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(Archived) Reminders - broken by design

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The Reminders feature has been rolled out to all platforms except Windows by now. I was able to use them with iOS and Android - unfortunately my MacBook Air is being serviced right now, so i can't say for sure what happens on OS X. What i can say is what i assume should happen from experience with other apps - and here are my observations:

 

iOS supports two kinds of notifications: local and push. Local notifications are created by an app and put in a queue where they wait until iOS shows them. Push notifications are sent from the cloud whenever they are needed - think of notifications from Twitter, Facebook, etc... Android's equivalent is called 'Google Cloud Messaging for Android' or 'GCM'.

 

What Evernote does with reminders in iOS is the following: Local notifications are created by the app and put in the queue mentioned before. When Evernote syncs the note with the reminder to their servers, NO push notification is created. The note with the reminder is synced back to all other devices automatically or manually. Automatically for example on Android devices if you set up background sync. Manually for iOS devices because no background sync is possible on this platform.

 

Now take for example an iPhone and an iPad. Create a reminder on one device and wait for its notification: Right, you only get it on the device it was created on. Why is that? Like i said before, iOS lets no app sync in the background. 

 

This is exactly the problem, that mcmatt has outlined here: gazumped is wrong, because it has nothing to do with any rollout and Metrodon's suggestion to sync manually is pointless, if there's already a working solution for this problem. And who reminds me to sync all my iOS devices manually if Evernote can't do it?

 

Add a Nexus 4 to the iPhone and iPad. On the Nexus 4 Evernote is set to sync every two hours in the background to preserve valuable battery life. Let's assume it's 8:00 AM and you create a reminder for 8:30 AM on your iPhone/iPad and see what happens: The device you created the reminder on, will display a notification, the other one will not. The Nexus 4 will display a notification if Evernote synced in the background after you created the reminder and before you wanted to be notified. Now add a Nexus 7 to the mix as well and create a reminder on it: You'll get no notifications on the iPhone & iPad. And, like before, you'll only get a notification the Nexus 4 if it synced at the right time.

 

Would you call that reliable, robust or user friendly? Hardly.

 

The proper technical solutions are available and if Evernote used them, it would work like this: Set up a reminder on any iOS or Android device and it is triggered on all your iOS or Android devices without any manual syncing. You could even turn off Evernote's background syncing on Android completely and still get notified.

 

To me it seems like this feature was rushed out the door without too much thinking about it - with other words: broken by design. It's up to Evernote to fix this as soon as possible, so that people can properly use reminders on their iOS and Android devices.

 

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There seems to be more to reminders than at first appears.

 

Did you notice that if you send an email into your account you get an answerback from Evernote explaining how you can 1) set the subject line, plus ! your preferred reminder date @ notebook and # tags, and 2) suggesting you go to your account page to set the time zone that you want your reminders to be set to?

 

This is a new release that Evernote haven't made any great claims for (yet) and - due respect - you use it at your own risk and after finding out how and where it works.

 

It wasn't exactly a surprise to me that Evernote syncing between different clients is a haphazard process largely affected by whether they're switched on at the time or not..

 

And Met telling the guy how to sync was actually answering a direct question as far as I can see.

 

If you don't want to use new features then you always opt out and stick with an earlier version, or try that Microsoft thingy - oh wait. They don't do reminders at all, do they...?

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gazumped, your examples what can be done with reminders per E-Mail show how valuable the service could be, if it worked correctly. But it doesn't: If you send an E-Mail to your Evernote account to create a reminder with certain parameters, it will still only trigger a notification on the devices that are manually (iOS) or maybe (Android) synced to grab that note from the server. Again, Push would have been the perfect solution.

 

Sorry, i don't care if Evernote "made any great claims" about this feature. Reminders were announced officially on their blog in separate articles for different platforms. I guess that i'm wrong, if i expect officially launched features to work properly. I guess that i'm also wrong, that i EXPECT new features to be tested BEFORE they are released. Are reminders still in beta or any other testing status? No, they are not.

 

If Evernote used push notifications from the beginning, like Twitter, Facebook, Google, WhatsApp, Gmail, Remember The Milk, - this list could go on and on - then there would be no need to think about "whether they're switched on at the time or not", because it wouldn't matter.

