Rob Walker on the cult of Evernote

Count me among the members of the cult of Evernote, a web service (with 50,000,000 users) that stores digital documents and makes them easy to find. I use it with my Fujitsu ScanSnap document scanner (here's my review) and would have a very hard time without them. The current issue of Bloomberg BusinessWeek has our friend Rob Walker's excellent story about ardently devoted Evernote users.

“What you put in Facebook isn’t who you are,” says [Evernote CEO] Phil Libin. “It’s what you want some people to see. And what you put in LinkedIn is certainly not who you are; it’s what you want the professional world to see.” Libin suggests that the addiction to a particular strain of “viral” growth has led to a drastic overemphasis on digital design for extroversion. As a guy who describes himself as too introverted to win over his high school chess team, Libin says that’s an oversight. “What you put in Evernote is who you are,” he continues. “We used to say in the beginning that Evernote is not social. In fact, it’s antisocial; we don’t care about your friends.”
As Evernote's Cult Grows, the Business Market Beckons


  1. Could be. I’ve noticed that the fellow that I work with every day, who’s sitting six feet from me, doesn’t show up at all in my Facebook world.

    If I trusted the cloud with my data, then I’d be all over Evernote.

    1. You could use it locally only, by setting the Preferences > Sync to manual, and never sending it (synching) to the cloud.

      1. But that is missing most of the point of it. As much as I love it, without the cloud aspect, I don’t know how much I’d bother.

  2. “What you put in Evernote is who you are,” he continues. “We used to say in the beginning that Evernote is not social. In fact, it’s antisocial; we don’t care about your friends.”

    Until they decide to sell you. And since they seem to believe that they have a better “image” of your “self”, I’d think it’s only a matter of time before they monetize that.

    1. Hopefully the folks at Evernote would warn everyone before ever doing such a thing and probably make it optional.  Plus, they’d have to change their ToS and that would get noticed fairly quickly and spread like wildfire to their detriment.  I guess we’ll see?

    2. Well, they make their money by selling premium accounts, and selling their users would blow a big hole in the trust they rely on.

      Given a few years, 8% of the people who sign up have converted to paid, and the % does keep going up. $45 a year is enough for them to make money on, and they claim their goal is to make it a 100 year company.

      1. Totally. I haven’t paid directly, as I got a couple of premium months in a heist and with two notebooks, but if those run out, I’ll totally fork over the money. 

        Also, all they can really gather from it is that I have a very, very messy mind that’s prone to flights of fancy. That’s why I use the service, after all.

  3. I agree.  My Evernote stuff is me.  It’s full of the stuff I like to cook (and eat), the books I want to read, emails and articles I’ve felt are important enough to save, gift ideas for myself and other, the places I’ve been and places I’d like to visit.

  4. I’ve been searching for a mobile phone app (android) that allows me to replace my analog lists I carry around or have stashed in drawers- groceries, travel packing, chores, etc.

    My best efforts still take me maybe 7 or 8 clicks or more (from lock screen) and 15 seconds or greater. What would be best is if I could add a shortcut to my lock screen for a specific note- for instance “groceries”, reducing the clicks to one and a swipe.

    Anyone with similar needs and a resolution?

    And just to throw a bone to the topic….
    I’m a chronic note taker/list maker, and I love having my “stuff” stored in the cloud so I can access from many terminals. However, I also do not put a single piece of me on the cloud that I would not want a stranger seeing. I just don’t need to use the cloud for that, so I see no reason to compromise “me”, even if the risk is apparently zero. Carbonite commercials advertising “back up all your photos and personal records” makes me kind of nauseous. I have all my personal stuff backed up twice on external drives, one stored in a second location. Overkill and sometimes a lot of work, but photographer’s stories of losing decades of work is terrifying enough for me.

    1. With the Evernote widget on android, I can make a new note with one click, but you would have to put “gorceries” in yourself. Also, it would show your most recent 3 documents, and you can scroll back to see more, click to open, click to edit, click to save. 

      I’ve not used the iOS version, so I don’t know what it can do. 

  5. Last week a list I had been updating on evernote magically rolled back to a version from a month ago. One whole month of updates gone.

    I salvaged it by going to work the next day, disconnecting my computer from the net, and editing the note to make sure that version definitely had the latest edits.  Then I reconnected to the net and synced.

    Two days ago the note rolled back to a December version.

    I copied all of my notes to a more reliable platform and closed out my Evernote account.

    I simply can’t afford to lose a month of my work.

      1.  Yeah. Even though I am not a premium subscriber, they responded promptly.  But I just gave them the breakdown of what happened and told them I was still out.

        Others may feel I overreacted, but like I said, I can’t afford to have my work disappear, or not be available until I salvage it from a different device.

  6. I love Evernote and find it indispensable in both my personal and professional life. If you upgrade to a premium account, you can share notes and allow others to edit them which is great for collaborative note taking.

      1. I think it is in some ways what Google Wave wanted to be, but in many other ways it is different. Instead of having an accent on collaboration, it is more about organising information independent of the device. I can have my notes on my work computer, my home computer, my tablet (be it iPad or Android) or my smartphone (again, iPhone or Android).

        So the biggest difference is that information in Evernote is supposed to be private, unless you explicitly want it to be public. Since their business model is not advertising based but instead based on selling premium accounts, the premium users are the customers and normal users are the prospective customer base, not the product sold to advertisers. That cultivates trust better than Google has been able to.

  7. I think I’d like evernote more if there was a better way to see all of the contents of their “notebooks” the methods I’m aware of are fine on my desktop, but eat more screen than I like on the netbook I use for taking notes in classes, or writing when out and about.

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