Friday, March 16, 2012

Bret Victor: Inventing on principle

Bret Victor gave a talk to CUSEC 2012 (Canadian University Software Engineering Conference) back in January, and I stumbled upon it on Facebook Interest today.

Bret Victor's website (
 is also worth visiting
Bret talks about how his personal principle drives his innovation and the way he approach his work on a Vimeo clip below.  He starts his talk by presenting how he approaches the problems by applying his core principle.  His core principle is providing immediate feedback to user of any tool.  He demonstrates how current software development and animation tool can be dramatically improved by allowing the user to get the immediate feedback, and allow the user to explore possible alternate scenarios.

He then describes how software developers should learn from Larry Tesler.  Larry recognized the problem with modes from text editor such as vi.  He saw this mode-based editing as impediment to making computer more accessible, and created modeless editor called Gypsy.  He invented click and type interface where you can insert texts by using mouse pointer to select text and type.  Now, his idea is so ubiquitous we no longer see any novelty.  But back in Larry's time, he recognized the problem which a few people recognized and has made it his personal mission (in Bret's term, principal) to fix the problem.

Bret's idea is directly applicable to organization as well.  Company needs principle or actionable mission statement.  With clear mission all team members can focus their energy on solving the right problem.  In addition it allows the team to gel together and helps them make it through 'trough of sorrow' of Paul Graham's Startup Curve.

I highly recommend Bret's Vimeo clip for anyone who's looking for personal principle or company mission statement.

Bret Victor - Inventing on Principle from CUSEC on Vimeo.

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