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Dotsies (2012) (dotsies.org)
460 points by severine on Dec 18, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 194 comments

I feel compelled to write up a summary of the comments here and responses to each one:

> This is useless.

Who cares? It's super cool!

> This is not well-suited for use case X.

Did you read the page? It's so great that someone thought of this and did it.

> This has been done before.


> It's hard to read.

I don't know what you aren't getting about this.

> What if it implemented improvement X?

I don't know, I didn't write it. Maybe the author would appreciate the suggestion!

To be fair, you could use your exact post to argue in favor of Juicero, uBeam or Theranos.

More in-depth, yes, a lot of posts here are criticizing - but it seems to me, a lot of it is constructive criticism from someone who actually did find the idea interesting.

I personally would find a HN where each post is just a variant of "woah that's super cool!" a lot less interesting.

Notably differently, Dotsies is not heavily funded, nor does it want you to pay several digits for access. It’s just a fun experiment. It should not be held to the same standards of usefulness as a thousand-dollar juicer.

I appreciate the support :)

Creator of Dotsies here. I've been using Dotsies to read books since 2012 (maybe around 100). At first on a Kindle and then on a Kobo after Amazon stopped letting you add your own fonts. I reached my normal reading speed a few years ago, and now reading it is fairly second nature. I now prefer it to normal fonts, and have the feeling that my eyes are racing unnecessarily from side to side when I use them. With normal fonts I'm also less likely to "seek" to different parts of the page, and thus feel a bit handicapped with them.

> the brain uses a hierarchy of constructs like circles, lines, corners, etc

It's a little counter intuitive if you haven't tried it, but the shape-seeking aspects of our visual systems do come into play with grids of dots. As others have said below, the words jump out at you as shapes. Sort of in the way that letters normally do. Just to approximate it, consider: :..'. But you may have to look at words a few thousand times before you get the full effect of this.

In general, the less visual noise and redundancy there is, the easier it is to recognize shapes. Consider looking at a pile of sand vs a pile of boulders, to get a sense of the extreme ends of this spectrum. Pile of sand: high complexity, harder to make out visual shapes. Pile of boulders: low complexity, easy to make out shapes. It is possible to map each letter to unique arrangements of 1000 disordered grains of sand, but clearly a few boulders per letter would be better. Consider that it takes about 20 pixels to represent each Latin letter. We scrapped reading fancy calligraphy because they would take more like 40px or so pixels to represent. And the extra flourishes really just added superfluity to the page. Only that was difficult for us to see, since we were so used to the calligraphy as the norm. I think it's naive to think the current state is the apex. Let's get rid of the remaining flourishes! Calligraphy is sand. Latin is marbles (or spaghetti might be apter). Binary grids are boulders. Just stare at the equivalent paragraphs under "How much better is it?" on dotsies.org for a while and you'll get a sense of this. (Especially if you can do so while imagining you're unfamiliar with Latin letters.)

I think I made a joke in 2012 about cave-men waving their spears at the stone-age version of hacker news claiming their bison heads and triangles couldn't possibly be improved on :).

Just wanted to give a quick summary. Will reply to other comments directly.

Btw I'm also the creator of Xiki, which has been discussed on HN as well, and has a stronger claim to originality/practicality. I did 2 kickstarters for it, which didn't get much hacker news attention, much to my disappointment. I'm doing a third soon and am hoping for more interest/abuse :). My new version will switch to using the markdown format, and will hopefully revolutionize the command line.

This is amazing! You inspired me to get Dotsies on my Kindle. I've been wanting to read Cixin's "The Three-Body Problem", so this is the perfect opportunity.

I'm also packaging the fonts up for Void Linux but was unable to find any licensing information. Do you have dotsies under Creative Commons? Did I just miss something?

you should really cite your own personal experience on the page. if i had seen that you have read 100 books in dotsies i would have taken it much more seriously. all this other stuff is kind of post hoc rationalization. if dotsies didn't end up being easier to read it would all be irrelevant. i really think you underestimate the complexity of reasons (or lack thereof) why dotsies works (or doesn't)

I took a run at learning to read dotsies earlier in the year but I think you've just inspired me to give it a more serious attempt. Sounds fun.

Criticism is useful and welcome, but it doesn't have to be dismissive or in a negative tone.

No you couldn't - because those weren't done before :)

The website states “was created thousands of years ago, and is optimized for writing, not reading. About time for an update, no? Dotsies is optimized for reading.”, and other claims on the website, and people are not instantly convinced just because it’s free.

Positivity is fine, but blind positivity is not helpful for anyone..

> Positivity is fine, but blind positivity is not helpful for anyone..

I'm with you on that one, but at this point I'd even take blind positivity over the usual constant blind negativity to anything new on HN. Maybe that's the actual remedy to that, a bit of blind positivity in every thread to counteract the immediate all-around pessimism.

That’s fair. I guess the karma system makes for more combative comments, or comments that more align with the status quo. Like https://forums.bunsenlabs.org/viewforum.php?id=13 seems to be welcoming a lot more discussion. I can only give that as an example because it was the last non karma forum I’ve visited in ages, and even that was a long time ago.

I feel like HN should implement a "positive-only" or "constructive-only" flag for posts, whether set by posters or moderators. Perhaps all Show HN. Start to experiment, see what sticks.

It is a pity an intellectually curious person's work posted to a forum of presumably intellectually curious people gets a bit beat up.

George Bernard Shaw worked out a new alphabet too. Tolkien built a language for books about goblins and elves. I can't image how they would be greeted. But perhaps it's just a bad day or hour or something.

Tolkien did not claim that his invented language was better than English and should replace it.

Had Tolkien not been "bit beat up" he would have written the whole thing in Qenya and no one would have ever heard of it.

A problem with HN is that the rules essentially incentivise this behaviour: if you simply think something is good, you cannot say so until someone else said it was not. “This is great “ is not a good comment. So people upvote instead. But scores are hidden , so you can’t see that from the outside.

you can see this effect in action on your own posts : 10 upvotes, 1 critique. From the outside however, it just looks like “HN is at it again!”

Sure, people could say “this is good because X”, just as they should with critique , anyway. But that’s not how we think : it’s easier to motivate why you don’t like something than why you do.

I think HN is much more positive than it seems. We just need to find a way to stop hiding it.

I think generally we should strive for positive comments. But I have seen some pretty terrible Show HN’s. To be clear, they are the minority. But there are some that are basically “I will put drug dealing sex workers on the blockchain using Tor” or similar where I think it is warranted to point out that it’s a terrible idea or terrible execution or both.

It would be great to have a sliding scale

Mean comments allowable:

    0 --x--------- 100

Isn't this almost exactly what slashdot has?

The only thing that would of made your summary better is if it was written in the Dotsies font.

And the only thing that would have your comment better if it had the word 'worse' instead of 'better.' Oh, and that "of made" thing.

I don’t understand what your definition of super cool is.

