Pragmatic 23: Maximum Erasability

2 June, 2014


What is it about WhiteBoards that makes them so invaluable as a collaborative design tool? John is joined by Seth Clifford of Nickelfish to explore the reasons why.

Transcript available
Welcome to Pragmatic. [Music] Pragmatic is a weekly discussion show contemplating the practical application of technology. Exploring the real world trade-offs, we look at how great ideas are transformed into products and services that can change our lives. Nothing is as simple as it seems. This episode is sponsored by Wet Frog Studios. Visit to get in touch and take advantage of a special offer for their app icon and logo design service exclusively for Pragmatic listeners. We'll talk about them more during the show. I'm your host, John Chidjie, and I'm joined today by my guest host, Seth Clifford. How are you doing, Seth? I'm doing well, John. How are you? I am doing very, very well, thank you. And I let you pick, as is now what's becoming the way I want to run the show, I'm letting my guest hosts pick the topic. So what topic are we going to talk about today, Seth? We're going to talk about whiteboards, whiteboard technology and anything associated with, you know, writing, writing thoughts, mind mapping, sharing, that kind of thing. Awesome. So was there anything in particular that drew you to this topic? As I mentioned before we started recording, I was terrified to even dip into some of the more technical topics as much as I would like to listen to them. So whiteboarding and that kind of sketching is something that we do at the office a great deal as we're kind of thinking through product design and helping clients visualize the kind of stuff that they're trying to bring to life. And I figured it was probably something I could step into pretty easily and have a decent amount of contribution to the conversation. Awesome. Cool. Well, from my point of view, the reason I've had that on the list in the first place is because it's an integral part of what I do as an engineer. And we use, well, I wonder how many people have worked in an office environment where there's collaboration that don't use a whiteboard. I got to think that actually the numbers are that would actually be a very small number of people who didn't. So I think that it's one of those sort of edge edge edge topics where it's worth talking about, but no one seems to talk about it. So we'll just, I guess we'll just dive in then. Yeah. It's, it's like a, it's a relatively ubiquitous fixture in pretty much every office I've ever been to, but it is one of those things that does fade into the background, because I think at this point, people in those environments just take them for granted as this is a thing in every conference room and in some people's offices that we use and it's just there. Yes, like chairs, desks and a window really. You just assume it's going to be there. Although I will get to something later on where there were no whiteboards and I was furious but we'll get to that in a minute. All in good time. First of all, the bottom line is it's all about writing down information but I don't I want to narrow the definition, otherwise we'll be talking about pens and paper and everything else. So just the definition where we start with this little walk down memory lane here about what exactly I'm getting at. I'm getting at a device where information can be quickly and flexibly drawn and modified for the purposes of a group discussion, for collaboration, collaborative purposes, and or maybe for learning purposes. So I'm not interested in permanent writing. I'm not interested in printing methods or anything like stuff like that. Maybe that's another episode, but not this time. So real simple, way back in the beginning, it all started with dirt, at least I figure it did. Someone drawing in the dirt just with their finger. But the problem with that is that it's flat on the ground, so not too many people can see it. Maybe a dozen people could crowd around it or something while you're planning to attack the other tribe on the other side of the hill or God knows what you're drawing. Anyway, maybe they moved on to sticks and that was a little bit more precise, but it still got the same damn problem. So, as you move forward into more recent memory, I say more recent, there were reports in the 11th century in India that they were using black and grey slates with chalk in order to actually draw and you can then use a sponge or a cloth to wipe it off, to erase it and start again. And of course, you can hold that up and it's a little bit more collaborative. And that's actually where the expression wipe the slate clean or, you know, starting with a clean slate, that's where that came from, is the idea of the of the black or the gray slate that they used to draw on. But by the time we got to the 1930s or so, they kind of fell out of use. People switched to things that were cheaper and more readily available, like pencils, paper, ballpoint pens and so on. But that's really going down the road. I didn't want to go down, it was more permanent written, but hanging it up on a wall as a collaborative tool, depending on what country you come from, either it's called a chalkboard or a blackboard. The funny thing is when I was growing up in Australia, it was always called a blackboard, but when I would watch TV, because we get a lot of US TV over here and have done for quite a while, they would refer to it as a chalkboard. It took me a few times of hearing it to understand I was talking about the same thing. In any case, the first recorded use that I could find was in the 16th century, and it was in Europe. It was primarily being used as a tool for musical composition, which I guess, you know, kind of makes sense, maybe, you know, Baroque, early classical kind of period, I suppose. But in any case, and all it is was at that point was a supersized piece of slate. And it was originally actually made from slate, as in the rock. But later on, that was made from a variety of different materials and just painted black. So, just a smooth surface, just painted with black paint. But the thing that was strange for me when I was growing up is that they were transitioning away from black paint and they switched to green paint during the mid to late 20th century because green provided better contrast against the chalk, was so-called easier on the eyes, I guess. I don't know. White on black was too, I don't know. I'm not exactly sure if they did an analysis to figure out that was actually the case, but for whatever reason, they went green. And it confused me as a kid because I'm just going to write on the blackboard, says the teacher, and half of, well, maybe it was half, I didn't count them, I suppose, but all the blackboards or chalkboards in our school, roughly half of them or thereabouts were black paint and the other ones were green. So, I distinctly remember one time in class, I would have been about grade five or six and, you know, being- having been a smartass most of my life, I pointed out to the teacher when he said he was going to draw on the blackboard that it was, in fact, a green board. It didn't actually really go down that well, unfortunately. But, you know, I felt compelled to point out that it was not a blackboard. Anyway, never mind. That was a mistake. So, funny thing is, though, by the time I got to the later part of high school, whiteboards were coming in. So that was early 90s. And by the time I got to university, there were the older lecture theatres had blackboards, chalkboards, greenboards, whatever boards, but almost every other building were whiteboards. And some of the old ones that were retrofitted. So the old theatres by the time I'd been there two or three years, they'd switched to whiteboards. And I don't know if you've seen these things. I got the like the old style ones of the pulleys. And you'd literally you'd pull down. It was on a set of vertical runners and there were some ropes and it was weighted and you had two boards and one was mounted in front and one was recessed slightly and you would slide one up. Have you, did you come across those? Yeah, we were in college around the same time, so I'm very familiar with those. Yeah, I just I used to remember the massive noise that they made and sometimes they get stuck in the lectures like, "Come on, get up." The thing that always threw me was when the professor would be writing quickly and then switch the boards and then would continue writing and I hadn't caught up and then would switch them and keep writing over the stuff that I had not noted yet. And I just, well, I guess I'm not going to do well in this class. Oh, yeah, I used to be such a fast handwriter, you know, and then I finished uni and I just switched completely to typing and now I'm useless. I have trouble signing my name. Yeah. I just, you know, my hand, they just, they cramp so easily. I've given up on it. Yeah. It's very strange that when your body ceases to do one activity as as constantly as something like handwriting, how quickly the skill atrophies. It's