Interview with Gary Flake, CEO of Clipboard.

Use the link below to immediately get access and start using Clipboard:


Last week I spent some time talking to Gary Flake, the CEO and founder of Clipboard, about his tool for clipping and organizing the web. I have used Clipboard for several months, and I enjoyed talking with Gary and learning more about this tool.

There are three separate videos for the interview. The first gives a good overview of what Clipboard is and how it is being used. The second video discusses how clips are organized, and the final video briefly goes over how Clipboard came to be.

If you are interested in trying Clipboard there is a link to get immediate access at the top of this post.

Learn how Clipboard works

How to organize on Clipboard using tags

How Gary Flake came up with the idea of Clipboard


Part 1

Hi, this is Josh Davis with and today I’m excited to have Gary Flake with us, the CEO and founder of Clipboard and we’re going to talk a little bit about what Clipboard is and use cases and maybe hear a little bit about the marketing side.  So Gary, thanks for joining us, I’m excited to hear a little bit about Clipboard.

Oh it’s my pleasure, thank you for having me.

Can you just briefly describe what clipboard is for those who aren’t familiar with it?

Yeah. So Clipboard is simply the easiest way to get on the web that you want to be able to access from multiple places.  So if you think about the typical workflow where maybe you’re browsing the web, you want to highlight something, you hit CTRL-C, you have a Word document or email client and you paste into it, that awkward process is for many years this is how it has been how I and a lot of other people have been saving stuff that you find on the web.  You can also bookmark or take screen grabs or something like that.  What Clipboard is it’s a way of saving stuff that is almost better than anything that you can come up with in every dimension.  So it looks like the original source, the hyperlinks still work, it retains much of the functionality of typically videos and flash embeds will play .  So it’s basically just a highly functional way of just capturing part of the web.

Ok.  When your people are using it now, I don’t know if you guys use surveys or if you could just look at the overall, the way people are using it.  Who are seeing use it most and how are you seeing them use it?  Like what are some examples of uses that are popular?

So use cases that are visible that we can tease out from just looking at what public clips are out there and there’s also some use cases that you can only know about if you talk to people.  So we have a little bit of insight on both fronts. On the public side people are doing things that you would expect, they’re clipping everything from funny videos to funny images to products that they like.  So the typical use case of just here are visual things or articles that I like and that I want to share.  Another public use case that I think is pretty interesting is there is a pretty strong contingent of developers, web developers that are on the site that are clipping coat fragments, answer from staff overflow, projects description from Get Hub, other things of a technical nature and using it as a place to kind of share some of their best practices.

A third thing that we see in the sort of public arena is basically people just organizing around typical themes that they have a passion around where the idea of grabbing an image isn’t enough.  So for example if you really need a recipe and you’re really into cooking, an image of the dish isn’t really enough, you need ingredients and you need cooking instructions, you don’t want to do a search over those things.  So lot’s people coking recipes or other things that are kind of topically deemed like that.  But I think recipes is a really strong example.

Privately, this is where it gets a little bit murky because we absolutely respect people’s privacy, we treat a clip that is private and our clips default to private as personal email.  Someone might have a bank statement or might have medical records there, we absolutely do treat that as really sacred.  However we do observe ourselves, we talk to friends, we talk to family, we [inaudible] users to find out what they like and what they don’t like.  And there’s been a lot of interesting use cases you never know about without talking about people.  So for example some people are using for coordinating big decisions.  So let’s say you’re buying a house, it’s something that could take months or years to sort of research and when you’re doing this you’re looking at listings from say Zillow and Redfin, you’re looking at maps, reading things about school districts, you might be thinking about the services that you need to hire when you do it, you might take a snapshot of maybe a mortgage calculator, you might be clipping things from mortgage interest rates.  So there’s all sorts of things that go into making a big decision that you just need to pull together in one place.

Where we really shine I think compared to other services that are nominally trying to solve the same thing is that our clips can be easily shared on a one to one basis within the system itself.  So as an example my wife and I are both users of the system and when we’re coordinating a big decision like that I’m making an at-mention in the education to her and then it appears in our shared space.  So that becomes the basis of a lot of really interesting ad-hoc and dynamic collaborations.  So there are things that couples are doing together like coordinating purchases, planning trips, I’m going on a trip next week and I take all the information, I clip it and I also save it with my wife so she can see where the hotel is and what my flight is.

Other interesting things, teens are actually using it to clip things related about what they do, everything related to sharing best practices.  So on our team here we are frequently looking for new libraries, new best practices, new ways of building things or deploying things and just taking those little insights and sharing with the team is another interesting thing.  You can extend this to almost any domain so thinking about if you’re a recruiter clipping profiles from LinkedIn or personal blog pages.  If you are a marketer clipping competitive analysis on their websites.  If you’re an attorney clipping things that are prior [inaudible].  There’s all sorts of really kind of private use cases that are starting to blossom.