I have a set of things that define "super cool", and "inventing your own writing system" is definitely in there.

That still doesn’t explain very much. Your answer to “This has been done before.” is ‘SUPER. COOL.’, so what was invented? Could you provide some other things that are on your super cool list or some synonyms?

I believe it was an HN thread years ago where I first discovered Dotsies. I spent a very satisfying afternoon learning to read it and write it. I then labelled all sorts of cables and patch boards and such with it around my cubicle for fun. I only kept them up for a few days, but it was a blast learning to read something cryptic and cool looking at a glance with so little effort. If only for that idle distraction Dotsies is a worthy hack. I really think half the fun is in the teaching method.

It is fun. I actually used (and still use) the "Standard Galactic Alphabet" from the Commander Keen games every once in a while, which is a little easier to read and write, yet almost as baffling to non-insiders :)

Very interesting. It's definitely more compact but I would challenge the more readable claim.

If you think about how the human vision system is constructed (similar to convnets in deep learning), the brain uses a hierarchy of constructs like circles, lines, corners, etc. Recognizing letters requires the triggering of multiple layers of these constructs.

A dot, and another dot 1 pixel higher or lower is easy to get conflated. There's going to be a high degree of uncertainty. We have a hard enough time distinguishing '1' and 'l', and 'O' and '0'. This makes it so every letter takes on that trait. We usually must rely on context of the surrounding letters and words to fill in the missing information.

I think the concept of this idea is valid, but we need more than moving pixels up and down to distinguish letters. If instead a form existed that mixed various small primitive shapes it might work.

I'm not an expert on the vision system but I would think, sticking to at most 2 different locations instead of 5, and mixing in vertical lines, horizontal lines, diagonals, corners, and circles might be work exploring.

There's also color but lots of people are color blind.

> I'm not an expert on the vision system but I would think, sticking to at most 2 different locations instead of 5, and mixing in vertical lines, horizontal lines, diagonals, corners, and circles might be work exploring.

What you proposed here turns out very similar to the elements of Korean Characters.

As an East Asian who is native to Chinese Characters, two-dimensional symbols are always more appealing to me. I started to learn English 25 years ago while Japanese 10, but I read Japanese much more faster than English even without any Kanji.

I'm impressed, If you remove the Kanji from Japanese, my reading speed goes down significantly.

Though, as a native English speaker of course my English (alphabet) reading speed is faster than my Japanese (Hiragana/Katana) speed.

What I do find very interesting though is that given I know all/most of the words in a Chinese dialogue, I have noticed that my Chinese reading speed is close to on-par with my English reading speed. I find Chinese very efficient to read/parse. I think there are many factors that contribute to this such as well defined word roots, similar sized characters, relatively small number of radicals (larger than alphabet of course), very simple/clean grammar. The more I study, learn, and use Chinese, I really wish Chinese was the international language. It's power and elegance always amazes me. Even more so as I get further into Chinese literature, poetry, culture, humor, etc.

I've studied Japanese/Chinese both for a long time (10-15 years). Nowadays, I use Chinese everyday as that's the language my wife and I use.

As a pure alphabet goes, I really like the Korean implementation. I was able to mostly learn and retain it with only 1-2 hours of study.

Interesting, thanks for sharing your perspective as a native English speaker and a Chinese learner.

> I really wish Chinese was the international language. It's power and elegance always amazes me. Even more so as I get further into Chinese literature, poetry, culture, humor, etc.

It had been a dominating language/writing system for part of Asia, and we can still find its legacy in Vietnamese, Korean, Japan.

But I think "legacy" is the keyword here. As a software engineer, the Chinese writing system is not in a ideal shape at least for me. There used to be systematic ways/principles to create characters, but there has never been any sustainable approach to "maintain" some of the internal consistency. It's like stacking workarounds one after another, and it becomes what we see today. Users can just accept it without any efficient way to modify or even refactor it, not mentioning the burden and effort to create just one beautiful font design.

Thanks for your perspective as well.

I initially learned traditional Chinese characters (lots of Taiwanese friends), and the traditional variant that Japanese used. Even though initially I was stubborn and would claim that traditional characters are more beautiful or pure, I have to admit that simplified Chinese is definitely a major language improvement. My one exception is I still like to write 龍 instead of 龙 :)

I agree with you that there must be a newer/better way to construct a Chinese-like writing system that isn't quite a burden to both learn as well implement in computers (fonts, etc). I.e. Words could still be built up of logic word roots , similar to current system but more consistent/logical. More advanced words could be built of simpler words. Some of my favorite examples are words like "skull" that are in Chinese 骨头 (literally "head bone"). These sorts of constructions for me as a foreigner learning Chinese are amazing. I'm able to memorize so many Chinese technical/science terms that are a pain even for natives in English.

I sometimes have imagined training a neural network to generate "word vectors" that are actually just small 32x32 colored images, just to see what they would look like. Sort of like the word2vec generations, but using images as the input and the output would be a sort of viewable "character". I also imagine "hyper-intelligent" beings developing languages like this, only with higher dimensionality of input and not only images.

> I have to admit that simplified Chinese is definitely a major language improvement. My one exception is I still like to write 龍 instead of 龙 :)

Improvement or not? I argue that it depends. Once in an international situation, Mr. Xi wanted to speak a seldom-used and very old idiom in his draft, which was "通商宽农", roughly standing for the meaning that farmers (农) can live much better (宽) if economy is getting good. However, he spoke it as "通商宽衣", which is not a established phrase but can still be reasoned as "get economy better and get undressed (宽衣)"。

As a reference, the traditional version of this idiom is "通商寬農"。"農" (farmer, agriculture) has a very different shape compared to "衣" (cloth, surface) in traditional Chinese, but obviously they looks similar when you become a important but nervous guy.

If we regard the Chinese language/writing system as a huge project, I would say that simplified Chinese was a hard fork without much testing but soon widely adopted, and its design was based on some novel but destructive compression algorithm without any peer review process.

> I sometimes have imagined training a neural network to generate "word vectors" that are actually just small 32x32 colored images, just to see what they would look like. ...

Cool idea! Sounds like some kind of esoteric language. Looking forward to it.

Haha that’s a great example. Those are definitely areas where the written language has room for improvement. I could also imagine myself making a similar mistake.

Regardless, I’ve always been impressed that the Chinese can make such a bold change as their written language yet here in the United States, I’m still arguing with people who don’t know how many feet are in a mile as to why we should switch to metric. :)

If I ever get around to making my “hyper language”, I’ll be sure to post or let you know. I imagine it will likely be “not-very-user-friendly”. haha

About the neural network part, not exactly what you're looking for but you might enjoy this blog post[1] by David Ha with a neural network "dreaming" fake kanjis.

[1] http://otoro.net/kanji/

Ha! That’s awesome! Some of the kanji hall-of-famers actually turned out pretty great.

