Evernote – for Human Memory

Evernote is one of the best productivity tools on the web. They bill themselves as the global platform for human memory. At least they limit themselves to humans. Whew.

In short, Evernote is a simple and elegant solution for capturing all the elements of data you encounter and need to store for potential future recall.  Physicians are inundated with information more than any other professional and Evernote can help.

So, you are wondering exactly what you can do with this tool? Here is a short list:

  • Capture notes – written and voice
  • Organize your photos
  • Clip information from web sites
  • Organize your PDFs and Microsoft Word files
  • Store receipts

That’s just a sample list based on the primary ways in which I use the product. It gets better…while you can sort of do all those with your file folders on your computer, Evernote stores things so they are available from any browser and virtually any device you might use (except a crappy old flip phone if that’s still in your repertoire). Further, the way in which the tool helps collect and organize your objects is far more elegant than the built in file/folder structure on computers…oh, and there is powerful search using tags and even recognition of words from handwritten materials.

Previously I wrote about my LiveScribe Echo pen….Evernote is the perfect compliment. It’s the chocolate to Livescribe’s peanut butter. LiveScribe files sync straight up to my Evernote account and make sure the results and not the tools or process remain the focus.

Last, I want to address the difference between Evernote and virtual hard drives like Amazon’s CloudDrive, Box.net or DropBox. Both categories of services specialize in keeping a given set of data in sync across multiple machines…they are virtual hard drives. If you were inclined, and your time is not worth much, you could make Evernote into a kind of a Dropbox or Dropbox into a kind of an Evernote. However, the differences are what make each designed for a specific job and I’m an advocate of using the right tool for the job versus spending your time monkeying around.

Dropbox’s focus is files. It’s also great for file sharing using the public directory. (It allows large file sharing – over 50mb – Evernote does not).  Evernote focuses primarily in textual and image content. Evernote allows more versatile and customizable organization in the forms of notebooks and tags (instead of just nested directories).  To summarize, I use DropBox to store my bulk files and I use Evernote to store materials I need to search, recall or use on a periodic basis. Those are just a few of the differences. The reality is these tools can be used differently depending on your needs, work habits.

I suggest you create an Evernote account and commit to using it for a few weeks. See if you have any desire to go back to file/folder structures on your computer after that.

LiveScribe Echo SmartPen Rocks!

I have been a note-taker since developing the habit in high school. For me, the process of taking notes is as much about getting engaged in the talk/conversation as it is for future reference. In the past few years I have tried to shift my note-taking habits from archaic pen and notebook to digital options.

The iPad was a nice improvement….but still it lacked. Often my notes have a doodle or sketching element as I try to depict something visual. I annotate, draw arrows etc. I also find it annoying to type while involved in a discussion…it feels very “court-reporter.” Bottom line, it’s still just a heck of a lot easier to do these things with a pen and paper than a finger and glass screen. But I refuse to ditch technology and take a whole step backward to kinda go forward….follow? Now I don’t have to.

I was recently in a meeting and a colleague pulled out a very sophisticated looking pen from his satchel. The topic of conversation in the meeting for the next ten minutes revolved around his slick contraption called a LiveScribe Echo 8MG Smartpen. I thought for a moment I heard a choir of angels singing from above…this thing is a great middle ground between old school analog note-taking and modern technology. The pen works with specifically designed note pads and records both what is being written in the pads AND the audio if desired! You simply connect the pen via USB port at the end of the day and your notes are uploaded to your computer.

It gets better. LiveScribe syncs with any number of programs…Facebook, Google Docs and the holy grail of them all Evernote. What makes this even better than just capturing a picture of notes and storing it on my computer is the ability to add tags. Now, if I really want to find something I know was noted in my tablet, it’s far easier to find than scrolling page by page.

Notes can be stored as .PDF files and audio even the audio recordings can be exported. You can even save/create a “Pencast”…which is a Flash movie of your writing overlaid with the audio recording. Genius. (Note: with a separate program called MyScript you can convert your clearly written notes into text.) It seems to me, these features are really valuable for consultants, attorneys and students to name a few.

The note pads come in a variety of sizes to suit your needs, or you can print your own “dot” paper as long as your printer is capable of 600 dpi resolution or greater. The 8MG version of the pen ran me $180 on Amazon.com. I picked up a replacement pack of ink cartridges for less than $10.

Thursday I am going to discuss a long-time favorite of mine: Evernote. The combination of the LiveScribe pen and Evernote is like the combination of peanut butter and chocolate in a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup.

Email is Killing Us

Everyday I wade through an ever increasing number of emails. It has reached the point where I can only quickly scan my accounts looking for relevant communications.

TED curator Chris Anderson took up this very same problem on his blog noting that management of email messages can consume the better part of a work week. Below is Chris’s post and his call to action.

Houston, we have a problem.

