U Grads Produce New App “Limnu,” Made for Digital Collaboration in the Workplace

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From Google Docs to Slack, we find ourselves in the midst of a transformative era in communication. The days of phone calls and email are gradually giving way to chat rooms and video calls. Programs once used to communicate among friends online are turning into useful applications for businesses. Things like Slack and Skype originated with the chat room. While certainly useful for collaboration, only recently has such technology started to integrate into the business world. As companies become more and more digitally inclined, they discover the use of such programs, and the conference room begins to transform into the chat room.

But chat rooms are not the equivalent of a physical meeting place. When constrained to text and pictures, collaboration can be a painful process. There are just some things you can’t recreate digitally. For one thing, it’s fairly difficult to use mathematical notation when you can’t type it out in Slack. Even simple things like exponents need to be written out the long way.

However, a recent addition to these web clients may spark increased interest in digital collaboration. Limnu is a digital whiteboard developed by two U graduates, David “Grue” DeBry and David Hart. The program is designed to help with brainstorming and simple collaboration. It fills the void that DeBry and Hart see as a necessary component of business — the need to draw.

“It’s a brainstorming tool,” Hart said. “It’s a space to work in that isn’t constrained by physical limitations. We’re trying to make it as much of a real whiteboard as we can with the digital attributes added where they make sense.”

There are already a handful of drawing-based communication programs out there. It’s not an entirely new concept — even MSN Messenger had a drawing tool. While public drawing tools already exist, there’s nothing quite like Limnu.

“The tools already out there are not industrial strength,” Hart said about the differences between Limnu and other online drawing programs. “They’re just not good in our eyes. There’s lots of products, but none are simple enough to use in a Skype call without training. Limnu is not quite there yet either.”

There’s no drawing application with the security or power of something like Slack. Limnu offers unlimited board space while having multiple collaborators working on the same board at the same time.

Though the program was made for digital collaboration, Hart explained that most people using Limnu were using it in the same room.

“Here’s what I’ve seen a lot: People write ‘Do Not Erase’ on the whiteboard after writing out a schedule,” Hart said. “Then we have to think, where can we work on the whiteboard? The problem is that whiteboards dry and become unusable. What we were finding is that people in the same room were getting on Limnu anyways. This way everyone can be working on the whiteboard. It’s easier for people in the room. And you can save the board to pull up later.”

Limnu takes a minimalist approach, with the majority of the screen being the whiteboard. The developers “wanted it to look clean.”

“A whiteboard is already a brainstorming tool, and we don’t want to do any tweaking,” Hart said. “If I care about how it looks, we’ll be sitting there forever. Nobody cares what a whiteboard looks like. The important part is the ideas.”

Even if Limnu is not quite complete, the programmers have big aspirations.

When asked what updates users should expect, Hart said, “The user interface will be getting better. The really big feature will be select, move and delete. We’ve been diverting too far from the basic operations. We’re going to try to do it the way everyone already understands and customize only what needs to be customized.”

Hart also states that improved integration with Slack is already in the works. They’ll also be adding “pins” which can tag locations on the board and send them out as links.

Limnu could very well be the next Slack. Though still in its early stages, the program does take the paint chatting formula to a professional level.

Premium status is available for professors and their classes for free. The basic program is available for free. Check it out at www.limnu.com.

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

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