Colin Nederkoorn's Blog

Muscle Memory

Anyone who programs a lot probably has keyboard shortcuts memorized. After a while, you don’t think about it, it’s just muscle memory. (This may not be the technical term)

I try to make as much as possible accessible by muscle memory. When I was a kid, telephone numbers went in there. Now, it’s my atm code, passwords, which pocket I keep my wallet in, and even where I keep my metrocard in my wallet.

The more things in your life that are consistent and reliable, the less you have to think when getting stuff done.

Hunt and click only

I was trying to figure out why I can’t remember my pin for online banking. I decided it’s because the primary mode of entry is to click the buttons with a mouse. Take a look:

Muscle memory failure

How muscle memory works for me

When I have something in my muscle memory, there’s usually a visual trigger, like a website logo, or an ATM keypad, or an elevator panel. I don’t need to think, I just do it. Clicking on a variable target with a mouse isn’t something I can map to my brain as a pattern there’s nothing memorizable about it. And as such, it fails / I fail. I need to refer to my pin every time I log in. (Fwiw, that code is unique to the site and I only use it there).

evil1 <= evil2

Preventing keyboard input is a security concern. It could be picked up by a keystroke logger. But the alternative is that an unsophisticated user writes it down on a sticky note on their monitor rather than being able to memorize it. I sure can’t.

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