About interactivity and immediate feedback

TL;DR Watch THIS.

Jeff Atwood at Coding Horror has made a couple of really interesting blog posts about the true interactivity and feedback loop delay. Basically, the longer it takes to get feedback about what you are doing, the worse.

In What you can’t see you can’t get, about document authoring, Jeff mentions the gripes of working with WYSIWYG editors because of hidden format tags or invisible whitespaces. The current solution to this is using LaTeX or markup languages, where you can focus on content and intermix formatting tags whenever is necessary. I deeply believe this is a way better approach. BUT there is a long feedback loop between what you are writing and the actual document being produced. Usually, you write some content, save the document, compile (a couple of times if necessary), and then, if everything goes according to plan, you can see your document in a pdf/dvi viewer. When I was an undergrad student I remember my friends and I learning LaTeX. Everybody knew that, if you took to long to compile your document, you had to pray to the LaTeX gods for it to compile correctly, otherwise you were trap in a bug hunting quest for the next half an hour. Eventually, for any non-trivial document, you compile frequently and split your screen in two, in one side you have your text editor, and in the other your document viewer, to be able to preview your work.

Two window setting for later

Source http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2012/03/what-you-cant-see-you-cant-get.html

What about being able to switch between the two easily, while keeping track of where each part of the document came from? Enter Gliimpse project.

Cool!

But, in Visualizing code to fail faster, we enter the world of Bret Victor and his principle: Help ideas flourish by giving their authors tools with immediate feedback. He argues that, by allowing people to see what they are doing in the computer right away, instead of having to imagine it until the computer is ready to display the results, you strength ideas and enable more creativity and better understanding. At first it didn’t felt attracted to the concept, but after watching his talk at CUSEC I’m convinced.

Make some time to watch the video. It’s AWESOME, really. I mean it.

Google Chrome extensions

I use Google Chrome every day, and while it’s pretty good by itself, I’ve found a few extensions that make the whole much better. Here there are:

Google QuickScroll

I hate when I search for something in Google and then, when I follow the link, I have to search again inside the page to find the snippet of content I wanted. Google QuickScroll solves this.

Google QuickScroll

IReader

Clutter… or awful theme… or tiny font, or all the above. Some pages are almost unbearable to read. IReader makes reading news, blog posts and alike wayyyyy better. It creates a “light box”-like pop-up where all you see it’s the real content. Big plus, if an article is split in several pages, IReader joins all the content together so you don’t have to follow 10 links to read the whole thing.

IReader

Keyboard Navigation

With this extension you can follow links without using the mouse. Keyboard Navigation “tags” every link in a webpage with a letter, or letters, then, you type that combination to select the link, and press enter to follow the link. Quick and easy

Keyboard Navigation

Lookup Companion for Wikipedia

Finally, Lookup Companion for Wikipedia embeds a minibrowser in your toolbar from which you can search the wikipedia and satisfy your curiosity without leaving the current page you are browsing.

Wikipedia Companion