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The standard for progress in shale development has been the drastic reduction in the number of days needed to drill a well, from more than 20 to less than 5 in some unconventional plays. But some question whether it has become a misleading metric for an industry needing more productive wells. The only wells that are straight or follow a smooth curve are in the pictures in well plans. Real wellbores are shaped by the mechanics of directional drilling tools, the skills and attention of drillers, the force of gravity, and the path followed by hydrocarbon-rich seams of rock.