Wow, yeah, I 100% support this. The whiteboard does not necessarily seem that core to Fibery’s big, exciting long-term vision - i.e. insight generation, knowledge synthesis, etc. (although arguably it is). But I would actually posit that it may be important to basic business success (i.e. revenue), based on the essential predicate of their model (as recently reiterated by Michael): Fibery is only a win if it replaces more than a few tools! With a better-functioning whiteboard more teams would become more invested, whereas many other recent (appreciated!) improvements like panel navigation or the move to blocks are great but probably don’t change the bottom line very much (i.e. bring in more revenue in any measurable sense).
In working with several different teams over the past 9+ months, most in some kind of product dev/software management space, they all used whiteboard way more than I would think (or even want ). One company used Miro for basically all their brainstorming meetings, often other types of meetings, long-term planning (roadmapping, goal setting, OKR), etc. They would sometimes, but often not, move that back into their primary project management tool ClickUp. It was terribly frustrating and felt quite inefficient.
I just started another (open source) project where whiteboarding was also quite desirable, but without budget, we were unable to find a tool that was free, capable, and collaborative. (lots of options for the first 2 though) So diagrams and other whiteboard things are kind of being done ad-hoc and mostly shared as static images, without the benefit of collaboration, easy commenting, etc. I’m kind of glad we didn’t have budget because we probably would have ended up using Miro and further scattering things! I wanted so much to suggest Fibery for the whiteboarding, too. I even tested a recreation of one of the simpler diagrams someone had made (no fancy shapes, etc.), but Fibery quickly fell down on something as simple as reasonable line/“wire” routing, and I actually felt that if I suggested people try it, it would worsen their opinion of Fibery as I was trying to introduce it and grow adoption.
It feels like the mere existence of a Whiteboard is considered “good enough for now” by the team (or at least that there is some other reason it doesn’t get much “love”). But it’s so buggy and clunky in my experience that it hardly is actually “good enough”. In other circumstances (i.e. with a buggy sort of “side” feature of another product) I might suggest perhaps even getting rid of it, except that the potential is massive! Clearly teams want to use whiteboards and if you have a good integration between whiteboard and the rest of the system, you can do a lot of really cool, fancy stuff that other tools (like Miro) cannot. You do not need to replicate every feature or even most features of Miro - a clean, stable, functional set of basic tools would be enough, along with functions to take advantage of Fibery’s underlying relational database power.
Here’s what I think is needed:
- Lots of bug cleanup, e.g. line routing and anchor selection, object selection and adjustment, zooming, etc.
- Each “object” would ideally be its own, fully-featured Prosemirror instance giving it all the capabilities that the regular editor (e.g. docs, Rich Text) has, or at least there should be one object type that does this
- At a minimum we should be able to #reference things elsewhere in the system, and have that shown as a reference on that entity; this is critical to bringing the kind of integration necessary to make this sticky
- Ability to comment directly on anything and have a discussion in different comment threads
- Expanded (but still small) shape library, including basic and common infrastructure icons like “database” (cylinder/stack)
There is a lot more that could be done in the future, perhaps. Particularly around figuring out how best to more deeply integrate whiteboard processes and content into the rest of the system, i.e. how does the whiteboard approach directly contribute to “insight generation”, not just as a process, but with actual interlinking of tools, e.g. transclude whiteboard object contents elsewhere or vice versa, etc. One particularly interesting potential use of it would be to quickly and easily create/manage typed relationships (i.e. relationship “properties”).
I realize it’s hard to prioritize this stuff when they have a lot of other major work going on. But it’s kind of dismaying to see no substantive whiteboard work anywhere on the roadmap. Obviously this is just one person’s opinion and I’m not running a successful startup, but… it seems like there is a lot of dev effort being put into the understandably very important overall Blocks effort. The thing about that, though, is I would argue it is both A: speculative (it seems like the right direction to go, but unclear if their current approach will really win over a lot of people without a lot of iteration and refinement), and B: will probably only have bigger impact once there is a critical mass of those features in place (i.e. a lot of block types such that you can create more full-featured Pages).
I don’t know about anyone else, but I am not finding any real value in the current test version of “Pages”. And I realize I’m not necessarily supposed to, but looking at the list of Block-related features that are Next, it seems to me I’d want quite a few more to really want to invest into a Page/block paradigm.
The point I’m making is that the necessary time of dev for that is both large, and can be spread over a longer period of time because there are large, discreet chunks of work. And since it is not something that can get done to a level that will create high business impact in say 2-3 months (IMO), it makes some sense to sort of slot that work in slowly over time, and redirect some effort to things that arguably would make higher impact with concerted (2-3 month) effort in the short-term. I can’t know if that amount of focus would be able to address my list of wants above, but it could probably make a solid dent in at least making the whiteboard something people would feel more inclined to use. This is all highly speculative on my part, of course.
I would actually be really interested to see some of Fibery’s usage data for whiteboards. I assume they have some useful analytics. My guess would be they’re an underutilized feature. But maybe I’m way off base.