Universal Textbox

A proposal and working prototype for simple data collection and collaboration tool.

Google is known for it’s austere approach to simplicity in it’s search engine interface. It gives you what you want, when you want it, rather than everything you could ever want, even when you don’t. Lying beneath the surface are additional capabilities: enter ‘Taipei Weather’, ‘Apple Stock’, or ‘5*9+(sqrt 10)^3=’ for an immediate display of results that matter.

Twitter is the online equivalent of the office watercooler or a neighbourhood conversation. Dig deeper and you can see the ability to track trends, ideas, news, quick human answers, or friend sourcing.

Laconica, an open source community micro-blogging tool, extends and reveals some of what is hidden within twitter. With a simple text box you can capture data, tag it, broadcast to preformed groups, and engage in the kind of activities that make twitter such an attractive service.


The Universal Text Box is a desire to capture the simplicity of use inherent in these tools, tie it with hidden interactions needed for collaboration and idea capture, and allow for use across large and small groups of people.

A single textbox places an emphasis on the capture of data. The Universal text box allows co-workers to share their activities (what are you working on), follow others’ updates, capture ideas, tag content, and create memes. Further features: opt-in conversations, public and private groups within the network, replies and threads, tags, file and photo attachments, sending and receiving data via IM, SMS and Email, mobile clients, social bookmarking, events, functions (? search, ?translate), and ‘save for later’.

Universal text box allows for the capture of an idea, or the myriad of other types of data, when and where it occurs on the device you feel comfortable using (browser, mobile, pda). The same device connected to the service allows the user to participate in conversations and see updates from fellow team members.

Data can be sent to public or private groups – threaded discussions can start; files, bookmarks, and photos can be shared.

Key feature: In addition to simple symbols to represent tags‘#’, message to group ‘!’, and replies ‘@’, there are added function symbols that

Universal text box outputs standards compliant xml.

Possible initial positioning:

  • events calendar – people can quickly enter and discuss upcoming events. Natural language processing converts event data to a format readable by a multitude of display interfaces (iCal, GCal, Outlook, etc.)
  • crowdsharing – through bookmarkets and integration with outside services api’s, people can quickly share and discuss interesting finds and trends as they find them.


  • increased data capture results in greater awareness of co-workers activities; divorce people from email – share links, events, and have short form conversations
  • increased collaboration
  • idea capture – share and discussions results in both greater idea retention but higher quality ideas