ScribblePost: A Content-Centric Work Management Tool

I’ve realized — principally because of stumbling across a few new tools — that there’s at least one more category of work management tools along with the task-centric and message-centric forms: I am encountering content-centric work management tools, now.

Consider ScribblePost, which is based around creating posts in a tag-based context. The default context is ‘Everything’, as seen in this screenshot:

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ScribblePost Long-Format Editor

To the left you see two posts in the Everything panel, and to the right is a new post I have created and am in the middle of editing in the long-form editor. (There is also a short-form editor: see the ‘quick scribble’ at the top of the Everything panel.)

I’ve titled the post ‘About ScribblePost’ and entered some text. In the last line I’ve created a bulleted list, and in the first list item I’ve @mentioned myself, which is more or less equivalent to assigning a task. By clicking on the hash icon I bring up a list of commonly used tags, like ‘#todo’ — which is predefined for tasks. At the foot of the editor, I selected ‘#today’ which assigns a date to the item. I can manually add ‘#todo’, as well.

Clicking on the ‘post’ button will save the post, and also send notifications to those ‘@mentioned’. If those folks have ScribblePost accounts they are notified internally, and those without are emailed a text version.

The tool is not organized (as is normal for work management) around defined project or group contexts. Instead, terms and tags — both predefined and user-defined — can be searched for. For example, I searched for ‘scribblepost’ in the screenshot below, and then clicked on a sidetab to slide open an ancillary collection of panels in which most of the work management attributes are displayed:

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ScribblePost with Priorities panel displayed

A display of all the tasks defined in the search results is ordered by four states of importance when I select the ‘Priorities’ tab. Note that the objects can be dragged from one priority to another in this display. Another tab shows by schedule (below) and others for workflow (backlog, do next, doing now, done), and assignments (which I can’t get to work right, yet.)

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ScribblePost with Schedule panel

Content-Centric Feels Natural

I haven’t used ScribblePost for long enough to be certain — and I am speaking provisionally since I seem to have done something to break the task assignment set-up — but I find the pattern of use to be quite natural.

Imagine writing up notes during or after a meeting. One of the most natural things to do is to indicate that some action is to be taken, or someone (or some group) should be notified of a decision made or some change in plans. In ScribblePost that is done by noting the task or decision and @mentioning the person in context.

I’m not sure that ScribblePost (still in closed beta) is far enough along the development curve to start thinking much about scaling, but I would like to see a few higher-order constructs that would make it easier to imagine scaling.

For example, I’d like and expect to see various ways to define or refer to groups of people. LIke being able to notify all the users that have been invited to share a post (’@all’), or a way to define a specific list of users (’@finance’ or ‘@bowlingleague’) which would make it easier to invite, share, and assign.

In a similar fashion, tags could be treated as ‘groupable’ as well. The tags associated with the Schedule view — #today, #tomorrow, #someday, #Friday, and so on, might be shorthand for compound tags, like #schedule.today. And so searching on #schedule.all could pull up anything that is scheduled in any way. Users could also define tag groups like this, so I could tag something ‘#workmanagement.research’ and something else ‘#workmanagement.demo’, and get both (and maybe others) by a search for ‘#workmanagement.all’.

The model of sharing baked into ScribblePost is quite unlike the approach taken in traditional documents-centric solutions, like Google Docs, where docs are located in folders, each document is shared as a whole, and participants can gain differential access to document capabilities like editing and commenting, but where tasks are just implied textually, or hard-wired into capabilities like resolving editing comments. ScribblePost avoids the hierarchic folder/doc set-up, and relies on a tag taxonomy to create order from a collection of otherwise unrelated posts.

ScribblePost most reminds me of Quip, another solution in which tasks can be interspersed into shared documents, but which doesn’t seem as tightly oriented toward work management. For example, there doesn’t seem to be a way in Quip for find all the tasks where I am mentioned.

I’d have to use ScribblePost in earnest, with a few colleagues and on a real project, to get a more practical understanding of how it operates, but at the very least it is a valuable experiment, one pushing in a novel direction.

Written by

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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