awful. Yeah, absolutely. And the thing is at uni, it was just so much to write down because I used to write down everything, absolutely everything, because I don't know when that little note on the side of the board is going to be useful in an exam or, you know. And yeah, I know what you mean, because sometimes they move the boards up out the way and it cut off the last few lines. And you're like, just move the whiteboard just a little bit. Never mind. The bad old days. Mind you, I'm glad I don't have to go back. I've done one degree and I'm done. Yeah, I'm happy. I'm happy with that situation. Anyway, OK, so back on topic, whiteboards were actually invented sometime in the 50s and 60s. I couldn't find exactly when. And it also, I think it depends. There's a couple of stories out there and you don't know if they're actually like a modern myth or whether or not they're actually true. But anyway, so depending on if you believe the US or the UK story, ultimately it was somewhere in the 50s and 60s. Anyway, ultimately, the initial versions were wet erase only. So, you know, meaning that there were no dry erase markers. And so you needed to, you know, get them wet and wipe them off. And it was a pain in the neck. So they didn't get very- They weren't very popular. So it wasn't really until the early 90s, as I was saying, when dry erase markers became cheaper, more readily available, most institutions replaced the chalkboards with whiteboards. And although there's a whole bunch of different reasons given, including oddly, I even found this as a reason was chalk is noisy. I mean, is it really that noisy? I mean, because sometimes if you hold that pen pretty, pretty tight against the surface, pretty hard against the surface and you pull it down, it doesn't make a really annoying sound. Yeah. But anyway, so apart from that, the main reasons cited for doing that were dust, because a lot of these rooms were being air conditioned. Dust would get in through the room, go through the air conditioning. And you could always tell the difference between a lecture theatre that had the blackboard still in it because it just had that sort of chalky little bit of smell to it. It didn't bug me, but maybe there were people that had allergies or problems and maybe that was causing issues for them. I don't know if that's real or if it was imagined because I know that in the 80s and 90s, it was this big, "Oh, everything causes people with allergic reactions and people with peanut allergies and all sorts of different allergies." It was becoming more well-known. Whereas up until that point, at least that was my interpretation. Well, maybe, okay, other possibility, maybe it was always well known and I just only found out about it at that time in my life, maybe, but it just seemed to be that there was a lot of stuff going on with allergies and people were learning more about those issues. So in any case, real or perceived, they threw out the chalkboards and they went with the whiteboards. So there you go. So that brings us up to, okay, yay, we're all using whiteboards. Lovely. But the thing about whiteboards is, now that we've got a little bit of the history, is what you use them for. And maybe this is obvious or maybe this isn't, but it's one of those things that you can use them for anything, but they are so great for collaboration. But a lot of people that I've worked with still can't stand them. And there's a whole bunch of reasons why. But before I get into that, I recently was in a situation where someone was advocating butcher paper. Now, I'm not sure if that's a local term or not. So if I say butcher paper, do you know what I'm talking about? You're talking- Well, what I would assume you're talking about is the very wide brown swaths of paper that butchers wrap meat in. Is that correct? Yes, yes, exactly. But normally what you do is you'll buy it. It's like, I don't know, like a flip paper. So think of it like it's got a wax binding along the top and you buy it in a large, very large sheet, similar to the sizes of actual butcher paper wrapping. But you write on it and it's on a usually it stands on like an easel and you hook it over a couple of hooks on the top and you write over the top. And then when you're finished, you can literally tear it off, kind of like, you know, those notepads that have got the wax binding at the top. Yeah. And you write it to the bottom, you tear it off and you can do whatever you do with it. I mean, I hate those things because once I tear them off, they get disconnected and they get lost. Yeah, I've seen those kinds of things like giant notepads on easels in conference rooms, too. And they always seem to me, I mean, if it's the only thing we had, we would use it, but it seemed far less flexible than, you know, a dry race of any kind. And it also seemed like the company was acquiescing to the fact that they needed something in that room, but they didn't really want to spring for a whiteboard. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. But you see, here's the thing that struck me though, recently, though, is that I had a senior engineer, a guy who must have been late 50s. And I know that people listening are going to say, "Oh, that's an age thing." Maybe it is, I don't know. But you know what, he was saying whiteboards were terrible. And he listed a whole bunch of reasons why and he said, "No, this stuff is butcher paper. Now, this is the good stuff. This is the stuff you should use." And his arguments were, you can tear a page off and then you can put it up on the wall because the walls have got that. I'm not sure the technical term is for it, but it's kind of like cork. It's not cork, but it's similar to cork. It's not a foam either, but it's like a soft wall material that can handle a pushpin being used. and you can then take the butcher paper, a couple of push pins, and you put it up on the wall. He said that that was better because, A, you could, unlike a whiteboard, you can't just detach it and then put it around the room. If you write something on it, you can put it on the wall and you can keep writing more and put it next to it. Whereas with a whiteboard, once you've done with that, you've got to wipe it off and it's gone. That was his first argument. Second argument was, once you've done with the meeting, you can collect up all the bits of butcher paper and and then take them back to your desk and type up proper notes or whatever you want to do. That makes sense to me in that you'd want to preserve what you're writing, because we've all probably run into the situation where you come to the end of the whiteboard and you're like, OK, can I take this off now? Has everybody seen this? But as far as preserving it, I just got in the habit of photographing the whiteboards and then referring to the photographs when I would go and do documentation or anything like that. That was an easy enough solution for me. But yeah. Yeah, I do exactly the same thing. Yeah, I could see this point, too, but I guess my problem with it is that just on the issue of hanging around the room. So for starters, you know, not all rooms have got that kind of wall, you know, kind of wall. Second thing, if you don't have push pins and there were some meeting rooms that didn't have any, you got to find them because honestly, Stationery cupboards aren't what they used to be. Yeah. I mean, they just aren't. I mean, in the last 20 years, I've just seen that they had good stuff and it just seems to be dwindling now. And you want things like push pins and, geez, there used to be these little- It was like a little- It's like it looks like a letter T and it was like a stabby pin. I don't know how to describe it. Gosh, that sounds so technical. That sounds right. Stabby pin. Oh, my God, that's terrible. Okay, I'll get back to you, listeners, about what the heck it's really called. Anyway, never mind. But yeah, just good stationery is hard to find these days. But anyhow, so where was I? Oh, yeah. So if you can't have pushpins, then what? You got to resort to what? Sticky tape, I suppose, masking tape or duct tape even, maybe. Yeah, I mean, if you're in a glass office or a glass conference room, which I've been in plenty of times, you can't tack anything up there. Yeah, exactly. So that needs to also be in the room with a butcher paper. Otherwise you can't use that. And the other issue that I've got is that you want to take them back to your room. They're not exactly portable. If you've got five, six, seven, ten of these, if you've got a big meeting, ten of these pages up on the wall, that takes up a lot of space. You pull them all down and fold them up nicely and not rip them or whatever. And then you go back to your desk, you've got this massive wall of paper on your desk, and you've got to hold it out with one hand while you transcribe it. I mean, I don't, anyway. And then people start talking about you because you're hoarding all this paper in your office. Yeah, that sort of thing. Exactly. Oh, dear me. So, anyway, the funny thing was, I don't- And don't get me wrong, I don't object to the idea of