Part of my motivation with Dotsies was to capture the compactness and visual distinctness of Asian characters, while still keeping what's good about alphabets. I'm guessing native Chinese speakers find it exhausting to have their eyes dart back and forth at a comparatively hectic speed to take in the same information when reading English?

I don't think Hangul-like writing systems are good fits for English however. Korean has a relatively simple syllable structure /C(G)VC/ and Hangul thoroughly exploits this trait. English does not; consonant clusters like "strike" are common, and every Hangul-like alternative to Latin alphabet for Korean was jarring to my eyes partly for that reason, e.g. [1]. It would be a bit more easier to work with word-based typography, i.e. logogram; refer to [2] and [3] for such attempts. [3] might be an interesting trade-off between logogram and phonetic alphabet.

[1] http://www.omniglot.com/conscripts/engul.htm

[2] https://www.zompist.com/yingzi/yingzi.htm

[3] http://www.omniglot.com/conscripts/swc.htm

Yep, that's Korean. Hangul groups all the letters in each syllable into a compact square, but the square can also be easily decomposed into individual alphabets when needed.

People who propose new writing systems would benefit from studying existing systems a bit more. The Latin alphabet is not the only game in town.

Grids of dots can be slightly morphed to resemble curves and slashes. Notice how some of the morphed versions of Dotsies appear visually similar to Asian scripts:


Interestingly, when you read Dotsies quickly and at a smaller font size, the scripted versions appear indistinguishable from the square (unmodified) versions. Because of this I didn't end up pursuing this aspect.

Hangul (the Korean writing system) came to mind immediately for me too. I can't read Korean, but the writing system is very well designed, being phonetic and compact. It would be great to have something like that for written English.

Like what Mark Twain suggested. https://msu.edu/~jerrymc/humor/spelling.html

" For example, in Year 1 that useless letter "c" would be dropped to be replased either by "k" or "s", and likewise "x" would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which "c" would be retained would be the "ch" formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform "w" spelling, so that "which" and "one" would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish "y" replasing it with "i" and Iear 4 might fiks the "g/j" anomali wonse and for all.

Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez "c", "y" and "x" -- bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez -- tu riplais "ch", "sh", and "th" rispektivli.

Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld. "

Funnily enough, that's very close to how a non-English-speaking German would probably spell English words :)

reminds me on Mark Twains love for the german language https://www.cs.utah.edu/~gback/awfgrmlg.html

I believe that was the intended joke.

I doubt it. With very few minor correction this looks like phonetic transcription of what slavic (should hold at least for polish, czech and slovak) language native would write it down.

I believe german writing is also close to phonetical. That's why it works.

I think I've read that language while grading middle school paper from kids that did not pay attention in grammar classes.

Also: compact representation doesn't lead to faster reading. This study [0] compares native readers of English and Chinese text; the latter being more information dense than the former on a per-pixel basis. As for reading speed? In words per minute, it's a wash: 380 vs. 390.

[0]: https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.3758/BF03204913.pdf

Yeah, the whole claim "latin letters were optimized to be written by hand" is completely bollocks. The letters are also subject to constraints that are based in reading just as you described.

Dotsies words look kind of like letters. They have lines, corners, loops, etc.

> There's going to be a high degree of uncertainty. A dot, and another dot 1 pixel higher or lower is easy to get conflated

I initially thought that would be a big issue as well. Turns out in practice it almost never comes up when reading paragraphs. For headings or words on signs that could be more of an issue.

Could we compare Dotsies learnability with "normal alphabeth" by checking which one is easiest to train with deep nevral network (NN)?

Dotsies would be trivial to learn if they are in digital form. Think of QR readers. I can't even imagine handwritten dotsies, they would probably be a mess.

Problems that I immediately see with the approach:

* No baseline or other orienting structure, so vertical shifts easily change meaning ("ab" turns to "bc"), same for rotations.

* No redundancy to allow for recognizing incomplete / garbled / damaged letters.

Both features are prominent in any machine-readable encoding (like bar codes or QR codes), and are relatively easy to find in any human script.

The idea behind making more compact visual representation of letters has merit. This particular implementation of it is impractical, though. It only looks acceptable on a demo page.

(While at it, I know two well-designed phonetic writing systems: Tengwar and Hangul. Neither is super compact, but both are easy to learn and read, because of the internal logic. Dotsies are way more arbitrary; they don't exploit any connections between letter or sounds they represent.)

There's also Shavian and Quikscript for English, which handle the language phonetically. I think it's a big miss for any new writing system to keep a language with 38 or so sounds limited to 26 letters. Not to mention other languages that might want to use it.

I learned Shavian a few years ago, with my own transliteration dictionary based on my New Zealand English pronunciation (which Shavian doesn't quite seem to handle all of). Unfortunately, different dialects of English have very (inconsistently) different pronunciations, and hence there would be many different spellings for the same words; I really struggled to read Shavian written by people from other parts of the world. Going phonetic may well mean giving up on fast reading through whole word recognition.

Or it would require standardizing on certain pronunciations.

I don't think that's possible. Much of the popular media in the English-speaking world is in a standard-ish General American accent, and yet still the diversity in accents is enormous.

The only way I can think of to do it is if all phones and computers had really good voice control systems that nonetheless only understood the standard pronunciation (like early versions of Dragon dictation). The voice system makers have a vested interest in not doing that, but in understanding everyone as they talk. Arabic has tried for centuries, with the full force of a major religion, and yet still the language is splintered into mutually unintelligible dialects.

People talk how they talk, and it's constantly changing. I don't think anyone can control that.

My native language, Romanian, is written exactly as it is heard. Dialects with differing pronunciations still exist. In practice, everyone who speaks in dialect, writes the words as if transliterated from the official pronunciations (which is taught in schools), but pronounces the words as they're used. So in writing everyone gets each other. Orally, it can be a bit difficult sometimes.

This is what I meant to suggest. Pick a canonical set of pronunciations to be used in writing.

Don't forget about the deseret alphabet. I think it's a shame that never stuck.

Deseret us a bit too frivolous graphically, and not consistent enough.

Also, English has many pronunciation variations, and links between many words may be obvious in writing but not as much in sound (breath / breathe). English needs something more of a morphology-based writing system, not a pure phonetic representation (like Spanish).

This is a font, not a new writing system.

For many languages (though probably not English) you could likely hack something with clever use of ligatures.

The first problem effectively makes this DOA. A bunch of dots on a page can mean anything if there isn't a grid to orient them.

Why didn't the designer select dot positions based on letter frequency or letter pairing frequency in English? This could have yielded a font that would be more likely to make pretty geometric shapes. Even a simple improvement like vowels all having higher dot positions in the font, and consonants having lower positions, could be interesting. It seems that the dot positions are just based on letter position in the alphabet. There is probably a way to come up with dot positions that yield much nicer looking shapes.

My suspicion is that the way to improve legibility is to consider ways to make symbol images more robust to noise. In particular, if a symbol image were perturbed, would the context help you figure out what that symbol should be?

