Clew is a modern online workspace for organizing and sharing all knowledge. It's a system that lets you organize and utilize different types of content like; notes, local files, todos, resources stored in external tools like Google Drive, Dropbox and Box, or content from tools like GitHub, Jira and Figma, all in one central place.

Clew's system creates a central source of truth that's highly searchable and easy to navigate. It facilitates workflows and collaborative work by making it easy to find information and context quickly.

The building blocks of Clew

  • All content within Clew is represented by what we call a Block. A Block is a single file, note, to-do list, or any other piece of unique information or data represented within Clew.
  • You can embed multiple Blocks within Stacks to link them together and create the context needed for a project, document, or any information you want to connect and present together. Stacks can also reference other Stacks, simply by embedding a Stack within another.
  • The system represents all your knowledge in a directed graph, where each node is a Block and each edge is a link between two Blocks created through any Stack. Any given Block can be represented in multiple positions by being linked to more than one Stack; giving teams and users the freedom to create any number of Stacks, to suit their preferences or based on the needs of future work, by reusing and remixing existing blocks of knowledge, without divorcing them of their context.

The current state of knowledge work

  • Over the last decade, as cloud services became the default, we saw our work move to the cloud with it. Files and data got siloed across disparate tools, adding an additional layer of complexity to collaboration. Today, we write documents in one tool, track projects in another, communicate on Slack or Teams, design in Figma, and the list goes on.
  • The recent trend of remote-first work has further exacerbated the problems we have with today's digital, omnichannel workspace.
  • We also generate an incredible amount of data as we work. Without a robust organizational system, having to collaborate across the boundaries of different tools and content created by different people, induce friction on all our workflows. It's no surprise knowledge-workers are estimated to spend upwards of 25% of their work hours just looking for information.
  • The ways we handle omnichannel knowledge today have many shortcomings.
    • There's no organic way to organize and utilize different types of information, from multiple sources, in one place.
    • It's hard to trace some work to the context in which it was created, either as an audit trail or for future work.
    • It's impossible to retain context across different work that reuses some or all of the same knowledge.
    • It's impossible to search across all knowledge, from one place.
  • We pay for the problems created by all of the above by relying on people to give us context or point us in the right direction, which is a leading cause of information overload and stress at work. 8x8 survey of knowledge workers

Existing solutions

  • Most users hack together information management systems on top of powerful note-taking tools.
    • They're only as useful as the continuous work you put into maintaining them.
    • They require having to settle for a general convention that tries to fit everyone and every type of work.
    • They follow a pattern akin to a file-cabinet with its ensuing taxonomy of categories, topics and folders that contain files or units of knowledge. The constraints created by this approach make it difficult to reuse and remix information.
    • It's difficult to cross-reference knowledge and work.

A flexible framework for different types of work

  • Knowledge is used for different kinds of work. This is especially true for collaborative work in a business setting. This presents a challenge for any tool that's tasked with improving productivity in this context. Not only do they need to keep things organized, but they also need to be good at surfacing and presenting knowledge in a multitude of different ways to make them useful for different stakeholders.
    • Consider the case of using this system at an agency that needs to manage many clients who each have several projects.
      • A single client can have one root Stack (a).
        • This Stack (a) links to individual Stacks (b,c,d) for each project.
        • Each project is a single Stack (b,c,d) containing documents, files and other Stacks (e,f,g) that link out to individual sub-projects that make up this parent project.
        • The Stacks (e,f,g) for sub-projects may contain more documents, checklists to track and denote progress, or any number of other Blocks as needed.
      • Using the above resources, now;
        • A designer in the team could create a Stack (x) of their own, to keep track of their work. They could reference the related project Stacks, Blocks of files and notes that are relevant to them, and create their own to-do lists.
        • A manager could create a private Stack (y) containing all the to-dos and task Blocks across all the project Stacks, giving them one view that lets them track the overall progress of the entire project, from one view.
        • Anyone can search for a client, project or stakeholder to view Stacks that fully capture some work. They can see all related Blocks, browse through versions and organically navigate to the information they need.

Workflow agnostic

- The system lets users create Stacks out of any available knowledge on an ad-hoc basis to suit any situation.

