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Latest EN Podcast: Cognitive Skeuomorphi-what?

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I have listened to, I think, every podcast that Evernote has produced since the beginning.   I have always enjoyed them and gleaned useful tidbits about how to use Evernote and what their future plans were going to be.    This latest podcast really made me scratch my head.   This is the first time that I really felt like I wasn't on board with what they were talking about.  

 

I think the latest podcast explains a lot of the problems that Evernote has been experiencing lately.  They were explaining some of the new direction of the company that they rolled out at the Evernote conference.  Apparently, skeuomorphism is out.  Any remnants of it must be removed from their product.  

I don't really have a strong opinion either way on the matter as far as the UI goes.  If someone wants leather stitched lining on their computer calendar or, as Apple did up until recently, little remnants of torn away paper on the top of their calendar, that's fine with me.     

 

As the podcast went on though, they went on to something which I think is actually a bad idea.  Phil Libin is apparently on the warpath against 'Cognitive Skeuomorphism.'  He seems to think that any productivity or application paradigm that has it's basis in actual physical media is not efficient or elegant.  Digital applications should discard many of the old concepts and paradigms of physical media.  They pointed out how file cabinets, documents, files, even inboxes when used in digital applications or software is 'Cognitive Skeuomorphism.'  They lost me there.  These things were developed and have been used for many decades because they work.   People understand these concepts and have developed workflows that use them.  They are efficient conceptual patterns to organize and do productive work.    I didn't get the impression from listening to the podcast that they were pointing out anything fundamentally wrong about these things but merely that since we are more advanced now and using digital applications, we should find new paradigms because we can.   It all seemed very elitist and condescending to the average user who just wants to have his files, inboxes and documents without worrying about 'Cognitive Skeuomorphism' or being forced in to new work flows or patterns without a good reason.

 

I was thinking that if they had thought this much about it, there must be some compelling new ways to approach old problems and to break free of all our old cognitive skeuomorphisms.   What have they come up with as they push forward in to this new age?  They devoted months of developers time and countless hours to come up with ---- Work Chat!  They took Evernote and bolted on a 90's era Internet Messenger client.    Not exactly cutting edge, new wave thinking.   Work chat feels like they had a problem.  They wanted to monetize Evernote more, attract more business paying clients and keep them in Evernote.   They wanted to turn Evernote from a Remember Everything, intelligent application that stored everything and could recall it easily into a "Work Space."  Unfortunately, this is not what Evernote was originally designed to do.  Redesigning and repurposing the already existing client, servers and databased to pursue this new goal is difficult and ultimately will never be as good as other applications already out there which do it much better.  They talked about how difficult it was to get this Work Chat client working and being able to scale to millions of users.   I thought to myself, that's interesting that they are focusing so much on getting scalability working for Work Chat when they can't even solve the scalability problems for users with large databases of notes, which is supposed to be the fundamental purpose of Evernote.   I also thought it was a little humorous when they said early in the podcast that they had banned PowerPoint at Evernote headquarters.  Later in the podcast, Phil was musing about how great Presentation mode is because when he walks around the office, he sees everyone using it.   That tends to happen when you ban the other application that does this well. (Presentation mode has it's uses but doesn't really compare to power point).

 

They also were singing the praises of Context on the podcast.  In the first half of the podcast, they extolled the virtues of the clean, uncluttered workspace.  They said how pointless it was to have buttons and distractions around the interface that were not frequently used.   They seemed to assume that everyone agrees with them and wants to have a clear, white blank interface to type in.  Maybe there are some people out there who like having ready access to many options and buttons and their list of notes displayed are not distracted by them?   The ironic thing is that Context is distracting for me and I can't figure out why anyone would want Evernote mining their notes and coming up with searches for information that I haven't asked for.  I don't need to see a "Linked In" box for everyone mentioned in my note.  I think it's usually superfluous and if I really wanted the information it's only a google search away.  They kept saying how Evernote wants us to "work better" and that Context will enable us to do this.   Even if Context worked 100% as advertised, I see it as marginally useful at best and distracting waste of space at worst.   Context is a basically re-packaged 'Related Notes.'  I have used Evernote every day for the past 5 years and I can't think of one time that I actually saw something in 'Related Notes' while I was working and clicked on it.   If I'm searching for something, that's what the search box is for.  The one thing Context does do is provide revenue stream for Evernote because I'm sure the WSJ is paying for the privilege of their articles showing up in my Evernote client.   

