Wednesday, August 24, 2016

BYOWB - The Joy of the Portable Whiteboard

Between my love of whiteboards and my fascination with all things portable, the Noteboard was pretty much custom built for me. The Noteboard is a collection laminated 3x5 cards that can fold out, like a city map, to produce a 15"x35" whiteboard.

My Mother-in-Law was kind enough to gift me one (thanks Mom!). I'd played with it a couple of times, but had yet to find the perfect use for it.

Earlier this week I had an onsite meeting, and while the other attendees busted out their laptops and leather bound notebooks, I took out my Noteboard. I unfolded about half of it, making for a relatively contained workspace. As we started into the meeting, I used each individual 3x5 section to capture a different core concept. When the bulk of the meeting was over, I had a fantastic summary in front of me. When I ran out of cards, I simply unfolded another row.

Once I was satisfied with my notes, I took out my cell phone and snapped a photo. And just like that, I had captured my notes for posterity.

As we wrapped up the meeting, a discussion of source code repositories came up, and I quickly sketched out various branching strategies on my now cleaned off whiteboard space. This was the kind of discussion that absolutely needs a drawing to make sense, and the Noteboard provided the perfect space to create it.

I went into the meeting wary of how useful the Noteboard would be in real life. Would it be too bulky? Nope, you can fold it in half and still write on it. Does it need to be hung up to be useful? Nope, just treating it like a large sheet of notebook paper works just fine. Would the underlying 3x5 notecards be too limiting? Nope, they're perfect for capture core concepts.

As you can tell, I left a believer.

Years ago I stopped bringing a laptop to meetings. They've always been more of a distraction than anything else, and my Phone + Bluetooth Keyboard + browser / ssh is surprisingly capable. But the Noteboard is now officially considered must bring gear. I'll have to pick up a collection of mini whiteboard markers to bring my note taking to a new level.

Bonus tip: when I got home, I realized that the "hand sanitizer" I carry would be ideal for getting and keeping the cards nice and clean.


  1. Brilliant. Here is my current best approach for this exact use case:

    Easy to carry. Tough. Inexpensive. Easy to clean. I use fine-tip dry erase. I take a lot of pictures. I'm in love with it because it ain't fragile.

  2. Fine-trip dry erase markers rock, btw.

  3. Hey Grant - Thanks for the suggestion. At around $5.00, I may very well have to pick up one of those little boards. I've got a batch of mini-colored markers on the way - I think they're fine tip, but I'll have to see.

    1. Hi Shira! You are welcome. Hopefully it works out well and like you said it it doesn't, it was less than $10. I bought 3 of them so I can leave one everywhere that "I might want to whiteboard" so: office, car (as as passenger), and living room. Since my smartphone is always near, I take a pic and it goes to Dropbox for processing later.