As a former journalist I spend a lot of time thinking about words, media models, and the changes in how we communicate. Or maybe that sentence isn’t entirely accurate. I’ve always been attracted to words and what they mean for us as people. I remember thinking as a kid who looked up to my mom that if I wanted to become smart and successful like she was I would have to learn shorthand.
Something about shorthand to me felt magical. It made her fast and invincible in a world where everyone else fell behind in things important like note taking. I decided I would grow up and learn shorthand right off the bat, but instead I grew up earning rewarding characters for typing speeds as early as first grade.
Computers replaced a need for shorthand for awhile, but as we demand more out of our time I’m starting to notice shorthand for the devices that are meant to make us more productive.
One of the trending manifestations of this is Text Expander, a program that allows you to create hotkeys for commonly used text snippets. Type something short at the program automatically generates your three line address, for example. Other examples of similar shorthand experiences for the PC (and Post PC era) include various versions text edit (with word completion), canned email programs, etc.
All this signals the expansion of automation not just in our work, but into our language systems. As we consume more media than ever we demand programs that help us write faster.
I understand the desire to keep pace, but how long until we’re trudging ahead so quickly we no longer provide value for our readers? As automation hits us and changes like the Google Caffeine update (that gives search ranking preference to fresh content) threaten to leave inconsistent writers behind, the greatest scarce resource of the next few years will be quality content delivered consistently.