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Scott L. McGregor

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Scott L. McGregor is an American playwright, software and internet product designer (co-inventor of Prescient Agents and Web Conferencing), entrepreneur and educator. He is also founding member of the Association for Software Design and World Wide Institute of Software Architects, and a past president of their Silicon Valley chapters.


McGregor has a B.A. in Philosophy from Haverford College (1978) and a MS in Industrial Administration from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University (1980). Between 1981 and 1986 McGregor received additional graduate level education in Computer Science at Stanford University.


In 1978, McGregor wrote and produced two one act plays, Eggs, and Subplots in Haverford Pennsylvania, and at Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. The two one act plays were subsequently produced a second time in 1980 in Pittsburgh, PA, after the successful debut of his musical comedy, Kije!.


The outline for the play Kije! was first written up in 1977 after the author suffered a bad case of the flu and had a fever induced dream inspired by a one paragraph description of the Russian movie Lieutenant Kijé (film) on a record jacket for orchestra suite of the same name by [Prokofiev]. But the author did not begin to actively work on developing the full script until the fall of 1979, while he was attending CMU. At CMU, he met collaborators, Arthur T. Benjamin (lyricist) and Arthur Darrell Turner (Composer). McGregor transformed his earlier outline into the book for the full length musical comedy, which the three submitted to an annual playwriting contest. The play won and was produced in the spring of 1980 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In addition to playwriting, McGregor has created several other less well known works of fiction including short stories and poetry, as well as technical non-fiction.

Software and Internet product designer[edit]

McGregor has had a long career as a software developer, product strategist and technologist, with a broad range of inventions and applications in numerous industries and with several companies and start-ups. He has founded several companies and held senior management roles as CEO, COO, CTO, Chief Product Strategist, VP of Engineering, and VP of Product Development.

Early Career"

In 1972 McGregor first began programming as an independent study project, while a junior at Darien High School, this work, and another independent study project he did on Building a Ruby Laser led to his appearing on the cover of Connecticut Education magazine, and to his receiving an all expenses paid scholarship for a summer of independent study in the sciences sponsored by Yale University. In the Summer of 1973, through the auspices of this program, McGregor did research in game theory and in learning theory, including study of a number of Computer Chess programs including FOX and COKO supported by advisors Monty Newborn (Columbia University) and Ken Thompson (Bell Labs) respectively.

In 1980 McGregor began working at the Hewlett-Packard Company in Palo Alto, California and later at their Information Software Operation in Cupertino, CA. In 1989–1990 he designed a new product known as Prescient Agents, which facilitated both individual and team software development. Also over this time McGregor began creating the SWIFT Design Method for the creation of high technology disruptive Innovative products.

Prescient Agents

In 1990–1991, articles on the Prescient Agents software were published in the HP Journal[1] and as a cover article in the initial volume (volume 0) of The X Resource Journal published by O'Reilly & Associates entitled "Prescient Agents: A Radar O'Reilly for your Desktop".[2] Through this latter publication, McGregor's work came to the attention of editor David Flack who, in the May 1992 edition of UnixWorld, published an editorial entitled "Smarter Programming Bring Smarter Computers"[3] that recognized McGregor for his work on more usable software, and in particular singling out his work on Prescient Agents. The Prescient Agents software work was notable as a very early example of software combining intelligent agents, Bayesian learning techniques, groupware, window systems and hyperlink software to improve the usability of computers in environments with many related frequently changing documents shared by many people. Its initial deployment was in service of distributed parallel software development at Hewlett-Packard.

Merge Right

That same month, McGregor released an innovative new way to compare and merge branches of software developed in parallel,[4] through a product known initially as Merge Ahead, and in subsequent releases as Merge Right. This product received a cover notice[5] in "Sun World" that month, along with a review from new product reviews editor David A. Taylor praising the product's remarkable ease of learning and ease of use. An unusual characteristic of this merge tool was its use of colored backgrounds and video game-like color-matching strategies for hinting which branch to accept when merging code conflicts. What was innovative about this approach was that other tools had used symbolic coding, or color-coding of text which put additional cognitive load on the symbolic and linear processing centers of the brain, whereas the color matching utilized graphical and parallel processing centers. The result, verified by product reviewers was a reduction in undetected user errors during the merge task and an improvement in task performance times.

SWIFT Design Method

Also in May 1992, the "Practical Programmer" column[6] in Communications of the ACM described elements of McGregor's SWIFT Design Method process that improved the ease of learning and ease of use of software created with this process, as well as reducing internal complexity, time to develop and post release quality defects reported, in a section entitled "Design from a Dramatic Perspective". The article describes how the method builds upon many techniques commonly used in the writing of dramatic plays, which McGregor had mastered through his work as a playwright.