 

Listening to Andrew Sinkov's presentation at the evernote conference and his desire to 'bend the universe,' it seems like Evernote's braintrust has been bored and doesn't want to just be an excellent storehouse for information and data retrieval that synced across multiple platforms and devices.   Which they were very good at.  They wanted to do something exciting like becoming a collaborative tool for businesses.   As has been pointed out elsewhere in the forums, they could have done this more gradually and introduced another client for this purpose that integrated well with the core application.  I really appreciated that in the past Evernote focused on doing the core services well and did not want to venture out in to tasks and services that they were not good at.  They developed a robust API and actively encouraged developers to broaden the features and capabilities of the core Evernote application.  This allowed them to focus laser-like on their original purpose of storing and retrieving and cataloging a user's information.  Adobe has done this well over the years.  They have maintained the features of the Adobe Photoshop application for many, many years.  They have added on features but have not deprecated or removed features.  Microsoft does a lot of things wrong but they certainly understand the importance of backward compatibility and stability in their applications especially when it comes to businesses.  The longer that an application is out there and being used by businesses and individuals, the more critical it is not to break workflows.  Not to arbitrarily remove features.  Evernote must think that it is still a start up company that can ignore the needs of it's users and make fundamental course changes abruptly and without preparing users for the changes or providing ways for them to maintain their previous work flows.

 

Anyway, that's enough of a rant.  I have been a big Evernote fan for years and have introduced many people to it.  I am saddened to see the new directions they are taking and feel like it will be detrimental to the company in the long run when they lose focus on what made them successful.   Evernote for now is unique in the features and advantages that it offers and this makes it difficult to switch.   I never really considered moving to another platform until the past few months.  I'm hopeful they'll have a change of heart and return to their roots and make Evernote better and more reliable  than ever.  I hope they will listen to the feedback of users about their design changes that are causing more turmoil than needed and provide a stable client and interface.  They should enable users to maintain their work flows and configure their clients to the way they want to use them.  Serving the customers needs, not your own, and recognizing the difference, is the foundation of a solid company.

 

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As a side note, I'm not sure when this podcast was recorded, but it would have been nice for them to at least acknowledge some of their missteps recently, especially with the Penultimate app (I think the infinite scrolling with out pages is attributable to the new war against 'Cognitive Skeuomorphism') and the new Mac user interface and at least briefly discuss their response to it.

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I thought it was a confused and pretty incoherent listen.

 

Couple of things that did grab my attention - super-andrew-sinkov said that the old web client would be going away and it seemed to me from the tone that this would be happening more quickly than had been indicated on here.

 

And, like you the completely confused ideas behind the new web UI and Context. The implication seemed to be that people choose to use the web client for different tasks than a desktop client and one of these very specific tasks is writing. That seems contrary to the experience of users that I've read on here. Now they may have better data, but my impression is that the majority of web users do so because they can't use the thick client for some reason (linux, work machine, someone else's machine etc). Does this also mean that Context will never work on the web client? I'm betting not.

 

Context is interesting in itself, the current sources are so limited and so US-centric as to be almost completely useless to me. I did give it a try and clipped a story about my favourite scottish football team, a little obscure maybe but I would have thought that if Context can't find useful information then it should not show anything. Instead I was shown a couple of 2 month old WSJ articles about the independence vote, this isn't context, this is pure distraction.

 

Bored of moaning about them now.

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"... reinvent the idea of productivity in a way that doesn't rely on these old-fashioned fundamentally broken and outdated ideas that our industry grew up in..." - Phil talking about skeuomorphisms and the like.

 

I had no idea that the industry as we know it was fundamentally "broken". I dunno... maybe he's years ahead of the rest of us. 

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I'm glad to see they finally have a new podcast, because they do a great job talking about the company. 

http://blog.evernote.com/blog/2014/12/03/podcast_42/

 

There is a lot of stuff in there. My comments are below, but if you are thinking "TLDR," then I'll sum it up here: It's great that Evernote is trying to innovate. Unfortunately, the new direction doesn't fit my use case -- I really want an external brain and an anti-social app. Unless I get into a new line of work, I probably won't personally find any of the new stuff too useful. If you are an information worker in a business, especially one in which employees regularly read the WSJ or tech news, then you should definitely pay attention to the new features. 

 

(1) Cognitive Skeumorphism

The criticism of cognitive skeumorphism is fine with me, I guess, but in practice it translates into the current beta Web interface, which I had to turn off the first day. I know they're excited about it, a smart project manager is in charge of it, and I can appreciate their investment of thought into it, but it makes it terribly inappropriate for my use case. I need more features, not less, more complexity, not simplicity. Perhaps great for Evernote and the majority of its users, but not great for me. Too bad :(

 

(2) Presentation Mode

I'm sure there are companies out there with endless PowerPoint presentations, and I can see where this would be a wonderful alternative. I just gave a talk with Keynote the other day (PowerPoint on my Mac kept crashing while creating the presentation). Personally, I think Prezi is cool to watch when it is done well, but when I use it, it makes me seasick, and I assume an audience would like my Prezi even less. I'll admit that Keynote isn't my favorite app in the world, because I find it frustrating to use during the creation process, but I am usually pretty pleased with the final product. I don't think my presentations are broken. Boring speakers will be boring no matter what presentation software they use. I'm glad that it is working for the Evernote folks, and maybe it is working really well for the majority of Evernote users. They know their customer base better than me.

