Ravi Chugh is a (recently-tenured 🎉) prof at the University of Chicago. He’s famous for leading the Sketch-n-Sketch project, an output-directed, bidirectional programming tool that lets you seamlessly jump back and forth between coding and directly manipulating your program’s output. The tool gives you two different projected editing interfaces for the same underlying program, so that you can leverage the different strengths of each. In the interview we talk about the principles of bidirectional editing, the team and history behind the Sketch-n-Sketch project, benchmarks and values that can be used to assess these sorts of novel programming interfaces, possible future directions for Sketch-n-Sketch and the field more broadly, and a bunch more. It’s a long one — almost two and a half hours — but it’s packed with thought and charm.
Now, this episode is a bit of an odd one, though if you’re just listening to the audio you might not notice anything usual. In fact, it was recorded over a year ago, before the pandemic hit Canada (where I live). I’d planned to release it in the spring, but hit some snags, and then got burnt out, and then the next thing you know it’s March of 2021! An entire year has just… disappeared. Weird, hey? So the episode is coming out, finally, though in a slightly different form than previous episodes. In the past, I’d spend something like 20 hours meticulously editing the transcript to fix errors and make up for the loss of inflection and subtlety of speech, building up a handy list of links to all the things mentioned, and otherwise making this episode page stand alone as a resource independent of the audio. But due to the aforementioned burn out, I won’t be doing much of that anymore. The thing I’m passionate about is the audio, and the thing that’d keep me from releasing episodes at all is the effort it takes to make these episode pages. So if you find yourself reading this, and if you feel up for helping, I warmly invite you make edits here.