Evernote – a bigger brain?


CC image thanks to Jason Tester via Flickr

One of my favourite amusing and simultaneously most cringe-inducing moments as a consultant came a number of years go, shortly after I started doing middleware consultancy. It had been a long week on a hectic, high pressure project. I was part of a team helping to design and implement a new system. The system design had been debated over and over again, and some of the basic technology principles had been described just as many times. Eventually the lead architect snapped, and without either meaning to (or possibly, without realising what he’d done in that moment) turned to the project technical lead and said “sorry, but come back when you’ve got a bigger brain!”. There was a stunned silence in the room… fortunately it was all pretty good natured as it was a friendly team, but it’s just… not the sort of thing you expect to happen.

The moment came back to me while I was listening to a recent podcast, which interviewed the CEO of Evernote. Evernote is a note taking application available on Windows, Mac and iPhone (other platforms to come) which lets you synchronise thoughts, ideas, photos and memories between devices. It has been around for a year or so now… the obvious thing to describe it as is a cloud service, since your stuff gets sync’ed through the cloud, but it seems as though it has been around longer than the term itself – maybe I’m imagining it.

Actually the description I just gave of Evernote doesn’t really do it justice. It’s far more than a way of syncing simple notes. It has text recognition in images, so you can actually search for text inside the images you add to Evernote. You can grab pieces of web pages on your desktop and paste them into Evernote. You can make voice notes. You can take photos of business cards to remember and index people. It’s very clever.

I struggle to use it though… I can see what a great idea it is, but it’s rare that I physically remember to put notes in there. Since I’m at a conference this week, it seems like I should be using it as a scrapbook a lot more, but I think it will take discipline.

Why did the interview about Evernote remind me of my consulting story? Well, simply that the CEO describes it as his “bigger brain”, and their ambition to be the place where your external memories or brain overspill ends up. It doesn’t quite map to the original anecdote, as that was really a matter of frustration of lack of understanding of a concept, rather than simply the ability to remember facts – but the words struck a chord.

The moral of the story is – don’t forget anything, just use Evernote. As long as you remember to keep using it… or something.

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