Thursday, July 28, 2011

How to get the most out of Evernote

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Image by shainelee via Flickr"]Use Evernote for Hand Written Notes[/caption]

As a preacher of the Evernote, I am often asked how to use it. The answer is a little tricky; most of us use paper differently. Some of us write detailed notes; some of us write broad concepts. What may work for me may not necessarily work for you. So, how can I help you figure out Evernote? The answer is to highlight some of the features of Evernote with some examples of uses, then you can see how the feature may fit into your lifestyle. The important thing to remember is that the more you use it, the more useful it becomes.

What Evernote Does and Doesn't

Evernote saves information and makes it easy to organize and find that information. Many new users expect Evernote to organize information for them. Evernote doesn't work that way. It's up to you to organize information within the Evernote platform. Evernote provides indexing, notebooks, stacks of notebooks, tags, GPS coordinates, and other ways of organizing information. They are amazingly useful if you take advantage of them. They are vital to getting the most out of your experience.


The feature I used the most on Evernote is photo capturing. I use photos for shopping, documentation, capturing notes, capturing store business hours, and the covers of books I would like to buy in the future.

Writing Recognition

Evernote can read text in photographs. The text can be in print or in neat handwriting. This allows you to use Evernote to capture handwritten notes such as:

  • post-its

  • class notes

  • white board notes

  • signs

  • business cards

One major advantage of capturing handwritten notes is that your photos can include drawings.


Evernote indexes PDF files for Premium subscribers. This is extremely handy when running searches for information. If your work is big into documents, having the ability to carry all your documents and search for them can be very useful. More than once, I've been able to find documentation for hardware that I forwarded by email to the person who needed it, from my phone.


One very useful feature of Evernote is the voice note feature. Assuming your phone has enough memory to hold it, Evernote can record up to 90 minutes of voice audio per note.  This is useful for:

  • Voice memos

  • recording lectures

  • recording meetings

What To Do?

Evernote provides To Do check boxes. You can organize To Do lists for every little project you have. This is very useful when you have a ton of projects and are trying to push each one along a little at a time.

Location, Location, Location

One feature that doesn't get too much attention is the GPS feature. When you enable it, all your notes will have a location attached to them. You can remember where you parked your car. You can figure out where you met a person whose business card you photographed; or, the opposite, you may remember where you met but not their name. You can find notes by job site.

Note Links

Have you ever used a Wiki? Evernote added a feature that allows you to cross-link your notes. If done well, you can turn your Evernote into a personal, private wiki.

Universal Access

One of the main selling points of Evernote is that they try to be available on as many devices as possible. This frees you up to use Evernote from your phone, at home on the computer, at the office through the web, from out of town at the hotel computer... just about anywhere. Your notes are always backed up.

Knowing that your notes are always backed up allows you some peace of mind and freedom. You can get rid of countless documents that litter your existence.

Mix and Match

You are not limited to one medium in your notes. You can add audio, text, and photos within a single note. If you are a premium subscriber, you can add other notes such as Excel files, movies, hardware drivers, or whatever. Each note helps you arrange information by context.

Recommended Notebooks

Here are some Notebook or Stack ideas that might help you get started:

  • Rolodex

  • School notes

  • Home records

  • 2011 Accounting

  • Journal

  • Reference

  • Travel

  • Projects

  • Recipes

Most Importantly

The most important thing to remember is that even though the name implies some form of permanence, Evernote does not have to keep your information forever. You can edit your notes and use them as scratchpads. Copy and paste are my best friends in Evernote.

Resist the temptation to be a pack rat. Information sometimes has an expiration date. As you add more notes to Evernote, old information that is no longer relevant can clutter up your search results. Don't hesitate to delete stuff you don't need.

And Finally

After having said all that, the only limitation that Evernote has is you. In my case, I can only accomplish four or five big tasks per day. I need paper to keep me on track. So, while I may keep my lists of things to do in Evernote, I will usually have a paper with the 5 most important things to do today.  I'll write notes in my Moleskine or other notepad.

