Converting flipchart knowledge

Picture the scene.

You’re running a workshop or seminar, or participating in one. It’s great, you’re with a really stimulating group of people. Lots of discussion. One of the tools you use to express your ideas and get your points across is the good ol’ flipchart or whiteboard,
those mainstays of office meeting rooms, conferences and other events.

Your event ends. And what about all those great ideas written on the whiteboard or paper flipcharts with marker pens? Someone might try and transcribe them later (nightmare!) or you might tear off the flipchart sheets and take them with you and think about scanning them or something. Usually, though, they’ll sit in a corner somewhere until they’re consigned to the rubbish bin. Knowledge and ideas forgotten about.

Not necessarily.

What I’ve been doing for some months is photographing whiteboards and flipcharts with my Nokia N70 cameraphone (such as at the workshop I co-presented in London earlier this month). At least I have a record even if it is just a 2-megapixel digital image file. I can share it so everyone can still have that information.

Far from ideal, though. The images are often dark or a bit out of focus. I could then spend ages tweaking them in Photoshop or some such app. But it’s about the best you can do until you can get hold of one of these gadgets.

Then, via Techcrunch, I found out about scanR.

What a neat service. You email your photos of whiteboards or flipcharts, as well as documents, to scanR. It then converts those images into searchable PDF files. It cleans the photos, tags the documents with extracted keywords, and emails the results to you as PDF files (or sends them as faxes if you prefer). Here’s the detail of how the free service works.

And look at this example – a (reduced) photo of a flipchart I took at that London workshop:

I transferred the camera photo to my PC and emailed it (and one other) to scanR. Here’s that same photo cleaned up and converted by scanR to PDF, which I received within 30 minutes:

(Here’s the PDF if you want to see the results for yourself.)

Imagine – your event ends, you email the photos you took of the flipcharts or whiteboards to scanR. You include your colleagues’ email addresses as well as your own for delivery, and scanR sends you and your colleagues the PDFs.

Sweet and simple. I know what I’ll be doing at more events where flipcharts are in use and there’s a network connection handy.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Gaye Markley

    Interesting article – You may want to check out Whiteboard Photo. This software will allow you to take a picture of any surface with your digital camera, under any lighting conditions, from any angle, and the result will be a clean, crisp, head-on colour image of your surface material; whiteboard, paper flipchart page, chalkboard, etc. See for full details. For true collaboration, check out “Thunder”, the *virtual* flipchart system at; it allows people from anywhere in the world to collaborate online, in real time, using a flipchart-style projected graphical interface.

  2. neville

    Thanks for the tip, Gaye. A little tongue-in-cheek, perhaps, given that you are associated with Polyvision (at least, the web address linked from your name is to the Polyvision website).

    The software product you link to costs money ($249) whereas scanR is free. It seems to me that scanR can do what your product can do. So for someone like me who would want to do what I described in my post, where’s the compulsion to buy your software?

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