For each letter, we can build a histogram of contexts that letter occurs in for a sufficiently large corpus. An example is the letter "o", whose occurrences in the previous sentence have the following contexts: f_r (twice), t_g, c_n, _c, c_r.

Each letter's context histograms have some similarity with each other letter's. We want different letters that have similar contexts to have widely differing appearances, because if their appearances were similar, their contexts will be of less help to the reader in disambiguating. And letters with sufficiently different contexts may be allowed to be more similar in appearance (note e.g. the archaic long "s", which despite visual ſimilarity to "f" is easily distinguished from it by the different contexts it appears in).

That's a very interesting point and suggests that, counterintuitively, it would actually be bad for (for example) vowels to look similar to each other.

Another way to use language statistics would be to make the font variable-width (which may help with legibility) but make commonly-occurring letters thin.

This doesn't preclude optimising vowels for example though, just them looking similar.

I'm not convinced I could differentiate M N and O without context, having a known vowel to differentiate the heights you're looking at would help?

> There is probably a way to come up with dot positions that yield much nicer looking shapes.

Try it yourself!


Hit the "random" link a few times and you'll get an idea of the possible variations. In the Dotsies pattern, vowels are at the tops and bottoms of words. The variations can look grainy, chunky, loopy, checker-board-ish (you'll see what I mean if you try it). The version I picked is a balance that leans toward being sparse and loopy, and is one of the many variations that has an intuitive letter ordering. Here's a decent one, but with a crappy ordering.


Surprisingly, none of them jump out as significantly better than the others (the overly dense ones being exceptions).

[from another comment] > I am pretty sceptical that an "optimized" alphabet glyph would be one dot for a b c d e, two adjacent dots for f g h i, etc.

There are other mappings that looked marginally better to me, but I deemed picking one with a nice ordering was worth doing. A and E happen to be the 1st and 3rd most common letters, which works out if you want to lean toward the sparse end. Also O (the 4th), A, and E all stick to the top and bottom edges of words, so if you want your words to tend to have holes in the middle they are a good fit. Getting a decent mapping for the commonest letters seems to be key, but by all means, try the above link and post an alternative that you think is better.

Because there are other languages than English.

Dvorak (for example) is an attempt to optimise for english text, so it is worth it at some level. I have no idea how applicable it is to other languages.

Ideally, each language should have its own alphabet/writing system that is optimized for the given language.

I love the way it teaches you, but the other comments are correct.

It doesn't really make sense to optimize for screen space like this.

However, the teaching style along with a symbol alphabet that IS trying to solve for better legibility (without necessarily any allegiance to dyslexic fonts), could be pretty interesting.

In middle school when bored once I made my own symbolic alphabet, I found it really is extremely easy to learn a new symbol set for language you already know, so, changing away from the traditional symbols isn't even that massive of an endeavor.

I think they did do an OK job with using screen space well, but at the cost of legibility to a degree. That said, the more I think on it, maybe the author did too. Sure, individual letters aren't as legible, but the point is almost more that words become single characters, more like Mandarin. If those characters are legible, than it doesn't matter that the individual letters are not. If you don't know a word, you're already going to be individually inspecting the letters. (of course, it will still be mildly more difficult with dotsies)

This was my favourite aspect of dotsies: that words began to have familiar shapes. I stopped needing to parse certain words because their shape was so unique and memorable.

At the same time it would be interesting to see it implemented based on letter frequency rather than order in the alphabet.

It was great fun to read!

Isn't that true for "normal" text too? Don't we skim text usually pretty quickly based on how the words look like, instead of reading every letter one by one?

Same is true for morse code sound patterns.

> It doesn't really make sense to optimize for screen space like this. However, the teaching style along with a symbol alphabet that IS trying to solve for better legibility ...

Optimizing for legibility as opposed to screen space is a distinction that isn't very meaningful in practice. Because if words aren't legible enough, people increase the font size until they are. If something is extremely legible (like latin letters at a 40pt font size) people will naturally tend to decrease the size. So screen space and legibility are largely different labels for the same concept. With some wiggle room but not that much.

I like the idea of users being able to choose the font they prefer to read in. It's not very hard to do: you could configure your browser and your code editor and maybe Kindle and be able to read in the new font 90% of the time.

Can anyone who uses https://www.dyslexiefont.com/ comment on how hard it is to have it everywhere?

But Dotsies seems to be solving the wrong problem: using the fewest pixels. I think the right problem is being able to skim large amounts of text quickly, for which typical fonts are pretty good. You can find whether there are any numbers on a page, for instance, in well under a second.

I use it (well, OpenDyslexie) as my only font on desktop Firefox and it's been ok for me for a year or thereabouts. I did use it in iOS Pocket as well but they dropped it a while back.

Previous discussions:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14825571 (2017, 22 comments)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3601687 (2012, 98 comments)

I was going to post some comment about how the comments here were all overly negative for what was obviously just someone having fun. Then I read the comments in 2012.

Jesus Christ.

In any case, it's sad to me how when people on HN see someone having a bit of fun or messing around, their first instinct is to knock it down.

The upvotes mean that most people get that.

The comment threads, unfortunately, are subject to the tendency (perhaps common among technical people?) to point out discrepancies, gaps, claims that aren't true, and so on. I don't think it's out of a desire to knock anything down. It's just that the mind is quicker to notice those things and then there's a "hey I noticed something" impulse to report them. The intention is helpful, but these comments don't compose very well... or rather, they do: into a sourpuss mélange.

I'd love it if we could get this community to really grok the value of inquisitive or playful comments that have an opening-up effect instead of a narrowing one. That would be much better for the spirit of intellectual curiosity. Perhaps it awaits us in the evolution of the hivemind.

The website is not presenting this as just having fun, but rather making the strong claim that it is actually better than the writing system we've been using.

Making such very strong claims ("I've come up with something better than what civilization has produced thus far...") naturally invites debate, especially when they seem implausible on their face and aren't backed up by a very solid argument. There would be a lot fewer negative comments if this were presented like "hey, look at this neat game I made up..."

I’m not seeing your quote on the page, and I think that drives my point home: you have created a narrative for the post that doesn’t exist. I mean, come on. They’re called “dotsies”! Does that sound like the name of a font designed to replace ours, by someone who honestly thinks they’ve advanced civilization? Or does it sound like someone having fun?

> The latin alphabet (abc...) was created thousands of years ago, and is optimized for writing, not reading. About time for an update, no?

See, it depends how charitable you want to be to the author, because I read that in a bit of a joking tone.

And again in 2012: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3778958 (128 comments)

On a barely more productive note, I am pretty sceptical that an "optimized" alphabet glyph would be one dot for a b c d e, two adjacent dots for f g h i, etc. How likely is it that alphabetical order also happens to be the best dot pattern?

This question is discussed further in this thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18704204. The author trogdoro has replied there.