butcher paper. I think it's a great concept. It can work in certain situations, but I have a problem with it for one big reason, and that is it's not erasable. Yeah. And this is what I think makes whiteboards, chalkboards so powerful is that they are maximally erasable. You can wipe out whatever you want very quickly and modify and edit. Whereas if you're stuck with a format with using permanent ink of any kind on any surface, once you write it, it's there. You want to get rid of it? I mean, on butcher paper, what are your options? You want to cross something out? You end up rubbing it out, like, sorry, you end up penning over the top. And of course, you know, you do too much penning over the top, and then it wears thin, the paper wears thin, and then you're wearing through to the next layer and then you get yelled at by the next person because the next layer of butcher paper has got a bunch of black splotches on it. Right. This is exactly why my romantic affection for paper is waning, because the way that I think does not translate very well to what I want to put on paper. When I'm sketching interface screens or just ideas and kind of, you know, attaching things to other things, I have, I've had many, many different notebooks. I've had all kinds of really great little sketching things that I've tried to use. And what I always come back to now, since it's a lot more feasible, is that I will draw in an app on, you know, whatever tablet I have handy because the way that I think does not lend itself to the permanence of paper. And as much as I love the tactility and writing in a notebook and having a notebook and being like this is my notebook, I think and unthink and rethink things so quickly that I've gone to sketching on tablets because it's much easier to work through the problem and this is exactly why the whiteboard solution works so well for so many people. And then for me, as soon as I'm done, if I like what I have, it goes directly into Evernote and that's the end of it. And I can revise it if I need to, but it's preserved, it's a reference, and then I feel like I had the flexibility that it afforded. Yeah, that's actually a really good point and something that I think definitely is worth mentioning because I've been thinking just while you mentioned that about what I've been doing with my spiral bound notebooks. See in, I hate when I say like in engineering like it's special. I mean it isn't in so far as there are lots of industries where this is the case but when you are held under scrutiny, so if you screw up a design and someone gets injured or there's litigation, the notes you take on a day-to-day basis can have legal consequences. They can become evidence in court cases and so on. In engineering, like I said, I'm sure lawyers are similar and there's probably other professions but medicine as well I imagine. The point is that in engineering, I have to keep my spiral bound notebooks for up to 10 years, or at least that's the suggestion. So I think back to 10 years ago and I was filling up a spiral bound notebook with 96 pages, probably in about eight or nine months of just of handwritten notes. And we were banned from using yellow stickies because, you know, you write in a yellow sticky and you put that on your monitor, which I did once. And then some of them decided I use too many yellow stickies. And they came in one morning and my computer monitor was covered in yellow sticky notes. Some people. Just the monitor? Wow. Just the monitor completely covered. And these weren't the big sticky notes. These were the little ones, you know? Yeah. Such a waste of good stationery. But anyway, never mind that. Point is, that was a while ago. I'm amazed I remembered that. Anyway, OK, what the hell was I talking about? Oh, yeah, right. So, these spiral bound notebooks. So, I religiously get one. Whenever I start a new company, I get a new spiral bound notebook. And I just thought about it. I've been working with this company that I'm with now on and off for about 12 months. And it's sort of a bit weird. I started contracting for them and now I'm actually working for them. But I went to work for another company in the meantime, and it's all very convoluted and boring and off topic. But the point is that I've had the one notebook when I've been at this company for 12 months now, and it is barely a quarter full. Right. And the reason why is exactly what you just described, is that I've started using software on my Mac or on my iPad or even my iPhone for taking notes, for sketching things, all those things you just described. I'm doing the same thing. It's- I can foresee a time in the next five years where I just give up on the notebook, on the spiral bound notebook. So, and that's great for like personally, I'm taking notes and, you know, I'm fleshing out ideas. But from a collaborative point of view, I guess I wanna, we'll go a little bit back down that path. But before we do, just wanna quickly talk about our sponsor for this episode. And that is Wet Frog Studios. So selling a business or an app is a lot like selling a house. You can take a huge amount of time and money, redecorating and bringing the house up to scratch and modernizing it. 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So there's plenty of other designers out there that can give you something good, but Aaron will take the time to give you something great. Visit to get in touch and take advantage of this amazing deal while it lasts. Thank you once again to Wet Frog Studios for sponsoring Pragmatic. So I wanted to just quickly talk about the best uses for a whiteboard. And I know we've already sort of talked about it, but I just want to sort of, I guess, go through it a little bit more sequentially. So, and by that, I mean, I guess it's instructional, can be used as an instructional tool for groups of people because it's visible in a large, large room. It's great for, you know, in lecture theatres for teaching and so on. And, you know, I think it's wonderful for that. The big plus for me is it's easy and it's quick to erase information and redraw it. And that makes it ideal for group discussions where information and ideas are sketched quickly and modified quickly. And as I said before, it's about having maximum erasability, because if you make a mistake real quick and I mean, sometimes you don't even reach for the eraser, you'll just use your thumb or your finger or part of the palm of your hand or whatever, and just scrub it out and quickly write again. So I think it's really, really good for project planning, scheduling, and so on. Brainstorming is another really good use. And something that you talked about a little briefly, and I guess I'm curious if you do use it this way, but what I've done with, for example, most of my visual design that I'm doing in my line of work is with SCADA systems. So what I will tend to do is I'll use the whiteboard up within a group of the key stakeholders. Sorry to go management, BS bingo on you there, but the key stakeholders. Anyway, and I'll do the visual layouts of the screens, how I want the screens to interact with each other. So the layout of this link goes to this screen, that one goes to that screen. This is what the valve will look like roughly here and so on. And I started out as a very basic wireframe sketch on a whiteboard, get everyone to be relatively happy with it before we then go to the next stage and time and effort of doing a proper visual mock-up using software. And that's sort of one of the ways that I use them. I'm actually curious how you use them at Nickelfish. Yeah, we use them in all kinds of ways. It's a staple of our conference room because a lot of times what will end up happening is we'll be talking about something and we can kind of sense that what we're saying isn't being parsed fully and just by taking your thoughts and kind of throwing them up there as words even just even just text not even pictures I think it helps people who aren't familiar with software development start to come around and visualize what it is that you're trying to convey to them. We do a lot of workflows and flow charts and things like that to show people, okay, you've got this platform that you want people to use, so you need to have a login state. And once they're logged in, they're passed through to this screen. But in the background, your services layer is gonna validate that they are a member and it's gonna check their member ID and it's gonna do this and it's gonna do this and it's gonna do this and then it's gonna pass them through to this screen. What the user sees is this on the system side, this is happening. And it's a very, very easy, quick way to convey technical and engineering things to them that they're not really thinking about because maybe we're talking to the business team or the marketing team and they need to talk to IT and they need to understand what's happening, but just saying it is not going to be enough and a Word doc is not going to work for them. So if they can see, okay, the user is seeing this, but in the background, the services are doing