Development story The Making of Breakfast

You know what a slide projector is, right? It projects photos converted to reversal film on a wall or screen. This was a widespread presentation tool in business and schools in the 1960s. The slide projector is where the word “slideshow” comes from.

Later on, in 1987, PowerPoint arrived on the scene, heralding the age when presentations became synonymous with the software. Of course, in the 30 years since the first release of PowerPoint, many other presentation tools have also come out. Even so, the practice of displaying slides in a predetermined order, which began in the days of the slide projector, has not fundamentally changed.

There are many advantages to these slide-based presentations. The frame appears steady and the presentation feels comfortingly sequential. It’s a simple, clear format, like flashcards. You could say it’s the best way to explain a chart or graph. Maybe that’s why this approach has been entrenched for years and plenty of people still like it.

There are drawbacks, however. Since each slide is its own page, the connection to the preceding and following slides is cut off. To avoid that, people tend to cram a ton of information onto one page.

The Beginning

I’ve been working in visual design for more than 20 years. In those first few years on the job, creating beautiful visuals was key. But as I continued with my work, sharing ideas with associates and colleagues grew more important. So I started using slide-based presentations. The first version of the macOS presentation tool Keynote came out in 2003 or so. It had a major impact at the time and it changed my work for the better. It was just the right upgrade in communication quality that slides were needing. At the same time, though, slide-based presentations started to feel constricting. This was around when I started using these presentations for numerous events like company seminars and university lectures, and it got me thinking.

I wondered, what if instead of dividing a presentation into slides, you made it a continuous flow, like a story? What if you could leave the layout to tools so you can spend more time on the content? And could I fashion a way to encourage audience participation?

At some point when I was pondering these musings, I started up the Breakfast project. In 2013, I started using JavaScript and PHP to make my own presentation tool.

Working alone and with nobody aware of what I was up to, I developed this tool for giving university lectures. In 2017, the macOS app came out and it was a huge help for my lectures and presentations.

Then, in 2018, I made a decision to let lots of other people use this tool and experience a new kind of presentation.

This was around when I started talking with WOW about development. Now, one year later, I’m writing these words you’re reading. The history of Breakfast has only just begun.

One Part of a Longer Story

Many a presentation is given in more than just a single event. In work, for example, you may need a number of presentations as a project progresses. When you take a class at a university, the content gets divided into 15 sessions of 90 minutes apiece. Breakfast is a tool that is designed for these kinds of long-term projects. It lets you add multiple presentations to a single file.

Breakfast feels like you’re making a simple mind map, telling the whole story behind a long-term project. Each presentation is one part of a longer story. That’s what it seems like.

Roaming the Commons of Ideas

Thinking about what to say is a very creative act.

An intriguing thing is that when you speak, you may notice something new. You might be surprised to realize what you were actually thinking. You have to be objective when you’re sorting, sifting through and generalizing information because that’s how you are able to subconsciously form an understanding of something from multiple points of view.

It’s like preparing a notebook and adding pages to it, placing a manuscript on the desk and skimming it to form a plan, or shifting between several manuscripts quick and easy.

To guide you toward these insights, Breakfast lets you wander through multiple presentations at a time. It uses a hierarchical structure with minimally categorized information. This let’s you switch between presentations quickly.

A Story Yet Unfolding

I once came upon a book by D. T. Suzuki, “The Eastern Way of Seeing Things,” and there’s one part about “inseparable thoughts.” I recall being impressed by his words on, rather than separating things and looking at individual things and the world of the many, finding the value in the headwaters from where they were originally connected. I also found some research on the history of the scroll, a form of media that originated in China, on how it underwent a unique evolution in Japan to produce scrolls with alternating text and pictures. Scrolls were originally used primarily for pictorial records or illustrated diaries, but in Japan, people started lining the scrolls with text, then an illustration, then text, and so on. This format was especially suited to telling a story. I remember being amazed at the ingenuity of our ancestors. Naturally, these encounters weren’t the direct inspiration for Breakfast, but I think they at least had some effect on my ideas for its development. Aspiring to create a uniquely Eastern form of media may be a stretch, but it was about having a bit of doubt about conventional means, and trying to do things my own way. These encounters have provided me the drive to take up the challenge.

You won’t know whether Breakfast’s approach suits you and your purposes or not until you give it a whirl, but it’s this kind of trial-and-error that may help you establish your unique style. That’s what I’m hoping more and more BreakFast will do now as it remains in beta.

April 2019
Breakfast Developer / WOW Inc.
Mamoru Kano

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