One advantage of regular letters compared to this is that it's pretty easy to tell that even a fairly mangled A is still an A; a word written in dotsies loses a lot of its legibility as soon as it's not displayed in fairly large pixels across a very clear background. Viewing things at an angle? While it moves by? On a dirty or wet piece of paper? Forget about it.

It's a super fun idea, though. I would 100% put this in the background, or even the foreground, of some future scifi scape.

Yeah, it's a telling point that when we're asked to read passages of Dotsies, the font's sized up least three times (36px to 42px)—and so at least nine times the screen area taken—compared to the base 13px size used in the "How much better is it?" example.

You're going to need damn good eyes to read Dotsies at anything like 13px, and I suspect even the sharp-eyed are going to misread a lot. Size Dotsies text up to the point that people of average vision can read it as reliably as a normal font at a reasonable size, and I don't think you're going to get much, if any, greater information density.

I'm reminded of Speedtalk, a language from Robert Heinlein's story "Gulf", which had every combination of phoneme and delivery (pitch, length, etc.) represent a word in the Basic English vocabulary. So, every spoken "word" in the language is actually a full sentence. But, it takes intense futuristic training just to be able to speak vaguely intelligibly in it, because all the normal imprecisions of speaking (much less speaking in a new language) take any tiny error from "You used 'record' as a noun, but with a long 'e' and the stress on the second syllable." to "You have a hovercraft, and it's full of what???"

Now imagine trying to follow speech in such a language if the speaker's out of breath, alarmed, surrounded by background noise, etc. Just not enough redundancy for reliable communication.

Eels. My hovercraft is full of eels.


That's the reference, yes.

Not to mention recognizing individual letters. The difference between “a” and “b” in Latin alphabet is drastic. In dotsies you could only tell them apart if other letters near them give you relative height of the dots to some baseline.

Dotsies seem to make a tradeoff where they optimize for higher information density at the cost of much higher error rate (or requirement for precision and accuracy if you will). I also definitely see your point about font sizes. Basically it’s a valiant attempt at a reimagined alphabet but I don’t think it actually achieves higher info density in the real world.

Dotsies is even worse if your eyes are some variant of broken. Nearsighted, cataracts, crosseyed, etc.

Perfect for automatic readers though.

Nope: automatic readers rely heavily on redundancy. QR codes are like 20% data, 80% error correction. OCR is still a difficult problem, despite the redundancy built in to the alphabet. There's no way a machine reader could tell apart characters that differ by one pixel

Too bad I'm not an automatic reader!

I've been an automated reader since I was probably, what, five years old?

Me too, I didn't even mean to read your comment, but as soon as my eyes saw it: boom, processed and read. like a computer without virus scan or security or anything, to see the words was to run their executable on my wetware.

I actually remember to have had severe headaches when I was something like 4 or 5 and I experienced the passage from deliberate reading and automatic reading. It was much worse being around in a car and just looking outside and unwillingly read all the signs because it added also elements of motion sickness to it...

I saw a great t-shirt at the 2006 HOPE conference that read, "Just by reading this you have given me control of piece of your brain"

The first thing I thought of was Marain, from The Culture novels https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Culture:

“Designed to be represented either in binary or symbol-written form, Marain is also regarded as an aesthetically pleasing language by the Culture. The symbols of the Marain alphabet can be displayed in three-by-three grids of binary (yes/no, black/white) dots and thus correspond to nine-bit wide binary numbers.”

Came here to say the same thing. Interesting to see that someone has (independently?) had the same sort of idea.

Me too. :)

Here are some examples of Marain symbols designed by Iain M. Banks:


just use Chinese, it’s optimized for screen space (each character occupies a square, and has complex meaning of a word, and people read their shapes, rather than stroke by stroke )

But dots are more compact than strokes.

Strokes allow for much more graceful degradation when you have to use a pen and paper.

I think a key point of the language is that it points toward machine-reproduced printing and display only. Writing can still be Chinese, English or any other language. But for in-place printed labeling or digital display, something like this might be interesting.

>just use Chinese, it’s optimized for screen space ...

[cite needed][original research?]

Well, for example, per Google Translate



Reading chinese is basically the human version of attempting to read a .zip file.

It occurs to me that the suggestion is actually interesting from an information theoretic standpoint. I understand that Chinese as a language is relatively "telegraphic" to start with. Is there a quantifiable difference with English writing? How much is the language and how much the writing system?

This reminds me of the fonts used in Stargate: Atlantis https://www.omniglot.com/conscripts/ancients.htm

Tried to create a mapping that mimics positioning or spacial makeup of letters so you can "guess" more instead of looking up the letters all the time:


A couple of design values:

- vowels 1 dot seems like a good plan

- ending with s / y should be easily recognizable

- tall letters should be tall (tlbdk etc)

To learn, read one word from the top paragraph and see if it "looks" like the bottom dotsies. Then gradually try to read the paragraph without looking at the next word.

Open to improvements!

I like your mapping just about as well as the Dotsies mapping. Slightly more speckled vs angular. I wish others who are finding fault with the mapping would go down this path as well. I think they would quickly realize that one mapping is (generally speaking) about as good as another, so you might as well pick one with a good order. That's why I created that page.

The problem I see there is you think there is only English. While you may write "naïve" as "naive" and lose nothing, there are some other languages too and the advantage of Latin is that it's visual and Latin letters can be slightly changed to have something similar but different.

Do you think "Fußgängerübergänge" can be read as "Fussgangerubergange" or "zażółć" as "zazolc"? (German and Polish respectively)

While I do get your point, Germans specifically handle the lack of umlauts (e.g. in digital spaces that don't allow them) by simply substituting "ä" with "ae", "ö" with "oe" and "ü" with "ue". Similarly, "ß" can be replaced with "ss" without losing much readability at all.

As a contrary to the other comments to parent, I'd say that in French and Slovak, although many people do not use accents on chat platforms and irc, they are very important in longer prose. These languages, without accents, would be very hard and slow to read. So yeah, for languages with no accents this might be fine but that's it.

I added several characters to the Dotsies font for other languages in response to requests. They have accents above the dots.

There was a thread here (found it) just the other day where Polish people specifically said "we don't use those accented characters any more because it's too hard on mobile and we don't need to" (heavy paraphrasing mine).


I see a Slovenian person claiming that, I think, but no Poles.

Also, often those "accents" are different sounds. Ș in Romanian is sh, ț is ts, ă is uh, â is a sound which is not present in English (at least not explicitly). You can get rid of them but there's definitely ambiguity. Even French has é which sounds nothing like the French e.

As others have pointed out, this is not ideal. At least it requires lots of work.

If we could start from the scratch, Hangul style syllabic blocks that combine alphabetic and syllabic systems might be the ideal.

I spent time learning it years ago. It was... useless. It’s just too small and not readable. But then chinese websites have very small fonts as well, so maybe I should have persisted. If I could watch someone reading fluently in dotsies that would really impress me.

> But then chinese websites have very small fonts as well

Right you are.

It took me a while to be able to shrink it down. You have to start large and gradually shrink it down.