this, it helps them kind of congeal that in their minds and then they're able to speak about it more effectively and more eloquently. So we do a lot of that kind of thing, workflows. We do exactly what you're talking about too though, wireframing very quickly, just kind of throwing elements of a screen together or an app just to give somebody an idea. A lot of times it comes during early conversations with conceptual ideas where somebody comes to us with an idea for an app and they say, "I want to do this, this, and this," and we go, "Have you thought about this?" and they're like, "Well, what do you mean by that?" Boom, right to the board, and we start drawing it and we say, "Well, this is an app that currently exists and blah, blah, blah, and you can do this and that. If you changed these elements on the screen, you could achieve exactly what you want because, you know, the user would be focused on this, this, and this." It's just a really, really good way to take, you know, an abstract concept that you know very clearly in your own mind that you're trying to convey to this person who's very eager to understand it and just make it tangible to them. Absolutely. The thing is that and I guess the thing for me is that it becomes an extension of your brain, at least that's kind of like the way I see it, is because you can use it to illustrate what you're trying to say and so much better than using words. I mean, I guess the same is true of any kind of drawing, but because it's very easy and quick to do, and of course, it's easy to modify it, I think it's perfect for that. And the thing is, though, I mean, we've talked about the collaborative tools, but I also have had a personal whiteboard. And obviously, no, it's not as big as one in a large meeting room, but it's still really handy because I find it better than post-it notes because, well, honestly, it is more environmentally friendly. I know it sounds a little bit tree huggy, but you know, it's true. I mean, yeah, I mean, you go through and you write on a scrap of paper and you got a note on there. And let's say that that note is call back Bob. Well, once you call Bob back later that day, hopefully, or the next day, what do you do? You crumple it up and throw it in the bin. Yeah. See, one of the problems also, and this is a bit of a sidetrack, but real quickly, is that, you know, in a lot of companies that I've worked for, OK, hang on, at home we have multiple rubbish bins. So, we've got a rubbish bin that you can put- Oh, sorry, I should say trash can for North American listeners. But anyway, the point is you've got one for your recyclables, including paper, and you've got one for everything that's not recyclable. Now, this is not a new thing. This has been around for a long time and people recognise that it's a good idea to recycle. Now, do you think that most big corporations have got separate bins? They give you one bin if you're lucky. Some people have to use a cardboard box that they've salvaged from the photocopy room that used to hold reams of paper, and that's their rubbish bin. You know, there's no separate bin. So you're scrambling up these pieces of paper, what are you going to do with them? You're going to put them in the bin and then they're not going to get recycled. But if you've got a whiteboard, you make the note in the whiteboard, you're done. And when you're done with it and you've called back Bob or whoever, you just rub it off. No problem. I love it. Yeah, I'm very sensitive to that stuff. I realize that it does sound kind of hand wringy occasionally, but any little thing that you can do like that, any personal effort, I think, is fine. Like if it makes you feel better, then fine, do it. You know, don't... Some people won't care. They'll just write a thousand pieces of paper and throw them out and that's the end of it. And some companies are great about recycling and, you know, sometimes the town or wherever you are, you know, mandates that you're good about recycling. But I've been plenty of places where there are recycling bins and I have watched them get dumped into one trash receptacle. So it's like, "Oh, okay." So I guess that's not something we need to concern ourselves with. But I think, you know, getting back to what we were saying earlier and something that you touched on a moment ago, there's something about the speed at which you can put a thought down onto a dry erase surface that I think is so appealing. I think it takes a little, I mean this is probably splitting hairs, but it feels to me to take less time to put it on a whiteboard than it does to draw it on a piece of paper and that could be because if I was drawing it on a piece of paper knowing that it's permanent or semi-permanent I'm going to slow my physical action ever so slightly to make sure that I do it right because I'm one of those people who hates scribbles and erasing and stuff like that. Whereas on a whiteboard I would do it quickly and if I didn't like it rub it out with my thumb do it again and then the other thing that it lends itself is I might put my thought up there very quickly and get the person across the table to say yeah but if I'm writing on a piece of paper what that doesn't inspire is that person to get up, walk around to the other side of the table, take the marker and go, what about this? And then they have allowed me to think about something in a completely different way in a matter of seconds, because they felt socially okay with the notion of coming over and modifying my drawing on this "public sketching surface" as opposed to like my personal notebook. Yeah, absolutely. And going back to the whole idea of it's much larger, it's up in front a group of people, then the opportunity exists for a lot of people to do that. Whereas if you're just sketching on a notepad, the number of people that can actually see what you've sketched is significantly reduced. So I find that that sort of approach works for maybe two people, maybe three, but once you've got more than that, and that is often what you'll have in a lot of these sorts of meetings, the whiteboard is the best way to go. And I absolutely agree. It's something about the speed of it. The barrier seems significantly lower and that makes collaboration so much easier. And there's an element of low fidelity to it that people don't feel pressured to go up there and sketch, draw, write something that is appealing to everyone. They are understanding implicitly, "I just need this out of my head so you can see what I'm seeing." Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely right. And I think there's also... good thing about a whiteboard is that I think a lot of people are more forgiving about, you know, sometimes when I got to sketch things, I'm not an artist. I'm just, I'm not. And I can't paint or sketch to draw to save my life. And my stick men don't really look much like stick men, but there's a sort of an implicit, you know, it's get up there, sketch something. doesn't matter if it's not, you know, Picasso or Van Gogh or whatever. It just gets the idea across. And I think that there's a lot less pressure to get it right on a whiteboard and sort of maybe that's one of those unwritten rules. It's like, you know, just grab the pen, get your idea out. Yeah. And there's plenty of times, too, where this, you know, it can't be underestimated, the social aspects of a meeting, right? If you're meeting internally with your team, there's a comfort level there that is established, there's a rapport among your team members, and you can do whatever you want with relative impunity and everybody understands it and is okay with it. If you're in a meeting with your team and two other teams, somebody else's IT department and somebody else's business team, and it's the first time you've all spoken, you need to convey your ideas clearly, but also there is an element of like, I kind of want to make this collegial as much as possible. I want to make it relaxed because then we'll all relax and we'll all be more productive here. And a lot of times there's been a case where somebody has drawn something and said, well, that's not actually a dog, that's actually a server. And we all laugh and then that tension in the room of, let's get this right is alleviated and everything seems to flow a lot more easily. So there is a social kind of aspect to whiteboarding as well. And like you said, terrible sketching and artwork can often break the ice in an otherwise weirdly tense situation that then affords everybody a lot more flexibility and relaxation to kind of move through ideas. - Yeah, exactly. And along those lines, something else that occurred to me when you just said that is that in a meeting, I'm not sure if you've had this experience, but one of those experiences that I've had over and over and over is I've been in a meeting where there's the whiteboard is there and then all the pens there, the eraser is there, but we're talking through an issue and it's all just words like people talking back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And you just know that the