Web Conferencing

In 1995–1996, while at Teknowledge, McGregor designed the Briefing Associate for DARPA and the e-commerce-oriented Sales Associate—some of the earliest AI and browser-based systems to be designed for use over the fledgling World Wide Web. The Briefing Associate was designed to enable delivery of presentations over the web, and is notable as a precursor to Web Conferencing, which McGregor subsequently contributed to creating in 1998 when at PlaceWare as Product Manager and Experience Designer, he helped restructure a collaborative tools software development kit (SDK) created at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) into the Placeware Web Conferencing Center, pioneering this new market. The company was subsequently acquired by Microsoft in 2003 and the product was renamed Microsoft Live Meeting.

Bayesian Networks and Predictive Analytics

In 2000, McGregor joined Data Digest, where he led the engineering team developing of an Bayesian Network predictive analytic engine which analyzed arbitrary databases or tables of transactional data to find hidden predictive relationships. Initially named "Business Navigator / BN-5", the product was later sold to Decision-Q Corporation who renamed it FasterAnalytics. The analytic engine is general purpose and was initially used to for analyze data for a wide range of problems, from predicting response levels to offers for a mail order record and video club to predicting protein-folding in drug discovery research. It is notable that with this work, McGregor returned to the roots of his earlier Prescient Agent work of a decade earlier which also relied on Bayesian prediction. However, a decade of computer performance improvements now made technology that had once challenged $100,000 workstations well within the capabilities of desktop office machines.

Streaming Video

At SeeItFirst, in 2002, McGregor returned to conferencing applications and led the team developing SeeItFirst Live! a realtime streaming video technology which enabled synchronization of high resolution JPG images with individual frames of compressed video suitable for use even over low speed communications lines. Using such technology, remote diagnosis that combined the motion detection of video with high precision photographs became possible.

Software Authoring technology for non-programmers

In 2004, McGregor headed up a newly formed innovation lab set up by Intuit's Consumer Tax Group, to develop a new descriptive programming (Excel-like) technology to enable Tax Accountants to quickly become skilled in authoring Intuit's annual federal and state tax products, without the long learning curve that existed with its previous procedural programming (Pascal-like) language.

Digital Photo Editing

in 2007 McGregor became COO of Light Crafts, Inc., a maker of digital photo editing products. In that role he achieved new growth in the existing LightZone product line aimed at professionals and serious amateurs, and initiated the development of the Aurora photo editor aimed at point and shoot consumers who wanted to share images via social networks.

Web and Mobile Advertising and Payments

In 2008, McGregor founded XooXooX invented a new form of web advertising, in which the user can choose product searches that they would like appear in the dedicated ad space of ad supported web pages they visited, allowing the user to choose the ads they saw, instead of having the ad network predict what would interest them based on cookies, etc. In 2010 he turned his attention to mobile apps that combines in-store product price comparison, with real-time special offers that respond to current competitive prices, and with a mobile device based payment system and founded the Mobillions open source project and the PurchaseTime Network company to commercialize the work.

Point of Sale 3D Custom Manufacturing

In 2011 McGregor became interested in recent advances in 3D scanning and 3D printing (additive manufacturing) technologies and the possibility of using them to manufacture custom fit products in stores. Articles in popular magazines such as The Economist[7] predict that this will be "A Third Industrial Revolution". While many 3D printing proponents have predicted these advances would transform commerce for years, these technologies have yet to reach stores, partly due to the lengthy print times to manufacture large objects.

In 2012, McGregor co-founded SoundFit to apply these emerging 3D manufacturing technologies to the making of custom fit earpieces for music and communications headsets in stores. Because of their small size, SoundFit believes these items can be produced on demand in stores in under an hour, and that its technologies can thus pioneer the introduction of these on demand technologies to point of sales locations.

Entrepreneurship, Innovation and New Product Design Strategy[edit]

McGregor's first entrepreneurial experience came early in his life, when in 1976 when he became the number 2 employee at Financial Computer Systems in Stamford, Connecticut. Two years later he founded his own venture, Graphic Magic, a graphic design and printing firm in Haverford, Pennsylvania.

Prescient Software

McGregor's next entrepreneurial venture came as a result of his work on Merge Ahead at Atherton Technologies. This work resulted in the division he had been heading being spun out as an independent firm named Prescient Software which continued development of the merge application as Merge Right. This software was licensed for several years by Bell Labs for use with its Sablime software configuration management system, and ultimately the software was made available for open source use through Source Forge.

Entrepreneur of the Year Award

In 1992, largely because of his 3 major contributions recognized that year, UnixWorld Editor David Flack selected McGregor as Entrepreneur of the Year at the annual Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs (SVASE) year end meeting.

New Product Disruptive Innovation Strategist[edit]

SWIFT Design Group

Initially Prescient Software also provided Innovation and new product design and new product strategy consulting based on the SWIFT method. When Prescient Software released MergeRight as open source and wound down its software sales side, the remaining consulting business was renamed the SWIFT Design Group. This consulting practice grew to also include interim and part-time executive management service to several early stage Silicon Valley start-ups and led to early employee or founder roles at several of these companies including Data Digest (predictive analytics), SeeItFirst (Streaming Video), Mobile Anywhere (Wired, WiFI and Cellular mobile device network management), Immunet (distributed network security), Light Crafts (Distributed Photography) and XooXooX (Web Advertising).