An extensible model that can retain the context of work

  • We use more data-types for our work than ever before. Knowledge, collective and otherwise, is highly fragmented across all the tools and places we conduct work. The context surrounding this work is created as we think, perform actions and discuss, this context is rarely retained in any useful manner unless we deliberately document.
  • Without good documentation, work becomes increasingly strenuous. We create more distractions for ourselves, as we look for information, and for others when we interrupt their workflows.
  • The fundamental building blocks of our work; the design files, documents, emails and code, are all discrete, individual items that are all related to each other. In order to provide context for everyone, we need to be able to organize these blocks beside relevant notes, comments, and iterations that happen over time. This requires a system that captures work as it evolves over time, without losing the history of how it got there or where it was used before.
  • Each individual Block is a rich element that summarizes or previews the content within. They support versioning, so things can be updated without losing prior context while staying in place across all the Stacks it's used within the wider system. A central source of truth, that facilitates current and future work.
  • In the future, the system will be open to developers via an API that lets them create custom Blocks to hold any type of content they want to capture within the knowledge system. This can include additional integrations, data from internal tools, etc.

A secure model for selective sharing

  • While sharing is an essential part of work, we rarely need to share everything. In fact, in most cases, it's much more useful to share what's relevant, just as long as it provides all of the context.
  • Stacks can be private, shared within a team or with specific individuals, or they can be public. Sharing a Stack means giving access to view and/or edit the Blocks nested directly within it.
    • If you want to share only some of the Blocks within a Stack, you can simply create a new Stack with just the relevant Blocks and share that instead. Remix and reuse without having to concern yourself with creating noise and clutter.
  • Blocks inherit their permissions from the Stacks they're placed in. Data can also be encrypted in storage and transit at the Block level as an additional security layer for sensitive content.
  • Managing permissions at the Stack level provides sufficient granularity for sharing without compromising the entire knowledge system.

Reducing noise

  • The work we do online has a lot of side effects, a lot of which are notifications. However, today, we use way too many tools and services that notifications are often unwelcome distractions that put us in a state of hyper-responsiveness and hinder our ability to get into flow, to do our best work.
    • flow
      • Hungarian-American psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, coined the physiological state of “flow” back in in 1975, as a state of deep immersion in a single task where the rest of the world seems to just slip away. McKinsey found that when executives are in flow, they are up to five times more productive.
      • What we call multitasking is, in actuality, task switching, because it’s just not true that we can pay attention to two things simultaneously. After a notification has forced us to switch between tasks, it can take us about 23 minutes to get back to the task at hand, according to a study from University of California, Irvine. When you consider that the average executive touches their phone 2,617 times a day, checks emails 74 times a day and receives 46 smartphone notifications a day, it’s likely that most executives never spend any time in flow at all. source: HBR
      • “But notifications help me stay on top of things, and I don’t tap them each time they pop up anyway,” some might argue. Whether you follow a notification or not, your train of thought will inevitably be interrupted by your noticing, processing, and determining whether or not to respond to the notification. Recent estimates find that while each task switch might waste only 1/10th of a second, it can add up to a 40% productivity loss if you do lots of switching in a day. This number might be higher if benchmarked against an executive who spends several hours a day in flow. source: HBR
  • Push-notifications should be limited to informing a user of some activity that is time-sensitive and require some immediate action or attention. Other notifications around general activity, like comments on a document, are only useful when they're relevant to the work you're about to start.
  • Stacks represent all the pieces of knowledge that go into some work. Each Stack, therefore, can track its own changes and handle notifications from underlying Blocks (when these Blocks represent content from external tools), giving users control of how and when they filter down to relevant updates. Like any tool, its usefulness comes down to how you use it.

Why this matters to organizations

  • Companies stand to benefit from helping their people get a better handle on the problems induced by today's digital, omnichannel workspace. A system like Clew can create more time for workers to think and produce by helping them find and process information more efficiently.
  • Address information overload and simplify work with a better knowledge management system.


  • Managing increasing amounts of information is a growing pain for individuals and organizations alike, it has been since the days we stored files in folders and folders in cabinets.
  • Our vision is to give users and teams a set of tools they can use to organize and share knowledge in ways that best facilitate their thinking and workflows. It is made possible by a knowledge management system that can accurately capture, present and keep track of all knowledge, of different types and from different services, under one unified system.
  • Our mission is to help people accomplish the best work of their lives, sooner.

If you're wondering about the bullet-point structure, this is an export of the Clew Whitepaper I originally wrote and hosted on Roam.