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Today we got our own website design. The theme is the "whiteboard".

I'm a big fan of them. I would like you to share with me how you use it. I'm sure I don't exploit its potential enough.

I will really enjoy answers that will come with pictures of your own whiteboard as an illustration ;)

I use it as an information radiator to support a light version of scrum.

alt text

How do you use this essential development tool?

Please note that I'm also interested in people using a virtual whiteboard or even big touchscreen whiteboard emulator.

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marked as duplicate by gnat, MichaelT, Dan Pichelman, GlenH7, mattnz Sep 22 '13 at 9:10

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

I like a blackboard more. – rightfold Sep 5 '11 at 21:56
This question appears to be off-topic because it is a poll – mattnz Sep 22 '13 at 9:10
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Our Whiteboard

In it's infancy, I'm trying to promote more use of it then how we use it currently.

Ideally you should have a whiteboard on every wall of the room with "tablet" whiteboards for every programmer. Cheaper then an iPad and just as effective. When explaining almost anything the first place I go to is the whiteboard to visually show what I'm trying to explain.

In this layout we have the application's flow laid out. Then tasks for each part of the flow are added to the "incomplete" top box. As tasks are worked on they are moved to "in progress" and finally to "under review." This makes it easy to work on one area, get stuck, and switch to another. It's also very visually representative of the application as a whole. Ideally I would like a task manager application setup exactly like this, or a whiteboard for each project. Currently we don't have that many whiteboards (one currently) so the most active project gets priority.

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That's a very interesting way to use the space. To be honest, it's the first time I saw that layout. What's written on the post-its ? – user2567 Dec 16 '10 at 19:34
@Pierre: I'll edit to explain more. – Josh K Dec 16 '10 at 19:34
+1 for tablet whiteboards. I used to have one, but I lost it. – Maxpm Dec 16 '10 at 20:19
@josh -- What kind of whiteboards are you using for the "tablet whiteboards". I have been looking for some but all the ones I am finding are cheap "toys". – Ominus Jan 20 '12 at 15:57
@Ominus: We switched to iPads actually... – Josh K Jan 20 '12 at 18:19

I write on a whiteboard to communicate during meetings and to visually think through problems. I don't use it as a billboard.

Take the example picture in the question: did you really need to use a whiteboard for that?

Whiteboards yearn to be the dynamic center of interactive communication, not to be static bulletin boards. Using a whiteboard as a bulletin board is a waste of money - blank walls and posterboards are far cheaper.

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+1 for using a whiteboard to communicate ideas and visually think through problems. That's generally what I use mine for. – Rachel Dec 16 '10 at 19:57
I guess it depends upon how many whiteboards you have though. I've seen some offices that have the conference room walls painted in such a way that they can be used as a whiteboard - more space to work with leads to things sitting around longer. – rjzii Dec 16 '10 at 20:11
@Rob: that's great, until Marketing uses the conference room and erases everything ;-) – Steven A. Lowe Dec 16 '10 at 20:28
Marketing is in another building and they need to get past the Nerf gauntlet if they want to use the conference room. – rjzii Dec 16 '10 at 20:29

1. Big ones to scribble out design ideas

Whenever our team has a meeting we break out the big whiteboard and pens and start sketching out our thoughts. We don't use any formal notation (UML on a whiteboard?!), just intuitive scribbles that help people less familiar with the work rapidly grasp what we're talking about.

2. Medium ones to keep track of tasks

Each team has a whiteboard at the end of their group of desks (pod). This is used to stick user story cards on a grid to show progress (sort of Scrum-Ban or Kan-Rum). As other team members stroll on by they can see what we're working on and often suggest commonality that can be brought in from other projects. Several times we've been stopped from re-implementing code that has already been written for something else but not widely disseminated.

Having the white boards available was an immediate hit with the teams and has definitely helped us to communicate more effectively with each other.

3. A single big one with the overall server map

We run a fairly large collection of clustered servers covering many application tiers, and having a whiteboard dedicated to showing the server and application interlinks is very handy, especially as it's near the water cooler. It gets regularly updated with changes to application deployments (version numbers etc) and helps us all to keep in touch in a way that wouldn't be as effective through a wiki or email.

Sorry no picture available.

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Has the server-map white board even been "magically" erased? Just curious to know. Being paranoid, I would probably set up a camera to take photos of it every so often and email them to myself. – Jeremy Heiler Dec 17 '10 at 2:31
@Jeremy A few times, but it's not something mission critical. We only use it as a handy reference when having discussions. The actual release and deployment processes are much more rigid than a mere whiteboard :-D – Gary Rowe Dec 17 '10 at 10:05

Whileboards are like wikis; they encourage low-impact collaboration.

Because they don't have history, it's easy to destroy state. Electronic whiteboards help record state, but make it slightly harder and more intimidating to contribute because the 'in print' nature of the display make it feel more permanent.

We use whiteboards to:

  • brainstorm design ideas
  • move ideas from stickies to drawn designs
  • help explain complex concepts
  • draw out design alternatives (UI or architectural)
  • draw large sketches to help explore a design space
  • as mixed media surfaces (like the one shown above) for sorting and marking up stickies or information generated in some other way (e.g. printed-out screenshots)

This can be using the in-office whiteboards or the ones in the conference rooms.

We also have whiteboards outside our offices that are more like the ones in college dorms--places to leave notes and messages to each other.

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alt text

We don’t use a whiteboard anymore since we have started with JIRA, I send a picture that show the development phases. Two table one for development cases and one for production bugs which are prioritised high. We run a mixture of Kanban & Scrum. Each column can have at most x cases at the same time. Each case is signed to a person.

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How do you use JIRA to explain the login use case to a business analyst? – Gary Rowe Dec 16 '10 at 21:05
@Gary JIRA is a tool for managing cases. In each case item you have all information regarding the case for example use case. The picture shows how JIRA can be customized. You manage the cases as picture shows. The person who is assigned to a case also manages the case. – Amir Rezaei Dec 16 '10 at 21:25

Maybe not the answer you're looking for since a whiteboard is somewhat of an investment, but I tend to use a college notebook for everything for a few reasons:

  • With a notepad, there's a record of everything you've written, sorted in chronological order -- all your thoughts are documented for you to go back to.
  • Unless you're in a bigger team, the text is usually big enough for 4-5 people sitting at a table to read.
  • They're readily available at more stores than whiteboards are.
  • They're lined, so you're inclined to keep things more neat.
  • Something about holding a pencil to paper gets my head going (but that's probably just me).
  • I love the semi-erased whiteboard look in the background of the new site design, but it gets really distracting when I see it on my own boards.
  • Notepads don't smell weird.

We bought whiteboards once... ended up asking the same question you did, until we just went back to pen/pencil/paper. Schedules and such go on Outlook or a normal gloss-paper wall calendar.

Sorry, don't have any pictures of my notebook to share off-hand :( Will post later if I can find one.

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