> If I could watch someone reading fluently in dotsies

Any time.

Could you make a video of that?

This reminds me of the old "real programmers use binary" meme, and how I experimented with bitmap image files by typing text into them and looking at the resulting patterns.

I wonder if I'm the only one who would find it easier to read if it was just ASCII printed in binary instead of its own symbol-set. ASCII has some patterns which make it easy to memorise, and it's something a lot of developers have indeed memorised already. That would make a great "1337 hax0r" font.

...and why not go the whole hog and make it 8 bits, so you can encode all of Unicode (as UTF-8)...

I am still not sure if this is an elaborate satire or not.

If you want a quick and easy way to compress the visual space taken up by text then we have several existing examples to choose from.

The most trivial is omission of vowels, instead relying on context or vowel marks (or some combination). Wrds r srprsngl lgbl wtht vwls. Anotherisomissionofspaces.

Lots of western (and other) scripts have been written these ways in the past. Neither can be said to have evolved to make text easier to write! Including the vowels is more difficult to write and both are more costly because they take up more space, which means larger tablets or more animal skin and ink required.

We settled on including vowels and word spacing to make text more legible, so I'm not sure where the author's claim about latin working the way it does to benefit writing comes from. If the OP wants to claim letters like b/d/p/q, m/n, w/v/u, etc are to the benefit of writers OK but "dotsies" is even worse in lacking distinct shapes.

Humans like symmetry and patterns so it seems far more likely some letters are variations on a pattern or mirror images because it is visually pleasing or easy to stamp new letters out of existing known shapes. If you think about it a/b/c/d/e/g/o/p/q are arguably variations on the same pattern, with g -> j, and j -> i following.

Combine this with Millitext[0] for optimal ... readability? brevity.

[0] https://advent.morr.cc/2018/17

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18702900

I think this is a funny and cool idea, but there's quite big flaw: it doesn't have a clear baseline. Without context, "ABBA" basically looks identical to "DEED".

Also, if you go so far to create a new alphabet, you could also make it phonetic. Rather than this one, I'd like to see a phonetic syllable alphabet (like the Korean one) for English.

I was thinking the same thing re: phonetic. Dotsies opening paragraph claims the latin alphabet was optimized for writing, but it wasn't, it was optimized for phonetics (if anything at all), which is useful to both reading and writing. However, we know from Korean and Japanese Katakana/Hiragana that phonetics can be generalized into syllables and don't have to be spelled out as in English/Latin. A Dotsies version of that would be ideal.

I once managed to install the Dotsies font to a rooted Android... it was fun for about 10 minutes! I agree with the other comments that a font more focused on overall word shape would probably be easier to read at high speed.

Interesting, similar to how the korean alphabet works; letters are composed into syllabic units. “Lol,” for example, is 롤, which is a combination of ㄹ + ㅗ + ㄹ. It’s easy to see how they match up with their latin counterparts.

I think it would be great to have a constant underscore over the baseline, so you can tell single characters apart (a,b,c,d) are currently impossible to distinguish if you have them printed arbitrarily on a page.

Perhaps the characters could be colour coded, too? As we are not limited by having to switch out pens, why not? I think it would make reading much faster and it would be easy to disable/enable.

I dislike the implementation of punctuation, I would prefer a font that uses a monospaced grid and sticks with it, so you can render the font on teeny tiny displays.

Love it! Could be used for printing a novel on a single page at 600 dpi.

It's a great idea and I am all for efficiency. My only worry is that the vertical alignment of the dots drastically alters the word. a,b,c,d,e are all the same exact black square, just moved up and down the vertical axis. Same with p, s, and v. It's the equivalent of python requiring precise spaces for it to work properly.

I guess I should hold any comments until I actually try it properly, but that would take me years :)

When watching sci-fi films like Prospect that feature strange character systems, I often wonder how we might have turned toward something like that to label ships and stuff. (Presuming no alien cultural injection)

And then I see this, and despite some of the valid criticism of this particular set I now understand how english or some other recognizable written language might not be a guarantee for labeling in the future.

I think Hebrew alphabet is more economical than this.

Being well past my likely mid-life point, and having been a user of glasses for the past 40 years, I do not appreciate the font at all.

Creating new characters? Using simple bitmaps for early letters and more complex ones for later letters, because that's really how letters are used in English. /s

Maybe should have used some Gestalt design to differentiate vowels and common vs. uncommon characters. It's the difference between a QWERTY (or Dvorak) keyboard and an ABC...XYZ one.

Is this person completely insane? Or am I just not getting something? In which universe is this font remotely useful?

It's like DVORAK but for reading. The ambition is noble.

DVORAK isn’t useless though, it’s the only reason I was able to learn touch typing.

I think the goal is "hey that's neat!"

I thought this was an obvious prank until I read the comments here... which I also assume to be a part of the prank.

Only hackers would try to reimplement the alphabet. I can't decide whether I should be proud or embarrassed.

Or maybe "script" kiddies, ha. Pun intended.

I think, real hackers lose interest in monoalphabetic substitution ciphers by junior high.

This is far from the first time anyone has created new alphabets.

Take a look at the shavian alphabet for another interesting take on written text.

Definitely proud. Why embarrassed?

Because the hubris of tech people to think something like "hey, trillions of humans have collectively decided over a few thousand years that the latin alphabet hits a pretty good sweet spot in human communication. I bet they didn't consider how readable it is, though. I can do better than all of them," is wearing thin.

This came up in the Robinhood checking thread a few days ago. "Do you really think that you're going to outsmart a financial institution that employs people like you (but smarter) because you happen to be better at math than your facebook friends who studied polysci?" The hubris of people in tech who think they're the only people who notice things is getting really tiresome.

Having said that, I think that's a slippery slope of a stance to take, because it stifles creativity and novel solutions, which history shows often come up when they're not looked for. But I think that's kind of the sentiment of embarrassment they were expressing: "groan, another techie is going to disrupt something that doesn't need disrupting."

Edit: To the people responding to this (and downvoting): this person asked for an explanation for why someone would feel embarrassment at this. I was trying to give what I thought was a reasonable explanation. I don't actually feel embarrassed by this, I was just trying to understand and articulate someone else's feelings on this. I'm sorry if the explanation didn't do it for you.

> hey, trillions of humans have collectively decided over a few thousand years that the latin alphabet hits a pretty good sweet spot in human communication. I bet they didn't consider how readable it is, though. I can do better than all of them

I don't know all the fancy names for logical fallacies but this seems to be deliberately misrepresenting the argument. The website clearly states that the problem with the Latin alphabet is that it has to be able to be written efficiently as well as read. Your trillions of humans over a few thousand years have had to both read and write this alphabet. In the past few hundred years we've had technology that allows someone who made a huge investment to produce massive amounts of text without writing, and in the past few decades the ability to produce text without writing has become completely ubiquitous. Does it still make sense for this alphabet to optimize for hand writing? Are you arguing that the constraints that made the Latin (or any handwritten) alphabet have remained unchanged over thousands of years? They want to redesign an alphabet to fit modern constraints. We consume a lot of text on devices that need to have screens that fit in our pockets. Perhaps a two-thousand year old alphabet isn't still the optimal solution?