 

(3) Context

Context could be wonderful for someone working in a company. But, it is completely irrelevant to my use case. I hope there are plenty of folks out there who will benefit from it. I really do think it is cool that they are thinking about AI, but in practice, Evernote tends to assume it knows better than me what I need, and I don't get a say in it. Where's JSTOR, ProjectMuse, NHK, Asahi Shimbun, or any of a hundred other sources of information I use on a regular basis? What I don't think Evernote gets is that I want to see stuff in a new way, but I also like to turn the k-n-o-b-s (why is ***** censored on the forums?), press the buttons, and flip the switches myself. I want Evernote (and Apple) to stop infantilizing me. Let me pick what goes in my feed on my own (Context is essentially a "smart" RSS feed).  I read the WSJ all the time. I also read junk mail in my mailbox. I don't want either of them showing up in my account. 

 

(4) WorkChat

I can see how this might scratch other people's itches if they are working in a corporation. But, I am not working in a corporation. I don't want to do anything together with other people when I am using Evernote. Evernote is my external brain. Evernote is an anti-social app (the original vision of the app). If I wanted an IM, Facebook, or Google Docs app, I'd be using those apps that are really well-suited to their tasks. And, the reason I don't use them on a regular basis is that they are a terrible distraction. Weirdly, I feel like there is a conflicting message: Web is uncluttered for productivity -- Context and Work Chat clutter things with stuff that is supposed to make me more productive by taking me away from the task at hand. By the way, does anyone else find it a little uncomfortable that you are collaborating so intimately with others? The way it was presented made it seem like stalking fellow employees by following the notes they are looking at. 

 

(5) Markdown

Too bad we won't see it.

 

(6) Desktop similar to the web version

I don't quite know what they plan to do, but it sounds like something will happen with the interface to make it similar to the Web. My impression from other users on this forum (apparently an unrepresentative sample of the user base, because I haven't seen a lot of people clamoring for the new features), is that they are generally not pleased with the interface on the Web beta.

 

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By the way, it isn't "consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" (Emerson, not Churchill, as they mentioned). This was taken out of context (see my context pun there?). 

 

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall."

 

The key part here is "foolish," which I interpret to mean that consistency is just fine, but certain kinds of it can be detrimental. I think there is plenty of stuff in Evernote that could do with consistency. If they've got something better than the "old" technologies that enabled Emerson to craft such beautiful prose, I'll take it for a spin. I'm not resistant because I fear change. I want stuff that will improve my life and these new concepts aren't doing that. That's my complaint. Re-inventing the old school idea of "encryption" at E4 (whatever happened to Phil's "sexy encryption"?) would have excited me a lot more :)

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By the way, it isn't "consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" (Emerson, not Churchill, as they mentioned). This was taken out of context (see my context pun there?). 

 

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall."

 

The key part here is "foolish," which I interpret to mean that consistency is just fine, but certain kinds of it can be detrimental. I think there is plenty of stuff in Evernote that could do with consistency. If they've got something better than the "old" technologies that enabled Emerson to craft such beautiful prose, I'll take it for a spin. I'm not resistant because I fear change. I want stuff that will improve my life and these new concepts aren't doing that. That's my complaint. Re-inventing the old school idea of "encryption" at E4 (whatever happened to Phil's "sexy encryption"?) would have excited me a lot more :)

Heh. Some hobgoblin always needs to point this out. It's usually me. :)

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I think there may be potential with the whole Context thing - but they should make adjusting what we see a little easier. We have to go into our account settings to activate/ deactivate certain "channels". What would be interesting to me is if you could get Evernote to watch any particular site/ blog for related articles through its RSS feed or something similar. Then again, that would take eyeballs off their partners - particularly the WSJ. In that sense, having partnerships will always skew what we're going to see in Context - which is the only -morphism I'd like to see done away with. Pun intended. 

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I've always been a fan of Emerson, and any meeting is improved through quoting him, especially if you can get the word "hobgoblin" into the discussion! 

