1445: Efficiency

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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I need an extension for my research project because I spent all month trying to figure out whether learning Dvorak would help me type it faster.
Title text: I need an extension for my research project because I spent all month trying to figure out whether learning Dvorak would help me type it faster.


There are often multiple ways in which to deal with a problem or task. There may be a most efficient method, though sometimes the differences in efficiency between methods is only slight. People often try to save unnecessary work by first determining which is the "best" method - either the easiest or the most efficient. This can be a good approach, particularly where the savings prove to be significant. But it can also prove to be more time-consuming than just doing the task using one of the most obvious methods. The comic humorously exaggerates this.

One method of trying to determine the best way of performing a task is to perform A/B testing where a trial is performed where the two strategies, A and B, are implemented and compared. Often the two strategies are simple to implement (for instance, two versions of a web page with different text and colours to determine which provides the better rate of click through) and therefore the amount of time required to implement the strategies (the "time cost") could easily be considerably less than the time to determine if the results are statistically significant.

The title text references a supposed incident in which Randall did not commence writing a research paper because he spent the entire assignment period deciding whether to learn an entirely different keyboard layout just to potentially be slightly more efficient in his typing speed. It refers to the Dvorak keyboard layout, an alternative to the most commonly accepted QWERTY layout. Some believe the Dvorak keyboard offers greater typing efficiency. Efficiency of the Dvorak keyboard layout was mentioned in the title text of 561: Well, where it was stated that it was not more effective, and by now it has become a recurrent theme on xkcd.

Other comics about spending too many resources on decisions that ultimately might not matter include 309: Shopping Teams and 1801: Decision Paralysis. Several other comics address similarly wasted time due to bad time management; see for instance 1205: Is It Worth the Time? or the Time management category.


[A bar chart is shown below its title:]
Time Cost
[The chart consist of a dividing line, with three labels to the left, and the three black bars to the right. The first two bars are short, the second slightly longer than the first. The last bar is much longer, about 13 time as long as the first shortest bar.]
Strategy A
Strategy B
Analyzing whether strategy A or B is more efficient
[Caption below the panel:]
The reason I am so inefficient

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I would add references to procrastination and add that especially for some type of people the third item is the intellectually most interesting and satisfying one. Sebastian -- 08:19, 10 November 2014 (UTC)

A great 18th century quote by Dr. Samuel Johnson, saying much the same thing:

We talked of the education of children; and I asked him what he thought was best to teach them first.
JOHNSON. 'Sir, it is no matter what you teach them first, any more than what leg you shall put into your breeches first. Sir, you may stand disputing which leg is best to put in first, but in the mean time your bottom is bare. Sir, while you are considering which of two things you should teach your child first, another boy has learnt them both.' - Boswell's Life of Johnson GreenWyvern (talk) 09:54, 10 November 2014 (UTC)

QWERTY isn't "universally accepted" (worldwide). I's variants like QWERTZ and AZERTY are also somewhat common. Look at this map for example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AZERTY . Maybe change the text to universally accepted *in english language* or something like *QWERTY and its variants*? -- 10:14, 10 November 2014 (UTC)

We have FGĞIOD in Turkey which can compete against Dvorak's.

When I started seriously considering Dvorak I spent very little time deciding to go with it, but about a month getting used to it. It's been sweet since then. I love it. Typing has never been so enjoyable! 10:28, 10 November 2014 (UTC)

"" Typing has never been so enjoyable!"" Does this addiction have a name in psychiatry? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

This is also a problem when I am looking at the religions :|--JZZdd (talk) 04:05, 11 November 2014 (UTC)

One is reminded of Yogi Berra's line, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." Wwoods (talk) 00:50, 12 November 2014 (UTC)

This is also, in extremely simplified form, why OS/2 eventually lost out to Windows. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Randall has talked about this topic before. 00:54, 13 November 2014 (UTC)

This seems similar to [1]. 18:01, 6 July 2017 (UTC)