We all love the power of email connecting people across continents. But… we’re drowning in it.

Every year it gets a little worse. To the point where we can get trapped spending most of our working week simply handling the contents of our in-boxes.

And in doing so, we’re making the problem worse. Every reply, every cc, creates new work for our friends and colleagues.

We need to figure out a better way.

But how?

Here is the key cause of this problem:

The total time taken to respond to an email is often MORE than the time it took to create it.

Because even though it’s quicker to read than to write, five other factors outweigh this:
– Emails often contain challenging, open-ended questions that can’t rapidly be responded to
– It’s really easy to copy and paste extra text into emails. (Email creation time is almost the same. Reading time soars.)
– It’s really easy to add links to other pages, or video (each capable of consuming copious gobbets of time)
– It’s really easy to cc multiple people
– The act of processing an email consists of more than just reading. There is a) scanning an in-box, b) deciding which ones to open, c) opening them, d) reading them e) deciding how to respond f) responding g) getting back into the flow of your other work.
So the arrival of even a two-sentence email that is simply opened, read and deleted can take a minimum of 30-60 seconds out of your available cognitive time.
This means that every hour someone spends writing and sending email, may well be extracting more than an hour of the world’s available attention — and generating a further hour or more of new email. That is not good.

It is in fact a potent ‘tragedy of the commons’. The commons in question here is the world’s pool of attention. Email makes it just a little too easy to grab a piece of that attention. The unintended consequence of all those little acts of grabbing is a giant rats nest of voracious demands on our time, energy and sanity.

To fix a ‘commons’ problem, a community needs to come together and agree new rules. That’s why it’s time for an Email Charter. One that can reverse the escalating spiral of obligation and stress.

I have reserved the url emailcharter.org for the finished product. [Update, June 29. The Charter is live!] But first let’s figure out what the charter should be. Let’s do this as a crowd. It’s a shared problem. Let’s come up with a shared solution. It will only work if lots of people agree to it.

The Charter must focus on reversing the underlying cause. We need a world where it is much quicker to process email than to create it. Bearing that in mind. Here are some candidate rules for an Email Charter. (And btw, much of this applies equally to other online messaging, such as Facebook.)

1. Respect Recipients’ Time
This is the fundamental rule. As the message sender, the onus is on YOU to minimize the time your email gobbles at the other end — even if it means taking more time at your end before sending.

2. Be Easy to Process
This means: crisp sentences, unambiguous questions, keep it short. If the email absolutely has to be longer than 100 words, make sure the first sentence is clear about the basic reason for writing.

3. Choose Clear Subject Lines.
Here are some that don’t work:
Subject: Re: re: re: re
Subject: Hello from me!
Subject: next week….
Subject: MY AMAZING NEW SHOW starts next week at the Vctory Theater at 113-86 Broad Lane, every night 8 PM 6/7–7/12
Here are some that do:
Subject: TED Partnership Proposal
Subject: Rescheduling today’s dinner with Sarah G.
Subject: Noon meeting cancelled (eom).
EOM means ‘end of message.’ It’s a fine gift to your recipient. They don’t have to spend the time actually opening the message.

4. Short Does Not Mean Rude!
Let’s mutually agree that it’s OK for emails — and replies — to be really short. They don’t have to include the usual social niceties, though the occasional emoticon is no bad thing 😉 . No one wants to come over as brusque, so don’t take it that way. We just want our lives back!

5. Slow Does Not Mean Uncaring!
Let’s also agree that it’s OK if someone doesn’t respond quickly, or ever. I’s not that they don’t love you. They may just not want to be owned by their in-box. Avoid sending chasing emails, unless you’re desperate. It’s only exacerbating the problem.

6. Abhor Open-Ended Questions
It’s really mean to send someone an email with four long paragraphs of turgid text followed by “Thoughts?”. It’s generous to figure out how you can offer people simple yes/no questions – or multiple choice! “When you have a moment could you let me know if you’re A) firmly in favor, B) mildly in favor C) against or D) no opinion. Thanks!”

7. Cut Gratuitous Responses
You don’t need to reply to every email. If I say “Thanks for your note. I’m in.” You don’t have to reply “Great.” That just cost me another 30 seconds. If you must confirm, put it in the subject line with an ‘eom’.

8. Think Before you cc:
Cc:’s are like mating bunnies. Like Tribbles from Star Trek. Like spilling a tub of olive oil-coated spaghetti on a well-waxed floor. Like too many metaphors. Most of them are unneccessary, and they are hard to get rid of. The rule should be: for every additional cc, you must increase the time you spend making sure your outgoing email is crisp and that it’s clear who needs to respond, if anyone. And if you reply to an email, take care to ask whether you really need to include everyone cc’ed on the original email.