 

The Context thing could be cool -- an infinite list of stuff popping up from the web on the right side of your screen related in a smart way to the stuff in your account or the stuff you are writing at the moment. You could tell the app sites to watch out for, or somehow mark particular terms that you find important so that it could show you truly relevant stuff. That would be kind of amazing. But, that isn't what this is. It is showing you stuff from partners. Over time, there may be enough partners that people won't mind so much. But, I don't like having my creative process shaped by an algorithm + a limited selection of inputs. Maybe, someday, there will be non-partners thrown into the mix. 

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I'll throw in two quotes -

 

"If you are standing still, you are also going backwards. It takes great effort to maintain forward movement." - Reed B Markham

 

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." - Bert Lance (and most mechanics and IT users for at least the last 10 years...)

 

The latest Windows Desktop beta didn't blow up in my face,  doesn't change the UI noticeably and includes 'context' which is a little US-centric for those of us in the Rest Of The World,  so I guess I'm safe for a little while longer..

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I thought it was a confused and pretty incoherent listen.

 

Couple of things that did grab my attention - super-andrew-sinkov said that the old web client would be going away and it seemed to me from the tone that this would be happening more quickly than had been indicated on here.

 

 

I noticed that too and thought that was a major change of emphasis.  In the past, when people complained about how poor the editing experience was in Evernote, they were told that Evernote is primarily a repository of searchable information and was not really an editing tool.   Now, from the podcast, it seems that Evernote's goal is to be better and smarter than a typewriter used for all editing great and small.  I would be happy if the editing experience improved but I doubt that I would use Evernote for all my editing and writing needs.

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Actually, I think the road signs for the vision have been showing up for a long time, but this is the clearest articulation yet of what they have in mind, so maybe we are finally at the entrance / exit ramp for this new vison. some things like the aversion to "clutter" have been there since at least 2008. Off the top of my head, I'd say the business stuff probably dates to around 2010. I think they probably see themselves with a larger vision that encompasses the old one, so it isn't a pivot or abandonment of the old stuff, but a better, more productive you.

From my perspective, Evernote has always had strong points and weak points, but the vision of an anti-social external brain is the one I have been waiting to see realized. It's never been a perfect service, but one worth investing in while it moved towards this goal. I find myself a little less enthusiastic about the new workspace where my external brain used to be. Maybe I just have an aversion to work and productivity!

I've struggled with Evernote for long-form writing, and it is far from ideal for publishing, which is the end point for most of my research. I'd be happier if the editor improved, but it will never replace Word or Office. Even blurry and nerfed, Microsoft Word puts Pages to shame, and Evernote is not in the same league. Not that I would have ever compared Evernote to these deeply developed writing apps, but Phil has said he aims to do better than them, so I have to wonder when Evernote will be getting rulers, footnotes, drop caps, kerning, line spacing, etc. It won't, of course, because we have different writing tasks in mind, and that is the problem for me. Evernote's goal is now to become a product I don't need. I wish I could convince them to change their minds, but we are already driving down the new road and there is probably no turning back.

This might be a great direction for Evernote, though, and I hope the new road works out for it. If I were in a different job, I might well be embracing the innovation.

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I couldn't resist:

 

News19_Hobgoblin_InMain.jpg

 

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall."

 

The key part here is "foolish," which I interpret to mean that consistency is just fine, but certain kinds of it can be detrimental.

 

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Thanks for the thoughts--I've got to run here momentarily and want to get more in depth, but after reading all the comments I did want to point out some incorrect assumptions that are being made about Context (like it's a revenue stream) that we're aiming to rectify with this post here: http://blog.evernote.com/blog/2014/12/04/questions-answers-context-2/%C2'> I'd encourage all of you with questions regarding Context to hit that link.

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I didn't listen to the podcast, but from reading the discussion here and in other related forum topics, I have to say that I'm a bit concerned about the new direction.  I'm a fairly new user, having only started using EN a couple of months ago, but like GrumpyMonkey, I'm not interested at all in a social application (with one exception that I'll cover in a moment) - I want (to steal a term) an external brain in which I can store everything I see, hear, read, and note.

 

I started using EN as a backup for S-Note on my smartphone, and quickly switched to using it as my primary note tool.  Then I realized that I could start clipping things I see on the web, and transfer all of my old Palm memos into it, and use it to take (searchable!) notes while I'm writing software at work instead of writing half-readable scrawls on paper, and take pictures of things that I want to buy for my kids, and and and and ...

 

That's what I want it for.

 

  • I don't need it to tell me that if I wrote down a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson about foolish consistency being the hobgoblin of small minds (nice catch, by the way - I've always hated when people misquote that), maybe I'll be interested in Transcendentalism or Dungeons and Dragons.
     