Part 2

Pinterest got me interested in the idea of better organizing photos and that led to the idea that I could organize other things like text and clips from articles. So I tried bookmarking sites and they were useful to some degree, but I really wanted to be able to organize more things. Clipboard allowed me to do that. And speaking of Pinterest; one of the number one requests in private boards. So its great like you are saying… Pinterest on one side where everything is public and then with Clipboard, everything defaults to private. So that is something I really enjoyed. One issue I had was, I was trying to organize some complex articles that had lots of different parts so I tried to use the tag system in Clipboard, but there were so many different layers and they all interacted in different ways so with the tagging system I was having trouble bringing it all together. Have you considered adding notebooks in addition to tags? Is that something you would consider doing in the future?

This is an interesting question and there’s actually a lot of issues that you’ve hit upon. There’s the question of tags vs. folders vs. boards or some other organizational principle, there’s the question of altering order and giving some degree of greater customization of whatever principle you’re using for organizing things.  One thing that I’ll hold up as an ideal from a UI perspective let me put out two things. First, it’s easy to add new features, hard to take them away.  Secondly, when you have competing metaphors that are not only for the same thing you can oftentimes end up with the worst of all possible world in some of the best.  I’m a fan of Hulu, I’m a subscriber of Hulu Plus, I really like it a lot.  But I say that as a user I struggle with their product because they have three conflicting metaphors for me trying to find stuff that I like.  They have subscriptions, they have a queue, they also have favorites on the website.  And for the life of me I still can’t figure out how do I find new shows of shows that I like.  [inaudible] those things and so my cognitive overload and trying to understand well is that in my queue or am I subscribed to that or whatever just kind of fails. I feel like if we added folders and tags we would end up with something that would have the same efficiency.  And I’ll be honest with you, I think Evernote suffers from that a little bit.  They have folders, they have tags, they have metadata so they have lots of different metaphors.

Gmail was very bold by saying we’re going to do tags, right, and we’ll have some higher level things like inbox, your sent and your trash is kind of like metatags in some sense.  And it’s kind of a mixed results in terms of whether that’s working or not.  So I’m just kind of painting out the landscape in terms of how we think about this.

Yes.  So to get a little more concrete with respect to your question, what we’re going to do in the near future is we’re going to elevate the notion of the tag as being much more of a first class citizen within the system.  We’re probably going to refine the language a little bit, we might end up calling a tag to be treating it as being synonymous with creating a clipboard and we’re going to give that a visual representation where it’s very clear that this is a first class atomic entity that you can take actions on.  So for example a tag will be a visual grouping of things, you will be able to share the tag, you will be able to act on a tag as a atomic unit.  And I think that that when people see that as a singular unit they’ll learn to understand that you can do actually anything with a tab that you can do with a folder and in some sense a tab is actually more powerful because you can have one object assigned at two tabs.  Whereas sometimes with folders it’s not clear whether they’re supposed to be non overlapping or not where tabs are clearly overlapping.

So we’ll get a little bit better in the future of promoting the idea that our organizational metaphor, a tag or a clipboard or whatever it is that we call it is a distinct unit that you can take actions on and you can share it and you can see them as things in their own right.  With all that said I’ll share with you a little bit of one detail about our trivial metrics.  Tags are wildly successful in clipboard so even though 70% of our clips remain private, 30% are public, over all clips approximately 40% of clips are tagged in some way which is an extremely high rate and about 60% of clips are imitated.  So our users have a very high level of engage on clips.  And so measured in that way tabs are working, people are back using them and [inaudible] of them is a good example of how hash texts eventually work very well also.

Part 3

Can you tell me a little bit about why you decided to create Clipboard?  Was it a certain pain point when you were researching or just a little about how it came about?

Yeah, yeah.  You know, I mean like a lot of your audience has been using the web for a long time and in my case it’s from 20 years.  And I have tried literally every single way of organizing subsets of the web that you can imagine.  I have done book marking, I have done Delicious, I have done screen grabs and I was pasting into documents.  I’ve built my own search engine, I’ve done all of these things in order to organize the things that I care about.  I even in my previous roles, I worked very hard on text for data visualizations and others things.  And it always felt like the experience of trying to save some part of the web was never good, it was always something wrong with it.  If I did it to use the technique that preserved visuals [inaudible] like a screen grab, well then [inaudible] all functionalities.  So links don’t work.  If I used it something that would preserve the links then I would lose the visuality or some other functionality.  And depending on whether you were using conflict online service or something that was integrated with the OS or the browser, there would be this tension between how easy it was to use and also the portability.  If I accessed the clip it would be bookmarks from everywhere.

And so this just really felt like it was still an unsolved problem.  I selfishly for myself wanted to be able to save a part of the web page, not the whole thing that retained a functionality of the part that looked how I remembered.  And I wanted to be able to access those clips from everywhere and I wanted the saving process to be simple.  And I felt a year ago no one had done this.  Maybe someone had done two out of four or something like that but no one had actually hit all of these points. And I really do believe that I don’t think we’re perfect on every point, we can always get better, I think we’re better than anyone in that regard.

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