9. Speak Softly
DO NOT USE ALL CAPS IN THE BODY OF YOUR EMAIL. It’s rather like screaming at someone. And they’re hard to read – as are most unusual fonts and colors. Simple sans serif fonts like Arial, Helvetica, Verdana work best. If you want to add some zing to your emails, design a personalized signature tag.

10. Attack Attachments.
Don’t use them unless they’re critical. Some people have all kinds of graphics files as logos or signatures that appear as attachments at the receiver. Not cool. Time is wasted trying to see if there’s something to open. Even worse is sending text as an attachment when it could just as easily have been included in the body of the email and saved that extra click-and-wait.
If you send an invite to an event, it’s fine to include an attachment that announces it visually. But:
– If there is a URL, include it in text form so it shows up as a clickable link. Or make the whole image itself a clickable link. Not fair to expect someone to retype a url !
– Please include the location, date and time in text format so that the information can be quickly copied and pasted. That way it can quickly be added to a calendar. (And error free. You don’t want “The Knickerbocker Club, 7:30 PM, black-tie required” to morph into
“The Kickboxer Club, 7:30 AM, black-belt required”.)

11. Make it easy to unsubscribe
If you send out email newsletters, please make it easy to stop the flow. Letters that prompt rage are not helping your brand!

12. Think about the thread
Some e-mails depend for their meaning on context. Which means it’s usually right to include the thread which they’re responding to. But it’s rare that a thread should extend to more than 3 emails. Before sending, cut the crap!

13. Don’t reply when angry
Just walk away from the computer. Stamp your feet. Scream out the window. Do not send an email until your emotions have calmed. One rude, jerky email can tar you for life… and spark an even worse response.

14. Use NNTR
“No need to respond.” Use it in a subject line, right before EOM. Or use it at the end of an email. What a gift to your recipient!

15. Pay a voluntary email tax
The reason email is escalating is because it’s free. No one wants to change that… but what if at the end of each month, you quickly totted up how many emails you had sent, multiply by the average number of cc’s, and pay that number of cents into a personal book-buying account. You’ll end up with a lot of great books… and it might just pull you away from the goddam computer for a bit! Speaking of which…

16. Switch off the computer!
This could be the most important rule of all. If we all agreed to spend less time doing email, we’d all get less email! Consider… calendaring half-days at work where you refuse to look at email. Consider… email-free weekends. Consider… setting up the following auto-response. “Thank you for your note. As a personal commitment to my and my family’s mental health, I now do email only on Wednesdays. I’ll reply to as many as I can next Wednesday. Thanks for writing. Don’t forget to smell the roses.”

Now it’s over to you. Which of these do you like? Which do you hate? Which need amending? And what new and better rules can you come up with? We’ll be monitoring the response carefully and will use the best of it to create the final charter. That will be something we hope people will link to in their email signatures. And maybe one day we’ll all get to live a little better, and write a little less !

Google is Social

Google’s lack of a clear social strategy has created a lot of fodder for those that follow tech. Google is overwhelmingly known as a search-centric company (for good reason) but the rise of Facebook in recent years has created speculation that their golden egg could indeed face stiff competition from Facebook (and its 650M user base) should they eat into search. Turning the tables, it’s been pretty clear Google needs to respond to the rise of “social”, leveraging their significant assets to ensure the field isnt a one-company show. At theSocial-Loco conference this past week in San Francisco, there was more revealed by Marissa Mayer of Google and others.

One of the panel moderators at Social-Loco cited a term coinage by noted Silicon Valley investor John Doerr that’s more useful to understanding what Google is up to than the concept “social” alone: SoLoMo, or social + location + mobile.

SoLoMo offers a reminder that data sets do not exist in a vacuum. Search expert and Web 2.0 Conference co-chair John Battelle has described several categories of data that are relevant to Google and its kin: There’s the social graph (contacts, friends), interest data (likes, tweets, recommendations), search data (queries, history), purchase data (what you buy, credit card numbers), location data (where you are, have been, and are going), and content data (behavior when engaged with content).

As for mobile, it’s more of a mode than a data type; it’s relevant because mobile data comes from customers who could be ready for commerce in the real world rather than the online one.

These categories can be combined and redefined, but together they represent the scope of information that’s meaningful to Google and its competitors. While Google may not yet have a social graph to match Facebook, it has other kinds of data, like geo-spatial data. Google Maps and Google Earth form the foundation of the social layer the company is building. Google Places, which relies on Maps, has five million reviews–the product of social connection–and that number is growing at a rate of a million per month.

In an interview following her presentation at Social-Loco, Mayer suggested that Google and Facebook are approaching the same problem from different angles. Asked whether she thought it was fair to say that Google’s approach to social is more geo-centric than Facebook’s, she said, “Maybe. I do think that having imagery, having the platform to provide the maps is a big investment. So we have a lot going with Google’s hardware and our cloud and the investments we make there. Being able to do something like Street View and developing our own ground-truth maps in various countries, that’s a big investment and a lot of smaller companies may not start there. They start somewhere more social.”

