Why You Should Never Type Two Spaces After a Period

Manual TypewriterHow many spaces should you type after a period? If you said, “Two,” it turns out you are the victim of a historical accident.

Every major style guide agrees on a single space after a period. But most of us were taught to type two spaces after a period. Why?

Blame the manual typewriter.

Quick typography lesson: Unlike printing presses and computers, which have proportional fonts like the one on this blog, manual typewriters only have monospaced fonts (see a sample of monospaced fonts), where every character has the same width.

To make up for the manual typewriter’s shortcomings, typing schools taught an entire generation the double-space rule. And the bad habit stuck, even when computers added proportional fonts in the 1970s.

Your computer is not a typewriter. It has proportional fonts. Stop typing two spaces after periods. Just stop it.

Hat tip to Farhad Manjoo at Slate for the history lesson.

Conan Innovates on Twitter’s Fail Whale

Long-time Twitter users know that when Twitter gets over-capacity, the Fail Whale appears. Yesterday, Team Coco posted the Conan Pale Whale, a Conan-ified Fale Whale by the same designer, on their blog.

How great would it be if Twitter actually used the Conan Pale Whale (instead of the fail whale) today! This is an innovation waiting to happen. Twitter could sell one-day Fail Whale sponsorships and turn a frustrating experience into a fun one.

Twitter could also change the Fail Whale for special occasions, like Google did today with its X-Ray Google Doodle.

Reminder: Conan is back tonight at 11 on TBS!

Re-design: Costco Checkout

Even though we don’t buy that many things in bulk, my wife and I love Costco. The one part that stinks is checking out.

Checkout at Costco is like sitting in a traffic jam, especially on Saturday morning. Costco employees try to check people out quickly, but most people have large carts filled with a lot of items.

Recently, I realized our local grocery stores and libraries have electronic self-checkout, but Costco does not. In fact, the local library is only self-checkout now.

The library, in fact, uses RFID instead of barcode scanners. With RFID, each book has a small, embedded sensor. Instead of scanning each book, you simply stack all your books on top of the checkout stand, and the computer immediately recognizes all the books you have.

Imagine a Costco with RFID. Instead of having to lift each of your items onto the conveyor belt (and then have the cashier put them back into your cart), you simply push your full cart past a sensor, and the computer tallies the items and recognizes the new RFID member card (included in your $50 annual membership) in your pocket. You pay the cashier and take your cart out to the car.

RFID technology is a little too expensive to put a sensor on every individual can of soda and pack of gum, but RFID has been used for years to track large palettes of product as they’re shipped on ships, trains, and trucks.

Since Costco deals mostly in bulk items (large cases of soda instead of six-packs), perhaps the economics of RFID can work for them.

Where’s the Couch? The iPad Shopping Experience is Broken

While I was at the Apple Store today, I checked out the brand new iPad. I really want to get one to replace the six-year-old Powerbook I have at home. My wife and I both have work laptops for heavy lifting, but the iPad seems perfect for the things we do most on our laptops at home: the web, video, email, and photos.

Steve Jobs sitting with an iPad

Steve Jobs demoed the iPad while sitting on a couch. Why does the Apple Store make you use the device while standing?

The iPad is smaller than I expected, but when I picked it up, the device was heavier than I thought. I was also surprised by how difficult typing was while holding the device. On an iPhone, I can type quickly with both thumbs, but with the iPad, I have to hold the device with one hand while typing with the other. And unlike the iPhone which seems molded to my hand, I found the iPad’s shape a bit awkward to hold.

I left a little disappointed, but driving back, I suddenly realized the real problem: Apple screwed up the iPad shopping experience. In the store, I had to use the iPad while standing, but I would almost never use the iPad while standing at home.

Where’s the couch?

When Apple unveiled the iPad at a press event in January, the iPad was not the only thing appearing on-stage for the first time. There was also a large couch in the center of the stage.

Instead of demoing the new product while standing or sitting at a desk like usual, Steve Jobs demonstrated the iPad while seated at a couch. The new iPad TV ad, too, shows people using the iPad while seated on couches. But when you go to an Apple Store to try it for yourself, the iPad is displayed on the same standing tables that display Macs, Macbooks, iPods, and iPhones.

Sitting with an iPad

Apple stores should let shoppers use the iPad while sitting, the same way people do in Apple's iPad ad.

Apple should create a lounge in each store where people can sit and use the iPad like they will in their own homes. Or, add some bar stools, so people can at least get an idea of what it’s like to read an iPad while drinking coffee. This will give shoppers a better idea of what it’s like to actually use the product while simultaneously sending the message, “The iPad is different from any other device.”

Using an iPad while standing is clumsier compared to when you’re sitting on the couch. And when used at a desk, it’s best to have the iPad standing in a dock with a bluetooth keyboard or resting at a tilt in the iPad Case.

Desktops and laptops are mostly used on a desk, and iPods and iPhones are easily used while standing up. But if Jobs’ demo and Apple’s own ads are any clue, Apple believes that the iPad is best used as a casual device while lounging on a couch. So, help shoppers use the device like they will at home, and put some couches in the store.

5 Tips to Fix Your Business Card

Business cards are overrated.

Does anyone still use these?

Rolodex: Does anyone still use these?

A lot of people stress over their business cards. They try to make them creative. But that never matters (unless you’re a designer).

I may politely say, “Wow, that’s a great card,” but in reality, I don’t care if the card is unique. I make a snap judgment about whether the card looks professional, and then all I care about is whether I can read the person’s contact information.

If you want to make your card creative, that’s great, but don’t do it at the expense of the card’s main purpose: giving me your contact information.

I get a lot of business cards, and the only thing I do with them is enter them into my computer address book. What impresses me is when someone’s card makes it easy for me to transfer the information to my address book. It has the information I need, doesn’t have extraneous information, and is easy to read and input.

Here are some ideas for your business card based on all the cards I’ve seen:

  1. Include your email address. I can’t believe it, but I have received two business cards in the last month without an email address. And both people worked at technology companies.
  2. Don’t include your fax number. There was a time when this was useful information but no longer. When was the last time you sent a fax?  If I really want to send you a fax, I’ll just call you for the number.
  3. Put your contact information in the right order. Most people enter a business card into Outlook or another address book. So, why is your mailing address listed above your phone and email? Put your information on your card in the same order it is on the computer. Make it easy for me to keep your information.
  4. Pick one: office or direct. I keep your card to reach you. If you are willing to put your direct line on your card, don’t give me your office number.
  5. Learn how to send a vCard. If you forget your card, you can always just email me one, saving me the trouble of typing in your info.

Bonus Tip: The population is aging, so you probably want to increase the font size on your card…which means you have even less room for extraneous information.

Delta Lets Customer’s See Where a Flight Is

delta2I went to delta.com this afternoon to see if my wife’s flight was on-time. Imagine my delight when I saw that they not only showed the ETA but also a map with the plane’s current position! If you hover over the plane, it even shows the flight’s altitude.

Is it necessary to know where my wife’s airplane is? No. But it makes me feel better knowing how close my honey is to being home. Thanks Delta!

What Midas Can Learn from My Barber

After she finishes cutting my hair, my barber always asks me, “Do you want to schedule your next appointment?” If I have forgotten my calendar, she will sends me an email reminder from her Blackberry. And then a few days before our appointment, she emails me a reminder. Why don’t more businesses do this? I’d love it if after getting my oil changed, Midas asked me if I’d like to schedule my next appointment. What other business could increase sales and build happier, more loyal customers by scheduling the next appointment now?