Dovetail Agent: Hello Tags, Goodbye WIPbins

Within Dovetail Agent, we’ve replaced WIPbins  with tags. I wanted to explain a bit of the difference, and some of the reasons why we did so.

What’s a WIPbin?

Your WIPbins (Work In Process bins) contain the objects on which you have agreed to work (that is, objects you have accepted from a queue) or that have been assigned to you.

Think of WIPbins like folders that can be used to organize your work.


What’s a tag?

Wikipedia says:

In information systems, a tag is a non-hierarchical keyword or term assigned to a piece of information (such as an Internet bookmark, digital image, or computer file). This kind of metadata helps describe an item and allows it to be found again by browsing or searching. Tags are generally chosen informally and personally by the item’s creator or by its viewer, depending on the system.

Tagging an object

Tagging an object (such as a case) in Dovetail is much like you would tag an object in other systems – such as tagging a photo in Flickr, or tagging a file on a Mac.

You can pick from your list of existing tags, or simply type in a new tag.


So why get rid of WIPbins?

With WIPbins, an object (such as a case or solution) can only belong to one WIPbin. But with tags, a case can have as many tags as we want.

For example, I may have a WIPbin named “Important”, and a WIPbin named “Waiting on Customer”. But what if I have a case that is important, and it’s waiting on a customer reply? That case can only be in one of those WIPbins at any one time. With tags, I can add two tags to the case: important and waiting-on-customer.

This gives me much more flexibility in how I organize my work.

My Work

Within Agent, the My Work view shows you all of your open, non-dispatched items, regardless of tagging. Think of this as a superset of all the items in all of your WIPbins, minus any that have been dispatched. After all, if you’ve dispatched an item to a queue, you don’t really need to worry about it anymore.



In addition, under Tags, we show you your opened, non-dispatched tagged items. For example, if you have 8 open items tagged as “important”, then you’ll see the “important” tag listed, and it will show you those 8 items.


This makes it super easy to access your open tagged items. Similar to a WIPbin, but more robust, as I explained earlier.

If you have zero open items tagged “important”, then the “important” tag is not displayed. This helps keep your workspace clean and uncluttered.

My Tags

The My tags page allows a user to do some tag management – including deleting or renaming a tag.

This page also shows how many items you have tagged, and can click on that tag name to see a result set of all the items with that tag..


Tag Queries

Cases (and other workflow objects) are in your WIPbin only if you own the case. And only if the case is open. If the case is closed, or assigned to another user, you lose the visibility.

With tagging, we can tag items that are closed. Or are owned by someone else. They won’t show under My Work, but they can easily be accessed with a query:


I’ve expanded the filters for this query, so you can see the specific query filters – All items tagged by me (annie) with a tag of “watch”. Notice we get open and closed cases, as well as cases owned by other agents.

Compatibility with other apps, such as the Clarify Client

Under the hood, an open case is still in a WIPbin. That is, the case is related to a WIPbin at the database level.  This allows us to maintain compatibility and co-exist with the Clarify Client. We just don’t show the WIPbin within the Dovetail Agent UI.

Extending tagging

I’ve blogged in the past how we can use this tagging functionality for even more kick-ass goodness. In that particular example, we can use a “watch” tag to stay informed about activity on cases that we want to pay attention to – regardless of who owns them.

Every day, lets send the user an email that rolls up all of the recent activity on their watched cases:



Hopefully this explains a bit of why we chose to use tagging, and hopefully you now understand some of the power that tagging brings to the party.

Rock on.