It sounds obvious that software isn’t like real world objects, it has no inherent gravity, softness, or squeeze-ability. But it does have its own kind of shape and weight.
That shape comes from helping you do what you can’t in the physical world. Great software responds with the enthusiasm of a puppy on a road trip, you build up a rapport with it, and it becomes an extension of your mind.
Software designed to replicate a physical experience will always suck because it replaces the tactility of the real-world with conceptual baggage that doesn’t fit the medium. Trying to be a whiteboard, for example, means putting a lot of fiddly questions in front of what you want to do:
Do you want to add a note or a comment? Is this text or a photo? What color should the note be? Do you want the font to look like handwriting? Should it be square or circle?
And … I’ve forgotten what I wanted to say. Clippy never left – he just got low.
Software as Software
Kinopio is software designed to be software. The entire interface revolves around creating and connecting small atomic units of knowledge that happen to be in the shape of cards.
Just like life, everything’s simpler when we’re not pretending to be something we’re not. Same goes for interfaces. In Kinopio, thoughts, feelings, ideas, or comments – everything is just a card. Click, type, and connect.
There are, of course, fancy options like card frames and checkboxes, but it’s all secondary to creating. Thinking tools have a timeless good feel when their primary interaction is creation.
Text as Text
My earliest mockups of creating cards imposed a lot of structure like status, custom fields and comments.
I built the first version with just a single textarea because it was the simple, iterative thing to do. But right away, it was obvious that a single field was calmer, inviting, and creatively expressive.
Turns out, you can do a lot with just a textarea. If you want to add a link, paste it in. If you want to comment, make a card and connect it. If you want a checkbox, prepend
Software is a conversation between you and a computer. Conversations are better when they’re chill.
A Short Update
It’s been a year or so since I started Kinopio. Encouragingly, I learned that I wasn’t that only one with fragile ideas to plant and grow, or thorny problems to think through.
But building a visual thinking tool for new ideas and hard problems still feels like an experiment. Can software created by one person succeed against corporations with hundreds of people and millions of dollars? Kinopio is an experiment in trust, transparency, and in people over institutions.
Let’s enjoy the ride,