Being very mobile, tapping away at my phone or tablet to write notes is time-consuming. It's better to write notes by hand and then store them into Evernote later. Your limitation will be how neat your handwriting is. It's also important to title and tag handwritten notes well just in case the handwriting recognition doesn't understand your writing.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Google Threw Me Under the Bus and I'm OK With It

At last month's Social Media Club RGV meeting, we talked about mobile marketing, which included ideas on how to use Google Buzz to reach local audiences. Google Buzz had a layer on Google Maps that you could use to browse geotagged posts on your phone and on the desktop. I've posted about it before. I've made some online friends via this method. So, the launch of G+ threw my presentation under the bus; but, I'm ok with it knowing what's coming up.

Well, a couple weeks after showing others how to use Google Buzz for location-based marketing; Google launched Google+. Great service; I love it. BUT, they removed the Buzz layer on Maps and nixed the Google Buzz widget on Android.

Much of the check-in functionality and location-based posting that came with Buzz has been transferred to Google Plus. Well, that is except for the ability to browse nearby posts on a map. They did add a Nearby post viewing option in the mobile app. But, it doesn't do much good until all users are transitioned from Buzz to Google Plus. This may happen in the coming weeks...or months.

Basically, I'm starting over with blank canvas and a reduced audience of people capable of viewing Google+ posts. Adoption won't be widespread until Google+ comes out of the "field trial", meaning required for everybody.

I'm very excited at the possibilities that the geotagging features offer once they become standard for all users. Now, I'm torn between posting to Buzz where there are still users and building content for the new audience. I'm hoping that at some point Google will merge Google Buzz and Google Plus posts into one stream so that old location-based posts in Buzz will transfer in.
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Monday, July 11, 2011

In case of zombies

*What bugs me about zombie movies*
Too often in apocalypse zombie-type movies, surviving non-zombies live in relative comfort. If utility workers don't show up to work, you have a short while before your utilities shut off on their own, or become unusable. Electricity is the main factor.
Municipal water treatment plants need water and electricity to do their job. Assuming water flows via gravity, electricity is the limiting factor to run pumps and other equipment.
Assuming a power plant continues to operate on its own for a few days, I don't know how long a power plant can run without people, water needs testing, chemical treatment, and physical cleaning. Even newer plants that use UV light to sanitize water require periodic decrudding. So, you may get water; but it wouldn't be safe.
I don't know enough about natural gas. I think some of it has natural pressure. But at some point, it would need pressurizing to complete long distance travel. Fortunately, gas is easily replaced by anything that burns.
We don't give sewage much thought. Again, electricity. While there is power, toilets work.
Electricity also powers gas pumps. How the heck are you going to get gas out of underground tanks? Especially with zombies running around trying to eat your brains?
Suffice it to say, you need to worry about potable water and non-perishable food once the lights go out. The rest of your challenges can be overcome. There are some things you could figure out with a generator and a source if fuel to run it; but you won't get far using that for water and sewage.
In case of zombies, you have to think of these things. You need a zombie emergency plan so that you don't have to figure things out the hard way. Your survival is at stake.
While you're at it, a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, tsunami, or general disaster plan couldn't hurt. Should be easier than a zombie invasion.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Why Google +1 Was Necessary: A Retrospective

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBaseGoogle +1 was necessary to make Google search results match Facebook Likes in terms of relevance. While visiting some websites today, I noticed that +1 still has a way to go to reach Likes, which makes sense given the recent launch.

Having Facebook know who likes your pages is beneficial in providing you some insight into who is visiting, it doesn't really help Google figure out how awesome your blog post or website are. Yes, Google could probably mooch the Like count on your page; but, that would be uncool in some way. 

Having +1 gives Google the same idea about which pages are relevant and popular, which is important when you are running a search, right? I know, it throws SEO under the bus when people get to vote on which web pages are good quality. 

