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Ask HN: What's your ideal tool for collecting ideas or brainstorming?
23 points by itssho 49 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 27 comments
Does the current tool exist? Is it Trello? Why? I'm working on a startup that's trying to solve innovation management and we want to develop the best experience for capturing ideas possible. I would love to know what the HN community uses for ideas and not 'issues'. What I mean by that is you are probably putting things you are actioning on for sure in something like JIRA or Github right now (I'm a dev, so that's where my head is at). Thanks in advance for sharing!

It depends.

For drawing, diagramming, and writing things out, I often use an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, with the Paper app [0]. I find that writing with a pencil-type thing works better for me than typing.

I also do Rubber Duck brainstorming. This is often for asynchronous collaboration with other people. I'll start up an audio recording and kinda do a stream-of-consciousness thing. If necessary, I'll go through later and edit it or take more notes from what I just said. If I'm using Paper, I'll often do a screen recording at the same time, so I can talk while I'm drawing/diagramming.

If I _have_ to use other tools, I prefer Markdown over pretty much anything. I really like StackEdit [1] because it's browser based, easy to use, and easy to sync with git repos. I take session notes for my D&D group and they automatically get turned into GitHub Pages.

0. https://apps.apple.com/us/app/paper-by-wetransfer/id50600381...

1. https://stackedit.io/

I use a dokuwiki for persistently storing ideas, documentation, and notes for everything. I use the vi text editor to always keep open a few files for quick notes every day. I email URL's to myself. I use histories extensively (email history, Amazon history, web browsing history) for a variety of reasons (including figuring out what I was doing on a particular day). I have a couple curated URL lists. I keep stacks of small pieces of paper and pens everywhere including on my person.

I'd like to move some of the drawing and note taking to an electronic system, but the good ones are too expensive and don't have the privacy features I want (mainly the ability to keep notes transcribed, sorted, filed, searchable, and strictly local on my network). It would also have to be cheap enough that I could scatter many tablets+pens everywhere to make them easy to access. It would have to be pretty indestructible and have long battery life and be small enough to easily carry in a pocket.

I still email URLs to myself... I can't believe this hasn't been solved.

I'm firmly in the whiteboard camp. In fact, my team and I have doubled-down on it, creating https://ShareTheBoard.com. We simply couldn't live without boards, even as we're now all remote.

The app identifies and digitizes handwritten content in real time (without any special hardware), allowing remote participants to actually contribute to a real whiteboard session. The goal is to eventually have our cake and eat it too: automatically integrating the digitized content with a number of productivity tools.

If you have a chance, I'd love some feedback from any fellow whiteboard enthusiasts.

I should add: our app also works with pen and paper (and just about any other background/utensil). Some of us are tutors and use the app by simply pointing a webcam at a notebook.

Thanks to all of you who've already tried the beta. Thanks in advance to anyone else willing to give it a go. If you have questions/feedback hit me up at 'marcin at sharetheboard.com'

Pencil and paper is one of my ideal tools. However, definitely lacks the ability to expand an edit ideas as the ideas evolve.

After struggling to find a digital version that I liked, I decided to build my own. It's still quite early in development, but it focuses more on bottom up thinking which I've found particularly helpful when brainstorming.


Pen and paper is almost a musical instrument when you think about how many hours of practice it takes to be proficient.

The only ideation/brainstorming tool that I've stuck with is Notepad++. I will typically create a folder for each project with a project.txt in it (this makes it easier to search all projects using N++). The project files almost only use indentation for hierarchy and no other formatting. I think this simple and fast setup is why I keep coming back to Notepad++ after more than a decade.

So here's a couple follow ups based on these great responses... I do a lot of the things I've read in everyones comments. I do tend to lean more digital so things like Notes, Notepad, Markdown editors really resonate with me. However, my challenge is, I end up with a labyrinth of notes that I have to search by trying to remember what I've written in them etc. Then I want to share some of those ideas... so let's say its 10% of them. That's where things get difficult. How do I send those out? Email? How do I keep track of what people thought of them and whether or not I should take action on them. At what point does an idea become a task? Which leads me to another question ... how many of these "ideas" that everyone is recording on paper, digitally etc are possible tasks?

