You may have heard of the new app Jelly – it’s a simple idea, really – that people would rather share questions with each other through pictures and then use those pictures to elicit discussion. Find answer to important things, the pictures say, and help your friends solve their problems and answer their difficult questions. (Or perhaps their more juvenile ones. But I digress).
I think the folks at Jelly are on to something interesting, and I wish they had extended their idea to include the kind of sustained noodling one does at a whiteboard. Let it be said that I love whiteboarding. There is maybe nothing more interesting than standing up at a whiteboard and working through the confines of an idea visually, perhaps drawing and redrawing an idea until it becomes reality. When you’re done with a whiteboard session you can literally see the ideas falling off of the wall, made whole by a process of drawing, erasing, and ideating. So I wish Jelly worked more like a whiteboard.
What do I mean when I suggest that a question interaction be more fluid? For starters, I love the ability that Jelly promotes to draw on a photo using a stylus. This is nifty and allows for a lot of creativity. It’s also really hard to draw with your fingertips on a phone screen with any kind of fidelity. What if you could pinch zoom the photo and start drawing in a higher fidelity. What if you could string some of these Jelly “tiles” together into a kind of mosaic? And what if you could lead people in a “choose your own adventure”-style conversation through multiple tiles? You can start doing some of this today, but there isn’t really a narrative yet in a single question and answer format.
It’s clear that the folks behind Jelly didn’t make the medium for storytelling, or really for serious conversation (yet). The idea of long-form storytelling, or even the art of asking a good question that requires some exposition to solve, demands a bit more resolution. What if there were a place to share bigger images that acted more like a whiteboard and gave people the opportunity to make mini-canvases. I’d certainly like to see the whiteboarded solutions to many problems in the style and colors people would use if they were having an animated conversation and interaction in the same room.
Yes, you say, there’s no real need for this – we’ve got web conferencing, and we all know how engaging that can be sometimes (ew). But I think there’s something more here. Jelly points at a need for human storytelling, and I think that the combination of this idea with a tablet, smartboard, or another kind of stylus will soon make it easier to collaborate on remote whiteboard drawings at the same time and not have it feel laggy or dumb. At the end of the day it’s just drawing pictures.