Do you know how much a whiteboard like this costs?
$600. Six. Hundred. Dollars. For that kind of money I could pay two strippers to come and draw diagrams in caviar on a 7′x7′ board made out of $5 bills for an hour, and still have enough for a slap-up meal afterwards. In case you were wondering, yes I have done the maths (and Googled ‘Strippers hourly rate’ from work):
- 7′x7′ board made out of $5 bills – $185
- Strippers (one pair, per hour) – $200
- Whitefish Caviar – $185 for 2.2kg
But research on lap dancers; the dimensions of folding money; and fish eggs isn’t all that I do at work. My second priority after arriving here (finding the tea-making facilities naturally being the first) was to try and beg, steal or borrow a whiteboard for the small r&d team I’m in. And here’s why:
Language is inexact. We’re from three different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, speak three opposing mother tongues and have had three distinct life experiences to date. Milan Kundera writes wonderfully about this in one of my favourite books. So, talking is only ever going to get us so far.
Computers are limiting. Given a standard set of desktop applications, IDEs and drawing utilities, there are only a limited number of ways to express yourself. Does everyone’s mind really form five related bullet-points for every idea they wish to share, or are they just stuck in a haze of Powerpoint?
Paper is unimportant. Count, on any given day, how many pieces of paper you throw away (or recycle). Napkins, junk mail, scrap paper, post-it notes. You’ll be surprised. Scribbling down ideas on paper is just that – scribbling – it’s hard for them to make an impact in anyone’s mind.
Enter the joys of a whiteboard. This one dominates the view whatever angle you approach our little dev corner from. It’s a tangible physical effort to remove something from it, and one needs to consider things carefully before adding to it. Three people can join in at once in contributing, and the end results can be colourful and enlightening.
In my (extremely fun) few months of academic research after University, I wouldn’t have survived without having a whiteboard to hold and share my ideas. And it’s the same here. Who needs a server farm when you have mildly intoxicating pens and wipe-clean plastic?
I certainly hope no-one was disappointed after the main focus of the post turned out not to match the title.