What I Learned From ‘The State Of Keyboard Design’

My Op-Ed on ‘The State of Keyboard Design’ was deservingly torn apart by the community yesterday, and so a follow-up to it is necessary.

I want to start by admitting that the article was flawed in many ways and hit the nerves of many keyboard designers, and I apologize for that. While that was not the intent — I wanted to call out the worst of the worst designers instead of designers as a whole — that was certainly the impact and that was my wrongdoing.

I’ve read through the article, both reddit posts (multiple times), and all the comments on Discord (going back to the moment people first started talking about it) to parse out how I got it so wrong.

So here is what I’ve learned from the article:

Many keyboard designers don’t make much, if any from keyboards. I based my assumption of how much keyboard designers make from examples on the top end of the market, but that is not representative of most designers. I thought that for the keyboard designers who don’t make money, they were just mismanaging things or are disorganized. The truth is that many things can go wrong out of the designers’ control, especially if the manufacturer is located overseas. Krelbit referred to this as the ‘manufacturer roulette’.

Many people like fresher designs, but even more people like simple designs. At the end of the day, both consumers and designers still prefer the classic, 2-part OTD style case, and that’s fair. Also, many designers pointed out that it is financially safer for them to produce a more classic design, which goes back to the first point I mentioned. As such, until the community grows big enough to support the kind of designs I’m looking for, my expectations of design are unreasonable, and I concede that.

My article was limited in scope. Many people mentioned that I was out of touch with what’s happening in keyboards, and that’s true. The stuff I care about are case construction for typing feel/sound, case aesthetics and PBT dye-sub keycaps, and as such I failed to highlight the innovations outside of those 3 fields. The USB-C daughterboard, hotswap sockets, thick plates and the VIA Configurator stood out from the discussions I had. I concede that innovations exist, and that I was ignorant to them because of the biases I held.

Instead of just addressing points in the article, many prominent designers and community members resorted to personal attacks, defamation and assumptions of what I do or do not know. I was nothing but civil throughout the blow up of the article, but I had to take personal insults with no way of fighting back. I get it, it’s the Internet, and the average Discord user/forum member is shielded by anonimity, but I was disappointed that people so high up in the designer hierarchy would stoop so low. That’s not to say that everyone was uncivil — I had great conversations as a result of the blow up — but the bad eggs soured the whole ordeal for me.

Side note: Someone called me a white person as an insult, which I thought was really funny.

(Slightly Very off topic) Questioning the role of the content creator. The ‘all you’re doing is criticize, why don’t you try’ argument was brought up a lot, and that made me think about the role of the content creator. Traditionally, the content creator has always been separate from the maker, and for good reason. The content creator acts as a check-and-balance by educating the consumer.

It’s understandable that designers don’t want critics getting all up in their business, but consumers in our hobby behave defensively towards critics too. As such, many content creators in our hobby don’t speak up when issues arise. Even I worry before publishing a negative article. I pay for all of the products I review, but there are products I just won’t have access to without the good graces of our designers.

As such, I pose these questions:

  1. What kind of content creator are our consumers looking for? Is it the one who shills product? Or the one who’s honest and puts their career on the line?
  2. Why the distrust of critics when many of them genuinely care about the hobby and the people involved?
  3. Should I stay a ‘psuedo-journalist’ or should I play the game?

I hope this has shed some light on what I’m thinking about now that I’ve learned from my mistakes.

4 thoughts on “What I Learned From ‘The State Of Keyboard Design’

  1. Shame about the toxicity from established community members. I don’t understand why people on the Internet jump right to insults. Would you talk to someone in person like that??

  2. On your question whether I’d prefer a content creator who “who shills product?” or the one who “puts their career on the line”, I have this to say. If I were to be putting my hard-earned moolah on something, I’d prefer an unvarnished critique from one who does not profit financially from it. Money does taint everything.

    Maybe it’s just me. On Amazon, I’d read the one and two star reviews and make my tie-breaker decisions based on those.

    OMG, aren’t you white?

  3. I want someone untarnished, but that is impossible. Creators do favors, sponsor, etc. and so there is always bias. And you can’t expect there to be no relationship. Honesty is most important to me, though. If I know the content creator would rather say nothing than lie, I can respect that. So if there is silence on a product, that at least can tell me something.

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