I realize this is like a fireside chat at this point, but its quite interesting and hope its sparking (no pun intended) some interesting thoughts (I just couldn't say ideas) for you as it is for me.

i use a super-simple 'email myself' app to type up a quick message so that it hits my gmail and i process it later.

usually that means looking at it, looking it up, figure out what, if anything i want to do with it.

i might delete it. i might archive it. i might bookmark it.

i might put it in my 8-mile-long notepad as 'idea: do this cool thing' so that i can find it later and see how bad of an idea it was, or on the very rare occasion, rethink thru it again, and/or even try to do something with it, bounce it off a friend, etc.

in the end, my two repositories are: notepad (which right now is 'Text' program on my Chromebook, backed by a google doc -- i.e. where the content/file actually lives) * gmail, just in my Archived email

i've never actually known the value of 'innovation management'.

always assumed it had more to do with PR -- "hey big company x, capture the _brilliant_ idea of your _brilliant_ people and make enough money next quarter that you won't get fired, or at a minimum you'll contribute to this idea of the company as being an egalitarian place, democracy, etc."

not hating, that's just my general impression.

This is a totally valid opinion of innovation management and I share it mostly... So quick background I've been involved in 3 startups now with varying degrees of success (1 included an exit). In all of those cases we had our early days where 'ideas' pretty much drove the bus. We had an idea... we validated it (at least in the 1 case of exiting lol) and grew from there. Then something happens when there are 50 people in the office... people have ideas... ideas about the product, ideas about the sales, ideas about the fridge in the break room. Whatever. Point is, now the path forward isn't so clear and version 2 of the product is not as obvious as version 1 was. Processes that worked in the beginning are straining and the founders don't always know exactly why. Do they need to be ripped out and replaced or just incrementally changed. Now in the case of a startup it means the founder clears the schedule, sits down with people and figures shit out. In a large company (250+ people) that's not even possible. It would have been nice if as a founder I didn't have to clear the schedule and brute force this, would have been nice if I could have had a pipeline of ideas that helped team leads quickly approve incremental changes and founders understand new problems and make larger strategic decisions without turning to divination :P (which happens). Sort of like a CRM for ideas... this is how I think about innovation management. Innovation shouldn't a new management objective that demands you show what you 'innovated' on this quarter or your fired.

I'm old school, so I use a paper notebook and a pencil or pen. Just never found anything digital or electronic that's even close being as efficient as a notebook. For collaborating at work, we use whiteboards extensively, to the point where we have literally painted the walls with whiteboard paint and every room has a pile of markers and erasers.

I usually use pen and paper for putting down ideas and making small diagrams of my ideas and if I am showing my idea to my friend or intend to build with them I would use miro. Its a great tool

Lastly if I'm out walking or an a train and have an AHA moment for an idea I would put that down in my phone notes app as a reminder

Bear Notes and 3x5 index cards, along with a Pilot G2 pen (they write well and they are cheap. I buy a big pack of them at Costco, and then buy another big pack when I run low).

I'd also like something to effortlessly record voice notes, but I still haven't found anything (though Just Press Record is very close)

I have a shell script

``` park “some hairbrained idea” ```

Adds a new line to a text file and clears the terminal.

I used to use Emacs org-mode now I just use Apple Notes, simply works. For small drafts whatever I need to do quickly without saving I use VSCode to keep text in the tab without saving to a file.

Right now currently I use my favorite pen, a Pilot G2 and a stack of 3x5 cards. I just blitz out one idea on one card as fast as I can without worrying about ordering.

Notes app on iPhone and Mac is surprisingly useful and flexible for capturing and evolving ideas from blank sheet to whatever their future holds.

For brainstorming, nothing beats a big ol’ whiteboard for me. Why are there walls that aren’t whiteboards? Such a waste

yes. At least one wall in the each room should entire whiteboard with auto clean option :)

I mean you are in well trodden space.. Evernote, etc... what's your angle? Collaborative? Distributed?

Obsidian for me

How do you use this for collecting Ideas?

Always pen and paper and away from screen, unless i need to do research.

I email myself when i get an idea. Works for the most part :D

If in person sticky notes work. You can also look at MIRO

I see so much MIRO and my experience is it works in the moment, but then it can be difficult to organize after the fact or really hard to focus on what's important if you were not a part of the ideation that happened.

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