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janinegt

Bizarre and (seriously) unhelpful message

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I opened the penultimate app, first time today, my last use of it was yesterday, and I received this message:

post-256979-0-26797400-1430908499_thumb.

Well, actually, I have been busy, but not in Penultimate, so what on earth is this message about? And how do I not confirm it? Really, the least helpful user message I can recall ever seeing. Major fail.

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It looks like since Evernote now allows premium users to upload unlimited content, they want to make sure that they avoid intentional or unintentional abuse. 

 

It seems like Evernote detected a significant spurt of uploads from your account and just wants to make sure that some of the recent activity actually came from you and that you actually intended it, and that there isn't 1) someone who has hijacked your account, or 2) some type of error that has resulted in you inadvertently uploading a whole pile of new content. 

 

Why would you not want to confirm the activity? I get the sense that this is evernote asking "is this you and did you mean to do this?". If you say yes, it'll probably all be fine. 

I have seen other posts about similar experiences and my suspicion is that since this transition to unlimited is very new for Evernote they are being a bit (overly) cautious, or their algorithms for intervening in potential mis-use are not optimized yet and being a bit trigger happy. 

 

A couple notes:

1) I don't know if Evernote servers can distinguish between usage coming from Penultimate or from any of the Evernote clients (or if it can, it isn't being asked to do so for the purposes of this message). The fact that the penultimate app presented this message might just be because you recently uploaded a lot f stuff using a different evernote client, and Penultimate happened to be the messenger because it was the currently in-use app, NOT because the usage actually comes from Penultimate. 

 

2) If you made a lot of changes to a lot of large documents in any Evernote client; if you add a whole pile of new notes; if you move a bunch of stuff between accounts; if you restore files from a backup database; if you add an evernote archive (.enex) file, these will all trigger a massive upload to the server (well, massive depending on how many notes have been changed). For example, If you added a single highlight each to 4 PDFs that are 10mb, each, you'd have a 40mb upload right there since one highlight requires that you upload the ENTIRE 10mb pdf all over again. Something like that is fairly easy to do and:

 

3) It is possible that what you did wasn't terribly abnormal in terms of your regular use of the app, but it set off an alarm bell somewhere because Evernote's newly implemented mis-use prevention is a bit jumpy. 

 

4) The part about service disruptions is a bit odd but I think it is just trying to tell users that, "hey, don't toss your entire Applications folder into Evernote in one go just because you have unlimited uploads!"

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Evernote wanting to confirm activity when there's a significant amount of data being uploaded is perfectly sensible, but it needs to be done right. Did you look at the error message I posted, it's not a Yes/No dialog, there is only one option, "Confirm Activity". Evernote is effectively saying "We think your account has been hijacked, have you been using it a lot?" without providing any way of dealing with the situation if there has been a security breach.

So imagine this current level of activity wasn't me and I suspect my account has been hijacked, how do I deal with that? The only option this message gives me is to say it was me. The message is pointless because I can only confirm something I don't necessarily want to confirm.

I need more information. I can't see what the extra activity was, I can't see what Evernote has labelled as busy. What I had done that evening:

Edit about half a dozen text-only notes in Evernote, adding them to or removing them from my shortcuts list. That's it, that was all I had done all day. And I usually do more in a day.

In this context, there's two things wrong with the message:

1. It comes up in Penultimate, where I've done nothing at all for over a day. The message does not mention Evernote.

2. There's only the one option, to confirm the activity.

I think this could be handled better by emailing the account holder when there's a significant change in activity. Otherwise the person who stole an iPad and is now wantonly uploading data to Evernote is just going to click Confirm Activity and go on filling up Evernote's servers with pixels.

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I had no problem reading the image you posted. You didn't provide any details about what happened when you clicked the button. For all I knew (and all I assumed), it would take you to a webpage that had some description of your recent activity so that you could say all was good. 

 

The hijacking part was largely speculation on my end, and thinking of it, it no longer makes a great deal of sense since they have other means for allowing users to deal with that type of issue. Honestly I suspect that this is more a gaff on Evernote's end being a bit over-cautious (accidentally or otherwise) by protecting themselves after switching to the unlimited upload scheme. 

 

Posting here was a good plan because at least this way staff may see it and can hopefully adjust their warning accordingly (and hopefully be a little less heavy-handed with handing out these warnings!). 

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I switched from the app to a browser to see if I could find information about the error message on forums/Google. When I returned to the app a few minutes later, the message was gone. I didn't want to confirm activity, I wanted more info... Would clicking Confirm Activity have given me that information or simply dismissed the dialog? Not enough information in the dialog to know, which is why I went searching for more info.

Anyway, as you say, probably a gaff on Evernote's part. But a developer somewhere wrote that error message and assigned only one button to that dialog, and I think they overthought the friendly, snappy message (You've been busy!) without thinking through scenarios (or data thresholds?) where that dialog might be deployed. Wouldn't be the first time Evernote has gone for pretty over properly conceived user interaction scenarios (new Penultimate user interface rollout debacle). My response was 95% badly-conceived dialog-5% security breach, but I know my elderly mother would assume her personal info (nowhere near Evernote) had been hacked and her life savings were being drained away as she helplessly tapped Confirm Activity.

I do think detected increases in activity will be best handled by emailing the account holder, especially because activity in one app could be mistakenly notified in another, as seems to have happened here. Users can ignore the email if they know what's going on or do something if they don't. But users definitely need more information and options, and a dialog can/should only deliver so much information.

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Hi,

 

I apologize for the inadvertent message dialog and the concern that it caused. There is an issue with 32-bit devices (iPad 2, 3, 4, and iPad Mini 1) calculating the current usage. The vast majority of users should not see that message, and those that do should be very aware of their usage. The message will only appear once - tapping "Confirm Activity" will open a screen with the ability to file a support ticket.

 

We've fixed this issue and submitted Penultimate 6.0.6 to the App Store on Monday (5/4), and it is currently "Waiting for Review". We'll release it as soon as possible.

 

Cheers,

Chuck

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