Noah J Nelson on Thursday, May. 5th
Technology improves, but complex interfaces don’t always make things better. Sometimes you just want the most straightforward of tools.
For short form note taking few tools have ever been as well loved as the sticky note. While operating systems have been giving us the option of sticky notes for years there’s yet to be a web version that has, well, stuck.
Those days might be behind us, however, with the introduction of Corkboard.me. The brainchild of developer Tim Coulter (whose holds down a day job as director of QA for Blip.Tv), this entry into the productivity scene just might be the most intuitive yet. Tim introduced the project last year, and in recent months has been making steady improvements- like simple text formatting and picture posts- that fulfill the promise of what a net based corkboard can be.
Corkboard.me users can post their notes and share them with a simple short-url, all without having to jump through any hoops. Just dial up the URL and you’re good to go.
Tim was nice enough to answer some questions about how Corkboard.me came about, and put a call out for developers in the course of the interview below.
TURNSTYLE: The basic principle and design of Corkboard.me seems so obvious– why hasn’t anyone pulled this off until now?
Tim Coulter: Well, the truth is, they have. I didn’t know about the space until I created the first prototype, but the education community especially has had post-it note boards like these for awhile. The thing that sets Corkboard.me apart from its competitors is its simplicity and target audience: As I’ll mention below, Corkboard was originally created as a productivity tool. It was meant to take the clutter of post its off your desk and stick them into a place you can take anywhere. The other tools have a narrow focus (though similar functionality), which ultimately limits their popularity and reach.
TS: What inspired you to put Corkboard.me together?
TC: I was taking notes everywhere. In three applications in my phone. On paper — sometimes on random pieces that made it to the top of my desk. I was also sending myself emails. I’d literally never check what was in my phone; the papers I’d take notes on would get lost or pile up; and the emails would eventually be ignored for the more important things that hit my inbox. I needed something different. I realized paper was the king of all note taking (though it isn’t always portable) in that your visual memory helps you recall where you wrote your notes. And that’s when it hit me: What I needed was just one big cork board. So I wrote it.
TS: Why just a link- why not set up user accounts?
TC: User accounts are coming. Initially I took a page from the Etherpad play book in that you didn’t need to sign up — you just needed to go to the site to write a new document. And this seemed to work. For instance, Justin Hunter, the CEO of a company called Hexawise, said, “Users see the value of the application within five seconds of use.” And that’s what I was going for initially to boost adoption. Now, however, users are begging for their own accounts, clawing at me telling me they want to support Corkboard monetarily, and asking for features I’d love to give them. It’s going to happen.
TS: What do your blip.tv cohorts think of Corkboard.me?
TC: They love it. In fact, without my coworkers at blip, Corkboard wouldn’t exist. Specifically, Kelly Sutton (@KellySutton) and Allan Grinshtein (@allan) pushed me to release it to the world when I thought it needed work. Allan showed me how I should design it and did much of the design work himself. Kelly told me how to get press. Last but not least, Omachonu Ogali (@oogali) jumped to offer up his servers when mine got wrecked by Hacker News and Life Hacker on the first day. They’re still running on his servers to this day. I couldn’t have started this without them, and my coworkers at blip consistently offer up their time to test alpha features before they’re released. Many use Corkboard day to day.
TS: Is Corkboard.me a side project hobby, or do you have grander plans for the app?
TC: It started as a side project, and I got very lucky in that I ended up making something that was useful to so many people. But I want to see where this can go. To say I knew what I was getting into or to say that I knew this app would explode would be disingenuous. I was just scratching an itch. I absolutely love the feedback I’ve gotten from people all over the world. Corkboard could be the app that changes the world’s productivity. It can help teach grade school kids. It can help remote teams storyboard their projects from across the world. In fact, it’s doing all these things already. I want to make it even better.
To get specific about short term plans, keep a look out for mobile apps that let you take your board anywhere. In fact, if you could put a call out to interested app developers who want to work for a rev-share, send them my information. I’d love to talk.