I also don't think the authors necessarily expect to disrupt anything. They just made something cool and put it on the internet. I'm happy people like this exist.

Yeah, text on computers and phones is so much different from handwritten or even printed text. We don't have to handwrite text that often anymore, so we don't have the constraints of how accurate our hands can move. Our screens have really high resolution and color (although using a script with colors would be problematic for color blind people), so we don't have the constraints of the paper medium. There's also the simple fact that Latin isn't the only writing system in existence, so how are we to know that Latin is the best writing system out of all the writing systems already in existence? Why not hànzì? Or hangul? Or Devanagari? Or the Arabic Script? Or even Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics? There are so many different scripts that it seems weird to me to focus on the Latin Script as the "pretty good sweet spot". That seems like the much bigger hubris to me. It's not like the Latin Script was scientifically created and proven to be efficient. It just organically evolved from what came before it, whether those changes were beneficial or not. And of course again, they didn't have screens back then.

Robinhood is a weird example to bring up here. All the HNers who thought they knew better than a $6 billion financial company with an army of professionals turned out to be right, Robinhood got smacked down hard, and that top-rated comment in the initial thread now looks hilariously silly.

The difference from what was decided historically is that in the past, books had to be printed in a font chosen by the printer, so they chose one that the most people could read. Today, individuals can choose their own fonts to read in, so the legacy compatibility problem is greatly reduced.

Given how different some international alphabets are (Russian, Hebrew, Katakana) it's not self-evident that the conventional Latin glyphs are optimal.

I completely fail to see the problem here. Let people try to disrupt whatever they want, what's the harm? It's extremely unlikely that dotsies will ever be anything other than a minor curiosity, but where's the problem? There's a one in a billion chance it could be the next evolution of the alphabet, and, anyway, what's bad about trying?

I don't see a reason for the negativity, because I don't see a single disadvantage in trying. If the author wants to waste their time, let them.

> Because the hubris of tech people to think something like "hey, trillions of humans have collectively decided over a few thousand years that the latin alphabet hits a pretty good sweet spot in human communication. I bet they didn't consider how readable it is, though. I can do better than all of them," is wearing thin.

This isn't a unique aspiration of tech. Folks have been trying to achieve better othographies than the one we grafted on as a colonizer's comprimise for a long time. Projects like Shavian [0][1], Read Script (Quickscript) [2], and Deseret [3] come to mind as prior art in this space that predate the invention of the modern tech community and its current perceived class distinction.

I'd argue it's the supreme arrogance to assume that in a modern world populated with people who's average intelligence, nutrition and education was only accessible to the richest and most powerful 0.001% 200 years ago that NO progress can be made on a common linguistic platform. The classical alphabet we use has ALSO been revised and has literally hundreds of variants.

On a personal note, I don't at all regret the decision to learn to read and write in Shavian. Having a semi-private notation with which to take notes, form signatures, etc. The only thing I am sad about is that so few people in this community (and others) decided to put in the modest effort required to do the same. If I do occasionally offer thoughts in ·𐑖𐑱𐑝𐑾𐑯, 𐑐𐑰𐑐𐑤 𐑸 𐑩𐑯𐑜𐑮𐑰, 𐑮𐑧𐑕𐑧𐑯𐑑𐑓𐑳𐑤 𐑰𐑝𐑧𐑯! 𐑤𐑲𐑒 𐑞 𐑧𐑒𐑕𐑦𐑕𐑑𐑧𐑯𐑕 𐑝 𐑩𐑤𐑑𐑺𐑯𐑩𐑑𐑦𐑝 𐑹𐑔𐑪𐑜𐑮𐑩𐑓𐑰 𐑦𐑟 𐑩𐑯 𐑦𐑯𐑕𐑳𐑤𐑑. 𐑲 𐑛𐑪𐑯𐑑 𐑜𐑧𐑑 𐑦𐑑.

I'm debating if dotsies would be valuable to learn. My biggest complaint about it is that it's a reproduction of our current alphabet, and that means you'll end up with a lot of our weird di-and-trigraphs. If you're going to to the trouble of a con-script, why not use a phonetic base?

[0]: 𐑮𐑰𐑛 𐑥𐑹 𐑣𐑽: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shavian_alphabet

[1]: 𐑢𐑦𐑗 𐑲𐑥 𐑒𐑳𐑥𐑓𐑹𐑑𐑩𐑚𐑤 𐑢𐑦𐑞, 𐑕𐑴 𐑮𐑧𐑤𐑰𐑕𐑛 𐑱 ·𐑤𐑦𐑯𐑳𐑒𐑟 𐑒𐑰𐑥𐑩𐑐 𐑣𐑽: https://gitlab.com/endomain/xkb-shavian-variant

[2]: https://www.omniglot.com/pdfs/quikscriptmanual.pdf

[3]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deseret_alphabet

Because the hubris of tech people to think something like ...

Ya know, the marquee sign does say Hacker News. If this seems like silly "tech people" nonsense to you, maybe you're not the intended audience.

You seriously, seriously need to reconsider a significant part of your worldview if you can easily think of the reasons one ought to be "proud" of such an effort, but you can't think of the reasons one might be "embarrassed".

Without knowing it, you've taken a weirdly extreme and limited perspective - and deprived yourself of anything remotely close to a complete understanding.

I assume you're probably proud of your "optimism" or something here, but it's absolutely silly.

Please give me a reason why someone should be embarrassed for creating something that harms nobody.

because it can come off as an incredible arrogance borne out of incredible ignorance. it really depends on how the idea is presented though.

There's also using multiple shades from dark to light. That might actually be easier to read if you can throw in a few light intensities are have less positional variants. 2 shades with 3 positions would be less error prone than 5 positions of only 1 shade.

I tried that, as well as with color variations. The problem that arises is when you view them at small or even medium font sizes, a black dot next to a red or gray dot just looks like a blurry black dot.

For people interested in non-latin methods of writing I would suggest checking out shorthand writing as well as the shavian alphabet.

I find shavian particularly interesting since it is based on phonetic pronuncation with which I've had many issues and embarrassments!

Here's a good site for anyone interested, it covers both shavian and dotsies:



It's a damn shame this font isn't properly kerned, I put it in my term and immediately started throwing up. If the dotsies form a block like they do on the site, then the numbers/punctuation is overlapping and broken.

The terminal is tricky, due to the monospace aspect. It degrades readability when the spaces between the words are as skinny as the letters, but that's what a requirement of a monospace font. One (though not perfect) workaround is to make both the spaces and the letters a little fatter. Also making the numbers readable is a challenge with monospace. I've made numbers that are more adapted to the terminal, but they could use some improvement.