  • If I take a picture of Super Julio Brothers Video Game for the Xtendo BoxWii to add to my gifts list, I don't need it to tell me that XTendo is coming out with a new console next year
     
  • I don't need an IM client to share things with my co-worker Joe - I've already got one.  If I want to send him a link, I'm going to use that.  And if I want to discuss an article with him, I'm going to walk over to his desk and talk.  Face to face.

There's exactly one social function I need in my external brain, and that is the ability to share notebooks.  Why?  Well, my wife and I both use EN, and we'd like to be able to both have access to things like the kids' gift lists, family medication lists, room measurements for the house, etc.  If we need to discuss details of a note, we don't need Work Chat for that, since we have these two really neat low-tech things called Home Chat and Car Chat.

 

I don't need business or social features, and I don't need Context.

 

  • What I need is a product whose UI I can use.  Buttons need to look like buttons.  Disabled things need to look disabled.  The editing area needs to be clearly framed, not a blank space sitting in the middle of nowhere.  You know, old-school UI.  Phil Libin, Apple, and Google may call that cluttered, but I say that obvious borders and good contrast help the eye stay focused.
     
  • What I need is comprehensive editing.  I don't personally need to be able to write long documents (although my coding notes do get long, but that's train-of-thought, not actual writing), but what I write I need to be able to format the way I want in order to call attention to the important parts.
     
  • What I need is to be able to easily share notebooks with my wife and for her to be able to add notes, edit notes, and tag notes.
     
  • What I need is to be able to grab stuff that I'm looking at on my desktop (in an application or the browser), on my phone, on my Kindle Fire, or in the real world, and get it into EN fairly painlessly.

 

That's it.  EN does most of that fairly well now.  If the company focuses on making it do all of that exceedingly well, then I will be a happy customer for a very long time.  If not, I fear I may find myself regretting my choice of tools within a year and having to find a new one.

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While listending to the podcast, I did not detect any sense of excitement - just a bunch of wandering mumbo jumbo to justify their major shift in direction. And to my dismay, Dave Engberg, the CTO, has become just a yes man.

Phil Libin, the CEO, wants to move "cognitive skeuomorphism methaphors directly towards the new paradigm of the internet of things".  Is Libin's latest corporate goal to use the longest words with the most amount of syllables?

His discussion of "Lizard Brains" seems directed at the Evernote users who are frightened of the 180 degree flip in the company's direction. 

He brought up the possible choices of "fight or flight". 
Personally,  I am selecting the latter option.
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It seems to me that even if Evernote's vision is visionary in the most genius of ways - they may still have an uphill battle convincing people to get with the program. It was mentioned in the podcast that "people don't get it".

 

People don't just get herded into a whole new paradigm. It takes a lot of rewiring. It takes a lot of educating to get people to see the light. Take a spectacular tree-based text editor called Gingko. Some people just don't get it. I don't blame them. Sometimes the learning curve is a little too steep for many, despite the genius of an idea... or the concept is just slightly out of reach - just enough for it to not be given a fair hearing and gain broader appeal.

 

Perhaps with time... or perhaps by narrowing peoples' options down so that they have no option - as in the case of the Web beta which will replace the current web client... or the only way to collaborate on notebooks/ show them privately is now through Work Chat. Cornering your customers may not be the best way to help them see the light... or is it?

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Back to the quotes again - Henry Ford allegedly said:  "If I had asked my customers what they wanted,  they would have said a faster horse" - which pretty much endorses the view that users mainly want to stick with what they know.  We just want innovation to make it it bigger / faster / in different colours. 

 

Where it is possible to engineer a major change away from the previous norm,  there's generally a degree of resistance - evidence men walking in front of cars with red flags,  the general fear of trains travelling at more than 30MPH (this was a while ago..),  and some guys called Luddites who apparently weren't much in favour of mechanisation.

 

Evernote is a great concept,  and with a few notable exceptions,  a great product.  It seems to me though there's considerable chutzpah in Evernote deciding for all of us which way the work environment will develop,  and forcing through the changes that will support the new culture.  They have a current product that,  on a good day is very good indeed. 

 

However we're leapfrogging the "working out the remaining bugs" phase and moving straight to the blue-sky "next generation".  Some companies might have offered the new version as another product and even got a price rise out of it,  while testing the waters to see how well it was received.  Given some proven success,  there's room to create a buzz,  drive demand and legitimately withdraw support for the 'old' style.

 

Unilaterally updating your existing products to a new style is a bit of an all or nothing gamble - you'll get some new customers,  which is good;  but you are definitely going to lose a lot of old ones,  which is bad in a number of ways,  apart from the direct revenue.  New folks have more queries,  need more support,  don't have a payment track record - the old guard just mainly pay their subs each year and get on with it.