“We’re starting with this investment that we’ve made to really have this amazing mirror of the physical world available in digital form,” Mayer continued. “And now I think we’re building on top of that platform to think about what we can do on the social side. We’re all coming at the same problem, but based on investments to date you might start at a different place.”

Google’s platform is an advertising platform, one for which SoLoMo is increasingly relevant, but is also problematic: Social data and location data raise significant privacy concerns. Apple and Google were reminded of this recently when reports about iPhones storing location data and Android phones transmitting it had to be explained away.

To read full coverage of the conference from InformationWeek click HERE

Questions Surround Lack of iPad2 Availability

Last week I visited an Apple Store with a friend who happens to be in product planning for a major retailer. He asked if they had any iPad2 units available. The clerk scoffed and explained that they have a line form every morning in front of the store to claim units delivered in the previous day’s shipment. When my friend inquired as to when they would have enough supply on hand so that consumers didn’t have to wait in lines as if buying tickets for an Elvis concert circa 1966, the reply was that demand is so great they don’t foresee resolving the situation any time soon. Rather than a tone of remorse from the clerk, there was an element of pride in the daily routine some customers were apparently willing to endure.

Meanwhile, today Apple announced its quarterly earnings and the numbers were solid. Second quarter net income was $5.99 billion, or $6.40 a share, up from $3.07 billion, or $3.33 a share in the same period last year. Total revenue for the quarter was $24.67 billion, an 83 percent jump compared to $13.50 billion in the year-ago quarter. However, the numbers were clearly truncated because of iPad2 supply problems. While they sold 4.7 million iPad units that figure represents 2.6 million fewer units sold in the previous quarter. The odd element of the investor update however, was the lack of detail as to why the iPad2 has such significant supply problems.

When pressed by analysts on this issue, Tim Cook the Apple COO responded by explaining: The company is below its channel inventory target range, but they do not attribute iPad supply issues to the Japan tsunami, and Cook is not predicting any material supply or cost impact during fiscal quarter three. However, he did say that the situation is uncertain.

So, why was Apple unable to meet demand for iPads during the quarter? The company said complications with planning and product transitions had something to do with the matter, but did not disclose specific reasons.

I am a big fan of Apple and their marketing magic. Their product delivery is usually executed with brilliance. However, this latest lack of supply is nothing short of failure. It demonstrates one of a number of things or all of them combined:

  • poor product forecasting (getting a sense of demand is what analysts in sophisticated retailers do and had better do well)
  • terrible supply-chain management
  • who the heck knows because they aren’t elaborating
Obviously life goes on and lack of iPad2 availability is not up there with the great social problems of the day. However, for a company that commands such respect (and revenue) and consistently delivers on expectations, they cannot let this kind of supply nonsense plague future product roll-outs.
More Reading:

iPad2 in Europe

If there was ever doubt about Apple’s product and marketing magic having the same impact cross the pond, let me assure you they are alive and well. While I didn’t travel to Europe to get an iPad2, I did witness Day 1 of the iPad2 launch in Zurich. As it turns out I needed a power adapter and had to get one at the Apple store. I’ve attached a photo of the Disney-esque lines that wound over a block and a half along Bahnhofstrasse. I spoke to someone in line who traveled from Stuttgart to wait in line for the device. Amazing to see the Apple magic transcend cultures, languages and continents.

Next week I will post some thoughts and news related to healthcare and technology specific to several European markets. Those posts will likely make their way to iMedExchange.

In the meantime, I may drop a few posts from Baselworld….the largest watch and jewelry show in the world.

Kickstarter & Carolyn Hopkins

A friend recently told me about an art project his daughter is working on. Mind you, this is not a simple arts and crafts school project. Carolyn Hopkins describes her project as follows:

This is a proposal for a large scale sculptural piece made up of 3 parts.  The first, at the base, is a life size horse upholstered to mimic the surface of a couch.  On the back of this horse will sit a structure similar to those found in fire towers or upholding deer blinds.  This structure will hold a small cabin made of rolled up blankets – about 18 feet up into the air.  This piece will be on exhibition in April at the Cranbrook Art Museum for the 2011 Cranbrook grad show Here Here.

Here is picture of Stage 1






I share this project for 2 reasons:

  • First, I love the idea behind Kickstarter. It’s an incredible concept to facilitate projects just like Carolyn’s. Raising money for a project like this is difficult for most people if it has to be done in large increments….but in small increments it’s manageable. The site is incredibly well developed and payment is done through your Amazon account….double bonus!
  • Second, if you want to give it a try, help underwrite Carolyn’s project. Even a few dollars helps her out and you can get started as an underwriter in the world of Kickstarter.