message isn't getting across. Like they're trying to describe something and they just simply can't do it right with words and there's like a building frustration or tension. then someone says, look, let me just sketch it on the whiteboard. And suddenly there's a collective, like, relaxing sort of, yeah, good idea. Kind of everyone sort of relaxes, looks at the whiteboard and they're like, right, OK. Now, that's my perception. Of course, the other perception could be everyone's going like, a whiteboard. But I don't think it's that. I do seriously, honestly think maybe one or two people are like that. But I think most people are like, you know what? Yes, please get on the whiteboard because words aren't working. You know, I think, and I think, I'm sorry, go ahead. Yeah, no, no, no. That was all good. No, I was going to say, I think it depends on who you're in the meeting with. Right. I've been in meetings with plenty of people where let's go to the whiteboard really does mean now I'm going to bore you to tears with my visual depiction of the things that I can't convey. But, you know, it comes down to, like I said, who's there, who's presenting, who's talking. If you have somebody who is animatedly describing an idea that they're passionate about and people just aren't getting it, you know, moving to the whiteboard just means let me help you see this the way I'm seeing it. And it's just, it's the same way with PowerPoint, right? We do capabilities presentations for new clients and we use Keynote obviously because Keynote looks and works really great for what we want to do. But we really pride ourselves on not just doing slides with words. Like when we do a presentation, we are talking for 80 to 90 percent of it because it's about a conversation. It's It's about ideas and here are the things that we do, how can we help you? It's not look at the work that we have done, slide, next slide, next slide, next slide. And as long as you treat the whiteboard as the extension of your idea and not the way that people treat slides in a presentation where they just put things up there and expect you to read them, I think that context is established based on the presenter or the person who's talking. So I can easily see it going both ways and have, but it doesn't necessarily need to be, "Oh, okay, now let's do this thing." very often is, as you described, the release of attention, the, oh, okay, now we're all going to get it because even if we don't get it immediately, we've moved to this new medium because conversation is not working. It's the same thing with, you know, you send emails to people and I try very hard to send good, effective, you know, brief emails, but people read them however they're gonna read them, you know, in their office with the context of their day and their stress and it's just sometimes easier to pick up the phone and have a conversation for 30 seconds. So I think the whiteboard is that same kind of jump from you're not getting it, let's go here, that email to the phone is as much as I absolutely detest using the phone, it sometimes is the best tool. - Yeah, look, those are all really good points. And I honestly think that maybe one day we should compare notes on presentations and stuff 'cause I think that'd be worth exploring. Yeah, but we've both done a lot of presentations. So anyway, okay, well, I want to sort of move down to the next stage of this discussion, which is the sort of problems with whiteboards. Because I mean, we've been going on gushing about how amazing and wonderful they are, but there are some drawbacks. And I guess the first and foremost, you did talk about it already and sort of alluded to this earlier, one of the downsides of a whiteboard is you can't take it with you. So when you've, yeah, when you draw a bunch of stuff up, what are you going to do? And as you said, you just take a photo of it. And yeah, that's great. And I've been doing that for years now, but I actually thought about it when you said that. I had it down to talk about anyway, but what I've been thinking about is I wonder when that started, because I don't think it started until smartphone cameras or cameras with phones, sorry, whoa, I just said cameras, phones in it? No, phones with cameras in them until they became a bit more ubiquitous because I had a Nokia N73, which had a 3.2 megapixel camera in it, I think, if memory serves. That was in the mid-noughts, somewhere in there, 0405, 0606, some of that, pre-iPhone anyway. But it wasn't until then that I started doing that because you didn't just have a camera in your desk at work. You just you didn't. But now everyone has a phone and every phone has a camera. So if you're going to take a photo of it, like you said, it's better than carting butcher paper back to your desk, folded five times and, you know, making up a big mess. Yeah, that's exactly when I started doing it was when I had a smartphone that had a halfway decent camera that I could use and then refer to later, probably around the iPhone 3G or 3GS is when I started doing this in earnest. The two megapixel, sorry to interrupt the two megapixel camera on the original iPhone, I found you could get away with it in a pinch. But if it wasn't like really close in everything was in frame, I found that it was a little bit too grainy sometimes. Some of the words. Yeah. So that's, that's when I got into the habit of taking like two vertical shots of the board to try and get in closer. Yeah, not don't worry about that anymore. Yeah, I know. I will do that frequently. You know, I'll do it at the end of the meeting if we've only used the one board. I've seen other people stand up and do the same thing. Like, I've seen three or four people taking pictures of a whiteboard at the same time because everybody's like, "Yeah, I'll just do this because my phone is here, then I'll have my own copy of it." In terms of it being transitory and if you have to erase and then go back to the start, you just tell the person writing, like, "Hang on a second before you erase that, snap a picture. Okay, feel free to do whatever you're going to do. I'll email this to everybody in the meeting. Don't worry about it." It really is not that much of a stretch to say, "Oh, this really isn't a problem. We'll just document it before it goes away into the ether forever." but what I usually do is, even as confident as I am in the capabilities of my phone camera, I'll take several shots of it. Like I'll take like individual shots of like quadrants of the board, like I'm going to stitch them together later in Photoshop or something, and then what I'll usually do is, you know, turn my phone 90 degrees and take a couple more shots just to make sure that I've got every corner and every edge because, you know, when you're really going, you could write right up to the edge of the board and you want to make sure if there's those little notes that are very clear in the conference room when you're standing there, that when you get back to your desk and you're reviewing and you need those little, you know, bits to to help clarify things that you actually captured everything. Yeah, I actually find myself doing the same thing, especially with the bigger boards. And I guess the thing is, well, these days storage is cheap. I mean, you could take five, 10, 15 photos of the whiteboard if you wanted, and you'd still have space for plenty more. So, why not? And then, you can just pick the best ones because a couple of times, I know I've done it and I haven't taken enough. And one of the ones I needed was blurry because my hand had moved slightly because these meeting rooms, sometimes we work in a cave, right? So, it's dark in there. But I do exactly the same thing. And the thing is, though, before that, then I'm thinking, well, what did we used to do? And of course, you had people that used to transcribe down the notes, which is, you know, I guess not entirely defeating the purpose, but to some extent, it is a little bit. So when I was at Nortel back in 97, and I don't know how long these have been out at the time, they've probably been out for about five or six years at that point. And they were printable whiteboards that you would would load a special thermal paper into. And the whole board is literally like a, I don't know how to describe it. It's like it's on a track, you know, two vertical round spools, one drives, one's a freewheeling spool. And there's a long scanner element. And all it does is it basically does a photocopy and shrinks it down into something that's roughly a eight and a half by 11 or otherwise known as A4 or thereabouts. Well, okay, they're not exactly the same size, they're close enough. And yeah, I've been through that argument before. I'll leave it to go. But the point is that it was this thermal paper. And have you come across those ones? No, I actually haven't. That's that sounds like something I'd probably want to play with a little bit, but I'd still probably take pictures. God, no, believe me, don't go there. Don't go there. Because people load the thermal paper wrong. It doesn't come out properly. It