A white board is similar to a chalk board, only you use nifty colored markers to write instead of chalk. The markers posess a special ink that adheres loosely to the surface of the board, known as dry-erase ink. Once the ink's solvent evaporates, the ink is easily removed from the board with a normal felt eraser. It becomes a fine powder that is much less messy than chalk dust.

Whiteboards are popular with people who are allergic to chalk, and also in computer environments where the much lighter and messier chalkdust gets into equipment. They also provide better contrast than chalk boards if you use high quality markers.

Sometimes someone will accidentally use a permanent marker on a whiteboard. Fortunately, the only difference between dry-erase and permanent marker ink is that the permanent marker ink adheres more strongly. The solvents are so similar that you can erase permanent marker by simply writing over it with a dry-erase marker and then wiping it clean.

Last March, at work, the construction of a new building was completed and I was among the lucky few to be part of the move. The new building, they said, was supposed to be much better: twice as many conference rooms! alcoves with tables and chairs for impromptu meetings! giant windows to the hallway on every office! an entire wall of white boards! And the new offices weren't much smaller. Why, we wouldn't mind at all- the sliding door didn't have to swing in to the office, so we wouldn't lose the space the wing range of the door would otherwise require.

Among the highlights of the new building were, as previously mentioned, the new whiteboards. Instead of having them on tracks to position them along a wall of your office, an entire wall of your office just is a white board. (They installed marker trays later.) These were new anti-glare whiteboards: instead of the mirror-like smooth finish of the previous building's whiteboards, these had a texture to them. Not that rough of a texture, just subtly pebbly; the intent was to scatter the light.

Of course, this texture made lots of little pockets in the surface of the white board, giving the ink plenty of places to cling. Leaning on the eraser was required to push it into the crevices, leading to wrist pain. This was exacerbated by using cheap dry-erase markers, with solvent that tended to dry up very quickly. Once the solvent in the ink is dry, of course, the marker ink bears a very strong resemblance to that of your average Sharpie.

Fortunately, the supply rooms had plenty of "board spray", more formally known as "White Board Cleaning Agent": the solvent in its purest form, in a little spray bottle. Hence, our dry-erase boards became wet-erase boards should the text remain on them for more than a few hours: a great deal like Vis-A-Vis transparency markers, except a great deal more expensive due to the relative costs of board spray and water. Usage of board spray, of course, skyrocketed.

The executives took note! This was a huge, unplanned utilization of an expensive resource! Something must be done! Their actions were swift and decisive. They removed all the board spray from the supply rooms in the building.

This "solution" in place, the engineers in the offices (and the Marketing people on the lower floors) had to find other sources for board spray. Some brought their own. Most, however, used the one remaining source of marker solvent in the building: markers.

An alternative method to unfreeze a stuck marker: scribble over it heavily with a fresh marker, wait ten seconds, erase. This wastes a huge amount of ink, but it does manage to remove the stuck marker. Hundreds of engineers now, on a daily basis, were scribbling heavily over their white boards just to remove something they'd written on a previous day, wasting a great deal of time and causing pain. White board marker consumption skyrocketed, because they were being used mostly to erase other white board markers. This cost far more than the board spray.

Marker usage, therefore, went way above quota. The executives took note! This was a huge, unplanned utilization of an expensive resource! Nothing must be done! After two or three multi-hour meetings, they concluded the sustained rise in white-board marker usage must be reflecting increased productivity on the part of the creative marketers and engineers in the building, obviously caused by the Enhanced Workplace Initiative, which must therefore be a total success. Because it is so clearly superior (by usage) to the previous versions, the textured whiteboards and off brand markers are now company standards, bringing this success story to all new offices as they are constructed or renovated.

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