 

Full marks to Evernote for having the confidence in their market vision to believe that they will carry their customers with them on their journey.  I just hope they have a backup plan in case the wheels come off once they get to 31MPH...

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Back to the quotes again - Henry Ford allegedly said:  "If I had asked my customers what they wanted,  they would have said a faster horse" - which pretty much endorses the view that users mainly want to stick with what they know.  We just want innovation to make it it bigger / faster / in different colours. 

 

 

I like your analogies.  No one likes to think of themselves as the stick in the mud old timer resistant to change.   Unless there is some grander vision that they have not revealed yet, some people might view what they're doing as a step backward and not forward.  I would love it if they continued to make Evernote bigger, faster and more different colors.  They have stripped out features and configurability, eliminated colors, and added a buggy whip of a messenger client and  introduced many bugs in the process.   Most cutting edge business collaboration tools use video conferencing, shared whiteboards, real-time shared editing of documents with real versioning.   Work Chat looks like a horse and carriage compared to that.

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A little bit of geeky trivia:

 

Did anyone notice how the podcast was #42? Hard to miss, since there was quite a bit of banter at the beginning. It really is (sequentially) #41, but for some reason the actual #41 was not aired. Phil turned 42 on January 3rd of this year. The next day, on January 4th, he mentions in a blog post:

 

"I turned 42 yesterday, which is the year that, according to classics of western literature, life, the universe and everything will start to make sense."

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Back to the quotes again - Henry Ford allegedly said:  "If I had asked my customers what they wanted,  they would have said a faster horse" - which pretty much endorses the view that users mainly want to stick with what they know.  We just want innovation to make it it bigger / faster / in different colours. 

 

 

I like your analogies.  No one likes to think of themselves as the stick in the mud old timer resistant to change.   Unless there is some grander vision that they have not revealed yet, some people might view what they're doing as a step backward and not forward.  I would love it if they continued to make Evernote bigger, faster and more different colors.  They have stripped out features and configurability, eliminated colors, and added a buggy whip of a messenger client and  introduced many bugs in the process.   Most cutting edge business collaboration tools use video conferencing, shared whiteboards, real-time shared editing of documents with real versioning.   Work Chat looks like a horse and carriage compared to that.

 

I am attempting to draw some connections as to the ways that people actually think and process information as compared to the functionality pre and post Cognitive Skeumorphism.  (The term in and of itself is enough to make me tune out, GEEZ.)  We may or may not structure things, but we all synthesize the inputs we get in whatever form they arrive, somehow.  There are similarities in thought for sure, but not everybody thinks the same way, quote me on that if you like.  

 

I may be a bit over the top here, but this feels like someone telling me we haven't been thinking right all these years, or because someone created a tool long ago our thinking processes have been compromised.  And by the way our thinking is over complicated by the environment we try to do it in.  IMO, none of this change has anything to do with actual thinking, particularly when it is as structured as it is being built (option-less).  

 

I don't need any company telling me how to think.  I need companies that offer products and services that I can leverage to help me think how I think, whether it is Cognitive Skeumorphism  or not (expletives not entered).  I'm with @skelllam, the original second brain has helped me more than I can see this new stuff doing.  That and I can actually think about more than one thing at a time and be productive, I think.  Boy I wish I had more brain science training at this point...

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I am attempting to draw some connections as to the ways that people actually think and process information as compared to the functionality pre and post Cognitive Skeumorphism.

 

 

Didn't David Allen speak at the 2013 ENC? I wonder what he'd have to say about skeuomorphisms going out the window. Especially the concept of the tickler file, created way back in the 1800's. Even though he wrote his book on GTD well before the advent of the smart phone and Evernote itself, his system translated really well into the digital arena. 

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What I'd like to know is how this (seemingly) new direction is perceived within Evernote.

 

Have the old goals such as 'External Brain' and 'Remember Everything' been replaced by the new goals of 'Productivity' and 'Work' - that is, has Evernote changed focus - or are the old goals now seen as a subset of the new ones, such that Evernote has expanded its focus?  

 

The first option, a change in focus, would worry me, as Evernote is very good as an external brain, but less good as a place to work (compared to dedicated writing software like Word, for example).  The second option, however, an expanded focus, makes a great deal of sense: Evernote remains your external brain, but a brain that is used to do further work.

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The problem with any corporate change of direction (if that's what it is) is to communicate the correct vision to all your staff.  I had a conversation once with a reasonably terrifying senior exec who was complaining that while he could compel* his (then) 3,000 staff to see and read a message in one form or another,  they would each interpret the meaning in different ways - somewhere between fluffy bunnies** and firing squads.  The end result for external viewers - what we like to call "customers" - was wildly different impressions of what the company actually wanted to achieve.  I don't think EN has 3,000 staff (?) but the impressions we're getting suggest that there might be a similar degree of confusion in the ranks..