Firefox handles it well, with a barely noticeable bar of grey in between each character.

Ithkuil 2.0 (9 vowels and 29 consonants) could use a similar setup for it's writing system, but as mentioned by others should make the mapping more intuitive; using dots just because a,b,c,d,e are the first 5 letters is not.

The mapping has not been thought out. If designing a new representation, why map the single dots from a-e, single dashes f-i, etc. More thought was put into Morse code, which even used vertically would be better.

[Sad that this tops HN.]

This is interesting for a lot of reasons. It’s almost like a compression scheme for text as opposed to an image. The question is, is it lossless or lossy? What is the Shannon entropy for this set of symbols?

This doesn't compress the text any more than reducing font size does. The Shannon entropy is about the frequency with which each symbol occurs, not about what the symbols look like. This is just an alternate font and does not actually change symbol frequency, so the Shannon entropy will be the same as any other font.

It's lossless unless you consider the possibility of symbol confusion, as it's pretty easy to produce strings that appear identical but are different, like how O and 0 are easily confused in many fonts.

It's definitely lossless (it encodes leter-for-letter). However, it has much higher entropy than the latin alphabet.

> higher entropy

How so? The entropy looks (dangerously) low to me.

High entropy = very low margin for error.

"aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa" is low entropy, "JkjgpUBn74AREExy" is high.

Well I guess I am more used to the physicist’s definition of entropy, which can be described as “the higher the entropy, the less we care about the details.”

Very possibly, but, as far as I know, in the information-theoretic sense (which is what we mean when we talk about alphabets and conflating one letter for another) it's "high entropy" = "low redundancy".

How is making everything look the same better for reading? I can read UPC codes more easily that this garbage. This is static. It's compressed like for computers, not expanded for humans.

I wonder if typography can exist within a writing system like this?

Just wait for the serif version

dots with serifs?

This is so cool.

I'd like to be able to change it for my needs. I'd try making vowels round, so that I'd have more visual cues.

How does this fare with visually impaired people? Or with people 50+ who need reading glasses?

This looks like the message-from-the-future font on Travellers.

(It actually doesn’t, if you look closely.)

Very cool. I like that text to speech works with this!

This is amazing, standardizing on it now.

I think we should invent a new language for humanity. Ive tried to design one a little bit.

There are tons of ways to describe the sounds that a human mouth can make, and you can find very detailed nomenclature about it but generally it is useful to think of a spoken language as consisting of a set of phonemes, which are fundamental sounds. I looked at a list of the most common phonemes and just decided to use the top 20 in order to make the pronunciation and recognition of all the sounds of this new language as easy as possible. Between all the languages of the world, there is considerably more overlap of some sounds than others, so I believe it’s useful to use the most overlapped ones.

Most languages consist of open phonemes and closed phonemes. Most languages include words that end on a closed sound like the word “stop.” Notice that actually saying this word without making an open sound and the closed “p” sound is impossible. In reality the word sounds like “stop-ah” because of the physics of the mouth. In this new language, all words start with a closed sound and end with an open sound, for example “gah” “dah” “dee” “nee” and so on.

If you take a bunch of common closed sounds and open sounds, and have none that sound similar to the others in any way (distinctive sounds are necessary for easy learning and understanding by learners because after a certain age, discriminating between similar sounding sounds is impossible.) then you have a list that can create around 40 or 400 “base combinations” of one closed sound and one open sound, like the examples above. I can’t remeber the exact number but I have it all written out somewhere. Limiting words to 20 or 30 combinations of these base combinations, you have a word space that is larger than a human can memorize probably, even after cutting out all the bad combinations like “dee-dee-dee-dee-dee.” So in the end you have words that might look like “nah-kah-too-nigh.” You give up compactness compared to English but gain advantages in other areas. Namely clarity and truer correlation between how a word is spelled and pronounced which is key for learning a new language. Also it’s impossible to have something like two words that sound the same like “two” and “too.”

The language would cross of several base combinations as I mentioned earlier. These singletons “dee” “dah” “nee” and so on, would not have any meaning. The next level up, two of these combinations together like “dee-nee” or “too-goo” would have meanings that are fundamental and common and would act as root words to form other higher level words just like in English with Latin and Greek. So for example the root word “dee-soo” means to finish, to terminate, to end. There is a joke in there by the way. And the root word “vigh-tah” might mean life, animation or prosperity. So the word “dee-soo-vigh-tah” might mean death. And so on. I think the root word system is very good in English and doing it very deliberately in a new language would be good.

Often in English we make up words with other words. Or we start to use two words, a phrase, as it’s own word. This would be formalized into this new language with vocal and written markers to insert in between individual words that when spliced together form a good word for some new thing. This might act both as a staging tool for new concepts before they are formally introduced into the dictionary but also a better way of improvising combinations on the spot to meet strange or funny one-off combinations.

Unlike thai and a few other languages, written words have delimiters (!) and unlike English, it isn’t an empty space that can easily be interpreted incorrectly.

The alphabet would consist of very carefully designed letters, each one representing one of the aforementioned base sounds. Each letter would be designed so as to be very difficult to write or read in a way that causes it to be mistaken for another letter. In English we cross our zeros to not confuse them with The letter O. This language would effectively do that in advance for all letters.

Still haven’t thought of what conjugation method would be best. Or other higher level stuff.

About time for an update, no?


Once again, Silicon Valley "discovers" something that was already invented.


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Braille has many of the same properties, and it could be worthwhile to train yourself to read it visually. If you went down that path, though, I think you'd get to a point where you'd say: hmm, if I'm going to start over I might as well make the letters one column of dots, so the words are roughly square-ish and can form more visually distinct shapes. The shape of Braille words wouldn't be much of an improvement over Latin - unnecessarily long and skinny. Which is probably a good fit for a finger but less optimal for an eye. And then there's that unnecessary sixth dot.

As to the originality, most computer science students have looked at a binary versions of ascii charts at one time or another. Turning them sideways and making a font out of it isn't discovering relativity. On the other hand, even Braille had its percursors (see your Wikipedia link), and Braille users don't reject it on that account, do they?

> Silicon Valley

You're assuming I'm from Silicon Valley. I am here now, but was actually in Ohio when I came up with Dotsies :)

How easy it would be to "read" Braille visually, like Dotsies? I imagine they are optimized for different uses, no?

Sighted braille teachers can read braille visually, even upside down, so they can read what's coming out of the student's brailler in real time. I had at least one teacher who could do that.

But of course, that's a specialized skill. To judge for yourself how conducive braille is to visual reading, when presented as black on white (or the opposite) instead of raised dots on a page, you can grab a braille font here:


Yes but that isn't meant for screen space saving or legibility - dotsies is optimizing for both.

They could maybe do better on legibility, or maybe it isn't that big a problem...the more I think on it, the more I get where the author was going (and feel they may have successfully reached it, or at least made strong progress)

this is significantly more compact than braille. braille is less compact than latin characters, and the point of this exercise was more compact information.

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