 

About Metrodon's reply: Sorry, i didn't in any way intend to devalue his answer. What i wanted to say was that the solution itself was pointless.

 

My criticism of the way Evernote handles notifications has nothing to do with not wanting to use the product. Quite contrary, i love Evernote, but i get annoyed if features that could be extremely useful turn out to be limited and unreliable. And i couldn't care less, if "that Microsoft thingy" OneNote supports reminders or not, because i don't use it.

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The Reminders feature has been rolled out to all platforms except Windows by now. I was able to use them with iOS and Android - unfortunately my MacBook Air is being serviced right now, so i can't say for sure what happens on OS X. What i can say is what i assume should happen from experience with other apps - and here are my observations:

 

iOS supports two kinds of notifications: local and push. Local notifications are created by an app and put in a queue where they wait until iOS shows them. Push notifications are sent from the cloud whenever they are needed - think of notifications from Twitter, Facebook, etc... Android's equivalent is called 'Google Cloud Messaging for Android' or 'GCM'.

 

What Evernote does with reminders in iOS is the following: Local notifications are created by the app and put in the queue mentioned before. When Evernote syncs the note with the reminder to their servers, NO push notification is created. The note with the reminder is synced back to all other devices automatically or manually. Automatically for example on Android devices if you set up background sync. Manually for iOS devices because no background sync is possible on this platform.

 

Now take for example an iPhone and an iPad. Create a reminder on one device and wait for its notification: Right, you only get it on the device it was created on. Why is that? Like i said before, iOS lets no app sync in the background. 

 

This is exactly the problem, that mcmatt has outlined here: gazumped is wrong, because it has nothing to do with any rollout and Metrodon's suggestion to sync manually is pointless, if there's already a working solution for this problem. And who reminds me to sync all my iOS devices manually if Evernote can't do it?

 

Add a Nexus 4 to the iPhone and iPad. On the Nexus 4 Evernote is set to sync every two hours in the background to preserve valuable battery life. Let's assume it's 8:00 AM and you create a reminder for 8:30 AM on your iPhone/iPad and see what happens: The device you created the reminder on, will display a notification, the other one will not. The Nexus 4 will display a notification if Evernote synced in the background after you created the reminder and before you wanted to be notified. Now add a Nexus 7 to the mix as well and create a reminder on it: You'll get no notifications on the iPhone & iPad. And, like before, you'll only get a notification the Nexus 4 if it synced at the right time.

 

Would you call that reliable, robust or user friendly? Hardly.

 

The proper technical solutions are available and if Evernote used them, it would work like this: Set up a reminder on any iOS or Android device and it is triggered on all your iOS or Android devices without any manual syncing. You could even turn off Evernote's background syncing on Android completely and still get notified.

 

To me it seems like this feature was rushed out the door without too much thinking about it - with other words: broken by design. It's up to Evernote to fix this as soon as possible, so that people can properly use reminders on their iOS and Android devices.

I don't know why you say Gaz is wrong.  He is right.  Reminders have been rolled out in stages, not all at once.  Metrodon was right, too.

 

Evernote has never utilized push technology.  I don't know if they intend to do this or not.  If they do, I guess they could have waited until that was fully functional across all platforms, but then you'd have people pissed about that because they could begin using the reminders w/o push technology.  Damned if you do & damned if you don't.  Especially since due dates have been on the (very short published) list of coming attractions for years. 

 

It's been posted on this board many, many times that EN is not striving to be another hard core task list manager, so if you need one of those, get a true task list manager.  It appears that is still the case. 

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BurgersNFries, i never said that Reminders weren't rolled out in stages - please re-read my initial post. What i said, was that not using push notifications has nothing to do with rollout stages.

 

It's true, that Evernote never has utilized push technology and why should they have? There was no use case where it would have made any sense. Evernote requires iOS 5 or higher - push notifications are part of iOS since version 3.0 from 2009. So there is not one single reason not to utilize push notifications at least on iOS. 

 

I need no "true task list manager" - i just want a feature to be robust, user friendly and reliable. Do i ask to much here?

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BurgersNFries, i never said that Reminders weren't rolled out in stages - please re-read my initial post. What i said, was that not using push notifications has nothing to do with rollout stages.