Besides giving them metrics on who is visiting what pages, +1 actually helps Google provide their core product, search, much more effectively. 
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Google+ Circles are not YOUR filter

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Google's homepage in 1998[/caption]

Google+ Circles are not YOUR filter, they filter YOU. It would be a mistake to create a circle thinking that it will limit what you read from that circle of friends.

For example, I created a Foodie circle on Google+. The circle is where I post pictures of food and recipes. However, when I look at the Foodie circle stream, it contains posts about anything and everything my friends in that circle have shared publicly, which doesn't necessarily include food.

On the other hand, when I post items to a specific circle, only those people in that circle receive my posts, leaving everybody who is not interested unaware.

PUBLIC is the bane of the whole Circles concept. It completely bypasses Circles and blasts everybody with the same message regardless whether they are interested or not.

As a blogger, my first impulse is to share with the world.  It requires some self-restraint to not make all my Google+ posts viewable to the entire world. I suppose I could do the same with Facebook; but, I won't. Whatever.

I'm hoping other Google+ users practice some self-restraint by keeping away from the PUBLIC broadcasts with respect to everything they are doing.

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Friday, July 01, 2011

Google+ : Re-evaluating content distribution

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Image via CrunchBase"]Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...[/caption]

I've been neck deep in Google+ since the field trial was opened up a couple days ago. I wrote a blog post about how Circles is nothing new to Google.  They've had a few runs at tailoring content for each of your audiences with Orkut, Wave, and Buzz. Like Facebook, grouping your contacts has always been possible on Google products; but, people aren't doing it.

I can't say for certain why it's any different now; but, users are doing it. You could just as easily create Public posts for everything, like the default settings on their other services. But, the possibility of targeting your content to specific groups of people makes me re-evaluate how I distribute content.

The Way It Is

The status quo is to broadcast. Having a blog typically means you are broadcasting to the world, or a set of subscribers. There really are only two audiences: public and private. Other than mailing lists, there really is very little message tailoring. The rule of thumb is that each blog should focus on a narrow range of topics so that your readers know what to expect and come back often. Consequently, you'll see some people launch multiple blogs dedicated to different subjects. I'll raise my hand as guilty here.

New Way of Distributing?

While tailoring content for specific audiences  within Google's previous social products has been possible, it wasn't practicable because these services did not draw enough people to make it worthwhile. If you have 24 friends on Orkut, why would you segment your content? It's a pointless extra step. Same goes for Buzz. Wave was another thing altogether, acting more like email; but, the numbers of users created the same limitation.

It seems that, at least in my case, breaking up content into groups, or I guess Circles now, is finally an option. I've built up a large enough group of online friends on Google Buzz who have jumped at the chance to try out Google+. The key is that they have varied interests. Not only is it practicable, it's easy to target content.

Does this mean...

So, does this mean that broadcasting content to everybody who will listen is no longer cool? Tonight, for example, I created a Foodie circle on G+. I posted food pictures and asked who wanted to receive more food pics. So, creating a Foodie circle ensures that they will view my food posts; but, if I make the post Public as well, then everybody else not in the circle gets the same, completely undoing the whole purpose of targeting.

So, it seems that the future of Google+ is a repository of hidden content that is viewable by circles of friends. How would you grow such a group? Offhand, I'm thinking of making every 5th, or so, food post public to draw in new people to the circle. "If you want more great food pics, ask to join my Foodie circle."

I think that's the point. Send people content that they want. You know how they say that it's not the number of friends you have; rather, it's the quality of the friendships. By making Circles central to the Google+ experience, I think Google forces users to make quality connections rather than casting a wide net.

It means that I can be my ADHD self, jumping from topic to topic, but making it relevant to the right people without having to jump to different platforms to do it.

What do you think?

I'm curious if you think that broadcast on the web is on the way out. What are your thoughts?

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