Making Zoom cool again

Like many of us, I am sure I’ve done more Zoom calls in the last month than I might ever have wished to do. Basically Zoom works pretty well but there are a few things that I think could elevate the experience.

When you are in a real-meeting one of the great pleasures is to lean across to someone near you and add witty (or, perhaps, even useful) commentary. Zoom is all one way. I’d love to be able to pick another participant and have my audio channel go directly (and only) to them.

I’ve had some great conversations but found it would be interesting to know who was talking at different points, how much each of us was talking (am I hogging the mic) and so forth. Give me some meaningful stats about how we’re communicating.

What would you add to Zoom if you could?

What Mentat is for… networked collaborative thinking?

As I approached the 18th March 2020 (the 2-year anniversary of my starting work on Mentat) I realised my enthusiasm for the project had waned. Not in any major sense but I had hit some roadblocks and I had started making serious use of Roam. My will to overcome those roadblocks had been sapped.

Although Mentat and Roam are very different beasts, it’s clear that Roam with its ease of capturing and organising information overlapped with some of my own use-cases for Mentat. ‘Why hump a lot of rocks uphill if you’re just going to use Roam anyway?’ my thinking went.

And so for about 3 months nothing much happened.

Four things really kindled my enthusiasm again:

  1. Reading Andy Matuschaks notes and a cluster of his ideas about “Insight through making”, “Great tool-makers are often not great tool-users, and vice-versa”, and “Authored environments are significantly coloured by authors’ motivations”. Really all of his stuff… and it kindled my idea to talk to potential users of Mentat.
  2. So I had a demo/conversation with Metatone who had earlier expressed an interest in Mentat. As demos go it was mostly a disaster as there were many things that broke or just didn’t work at all. But it was enough to get us talking and I think we both felt a spark as we talked about the possibilities of networking our thoughts together.
  3. Tiago Forte’s idea about tools for creating outputs being more useful than tools that are about taking notes. While Roam is a tool for creating outputs I would argue that it’s most suited to creating writings. Mentat has a lot more structure and flexibility. Mentat can do a lot more outputting.
  4. I’ve spent 2 years on this thing and it’s soooo close. I may be a bad poker player but this thing is my baby and may even be a legacy (I hope I have other shots but COVID-19 isn’t over yet) don’t I actually want to finish and publish a 1.0?

So I have picked up Xcode again and am working on finishing 1.0. That is complicated by the fact that sharing/collaboration is definitely in scope for the 1.0 release.

I am still wrangling exactly how this is going to work but you will definitely be able to connect your own workspaces with the workspaces of collaborators and share and exchange Things (Mentats concept of the knowledge object) which will be able to interact with your own.

For example, a use case Metatone and I were both intrigued by was being able to pass a question to others and allow agents running on their copy of Mentat to interrogate it, see if it’s interesting to their user, assemble any resources of theirs that might be relevant, and allow them to construct an answer.

While 1.0 won’t be able to do all of that it will allow us to play with the construct.

I’d love to talk to anyone else for whom tools like Evernote, Tinderbox, TheBrain, Notion, and even Roam itself are not the whole answer. I want my work to be driven by smart people with wicked problems of their own to solve. If that sounds like you, please get in touch.