Where’s the green elephant? part 1

It was a huge pleasure and very interesting to hear from John McGeachie of Evernote during my MBA Technology and Innovation class with Enrique Dans last week. However, my opinion of Evernote itself is mixed at best.

Almost but not quite

Evernote collects, organises and retrieves your notes and although the definition of ‘notes’ continues to broaden, I think that most people should intuitively know what their own use would be – photos, shopping lists, holiday plans, newpaper articles, ideas for books or presentations etc. In theory then this could be an excellent way to aggregate and externalise those things that interest you and a huge problem solved. For me, unfortunately not. Why?

Evernote should offer 3 things perfectly;

  1. Collecting should be simple,
  2. Organising should be fun,
  3. Retrieving should be quick.

In my opinion they fail on all 3 counts. And I will offer my opinion why, but first, let me paint you a picture of my average daily technological interactions so you know the context of my criticism;

iPhone wakes me up. Vaio open. Twitter, Gmail, FT and AlJazeera open. Since MBA, FB and Campusonline open too. Usually late and can’t read all I’d like to. Sometimes open interesting links in new tabs to read later. Never get around to them all.

Refresh podcasts on iPhone and walk to college listening to Football extra/Radiolab/Economist/NPR/WSJ.

Sitting in class. Attention span is about 20 minutes so inevitably go looking for distractions. Guardian sport, Linkedin app, Flipboard app, SkySports app, Marca app, TheJournal.ie app, BBC app etc.

Lots more skimming during other meetings or in study breaks with the rare post to twitter or FB and more recently this blog.

News catch up at the end of the day and usually some Comedy Central on Youtube.

In other words, I am the avid consumer of disparate content with a latent urge to organise, comment and share that Evernote should be able to pick up without blinking. I am young, engaged and forgetful. I should be among Evernote’s prime entry targets. Why don’t I use it then?

  1. Collecting – There is no Evernote button prominently displayed on most content providing websites. I have to go and install a webclipper which took an age to load and requires re-passwording frequently. Huge barrier for me. Lost me here.
  2. Organising –  I have a Vaio and so Evernote comes with the pre installed bloatware. I immediately uninstalled all this after asking my techy friends what to keep but for some reason tried Evernote. I found the UI uninspiring and impersonal (I’m thinking that for something where you are supposed to use to channel creative ideas a customisable background or nicer buttons/colours/simple design would bring me back)
  3. Retrieving is not quick enough. From forgetting, to opening the app, to getting the info out this is not as quick as using the search bar on my iPhone and going immediately online to relevant (and up to date) info.

I believe that Evernote falls into an unfortunate middle ground between essential software and frivolous app. I haven’t got the time to learn the tricks required to operate it smoothly even though I can see the eventual benefits. Nor does it communicate security and discretion enough to entice my previous employers to allow it as a business service i.e. whenever I was out on site to access sensitive documents. Nor is it so nimble and user friendly that I can download and start using immediately on all devices for personal use. It has failed by trying to be all things to all users.

For me its still Flipboard and a Moleskin for private use and Chrome folders/Google Drive and Dropbox for work.

However, they seem like an awesome company and for sharing their time with us I will give Evernote one last chance via iPhone and web and report back with Part 2. I’m sure you can’t wait…

Works for me

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