 

It's true, that Evernote never has utilized push technology and why should they have? There was no use case where it would have made any sense. Evernote requires iOS 5 or higher - push notifications are part of iOS since version 3.0 from 2009. So there is not one single reason not to utilize push notifications at least on iOS. 

 

I need no "true task list manager" - i just want a feature to be robust, user friendly and reliable. Do i ask to much here?

 

 

Well, yes, it kind of does have to do with rollout, since each client would need to have it incorporated & ready to go. 

 

And yes, there could be benefit to push technology prior to reminders.  That way people wouldn't have to wait for their computer/device to sync when moving to a different one. 

 

As far as asking "too much".  No.  But it remains...if the app doesn't do what you need it to do, get another app.  Doesn't mean you're asking for too much.  Just something the app is not currently (and may never be) designed to do.

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Seeing as this appears to be going on in two threads....

 

In your opinion broken, Evernote may choose to say that they have made a design decision to utilise their own sync framework rather than coding separate versions for each individual platform. Or they may say that push is coming. Broken it certainly isn't.

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Guest mrossk

@derlinzer

How should Evernote solve this problem?

If they push the reminder than it is possible that a new note does not exist on the target device or an existing note has an older content because the note has changed a few seconds before on the source device. What should happen then?

Force the target to sync the whole note? The target device could be in GSM connection and be set to NOT sync at GSM connections. This would be a conflict. I think this is one problem.

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@BurgersNFries: You seem to mix up background sync and push notifications. The latter has nothing to do with automatically updating notes on different devices.

 

@Metrodon: Yes, it would be interesting, why Evernote implemented it this way and if there are any further plans.

 

@mrossk: Easy answer: the mobile apps of Evernote have a toggle switch in their settings to allow sync only when WiFi is available. If this switch is on, it would automatically disable push notifications. If it is 'off', then push notifications would be enabled triggered. Only when you open the app, the note - and perhaps others  - would be downloaded over GSM. And don't forget, there are devices that only have WiFi (like the iPad without 3G). They would get the notifications as well. You see, a simple solution.

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So, it's not really broken then? Want me to change the thread title for you?

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@Metrodon: A feature of a universal - iOS and Android are the ones i use it on - app that without further user interaction works only on a per device basis is broken in my opinion. Think of other apps that use push notifications: Would it make for example any sense to write a mail in the Gmail app and get a notification for the reply only on the device the mail was written on? If you can answer that with a clear 'yes' please go on and change the title...

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@BurgersNFries: You seem to mix up background sync and push notifications. The latter has nothing to do with automatically updating notes on different devices.

Ok, I'll give you that. Still doesn't change the fact that the EN reminders are not "broken". 

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This thread seems overly hostile. Too much time spent arguing if the reminders are technically 'broken' or not. I think that the core reminders feature as currently implemented is useful. You can open up Evernote on your device, sync and check the status of the reminders for the day. For many people and use cases this is ok. I agree with derlinzer however that the 'notification' portion of reminders is NOT useful as implemented. Especially given that the mobile platforms do provide the proper native services to make sure you always get notified regardless of the local sync state etc.

 

I think it would be more constructive to just focus on expressing our desire that Evernote please implement proper push notifications so we can trust the reminders feature to reliably 'remind' us.

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To me it seems like this feature was rushed out the door without too much thinking about it - with other words: broken by design. It's up to Evernote to fix this as soon as possible, so that people can properly use reminders on their iOS and Android devices.

 

 

I fully agree. Be careful, however, when you post criticism of EN, or the evangelists will jump in and correct you to apologize for EN... oh wait, that has already happened... :-)

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I apologise for constantly apologising,  and for often spelling it differently 'cause I'm English.  :P

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Well said gazumped! Or perhaps it should be spelled "gasumped" since you're English? :-)

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@Metrodon: A feature of a universal - iOS and Android are the ones i use it on - app that without further user interaction works only on a per device basis is broken in my opinion. Think of other apps that use push notifications: Would it make for example any sense to write a mail in the Gmail app and get a notification for the reply only on the device the mail was written on? If you can answer that with a clear 'yes' please go on and change the title...

 

So we'll agree to disagree - Evernote have made a design choice and coded to meet that choice. If you can find a bug in the implementation then we can say that it is 'broken'.

