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e-tipi sounds like a weird name for a web-based service, and when you find out it stands for “Espresso Thinking Platform,” things don’t become much clearer. But once you find out what the app’s developers think “Espresso Thinking” is, then you start to get the idea:
“We believe that sharing an espresso in a nice café creates a particular atmosphere that frees minds and promotes promising ideas to expressly appear. This is what we call Espresso Thinking.”
It’s a nice thought, but is that really something that can be captured in a web-based environment? I recently talked about the same kind of collaboration (lack of coffee products notwithstanding) in an article about my beloved sketchbook, so I was eager to find out if I could recreate the experience digitally using e-tipi.
e-tipi incorporates elements of Twitter, Digg, wikis and blogs to create a workspace in which ideas can be born and explored. Each user page is called a tipi, and it contains various ideas submitted by the tipi’s users. All of the ideas center around a central “challenge,” which the main problem or purpose of the tipi. Think of a challenge like a big picture problem that requires a multi-parted and multi-staged solution.
Along with your tipi page, you also get a unique email address that contributors can send their ideas to directly, for quickly adding to the tipi’s repository. You can also follow your tipi on Twitter, the stream for which is automatically updated with information of your choosing. I like both of these tie-ins, because they make e-tipi feel more connected with other networks, making it much more accessible, which is something I like in idea generation tools.
You can also export your data at any time as either XML or HTML, which makes it easy to plug into other tools, including database management software. It’s a nice way to help you organize the raw information you produce using e-tipi’s tools. A messy free-for-all is a good way to generate creative thought, but it may not be the best storage solution for more polished ideas.
Ideas are listed on their own separate page, and you can sort them by activity and date. Each idea listed shows votes for or against, total views, and the number of comments users have posted about each. You also get the idea’s title, its creator, any tags that may have been applied, and the status, if the idea has one. For each idea, an administrator can set the status to tell others how far along the process intis, using labels like “Accepted,” “Started,” etc. You can also filter your ideas list by keyword to narrow your search.
Each idea page looks a little like a Digg article page, complete with the text of the idea in question and comments made by other users underneath. You also get to see potentially related ideas listed at the bottom of the description page.
Other nice features of e-tipi include a tag cloud, and a member display, in which you can view a user’s profile information, and access information like how many ideas they’ve contributed to, including comments and voting, and how many documents they’ve contributed. You can also highlight certain areas in a Spotlight menu for quick access.
Overall, e-tipi is a very rough-cut tool, when measured against others I’ve tried in the past. It’s not exactly easy on the eyes, and at times it can even seem disorganized. Despite that sense of mess, or perhaps because of it, e-tipi does feel like something that could well operate as fertile ground for the generation and refinement of ideas. I like the sense of freedom inherent in the site, and the potential for unstructured, loose collaboration with a wide number of viewers.
Do you use a web app for idea generation and refinement? Which one?