In addition to consulting on innovation strategy, McGregor has also been an educator, having taught the elements of the SWIFT Design Method for Disruptive Innovation new product design and innovative new product strategy through several professional organizations, major universities, and at corporations including Hewlett-Packard, Sybase and Intuit. These professional organizations include the Association for Software Design and WorldWide Institute of Software Architects, both of which McGregor was a founding member of, and where he has served as president of their Silicon Valley chapters. He has also taught courses on this method through the University of California at Berkeley, the University of California at Santa Cruz, and the University of Phoenix - Online campus.


In addition to the early influence of advisors Monty Newborn and Ken Thompson, McGregor has been influenced by many other industry luminaries. Many of the techniques used in the SWIFT Design Method can be traced to Scott's work and professional activities with several other notable product designers, usability consultants, market consultants, authors and editors. Among these the most notable influences include Jef Raskin (The Humane Interface), Geoffrey Moore (Crossing the Chasm, Inside the Tornado, and Gorilla Game), Clayton Christensen (The Innovator's Dilemma, The Innovator's Solution and Seeing What's Next), Donald Norman (The Design of Everyday Things, and Things That Make Us Smart), and Alan Cooper (About Face and The Inmates Are Running the Asylum). McGregor authored an online training course based on Crossing the Chasm for Kairos Software in 1997, and was a co-founder of the ASD Silicon Valley chapter with Alan Cooper, and Don Norman.

See also[edit]

  • Lieutenant Kijé (film)
  • Arthur T. Benjamin
  • PlaceWare
  • LightZone


  1. "Prescient Agents", Scott McGregor, HP Journal, 1990
  2. "Prescient Agents, A Radar O'Reilly for Your Desktop", Scott McGregor, The X Resource Journal, Volume 0, Fall 1990.
  3. "Smarter Programming Brings Smarter Computers", by editor Dave Flack, UnixWorld, May 1992. Editorial page
  4. "Bringing 'diff' into the graphical interface age", Dave Taylor, SunWorld, May 1992 Reviews column,p68-69
  5. "Merge Ahead betters 'diff'" Cover notice, SunWorld, May 1992.
  6. "Design from a Dramatic Perspective", in Communications of the ACM, May 1992, "Practical Programmer" column
  7. "A Third Industrial Revolution", The Economist, April 21, 2012. [1] and [2]
  • "The Inmates Are Running the Asylum", Alan Cooper, 1999. p83-86, p48
  • Designing for Usability. The XResource Journal, Volume 1, Spring 1991
  • Practical Programmer, monthly column in Communications of the ACM, May 1992
  • Smarter Programming Brings Smarter Computers, Editorial, UnixWorld, May 1992

External links[edit]

  • Kije! A Musical Fairy Tale[3] Retrieved 2009-10-15
  • Scott McGregor's Home Page [4]. Retrieved 2009-10-15
  • SWIFT Design Group Home Page [5]. Retrieved 2009-10-15
  • Linked In Profile [6]. Retrieved 2009-10-15.
  • Light Crafts - About us web page [7], retrieved February 28, 2007
  • XooXooX - About the Founder's web page [8], Retrieved 2009-10-15
  • MergeRight.net web page [9], Retrieved 2009-10-15
  • Source Forge web page [10], Retrieved 2009-10-15
  • Usability, Prescient Agents, Visual Software Factories, Work Flow, and SWIFT Software Development: Saving Money by Adding Usability [11] Retrieved 2010-01-26
  • "Prescient Agents" in Groupware '92 Editor David M. Coleman, p228-230 [12], Retrieved 2010-01-26
  • "Prescient Agents, A Radar O'Reilley for your Desktop" in The X Resource: Issue 0, October 1991, pages 95–111 (X Window System Series), edited by Adrian Nye, ISBN 978-0-937175-79-8 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png., [13], retrieved 2010-01-26
  • "Intelligent Agents: Theory and Practice" by M Wooldridge, p42 [14], Retrieved 2010-01-26
  • "An Overview of Agent Technology" p12 [15], Retrieved 2010-01-26
  • "Agent Theories, Architectures, and Languages: A Survey", Michael J. Wooldridge and Nicholas R. Jennings [16], Retrieved 2010-01-26
  • "An Introduction to MultiAgent Systems", Michael J. Wooldridge [17], Retrieved 2010-01-26
  • "Bringing 'diff' into the graphical interface age", Dave Taylor, SunWorld, May 1992 Reviews column,p68-69,[18], Retrieved 2012-07-06, verified in physical copy.
  • "Merge Ahead betters 'diff'" Cover notice, SunWorld, May 1992. [19][permanent dead link]
  • "Smarter Programming Brings Smarter Computers", by Editor Dave Flack, UnixWorld, May 1992. Editorial page, [20], Retrieved 2012-07-06, verified in physical copy.
  • "Design from a Dramatic Perspective", in Communications of the ACM, May 1992, "Practical Programmer" column [21], Retrieved 2012-07-06, verified in physical copy.

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