 

*   I had the impression restraints might be involved..

**  I paraphrased this bit.

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FWIW...

 

Long time members of this board and Evernote may recall that this is not the first time Evernote has changed directions.  Prior to ~April 2008, Evernote had been a Windows only, payware product.  BUT...although it was loved by many, it was not loved by enough people to pay the bills.  The company was close to closing up shop.  Then Phil Libin was brought in & changed the direction.  The original incarnation was a personal tool  The new incarnation was also a personal tool but multi platform (not Windows only) and not payware ("freemium" model).  Many users balked back then.  Just like now.  Many users predicted the demise of Evernote.  Clearly they were wrong. 

 

IMO, a company has a responsibility to their employees, FIRST.  So if financial issues are a big concern, yes, you do what you can (as long as it's legal & (for me) ethical) to make the company profitable.  Customers (even the paying ones) are a secondary consideration.  Customers/users (like me) may be annoyed, pissed, frustrated with the new direction of the company (like me) but my livelihood is not directly related to Evernote's success or failure. (I am adapting to using Onenote instead of Evernote.  I don't like it as much...but...it...works...)   I know there are some folks who depend on EN for their business.  I really do feel for them, if the new direction is not working for them.  

 

So while I think EN does not owe me anything, since I am was strictly a user, it certainly would have been nice if they would have been more forthcoming about what's going on at the mothership.  It would have saved me about six months of jerking around, trying to get answers from the company & waiting & hoping that Evernote is/was addressing the core features that have prevented me from using Evernote for the past ~10 months.  (And having to use a goofy workaround for the past ~two years.)  And the ultimate irony is that the core features that have prevented me from using EN for the past ~10 months will continue to be a problem, in the new direction, unless/until EN addresses them.

 

Don't pee on my leg & tell me it's raining.

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Sorry but I can't help myself.

 

I just received an email, as I suppose some of you may have as well, touting the essential wallet in the EN store.  Under the banner, Billiance Unfolds, of all things.  Now this wallet is not exactly the poster child for skeuomorphism, but it does represent a fading concept of money IMO.  Who needs a wallet when you have a phone if we are to believe the pundits, or Apple.  Is our concept of money and its usage limited by the container in which we place it?  Just trying to find the consistent thread in the thinking of EN.  Seems counter to PP is evil.   :)

 

Sarcasm quota reached for the week, hopefully not exceeded, TGIF.

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Good one csihilling.

 

I guess the old cognitive skeuomorphism methaphors & new paradigms lie in the eyes of the beholder (Evernote CEO).

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What I'd like to know is how this (seemingly) new direction is perceived within Evernote.

 

Have the old goals such as 'External Brain' and 'Remember Everything' been replaced by the new goals of 'Productivity' and 'Work' - that is, has Evernote changed focus - or are the old goals now seen as a subset of the new ones, such that Evernote has expanded its focus?  

 

The first option, a change in focus, would worry me, as Evernote is very good as an external brain, but less good as a place to work (compared to dedicated writing software like Word, for example).  The second option, however, an expanded focus, makes a great deal of sense: Evernote remains your external brain, but a brain that is used to do further work.

 

I think time will tell. If you watch Phil's keynote at EC4, the word "work" comes up enough that it might be a candidate for a drinking game, and its ubiquitousness (now it is even on a big button in the app) suggests where the focus is. I am guessing that this is the best move for the company as it moves toward an IPO.

 

Should this scare folks? Outlook is also for businesses, and plenty of non-business folks use it just fine, so I imagine there is overlap for many Evernote users. It's just that the new features rolling out (Evernote Business improvements, Work Chat, Context, Presentation, etc.) may not scratch your particular itch if you are using Evernote as an external brain or an anti-social app. I would expect many more new features in the future that will also not be especially useful for you if you are not a business user. If the app is working fine for you today, then it probably will continue to do so in the future, and you can comfortably continue. Most people don't go nuts when Outlook adds a new feature. Then again, most people wouldn't care enough to watch a keynote by Microsoft even if there was one :) It's not quite as beloved as Evernote. 

 

If, however, you are running into difficulties now, and the app is not fitting into your workflow very well (I need encryption, for example, if I am using the cloud), then I wouldn't hold your breath. The features may come (about a year and a half ago Phil promised we'd have something called "sexy encryption") or they may not, but time will keep moving (assuming you are not a fifth dimensional being who views it differently), and you need to find what works for you now.

 

P.S.