gets jammed. And the worst part, the single worst part about it is it's thermal paper. So, what happens? Oh, I have a desk by the window. It's a lovely view in the summertime. But guess what? Don't leave your thermal paper in the sun. So, what I got into the habit of doing after I got burned or literally the page got "burned" by sunlight and I couldn't read it anymore because I hadn't taken, transcribed the notes. I was an intern at that point and I hadn't done my job very well, clearly, because I didn't realise thermal paper in the sunlight. Okay, whatever. Stupid me. Hey, I was young. Point is, I got into the habit of then taking that thermal paper and photocopying it. And of course, once you photocopy onto a standard piece of paper, it wouldn't fade. Jeez, but I mean, then you think about, okay, that's really good for the environment. Now I've wasted two pieces of paper. Anyhow, so they were sort of the main staple in a lot of the corporate, you know, meeting rooms. But there was a big problem with that apart from the thermal paper. And that is that they could, they wouldn't go beyond a certain size, because you are limited in how big you can make the whiteboard because it got too unwieldy to be able to condense it down and print it onto a size of thermal paper that was, well, usable. So they sort of, I still come across them, like there's a building I do work at sometimes that still has a few of them in meeting rooms. But the ones these days have now moved towards network connectivity, which is cool. And of course, USB input. So you can put a thumb drive in there, USB stick thumb drive, whatever you want to call it. Or if they're connected to Ethernet or Wi Fi, then it's literally just a scanner does the same thing, but it doesn't print onto a sheet of paper. Right. So yeah, those are a really good one. But the last one that I guess the pinnacle of the physical whiteboards that I've come across are the ones the way the whiteboard is actually plugged into a computer or if it's not plugged into a computer directly, it's indirectly plugged in. So some of them you can actually plug the whiteboard itself into the computer. Other ones, they actually connect into the projector and you run special software and there's like a sensor bar and other BS and so on. There's a couple of different ways of doing it, but simplified or let's just say it plugs into a computer, you run special software. And there's essentially the two kinds. There's the pen tracking kind that projects onto the board. And there's the one that as you write on the board, it's pressure sensitive and rather like drawing on, like handwriting, handwriting recognition sort of thing, like on a massive tablet. It'll then draw that in the background for you. So, but you don't see it. It'll come up on the computer screen like you're sketching it on an iPad, but the two are disconnected, if that makes sense. Yeah, but those things are my experience with those things is that they are really well intentioned and usually poorly executed because the hardware and software handshake is not achieved as well as you would hope. Yeah, it's the lag. The lag is a killer. And those projected ones were just horrible. And I had a very, very old original version. It was a cutting edge. The manager of my manager at Nortel when I was there in 97, a man by the name of Robin McKenzie, one of my favorite managers, to be honest, actually, in my career so far, he got this brand spanking new whiteboard and it was a digital one. And on the bottom, it had these things that were shaped like they were actual all dry erase markers, but they weren't. They had electronics in them and batteries and so on. And you, there were holsters that they would sit in and you had to put all the colours, there were four colours into the holsters and you took one out of the holster and waited for it to go ding, at which point it recognised you were holding the red one. But if you had two of them out at once, it got confused as to which colour you were drawing with. So I made that mistake a few times. Because why would a human ever draw with two colours at the same time? Yeah, well, I guess, but you know what it's like if you're used to a whiteboard, you don't put them back in a prescribed location. You just you'll have the red in one hand and the black in the other, and you'll just sort of like switch from one to the other as you're drawing different parts of a screen or a graph or whatever. Anyway, so the point was, okay, it was cutting edge in '97, But it was just, yeah, like you say, well-intentioned, but just doesn't work. And the ones with the projectors, the lag is a killer. So you'll be drawing on the screen and your pen will be a good four or five inches in some cases ahead of where the line is being projected on the screen. Yep. So, you know, the whiteboard itself is actually not being marked. It's the projector projecting onto the whiteboard is what's drawing the line for you virtually. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and the idea is poison, and they just don't seem to work very well. I'm sure that people have tried also at this point, you know, sketching on an iPad and like airplaying it to a larger display in the room. But- Oh, sure. And that might be fine if there's really only one person that needs to have the physical input to that device. But it kind of reduces the collaborative ability of that exercise. Yeah, absolutely. And I'm glad you brought that up because that's exactly the problem. And so defeating the purpose a little bit of the whiteboard in the first place being a collaborative tool. So, but yeah, I mean, absolutely. And it's funny you should say that because of course, yes, I do have a guy in the current company I work with who is really big on his iPad. And he can blame me for that because he hadn't used an iPad until I brought mine in. And he's like, oh, that looks really good. I've always wanted to try an iPad. Fast forward nine months, he's doing everything on his iPad. He's the iPad guy. He's now the iPad guy. And I'm just like, do do do do do, wasn't me. Anyway, but yeah, it's great, really. It's good to see, but because it's just, you plug in the iPad into the projector and it just works. And I'm sorry I stole that line from Apple, but yeah, it does actually literally just work. Whereas you plug your Windows laptop in and you got to do the special funky key combination to get it to switch to the external display. And then you got to select is it mirrored? Is it extended desktop? Searching for drivers, searching for drivers. Yes, searching for drivers. Yeah, that's just that sort of thing. Okay, so that's the whiteboards, but I'm not done completely with whiteboards yet because I got some pet peeves. I have to mention because these things irritate me knowing. So I have to start with the obvious one, people that take the lead off of the dry erase marker. And some of these dry erase markers have got a little sort of a divot or hole in the back end of them where you can then clip the lid into it and then you don't have to hold the lid separately. And then you'll go and draw with the dry erase marker and, you know, then they'll stand and they'll talk to you for five minutes. And the lid's not on the pen and the pen's drying out. And you sit- And I sit there in the audience and I'm like, put the damn lid back on. You're going to talk for like 10 minutes. Put the lid on. But no, they don't. They just leave the lid off. I've even walked into a meeting room where the pen was left like that, with the lid off for God knows how long. This sounds like such a silly gripe, but when you really examine it, it's a fundamental failure in the technology, right? Like- Oh, sure. Yeah, I use technology loosely because we're talking about basically a flat, you know, physical surface that you scrawl on, but that is, that's the weak spot, right? That's the exhaust port that we're putting the torpedoes in to blow up the Death Star. Your whiteboard doesn't work if you don't have the markers to write on it. And when you walk into the room and everybody's ready, and it took three weeks to schedule this meeting, and thank goodness everybody was able to attend, and you start, and you can't even use the whiteboard, now the meeting stops. Now somebody's got to go find markers, go to the other room, we can't go in that room because so-and-so's in their meeting and we can't open the door, does anybody have any marker? It's just terrible. And you know what it is? Oh, it's so true. It ends up... And if you're in one of those meetings where it is people from outside your company, it's annoying enough when it's people internally because everybody's like, "Oh, come on, let's just get this over with." It's embarrassing, quite honestly, if you're trying to talk to someone from outside your company and you're trying to project confidence in your abilities and your ideas and you're like, "We can't even keep markers in a room that will work." It just – it sets everything off on a bad foot. Tyrone: Absolutely and the time lost is also a pain in the ass because