Private Notebooks

One of the blogs in my RSS feeds spat up an article on making better use of your time.  The author went through and discussed some of the things he's done to make his workflow better and to eliminate some of the time sinks that inevitably creep into a daily routine.

While I'm onboard with some ideas (a couple of years ago I dropped almost all my mailinglists in favor of RSS feeds) and disagree with others (RSS feeds are for collecting -- gotta get 'em all!) what I want to talk about today is the idea of Evernote.

I was a OneNote fan for a long time. I still am. However, I switched to Linux two years back, and then moved to a Mac a few months ago. The switch to Linux required a virtual machine to keep OneNote around, but that was a little cumbersome. Then moving to a Mac, I wanted to integrate into that OS more. Thus, I switched to EverNote (Yay cross-platform!). Doubly helpful is their cloud storage of notebooks that I can see and use on many other devices.

I've glanced at OneNote a couple of times but never seemed to really get what it wanted me to do and what it could do for me. I've also looked at Evernote a couple of times with more diligence -- mostly because of the web-based service and being synchronized/accessible by iOS devices, of which I have a couple now. And today, triggered by the article above, I downloaded and installed Evernote.

Having done that I think I "get" what Evernote wants me to do, and what it will do for me. It is very cool -- the recognizing text out of images is neat, and upgrading to Premium might be worth it only for making all my vendor PDFs searchable from one place. But I'm still not sure I want to buy into it, and today I figured out why.

Evernote, and I presume OneNote, is a really well-done Wiki program. It is easy to get data in, easy to organize and find data, easy to store and easy to access. Evernote is a brilliant success at this.

The problem is: it is private by default.

Not just organization-private, but individual-private. By default, what goes into it isn't viewable by arbitrary people.

Which for a lot of applications, is great! You don't want your private business, your secret sauce, just out there for anyone to take and copy. This is the value you add.

Like the joker says, if you're good at something, never do it for free.

But for what I want, generally, I want public-by-default. A lot of the problems I see and fight with and solve professionally have proprietary details, but the underlying logic of how to line the hoops up to jump through to get the result I want -- that's general. And usually I solve it with some hints from the Internet, usually from other people's blogs and wikis showing what they learned when they did what I'm trying to do.

And therefore I feel a duty to give back to the Internet. Thus, the public wiki, where I put out what I've learned. There are some articles which I am proud of up there. (Some others, not so much.) And very occasionally I get an email from someone saying "thanks!" (or "you are wrong/incomplete, here's why"). But the hit counts on some articles keep going up. I'm doing my part to make the Internet include answers, not just questions.

Now that I've wrestled that revelation out of myself, I'm going to try Evernote for a while to see if it will fit in my workflow. I'll probably even up for the Premium for a year -- I've spent more than $50 on worse things.