the major “hub” ports, often via third parties – were originally shown in detail as secondary “feeder lines”, but this gradually morphed into the simpler approach of the final map. As you may have noticed, this approach owes a lot to London Underground line maps, which denote interchanges with other lines in a similar way. Like most transit strip maps, the reading logic flows from left to right, regardless of actual geography (America is west of Europe, after all). Directional arrows reinforce this for users less familiar with the concept. This reading logic holds true for all 13 of the final trade-level routes, with a few necessary exceptions. In these instances, further directional arrows guide the user (see the below Europe–Oceania trade map, where the two routes travel through the Australian ports in opposite directions).

After the trade level maps, I developed four “continent” maps, which focused on showing simplified “collapsed” versions of the trade routes within Europe, the Americas, Asia and Oceania. Examples showing Europe and Asia are below.

Finally, I pieced together a global trade map from the four continent maps. Fortunately, I did this after everything else had been approved, so I only had to rework this one once!

Feedback from the client has been overwhelmingly positive, both within the company and from their external clients who have seen and used the maps. From my point of view, I feel extremely blessed that I got to work with a client who had a great idea of what he wanted, but also was very receptive to my thoughts and concepts. He has this to say about my work:

“From the initial idea until delivery, Cameron showed a great sense for what is really required to get the visualization of our products done in the best possible way. While deep-diving into our products, he always maintained an overview of the big picture and what is required to make the final delivery as great as it is today.”

You can view all the maps on WWO’s website, and they’ve even made an explanatory video for the maps, which is kind of awesome!

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382 days ago
Beautiful route visualizations by a pro.
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