I'm an applied researcher, focused on creating user interfaces that expand what people can think and do.

I'm an applied researcher, focused on creating user interfaces that expand what people can think and do. My current focus is an augmented book which actively helps people understand, remember, and use what they read.

I believe personal computers can enable transformative tools for thought: environments that radically transform what people can think and do, so much so that we expand the set of thoughts it’s possible to think. I want to produce alien cognitive and creative powers—as wondrous and magical to us today as a modern visual effects artist might seem to a cave painter.

I’m an independent researcher, supported by a crowdfunded grant from my Patreon community. If you find my work interesting, you can become a member to help make it happen. You’ll get regular essays on work-in-progress, access to events, previews of new prototypes, and more.

Prior to my current work, I helped build iOS at Apple and led R&D at Khan Academy.

Letters from
the lab

Letters from the lab

Monthly essays on work in progress. Most are initially written for my patrons, but some are later made available to the public.

Less formal essays (some patron-only)

  1. In praise of the particular

    …and other lessons from 2023

  2. Initial results from highlight-driven prototype

    Observations from working with 14 students

  3. On breadth vs. depth in learning

    How to distribute time in study?

  4. Highlight-driven practice/comprehension support

    A new reading augmentation design concept

  5. Studying myself studying linear algebra

    Some problems with problem-solving practice

  6. Initial experiments in self-explanation support

    Painting a text with explanation

  7. Reading comprehension and memory systems

    Memory failures are often not the root problem

  8. Fluid practice for fluid understanding

    Reframing review sessions as practice sessions

  9. Ethics of AI-based invention: a personal inquiry

    Grappling with my moral obligations as a designer

  10. Memory systems and problem-solving practice

    Difficulties in knowledge transfer

  11. Becoming a Wizard-of-Oz learning assistant

    Field work experiments in adult learning

  12. Three years of crowdfunded research

    Reflections on my membership program

  13. Towards impact through intimacy

    Tentative plans for my 2023 research

  14. Cultivating depth and stillness in research

    Notes on whatʼs worked for me

  15. Lessons from summer 2022 prototype

    Synthesis on new mnemonic medium

  16. Breaking the mnemonic medium out of its box

    Demo/talk of a new floating design

  17. Prospects for consumer silent speech interfaces

    Systems for dictation without audible sound

  18. The joyful surprises of user observation

    Notes from testing a new mnemonic medium

  19. A peritextual mnemonic medium

    Demo/talk of a redesign around reader control

  20. Implicit practice: a sight reading parable

    One way implicit practice fails in knowledge work

  21. Exponentials and forgetting in Quantum Country

    Patterns in preliminary data

  22. Lessons from 2021

    Reflections on creative work, the field, crowdfunding

  23. Tools for thought: science, design, art, craftsmanship?

    Lenses for progress in interface invention

  24. Quantum Country’s suspiciously flat forgetting curves

    Surprises in analysis of conceptual memory

  25. Doing-centric explanatory mediums

    Board game instruction manuals… and Figma

  26. Architectures for a more flexible mnemonic medium

    Interface approaches for reader control

  27. Revamping the mnemonic medium for reader control

    Expanding beyond primers' assumptions

  28. Armories for tool-maker/-user collaborations

    Notes on bridging skills and ideas

  29. Finding research–context fit

    A challenge for tool-builders

  30. Crowdfunded research vs. the NSF CAREER grant

    Open-sourcing Orbit; technical collaborations

  31. Too easy to be effortless

    Surprising distributions in Quantum Country

  32. Ratcheting progress in tools for thought

    How to accrete insight as a field?

  33. In search of better questions

    From memory systems to meaning

  34. Reflections on 2020 as an independent researcher

    Funding, culture, limitations, process

  35. Liquid olives and iPhones

    Problem-solving and -finding; The Uncertainty Mindset

  36. Working with authors: entangled skills

    Text-writing needs prompt-writing needs text-writing

  37. The carrying capacity of a regular memory practice

    Tensions with deliberate practice and flow

  38. The galaxy brain problem; speed-running UIs

    Challenges in explaining new mediums

  39. “Skip”: exponential-backoff deferral mechanisms…

    … and fuzzy inboxes

  40. Thoughts on crowdfunding tools for thought

    Remarks on a milestone in crowdfunding

  41. A nascent art direction for Orbit

    Escaping educational aesthetics

  42. Demonstrating a personal mnemonic medium

    Integrating spaced repetition into prose notes

  43. Bringing ideas into your Orbit

    Extending the desktop for programmable attention


    Projects: experimental ed-tech

    Work from my time at Khan Academy, where my team worked with teachers to invent novel interactive learning environments.

    Creations from my R&D work at Khan Academy.

    1. Building complex skills online

      Beyond right and wrong: scalable open-ended learning activities

    2. Numbers at play

      Designing digital manipu­latives to reveal numbers’ hidden properties

    3. Playful worlds of creative math

      Reframing early numeracy around adventure, wonder, and creativity