then what happens is you know, like you say, you're locked out of the other meeting rooms and like oh they're busy or they don't have pens in them and you know, it's strikeout I should say. And then you go to the stationary cupboard that I was complaining about before and find there's none in there. So if you're on a multi-story building, then you try the next floor. I mean, you've got, this goes five or ten minutes, so much for using the damn whiteboard. So that is one of my big pet peeves. And I know chalk doesn't do that, does it? So anyway. Okay, so people taking the lid off and leaving it off even for four or five minutes at a time, irritating as hell. Next one is the lighter coloured pens going over the top of the darker coloured pens. And it's a weird one, but it's another one that bugs me. So, someone will draw up in black an image of whatever, a screen, doesn't matter, layout. And then they'll say it could use a bit of colour. So, they'll get the green pen, which is a much lighter colour, and then they'll get the green pen. And as they're sketching, the green pen will cross lines with the black. And what does that do? Well, the black then gets on the tip and it stains the green tip. The end result, the tip is never green again. It's sort of this darkened, horrible mess. And you can go in and have a look at the tips of these pens, and you're like, well, it used to be green. It started out as light green, and not anymore. It seems like a silly thing, but you know what? That's so annoying, especially when I look so hard for the damn green pen. Anyway, it's fine. Well, I mean, what's the point of having multiple colours to depict things if you're left with a muddled, greenish, blackish, brownish mess. You really- I know. You lose the ability to have the contrast that you're looking for, and you might as well just draw everything in black. Yeah, exactly. And it's funny because I was in a meeting a few weeks ago where this happened and I was sitting back with my arms folded and I sort of made an audible grunt. You know, I didn't mean to make it, but it was that pet peeve going off inside me. And someone sort of was sitting next to me, turned and said, "Yeah, OK." And because I'd just come out from my surgery and everything and a couple of people knew what was going on and they were sort of, "Maybe something's wrong." I'm like, "He just, he crossed the streams." And they're like, "What? What the hell are you talking about?" And I'm like, "The pen cup." Never mind. Anyway. So, all right. OK, next one. Have you ever come across a person that gets the whiteboard erase fluid? It's usually in a little squirter bottle and they'll go squirt, squirt, squirt all over the whiteboard and then they'll wipe the whiteboard clean. But the thing is, they do it every single time. And not only that, they usually will use the whiteboard eraser to rub it off when they're done. Now, when you use this cleaning fluid, it's supposed to be once every now and again. It's not supposed to be every time and it's supposed to get off the deeply ingrained dry erase marker that's been on there for days or weeks and is hard to get off. It's stubborn to shift. Not the whole whiteboard of something you just drew 10 seconds ago. And you're sure as heck not supposed to be using the whiteboard eraser because that thing is just going to absorb all that moisture and that destroys the razor. So, you're supposed to use it with paper towels are ideal for that. You're supposed to use paper towels. Have you ever seen this spray or is this just a local thing? No, I'm very familiar with the spray. It smells terrible. And the more you use it, the bigger headache you get. That's it, because it gets moist, right? And once that, once the eraser is moist, then what happens is when you wipe the board, you get this smear across it. Yep. And you're like, oh, God. So, yeah, go easy on the spray stuff, OK? Less squirting. Anyway, whatever. Obvious one, people that take the markers and the eraser from one meeting room and don't return them when they're done. God, so annoying. Animals. How dare they? Anyway, and then you've got the classic, do not erase or do not wipe off. And I'm like, oh, OK, your notes from a meeting four weeks ago are more important than the hundreds of meetings that followed you. Right, do not erase. Gee, thanks. So you take a photo, you go and print it, you leave it pinned to the wall and you erase it and you leave a message saying, "Oops, that's the passive aggressive side of me coming out there." But, you know. Oh, see, I usually just erase it. I don't bother to document it. You see, you're just not as angry a man as I clearly am. No, I'm plenty angry, trust me. I'm plenty angry. I just I just won't even bother with the the passive part. OK, full aggressive, I like it. Cool. OK, so, yeah, that whole thing leads into the next complaint, which is people that leave things on their whiteboards for so long, you can't clean them off easily, days or weeks. Obviously, if it's a meeting room, that's more of a problem. Like I said, the whole do not erase thing. But if it's your own personal whiteboard, using it as a scratch pad and so on, It's a good idea just to clean it every now and then, otherwise, you know, that stuff will stick. And it's a pain in the neck to get it off then. The final, single biggest complaint, and it's becoming less of a problem these days because all you can get in the stationary cupboard, that's if they're there at all, are dry erase markers, are the idiots that use a permanent marker. Well, and no amount of that spray will get that off. You need to get you'll need to get something stronger, like methylated spirits, alcohol or something really strong. Unfortunately, unfortunately, we're forced to share a planet with people who cannot perform the simplest actions successfully, so until until we can manage that, I think we're going to have to contend with stuff like this a little longer. I know. And I mean, as I'm complaining about these things, these are the epitome of first world problems. So I'm cognizant of that. But still, anyone that's worked in a corporate environment or an environment that has meetings and whiteboards, I think can relate. So in any case, I think that's enough about real whiteboards. I just want to wrap this up by talking a little bit about internet based or software based alternatives, because obviously collaboration tools don't have to be physical. And These days, I mean, for example, you're in America, I'm in Australia, we have listeners all around the world, people that actually do work on a day to day basis, especially on software, it's so distributed and spread around the world that getting everyone into one physical room, so-called "pressing the flesh", which always whenever someone says that expression gives me strange imagery. But anyway, anyway, the The point is that they'll get into a room, it's a rare thing. I liken it to WWDC at the moment, for the Apple fans that are listening. That's the big pilgrimage, which actually I believe you're going to. Is that right? Yeah, I'm headed out there. Yep. Cool. Well, I'm jealous. I wish I could go someday. The point is that that's an opportunity to meet all these people that you would otherwise be collaborating with or talking to from thousands of miles away. So getting all the people into room to use a physical whiteboard just isn't practical. Half, well, a lot, increasingly is not practical. So I had a look around, of course, I'll start with a couple that I just found that are web-based, internet-based. One of them is called Scribdlink, another one's called Realtime Board, but there are plenty of others out there. Problem with them is that, you know, they're free, ad-driven. Okay, why is that a problem? Well, most corporations will not let you use them because you might put something commercially sensitive on there and they don't want Bob's whiteboarding service online to have that commercial and confidence information. So those sorts of sites are great to a point. And then they sort of you hit the wall, especially if you're in a corporate environment. But there are plenty of tools out there for doing whiteboard collaboration where you can log into a website, there's no software to download, it's all web based. And you can literally, you know, using your mouse you can you can sketch. It's not as nice as sketching with a pen or your finger. But from a collaborative point of view, people can do it from multiple places around the world. And that's what's powerful about it. So the more common one in a corporate environment that I've come across is Microsoft link. And that's part of if you go via volume license for Office for Mac in 2011, you do get that. But the whiteboard functionality isn't in it in the Mac version. It's only in the Windows version. So that's fine if you're like me and you're stuck in Windows corporate hell. But if you're not, and you've got a Mac, tough luck. But there is actually a web app version of Link that works in Firefox and Safari. I think it also works in Chrome. But according to the Microsoft