— title: Stefan Lesser —

Stefan Lesser


Life summary

Originally from Germany. Started a programmer, then product management.

Worked at Apple for 7 years, in London then US. Evangalism.

Quit Apple and traveled for 13 months.

Girlfriend got full time job at London again.

Because of Apple stock, have a year or so of free time to focus on these ideas

Thinking about starting Recurse Center in Europe/Germany.

Online community

Spend more time in http://discuss.tbd.cool/ and the relevant subreddits r/nosyntax!!

Ability to sort by author, date published.

Podcast vs email newsletter

Text takes a lot of time to turn an interview into text. Took him 10-15 hours to turn an interview into a text post. Takes me 2ish to post-production on a podcast.

Advice on Recurse Center week

Week is short. Magic of random interactions and getting pulled into things. You want to be friends with so many people and want to learn about everyone’s projects.

Bring plan for what you want to do but be open to change the plan based on others.

Recurse center-like program

Aleady knows Casey Rosengran.

Long term financial sustainaiblity

Could go back to Apple if he wanted to, but doesn’t want to. Could get some sustainability from the program in Germany.

Long term goals with this project

We’re stuck in a local maximum. In order to rise up to higher maximum, we need to go into a valley. In short term we need to give version control and other things.

Could envision starting unicorn startup in this space.

Visual stuff usually looks like nodes and connections between nodes. Quartz composer - just gets really messy. Key is reducing cognitive load, but this actually adds load because you need to figure out where to place things stylisitcally on the canvas. On plus side, good for recall because memory palace.

Type systems are very powerful. Eliminate runtime errors. People shouldn’t have to understand difference between floats or ints. Works underneath but abstracted over.

Difficulty in coming up with goals

Different personalities. We’re both big picture people. Not obessed with details. We want to solve it “right”. And want a “great” and grandiose solution. Works against getting shit done.

Good to find a detail, get-shit-done person to collaborate with.


We both feel very aligned with Bret Victor’s mission. Tight feedback loop. (As well as Steve Jobs, Alan Kay.)

No technical reason we can’t code on iPhone.

iMovie vs Final Cut, Garageband vs LogicPro. (This was the idea behind Automater.)

Create tools for computation for novice programmers. Sounds a lot like Ari’s Workflow (“not good enough. still in same programmer mindset”) or Joe Cohen’s Universe (“love grid interface”) or Sam John’s Hopscotch.

Mysterious magic layer. It’s not node and connectors. It’s not AST of regular programming languge. Very interested in singleton, unidirectional state, Redux.

Very interested in programmer productivity. App architecture. Functional programming is suddenly everywhere. Looking for this level of abstraction one level up from programming languages. Dataflow is an interesting direction. Side-effects are considered harmful. When to use pass by value or pass by reference, immutable.

Gold nugets in history

Is this a problem in our field specifically? I think it’s more a question of “inspiration” from the past, as opposed to blindly following the advice of older people.

Visiting Dynamicland

Stefan still believes in touch screen and software.

“You should definitely go. Very interesting place and people.” Community hours every Tuesday night. Went to two of those and also organized trip from Apple, 2-hour tour, 4-5 hours in total there.

“My expectations were probably too high. His other work is more polished.”

Interesting distinctions between AR and VR. They really are trying to distance themselves from them. They feel like there are too many screens in the space. They almost want to hide the computer.

Connects your code on the table to an unchanging URL. Use a Lua-based langauge based on Lisa. They want handwritten system / not code-based.

Bret is introverted. And big picture guy. Almost shy.

Ways for us to collaborate

collaborate on long-form paper

guest episode on my podcast

Things for me to think about more

publish/read less but higher quality. Easiser for me and others to follow. Less frenetic. More metholodical.

How do I accumulate all of the things I want to think about, meditate on, todos, to read?

Collab on a long-form paper on visual programming

Interesting project and person to talk to Tim Babb https://github.com/trbabb/ramen

An explanation for why we’re stuck at text layer of abstraction: it’s difficult to build a layer on top of the layer we already have. The compile target is somehow bad. Maybe need to skip a layer.

From a build perspective, here’s a way to structure this research phase: make a list of all the questions I feel like need answering, papers that I’d need to read if they existed, from which I could then move forward here on a company or something.

From a research/write perspective: make a list of topics that feel fascinating to explore and write about. Compile a list of my favorite links that others have produced and the impact of those links on myself and others.

What’s a positive philosophy for the future of programming? (As opposed to a negative one. For example, Learnable Programming is a negative definition. John Dewey talks about how education needs a positive philosophy, not an anti-standard ed one.)

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