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Visual Display of Quantitative Information
Envisioning Information
Visual Explanations
Beautiful Evidence
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Visual and Statistical Thinking $2
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Seeing Around + Feynman Diagrams $2
Data Analysis for Politics and Policy $2
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Edward Tufte one-day course,
Presenting Data and Information
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Photographing whiteboards... for the record

A very satisfying way to conclude a meeting, where a whiteboard is used to develop and communicate ideas, is to capture a digital image of the whiteboard. It works better than those fancy and expensive electronic whiteboards and can be used for recording flip chart discussions as well. You get a color, high res record of the meeting and the image neatly captures the dynamics of the discussion. Not an original idea by any means, but I thought I'd share it with you anyway.

-- Simon Shutter (email)

I've been doing this as well for a while. Best is if you have software/camera hardware to stitch or merge multiple photos together. Then you can take very close up shots, create a poster-sized picture that you can look at all the detail(or print poster sized), yet still be able to reduce it to throw into an email with just any packaged photo software.

-- David Hall (email)

Take a look at WHITEBOARD PHOTO:

[link updated February 2005]

-- Roger Alexander (email)

The idea of preserving whiteboards isn't new, it dates to when whiteboards were blackboards. This link


shows a blackboard Einstein used in Nottingham, England. There's another blackboard at the Oxford History of the Museum of Science, available (under miscellaneous) as a mousemat here

-- Jonathan Rodgers (email)

Turning the flash off isn't always possible, so I suggest shooting at an angle (so the glare is absent), then using Photoshop or other graphics package to "deskew" the image. Works like a charm. Then I use Canon's "stitch" program to link up the different shots along a board.

-- Colin Purrington (email)

I have found ScanR very useful for this purpose. It is free (but requires registration) and significantly improves the whiteboard image.

-- Marlow Macht (email)

Unfortunately cameras are disallowed in many workplaces now.

-- bigpants (email)

You may be interested in hardware which records whiteboard sessions. I can't think of the name, but I've used a device with a long sensor bar which sticks magnetically to the whiteboard and works in concert with special cases that go over the markers. As you write, the sensor bar tracks the movement of the cases and can display it in real-time on a computer. Multiple marker cases or a palette on the sensor bar allow multiple colors and perhaps other shapes. At the end, the software driving the sensor bar provides a "film" of the whole session, and allows the user to take snapshots at any point for permanent record.

I believe the hardware is surprisingly affordable; you may find the investment worthwhile.

-- Jorden Mauro (email)

Many schools now have SMART boards or other interactive whiteboards. Essentially, these are large touch surfaces, across which one moves an inkless felt `pen'. A computer attached to the board detects these movements, and projects an image onto of the board. As well as allowing whiteboard notes to be saved, emailed and printed, this allow the easy annotation of photographs or graphs.

A cheaper alternative is to add an IR LED to the end of a pen, and use a Wii controller to track its movements. This has been impressively demonstrated by Jonny Chung Lee. ET has previously mentioned Lee's work on another Topic, but I think its potential usefulness in even mundane office work is deserving of emphasis.

-- James Scott-Brown (email)

We had a big schedule meeting today for a project that is starting up.

After discussions with three subcontractors, the owner’s representative wrote some key dates on the whiteboard. Unfortunately, one of subcontractors had already left due to a conflict, so....

I thought for a moment, and decided to photograph the whiteboard, tweak the contrast to enhance readability, and e-mail it to everyone—simple solution.

-- Jon Gross (email)

Threads relevant to business:
Narrative sparklines should replace one-at-time instantaneous performance readings.

Threads relevant to photography:

Seeing Around: New ET essay published