website, Chrome doesn't exist. I don't know, maybe they're just angry at Google, whatever. But yeah, they probably are. Who isn't? Actually, there's a lot of people that probably aren't. Okay, anyway, point is that link is a way of doing that. And it's a corporate based and it's hosted on your own servers and everything. And it's an extension of the Office Suite. And yeah, I have actually used that very briefly, about a year ago, and it seemed pretty good. But the problem that I have with the whole virtual pen thing is who has the virtual pen? And when you're in a meeting room, it's so easy. Go pick up the pen, stand next to the board. It's self-explanatory. But when you're at all corners of the globe, not in the same room, well, you have to coordinate. So you find yourself, "Oh, can I draw something? I just want to draw something real quick." So you've got to interrupt everyone. They have to, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's fine." You take over. And so it's a bit more of a pain because there's no visual interaction with that. Have you had any, sorry. - No, I was gonna say it's the hurdle with all remote collaborative communication, right? Everybody's been on the conference call where people are talking over one another or you have, there's so many people on the call, you have to introduce yourself every time you open your mouth. Hi, this is Seth. I just wanted to say blah, blah, blah. You know, it's one of those things where the presence, the physical presence in a single room that everyone has when they're all together in one physical location is it's unapproachable, for this kind of exercise, it's unapproachable virtually because even though everyone can see what's happening, the looseness of it, the natural kind of flow of ideas doesn't come in quite the same way. So it may be fine if you have one person who's leading that discussion and sketching and everybody else is kind of absorbing it, But it really ceases to be collaborative on the same level because of the technical handoffs that you have to account for. Yeah, I think it leads to more back and forth. It slows down the iterative process, I think. Yeah, because like you said, it works better if you've got one person essentially funneling the information and doing the marking up. And I guess there is the equivalent, you know, in with using a physical whiteboard where you'd have one person drawing on the board, but typically, it's just easier for the person with the idea to get up and do the drawing themselves. So yeah, and that leads to the whole back and forth problem, which is, okay, I'll send you a draft of what I think, and then you send that off, maybe four hours later, they send it off to you, and you look at it, and you're like, Oh, that's not quite what I meant, and you've got to mark it up and send it back to them. And then, yeah, your collaboration has just become a back and forth discussion, which takes longer and is a bit more convoluted. You still get there in the end, usually. It's just so much easier if you're all in the one room. But not always. I haven't had any real experience with using those tools for a lot of the reasons that you mentioned earlier, the corporate environment thing. We do a lot of work with corporate clients and it just wouldn't even cross their mind to use something like that. If we're not in the room on the whiteboard there, we wouldn't be putting up the schematics and things that we're drawing anywhere public, that just wouldn't be allowed. - No, that's right. And having it on the corporate network is something that you can do, but that's if you've bought in to the whole Microsoft philosophy. And I'm sure that, I'll probably get some feedback after the show about people saying, "Oh, well, there's this service "and this service and this service." And I actually like to hear that. If people have used good online whiteboard-like collaborative tools, I think that would be great. And I'd love to do a bit of a follow up on that at some point. But of the ones that I'm aware of, for whatever reason, they don't seem to be very popular. And I imagine that it's just, you know, kind of similar to the digital whiteboards. Well intentioned, but in reality doesn't seem to work quite that well. So I guess I'm glad it's out there, but it's not something that it's at a stage where I regularly use. And that time I was using Link. That was once, that was a year ago, and that's it. I have never used it since, prior or since. So, it just isn't catching on, at least not in my line of work anyway. But then in my line of work, people are still obsessed with wedding signatures. So, you know, what am I going to do? It's not your signature unless you sign it with a real pen. It has to be the right color of ink. I mean, seriously? Anyway, I'm serious. We're in a paperless society, right? Yeah, sure. Who is the idiot that said that? And so I've got to print my drawing or document. I've got a sign in a box on the front. And if there's a change in the document, I'm putting through a change note. I've got to initial next to the change. If I'm doing a document review, I've got to highlight the ones I accept, the ones I reject, and then initial them with a pen. And if I don't, doc control, document control will reject the document and say, I'm sorry, but your changes do not conform with the standard procedures and practices, you have to go and do it properly. Sorry, that was about 15 years of corporate rage let out in 10 seconds. Anyway, okay. I didn't have anything too much else to add. Actually, I think we've I think we've talked quite a lot about whiteboards. Did you have anything else that you wanted to add on the topic while we're talking about it? No, I don't think so. I think the last thought I have is, you know, regarding the entire conversation, we like to think that we are living in a digital society where remote work and remote collaboration is great. And it is, and it's better than it's ever been, but from personal experience, as contrived as it may seem, there really is no substitute for getting people in a room and sharing ideas and the kind of quick exchanges that come from personal interaction. So we've learned that you do this kind of remote collaboration when you have to, and you make the best of it, but in our line of work, when we're trying to help people think through problems and bring ideas to life, it's so much better to be face to face. And it's so much more productive and it's so much more fun, I think, in a lot of ways that the whiteboard has just become this staple of that process that we don't really think about anymore. And as silly as it seems, I didn't really know what we were going to talk about for an hour about whiteboards, but they're really just thinking through it. There have been little revelations along the way like, yeah, these things really do afford us a great deal of collaboration that I don't think about on a day to day basis anymore. Yeah, absolutely. And I completely agree with everything you just said. And honestly, it's the sort of thing like we were saying earlier, it just it fades into the background. We take it for granted almost. And the funny thing is, when I walk into a meeting room that does not have a whiteboard, I instantly notice and it's the sort of thing that if you, it may sound strange, but if you are in an environment where you need to do a collaboration, you don't have a whiteboard, my advice would be get one. So anyway, I think we might leave it there. So if you do want to talk more about this, you can reach me on Twitter @johnchidjie and check out my writing at If you'd like to send any feedback, please use the feedback form on the website And that's where you'll also find show notes for the episode under podcasts Pragmatic. You can also follow @PragmaticShow on Twitter to see show announcements and other related materials. I'd also really like to thank my guest, Seth. And what's the best way for people to get in touch with you? I'm Seth Clifford on most of the social networks. Twitter is usually where I spend a lot of my time. And if you want to check out the work that we do, you can look at our site, Awesome. I'd also like to say a final thank you to our sponsor, Wet Frog Studios, for sponsoring Pragmatic. If you're looking to add some curb appeal to your product or company, remember to specifically visit this URL, to get a great result at half the normal price. Well, thanks again, Seth, and thanks, everyone, for listening. Thanks for having me, John. It was great. Anytime. [MUSIC PLAYING] (upbeat music) [Music] (upbeat music) (Music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) (upbeat music) [Music] [Music] [Music] you [BLANK_AUDIO]
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Seth Clifford

Seth Clifford

Seth is CIO of Nickelfish and he also appears on the Iterate podcast.

John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

Described as the David Attenborough of disasters, and a Dreamy Narrator with Great Pipes by the Podfather Adam Curry.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.