 

But just because it doesn't work the way that you want it to doesn't mean it's broken, it means that you if you had control of 200+ people and had 50m+ customers you would have made a different decision. It may even be that if you put yourself in Evernote's shoes you might make the same decision that Evernote have.

 

I'm not in any way apologising (apologizing for the hard of thinking) for Evernote, they are big and ugly enough to do that for themselves if they feel the need to. I'm just stating fact, this is how it is right now, this is what they've chosen to do and until (if ever) they decide to add push notifications this is the way it will stay.

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I fully agree. Be careful, however, when you post criticism of EN, or the evangelists will jump in and correct you to apologize for EN... oh wait, that has already happened... :-)

If you feel the need to criticize any user (evangelist or not), feel free to use the report button. Otherwise, these posts you keep making against a group of users are too general & not constructive.

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@johnmarshall4: Well said, nothing more to add.

@Metrodon: The bug is not in the implementation of the feature, it is in the design of it (reread Gmail app example).

@mogf01: Thanks for the support ;-)

@BurgersNFries: I don’t feel like I need to criticize anyone and did not. I criticized a feature of Evernote. That’s all. Perhaps, you mix things up again - remember push notifications and background sync - and mistake mogf01's - who agrees with me on this matter - post for one of mine.

So I should stop posting, because my opinion is not that of "a group of users"? Who belongs to that group? And where are my posts "general"? I described the problem in great detail and made suggestions how other apps handle similar use cases and how Evernote could fix it.

And please let me know, what you consider "constructive"? Praising Evernote all day long for half baked features?

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@BurgersNFries: I don’t feel like I need to criticize anyone and did not. I criticized a feature of Evernote. That’s all. Perhaps, you mix things up again - remember push notifications and background sync - and mistake mogf01's - who agrees with me on this matter - post for one of mine.

So I should stop posting, because my opinion is not that of "a group of users"? Who belongs to that group? And where are my posts "general"? I described the problem in great detail and made suggestions how other apps handle similar use cases and how Evernote could fix it.

And please let me know, what you consider "constructive"? Praising Evernote all day long for half baked features?

Sorry to disappoint, but no, I did not confuse your posts with any by mogf01. Scroll up.

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@BurgersNFries: Not disappointed but still curios what your problem is...

I believe that BnF is referring to this:

You said:

@BurgersNFries: I don’t feel like I need to criticize anyone and did not. I criticized a feature of Evernote. That’s all. Perhaps, you mix things up again - remember push notifications and background sync - and mistake mogf01's - who agrees with me on this matter - post for one of mine.

But, with respect to criticizing any individuals, BnF said this in response to mogf01, not to you.

I fully agree. Be careful, however, when you post criticism of EN, or the evangelists will jump in and correct you to apologize for EN... oh wait, that has already happened... :-)

If you feel the need to criticize any user (evangelist or not), feel free to use the report button. Otherwise, these posts you keep making against a group of users are too general & not constructive.

It appears that you took her post as referring to you when it clearly does not.

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Evernote is an enigma.  The company has been promising a due date field for years.  Instead we get reminders which have less functionality than they could or should have.

 

We still can't link notes as elegantly as in the old InfoSelect.  Text in notes can't be highlighted, but we have Evernote Food.  WTF?

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To tie up the loose ends or the original query...

As has been said, email is the fallback notify for all non-synced iOS devices.

True you won't get it at a specified time, it's a daily digest of all reminders, but then the local alert is still broken anyway (no sound).

True there's no push notifications, but that's an iOS niche, and I think it's prudent and fair for the initial release to be comprised of server plumbing universal to all clients.

Even if Evernote does nothing, in about 3 months, most ios devices will get background sync of reminders. iOS7 will watch your usage of various apps, and allow them periodic update windows with a frequency comensurate with it's observation of your usage patterns of various apps.

The current Evernote client does automatically push out reminders to the network as they're set, so it's just the background polling receive piece that's needed, and that will come in ios 7.

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Another work around for the time being is just to hit the share button and share it to followupthen.com

As in Monday1030am@followupthen.com

voila, you get an email on Monday at 10:30am

Free unless you want that automatically put in your Google or iCal Calendar, or an SMS sent, which requires a paid account.

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