I've got the wallet and it is easily the best one I have ever owned. I did not like the price, which is many times what I would normally pay, but it seems to have been worth it. In fact, it is so nice that I have received comments from people about it. It's not every day you see a wallet that really works. They are amazed at how quickly I can put the bills and change into it, and it is so small some of them didn't even know I was holding it in my hands. Very nice for someone like me who likes to travel light. I'll miss it when our Apple overlords make us pay for stuff with a gargantuan 6" phone.

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Frankly, I'm amazed so many people watched the whole podcast. I tried, I really did. But my eyes soon glazed over and I started hear the Peanuts babble instead of actual words. I found it almost immediately to sound like, well, frankly, the sales pitch of a new age snake oil salesman.

Like so many others, I use EN as an external brain. The basic core features - cross platform accessibilty, basic notetaking (though I'm still hoping the editor is going to eventually improve), it's search abilities and web clipping - these are the features that drew me in and got me hooked. It took months for me to get out of a decades ingrained way of thinking - data belongs in files, which in turn belong in folders that organized into a hierarchy - and into using Evernote as a "virtual bin" from which I could retrieve anything at any time, from any internet connected device, simply by learning to effectively us the tools provided by Evernote. Along with a bit of forethought when saving notes, I mean.

I still haven't completely converted and still use several folders, but I get along fine. If they don't take away these basic features, or detract from them by adding features that somehow impede my use of them, I'll be okay. (At least until I add another 29,000 notes or so...hint hint...scalability Mr. Libin, scalability.)

After several months of stressing about whatever the company's new direction might be, I've reached the point that for me, personally, I don't much care so long as their product continues to (mostly) suit my needs. I'm yet another user who doesn't need or want to use EN as a social app or a business tool. I'm not looking for Evernote to be the Swiss Army software application that can do everything I might ever need or want in the world of computing.

Kudos to them if they can successfully branch out into the corporate market. (And the socks, mustn't forget those overpriced socks! Or snazzy wallets, though hell will freeze over before hubby will ever see one under our Xmas tree.

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P.S.

I've got the wallet and it is easily the best one I have ever owned. I did not like the price, which is many times what I would normally pay, but it seems to have been worth it. In fact, it is so nice that I have received comments from people about it. It's not every day you see a wallet that really works. They are amazed at how quickly I can put the bills and change into it, and it is so small some of them didn't even know I was holding it in my hands. Very nice for someone like me who likes to travel light. I'll miss it when our Apple overlords make us pay for stuff with a gargantuan 6" phone.

 

GM,

 

I am truly glad you have a wallet that you like!  I'm a front left pocket credit cards and cash in a thin profile wallet kind of guy myself, and probably not likely to change any time soon.  Sort of the point of the thread I suppose.   :)

 

At least the marketing on the wallet uses the modifier Brilliance as opposed to all of the Cools and slang of the podcast.

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I must admit to being quite frustrated with the podcast - after such a long gap, it was all too self-congratulatory. Especially when we've been so long with evernote food bugs (an iminent fix is promised - as of the last few days - but the podcast would have been a good opportunity to address this head on).

 

I can get behind not wanting visual skeumorphism, but saying 'cognitive skeumorphism is inherently bad' as a statement is not one that I'm prepared to accept. Saying 'cognitive skeumorphism can get in the way of better ways of doing things - though sometimes it might be the best way to do something' would be closer to the mark.

The 'work chat' feature is getting annoying - I use evernote a lot, but as a sole user - the number of times evernote has reminded me (on desktop, in app etc) about work chat is getting silly. I know about it, I'm not going to use it in the near future, stop nagging!

Despite being a little gripey, it was nice to see the podcast had not been forgotten, I'd like to see it get back onto a more reasonable schedule - but I'd also like to see it being more about engaging with listeners and less about announcing.

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What I'd like to know is how this (seemingly) new direction is perceived within Evernote.

 

Have the old goals such as 'External Brain' and 'Remember Everything' been replaced by the new goals of 'Productivity' and 'Work' - that is, has Evernote changed focus - or are the old goals now seen as a subset of the new ones, such that Evernote has expanded its focus?  

 

The first option, a change in focus, would worry me, as Evernote is very good as an external brain, but less good as a place to work (compared to dedicated writing software like Word, for example).  The second option, however, an expanded focus, makes a great deal of sense: Evernote remains your external brain, but a brain that is used to do further work.

 

Spot on. It is an 'external brain' for me ..... productivity is for specialised programmes tailored for what I need to do. Unless evernote gets such a huge set of features that it becomes unusably unwieldy, this is how it will stay - and all the discussion in the podcast seemed to be moving away from this 'external brain' concept in a worrying way.

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