John Borden | January 23, 2019
New year, new features! Granted, it is a bit late into the year to say something like that, but this is technically our first announcement for the new year, so it applies. So, what have we got for you?
Basically, stories as a feature.
Our Early Unease With Descriptions
In the very beginning, back when Business Toybox was something very different, it was nearly decided that you could write simple descriptions to go along with Tokens because, well, they needed something. Back then Tokens were completely different. They were just cubes and balls that you could change into different colors. They had the potential at some point in the future to be something entirely different from cubes and balls (like a tiny 3D model of a person, or a truck), but until that day they had little meaning besides whatever label you gave them.
Like I said earlier though, it was nearly decided to just give them simple descriptions. The problem with descriptions is that people are generally pretty terrible at describing things (a big reason why Business Toybox exists in the first place). If you ask someone to write a paragraph or two describing a token called “Chefs” you’ll get a shallow and obvious description of what a chef is, but probably not any clarity as to why it’s present on a Canvas.
That led to a sort of out-of-the-box idea that has changed slightly but otherwise remained the same for most of Business Toybox’s life: Attributes. These were just simple words and phrases that could be placed around the token in a special way and styled with certain colors to bring out additional meaning. That was the reasoning anyway, in truth they still felt lacking. You could, in theory, capture the key words and phrases that embody a Token, such as a Chef, but it was still hard to really grasp the why behind the Chef Token’s existence.
Tokens needed stories.
So, Tokens now have something called a Story, and it’s the first thing you see when you get up close to a Token and inspect it. Remove everything but the area where the story is written and it feels like these are just descriptions with better branding and a bit of typographic flair. You certainly wouldn’t be wrong were it not for the fact that we kept the Attributes. This lets you do something that can uncover a Token’s why in a pretty neat way.
If you have a website or are an avid user of an online writing platform, the design we’ve created for writing stories may look familiar. You can just click inside the designated writing area and type away, but we’ve also provided a few buttons to drop in headers and style paragraphs with bold sections as well as italicized parts.
We’ve also added an icon that vaguely looks like a highlighter, which starts out being greyed out an unusable. We haven’t had the time to come up with a clever or unique name for it yet (and we probably never will), so we’ll just call it the highlighter icon. Once a Token has some Attributes assigned to it, this icon becomes usable. Just select an attribute, highlight a portion of your story, and then click on the icon. You’ve now highlighted that area of your story with a color that matches the Attribute you picked earlier.
A simple highlighter tool by itself would be useful to highlight important parts of a story, but we’ve combined it with the Attributes so that you can highlight parts of the story that are relevant to that particular Attribute.
This is how Business Toybox encourages you to write better descriptions, or Stories as we call them. You could write the story first, then assign some Attributes to the Token, then decide to go back and edit your Story to contain more parts that reflect key Token Attributes. Alternatively, you could jot down the Attributes first, then write the story with those Attributes in mind. Either way, the Attributes are designed to sort of guide you. You could write a Story without any highlights from your Attributes, or create a Token with Attributes but lacking a Story, but you’d be missing out. Put together, these two parts of a Token bring better meaning to it.
Besides the main Story, you can also write additional stories for the Attributes themselves. These are intended to be smaller than the main Story, which led to them being called Short Stories.
There’s really not a whole lot to Short Stories. Indeed, in this case it’s actually more appropriate to say that these are just descriptions for your Attributes, but with better branding. We’ll still call them Short Stories for now though, with the idea that the name change alone might encourage you to be a little more descriptive when it comes to giving them detail. You don’t have to use them, but it can definitely help with potentially confusing Attribute names.
In the last blog post on the Kanban Canvases we talked about a new Token, and promised an announcement for that “very soon” (our own words). It’s been weeks since then, but phrases like “very soon” are pretty relative anyway. It could be months, could be years, could even be decades.
Ok, joking aside, we’ll tell you about some new Tokens either before the month is over or at the latest by the first week of February. Really. We just happened to be in a place where this announcement came out first. Next up, we’ll show off some new Tokens, as well as a way to manage the growing variety of them.