This talk by Bret Victor was almost certainly the best talk I’ve ever watched online.
Some of my favorite insights:
- “So much of art.. so much of creation is discovery. And you can’t discover if you can’t see what you’re doing”
- You have to be able to try ideas as you think of them
- …”That’s what it might be like to write an algorithm without a blindfold on”…
- Every new medium that someone creates should have a much tighter feedback loop between the creation and what it is you’re creating.
I think I just learned something very, very important as a developer and creator by watching this video. I realize that half of being a good programmer is about keeping things in short term working memory. That’s incredibly hard when you’re a visual/spatial reasoner. Bret’s experience trying to keyframe in Flash is not dissimilar to how most people learn new technologies and languages. His realization that a robust feedback mechanism is a necessary precondition for people to “stick with it” and follow their creation through to completion.
Oscar Wilde has said that there’s an abyss between the mind and the pen. I’ve agreed with this for years, but now I recognize that there’s more granularity in the process than I previously understood. It’s not just that there’s an “ability” gap between what the mind perceives and the hand creates, but a gap that exists between what the hand creates and what the eye then perceives. Seems like a huge revelation to me.
Here’s just one example where Bret just nailed the deficiencies in the commonly accepted perception of a programming text editor.
This has implications for inventors of tools that other people use to build from. If you are building an API or tools that you’re expecting someone else to grok and use, make sure that they provide salient feedback as quickly as possible to the creators. If this were accepted as axiomatic, you’d bring the joy back into creating, and you’d have a lot more people building for you.
Bret is fascinating, honest, and compassionate. You really just have to watch the entire talk to appreciate it.
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