One or Two Spaces After the Period – How Wikipedia Handled the Ultimate Question

Photo: Kevin Spencer

While typing, how many spaces do you put after a period? I was taught to hit the spacebar twice after the end of a sentence. Turns out not everyone does this. I knew there were single spacers out there, but I thought they were heretical troglodytes. Then I saw this poll result: with a huge sample of 44,000 people, 47% use a single space!

How does this happen? I go for soooo long thinking almost everyone was on the same page, but in reality it is split down the middle.

Once I got over my ignorance as to how the rest of the world operates, I needed to know – how did Wikipedia standardize on which one to use? Obviously if you are going to embark on an monumental distributed encyclopedia, all authors should agree to either use single or double space. I could see this holding up the entire project and just turning into a huge debate to settle it once and for all. Propitiously, the HTML of web pages renders on the screen the same way whether you do a single space or ten spaces. Problem averted.

  • It turns out the double space is a holdover from the typewriter days when fonts were monospaced. Utterly useless now and really dating me beyond my years.
  • With my lofty aspiration to be the most efficient human alive, I must cut out the extraneous second space. I’ll keep you updated on the progress.
  • Here is something else I found even more eye opening (although I will not discuss my personal proclivity): Sitters vs. Standers – The Great Wipe Hope

Happier With Less Choices – The Magic of Fewer Options

Photo: i_yudai

The conclusion of a book I read this year resonated with me, and since completion I have noticed it keeps popping up in my life – that sometimes more options can have a negative effect on a decision. The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz argues that if you have three choices, the consequences of adding a fourth choice will outweigh the utility of another option.

How can this be? This fourth option may be better than the other three, and if it is not, then it can simply be disregarded and you are back at three choices. Yes, that is a logical conclusion, but humans are not perfectly rational. First, this additional option will require further effort on your part to compare it to the others – if the choices are all very similar this can be excruciatingly difficult. More importantly, additional options provide the opportunity to second guess your decision. Schwartz illustrates in the book that the doubt in your mind introduced by more options will result in you being less content with the outcome.

The Jam Study
Two psychologists put this hypothesis to the test to find out if more choices can have negative effects on the decision. One study they ran was to setup a table of jam samples at a grocery store – sometimes they displayed 6 flavors and other times 24. While they found that more choices of jam incited a greater number of shoppers to sample, they were ten times more likely to buy with less choices and “reported greater subsequent satisfaction with their selections.”

The Paralysis of Analysis
The book lumps individuals into two categories: those who want the absolute best, and those who are happy with the first option that meets their requirements. Can you guess which group is happier with their outcome? Even if the perfectionist chooses a marginally better jam, they still are not as satisfied with their choice and have wasted a great deal of time.

Investing is a great example of this principle – we all know we are supposed to invest our money as early as possible to take advantage of the miracle of compound interest. But we also know that a 9% return is a whole lot better than 5%. If possible we should strive for 9%. Before we realize what has happened, the paralysis of analysis has taken hold, we have stalled looking for the perfect safe place to invest our money, and we are 45 without any investments. Just pick the first good investment that comes your way (there will always be better, no matter how much time you put into it), pick it now, and be happy!

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Today Will Be Remembered as the Era When Technology Ruled Our Lives

Photo: Chris Metcalf

Technology was originally created with the intention of saving us time. The cotton gin was created to save time processing cotton, the steam engine to save time over using horses for power, and computers to save time on calculations. But where is all this free time? It seems that people are busier and more stressed than ever before.

Despite the incredible pace of technological innovations in the last several decades, it has been ineffective in actually saving us time. An incredible number of tools are available today that have never been available before, but we don’t know how to effectively use them to reduce stress and provide more leisure time. It is not a limitation of the technology, rather our training on these technologies lags far behind – we just don’t take the time to learn how to use them effectively!

The technologies that dominate our everyday lives
In the grand scheme of things cell phones and email are new technologies. The majority of people got their first cell phone less than 10 years ago and email maybe a couple years before that. Now we are combining the technologies – chances are if you bought a new cell phone in the last year or two it now has email on it. The downside to these rapid technological advances is that we haven’t had time to properly learn the best way to use them.

Have you ever been talking to someone in person when their cell phone rings? How is this person supposed to respond? It is wonderful that you can be reached at any time of day by your friend 10,000 miles away, but at what cost? The call disrupts your face-to-face conversation for a digital one. Text messages are less obtrusive but the same principle applies – they dictate our lives and take us out of the moment.

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Personal Informatics – What Gets Measured Gets Managed

Photo: Tyrone Shum

The often quoted Peter Drucker said “what gets measured gets managed.” If you can’t measure it you are merely guessing, not managing. Of course he was referring to applying metrics to better manage a business, but the same principle applies to individuals as well. How are you to optimize your life when you do not measure how exactly you spend it?

Personal Finance
Personal finance is the best example of this — in order to get your spending under control and save money you first need to know where your money is being spent. Track where your money is going, create a budget to control problem areas, and continue tracking to observe the improvements. is a terrific website to help individuals focus on tracking their expenses. From their website:

If you’ve tried to build a budget in the past and just couldn’t stick to it, we understand. Until now, trying to see where you’re spending and where you can cut back has been too difficult. But once you understand a few basic principles and start tracking your spending with, you’ll be able to set and stick to realistic goals, easily and automatically. has developed impressive technology to easily track and report on your spending – in turn allowing more people to stick to their financial goals. This website is only one example in an abundance of new tools utilizing technology to help you track your life. Beyond personal finance, there are similar services you can use to for almost any facet of your life.

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