I’ve discovered an amazing high-resolution display technology. It requires no power to run, is almost unbreakable, has nearly infinite resolution, and has an amazing contrast ratio. I’m not talking about eink or MIT’s HoloVideo, I’m talking about cork. Yes, cork. The humble wood product that keeps your wine fresh and stops you hurting yourself with your fork.
You see, in the agile development process, (see also here and here) we use a big corkboard wall to hold dozens or even a couple hundred index cards (another underappreciated technology – high powered execs can’t live without theirs) that track the progress of tasks and features during the sprint cycle.
I’ve been pondering this lately because I heard that one of our engineers was going to write an application of some sort that would keep the sprint board contents in a database and do away with the need for the wall of cork. Seemed like a good idea, right? After all, there’s no backup of the cork wall, and one clumsy passer-by could seriously mess up the team. And what if you’re away from the office and need to refer to the wall? So the electronic sprint board is a noble goal, I agree. BUT, there are some tricks that toady’s PC monitors still can’t do.
It’s just a matter of scale and resolution. Even a nice 1600×1200 monitor – let’s say two of them – holds the amount of visual information of only 40 index cards. (3.5×5 card at 75 dpi = 98,438 pixels; two, 1600×1200 monitors = 3,840,000 pixels = 39.009 index cards to be precise) And that’s crammed in right up against eachother.
On a wall-sized board, we can put all those cards in order, in a spatial relationship to one another that conveys information. We can look at the whole board and get a sense of where things are going or get up close to a part of it and read what’s on each card. No even the iPhone can do that, I don’t think.
So at leats for now, it doesn’t look like electronic display technology, at least not the affordable kind, is up to the task of displaying a lot of complex information all at once. Maybe we’ll figure out a clever way to stack the info on today’s monitors, or maybe we’ll keep sticking pins in walls. Me, I’m not ready to sell all my stock in Staples yet.