It all started as a personal project, just for us. We found ourselves digging through forests of thoughts spread across many different apps and sloppily written notes. Messages on Slack, files stored on DropBox, notes shared on Evernote and many ideas and random thoughts written down on whatever piece of paper had been nearest. There had to be a better way. As we were planning on working together on many projects in the future, we thought it would be cool to have a platform to base our work on. So we started working on it. With time the concept grew and we decided to make it public for everyone to use. We’d learn a lot about taking a large web app from 0 onto the desktops of users and it might help some people out there channel their inner stream of ideas. A win-win.
What we imagined had to unify a few different things for it to be the central platform of creation. Communication, Organization and Extraction are DropSeed’s main focus. Let’s look at each of those terms in a little more detail:
Communication: To be able to make something with others you need to be able to talk to others in the first place. There are a lot of good solutions to this out there already, but we thought our concept wouldn’t be complete without some means of communication. Slack was our main inspiration for this part of the platform, with a few distinct improvements to the concept to make it a little more our own.
Organization: To make progress you need to track progress and have an overview of what has been and what needs to be done. A way to collect material to support ideas and concepts as well as storing files, images, links etc. were a must, but we didn’t want to go with the classic MS Word-style editor, as the text-centered approach seemed inappropriate in a time where other forms of media are just as important. So we gave it a little spin (more on that further down). Additionally, we thought a way to create and assign tasks would be nice to keep people on track and working.
Extraction: This is the key feature of DropSeed and all the other features have been designed and built to support it. While all the other features can be found in some, more or less similar, form somewhere else, this is what is distinct about DropSeed. To be able to capture and further develop our ideas we wanted a way to channel the chaotic storm of thoughts into an organized, and clear structure.
Because people can do a lot more in teams, than by themselves, we wanted to make collaboration as convenient as possible. DropSeed allows working together in real-time. You and your collaborators can edit notes, task lists or thought trees simultaneously and see updates happening in real-time in the app. We use operational transformations, the same technique used by Google docs to keep your content consistent and in sync, even if multiple people are editing the same element.
Why ‘DropSeed’? We were looking for a short and catchy name (and also for a domain that wasn’t to popular already. If you google DropSeed all you get is a Wikipedia article about a plant called Sporobolus). The idea behind the name is simple. We see every idea or thought as a seed that, if dropped into the right environment and taken care of properly, can germinate and grow into something strong and big, like a tree.
So what does the whole DropSeed thing look like? Let’s look at some screens and features to get a better grasp of the whole concept.
Main Screen: A first look at the main screen with side and top bar showing the Note Overview.
The platform has a top and sidebar, which are it’s anchors. Everything can be accessed from them. The side bar gives access to each of DropSeed’s 5 main features (which we’ll explore in detail further down), as well as the idea list and notifications. The top bar lets you search your project in two different modes and access the settings. Now let's take a look at the core features:
The Activity tab shows a detailed overview of what progress has been made lately. DropSeed In-App events like, “Note created”, “List created”, “New Tree started” etc. can be seen alongside external events from other platforms such as GitHub, for example. The Activity tab also shows who is currently online and how many tasks have been ticked of on the given day.
Activity Screen: Offering an overview of what has been going on lately as well as some metrics for the day.
The Tasks tab allows you and your collaborators to create as many task lists for any kind of work. Completed tasks can be checked and will be moved to the bottom of the list to direct focus to still outstanding tasks. In addition to all the standard functionality of this pretty basic feature, tasks can be claimed by people. By claiming a task, you can show your collaborators that a particular task I currently being worked on by you. Claimed tasks will be shown in a separate box at the very top of the list view.
Tasks Screen: Create lists to organize tasks and claim tasks to show people what you're currently working on
There’s hundreds of note-taking apps out there and DropSeed also needed a way to collect and store information in some similar way. We didn’t like the idea of going with the standard MS Word-style editor. The concept, with its text-focused approach, felt a bit outdated, since nowadays notes are much more than just text. People share and collect images, files, links etc. and we wanted to build something that takes all these different media types into account. After tossing some concepts around for a while we decided to go with a grid-like structure for the editor, where you can create different types of blocks (text, media, links etc.) and put them together your way. Check out the example below to get a sense of what we’re talking about.
Note Grid: The grid offers a unique and flexible way to store and arrange information.
For now, we support the 5 types of blocks we deemed most useful:
Future blocks will be added into the mix after release and once we are done with the main features. (A block we’re definitely looking to integrate some time soon is a special block for code snippets.)
The thoughts feature is the heart of DropSeed. What we were looking for was, most of all, a way to collect and channel our thoughts into something structured and organized so we could start building on it. The Thoughts feature attempts to do that with a concept build around what we call trees, helping you hierarchically organize the storm of randomness on your mind.
Tree Overview: The tree overview gives you a grid with all your trees and a small preview showing the structure of a tree.
Each tree has one main thought that defines it and sub thoughts branching out from it to further define and build on that main thought. Thoughts can be directly shared with collaborators in the feed or link to a note with more content regarding the thought. A problem we faced (and still face to some degree) is that trees can get pretty large and hard to overlook once you get going. To help with that we gave a thought the possibility to be a so-called anchor thought. Anchor thoughts are the most important thoughts in a tree. Any thought can be turned into an anchor thought be clicking a button and if things get messy, you can filter for anchor thoughts only to get the most important bits of a tree.
Tree Editor: A look at what the tree concept looks like within DropSeed.
We still see the Thoughts feature with it’s tree concept very much as work in progress and are looking forward to hear your feedback and suggestions so we can fine-tune and improve it.
To truly be a central hub for creation, DropSeed couldn’t go without a way to communicate. The Feed feature lets you create threads for particular topics similar to channels in Slack and also offers private chats. Threads can be filtered for shared links, media or files to make finding shared content a little easier. It is also integrated with all the other DropSeed features. Notes and individual note blocks, lists, tasks and thoughts can be shared directly to any thread or private chat without leaving their respective window. We also made sure Emojis on board for those of you who like to communicate a little more visually :)
Thread View: Communicate and share ideas, thoughts, notes, files etc. within DropSeed without having to download things over and over again
A well-made search feature can make working a lot easier as access to information is faster and less tiring. Our search has two modes and switching between them is as easy as pressing the tab button:
Filter lets you search for things in the currently shown window. The window will be constantly updated as you type to only show things relevant to your query.
Global gives you access to every kind of object across the entire app. For this we decided to go with a solution similar to Spotlight on macOS, a list of search results which can be scrolled trough using the arrow keys paired with a preview window to show more information.
Global Search: Search the entire idea and preview elements without leaving your currently active tab
We’ve been using the pronoun ‘we’ a lot, so who is ‘we’? We’re Aaron and Daniel, two university students from northern Italy who like to build things together. This is our first, large scale project and we hope to work on many more in the future with DropSeed as our foundation. As we will rely on feedback and suggestions, the ‘we’ also includes you if you choose to try out DropSeed. We’re looking forward to bringing the platform online and plan to do so towards the end of 2018.
We hope now you have a pretty good idea of what we're building out here. You can reach us at email@example.com if you have any questions or comments. Thanks for reading and we hope to see you creating some stuff on DropSeed soon!
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