Evernote Celebrates Birthday by Joining the Billion Dollar Club (Really?)

Evernote has recently celebrated their third birthday. I also recently had my 21st birthday – it feels good to be able to legally grab a drink finallySmile.  (Hey, if Evernote can lie about their age, so can I…).   Joke apart, I have no idea why a company would pretend to be half as young as they really are – there are quite a few users, yours truly included who remember the early product, back from 2005-2006.

evernote scrollOK, so back then Evernote was really nothing more than a scrawny little note-taker, with a weird scrolling tape metaphor that was hard to get used to, but it already showed unusual flexibility of mixing typed and handwritten text with imaging. Still, the key benefit was price, compared to Microsoft Onenote.  It’s hard to compete with free.

I was truly surprised by the news of their first funding round. Here’s my offending post from 2006 (hm, before they even existed, if you believe the birthday news…):

EverNote – Love You and Hate You

EverNote is the last company I expected to raise venture funding: has a mature product, a mix of freeware and a $35 version, and I pretty much considered them a good candidate for safe, organic growth. GigaOM just reported it EverNote’s funding to the tune of $6M. Wow…

My Love & Hate relationship? The love part is easy to understand; it’s a handy, easy-to-use notetaker, which I prefer to the comparable Microsoft OneNote, and the $0 price is quite unbeatable. The hate part: it really does not fit into strategy of moving off the desktop into the Cloud.

In fact it’s the only application that breaks my sync efforts between two laptops using FolderShare:

Continue reading here.

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve » Zoli Erdos)


Gmail, Don’t be a Yahoo!

In the 90’s I used to laugh at friends who all used Yahoo! as their personal email service. I did not understand how anyone could put up with the slow speeds of web-mail, and tried to convince them to install a decent email client, like Outlook, which is what most of them used in their corporate jobs.

Then things changed: Outlook grew into a bloated monster, it brought otherwise fairly speedy computers to a grinding halt and finding stuff in the archives of years of email became a gargantuan job. A new web-based email service came to rescue: Gmail was fast, well-organized, included productivity-boosters like labels and conversation-threading, and most importantly, you could not only search but also find old email in seconds! For this former Outlook-fan the switch was a no-brainer – in fact I ended up ditching almost all desktop software, moving online. (Gmail for mail and Zoho for most other tasks).

Life was good, I stayed productive and Gmail grew into a suite of productivity services by Google.  Too bad it’s breaking down – again…

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve)


GOutlook. Gmail Back to Earth… in Search of Revenue.

Image credit: LifeHacker I’ve been long-time Gmail fan, having used it from the very early days, for almost 5 years now. The key reasons why I switched and have stuck with the service ever since were the productivity boosters, first of all:

  • Threaded conversations
  • Labels
  • Search

Google did to email what all new product teams should: throw away all known concepts, start from fresh, figure our what the system should really do, instead of delivering a customary system with minor improvements.  Instant success. Instant Customers.  No, correct that: instant users.  There is a difference.  Apparently not everyone likes “radically new”.

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve » Zoli Erdos)


When Real-time is Too Much – Can You Handle the Firehose?

This morning I’ve been testing TweetDeck’s new super-fast version, based on the new Twitter User Streams API. TweetDeck provides fair warning:

This is a VERY experimental version of TweetDeck

I saw a few small glitches, but nothing major.  Yet I am in trouble, and it’s not because of the product.  It’s me.  My brain…

The new TweetDeck (and I suspect soon all clients adapting the User Streams API) is fast. Bloody fast. As close to real-time as it gets. Here’s a quick comparison of Seesmic Desktop 2 and the new TweetDeck:

Seesmic in the left, white column, TweetDeck in the right, black one.   Tweetdeck wins the race hands-down (note: this is not a comparison of the applications, but the API-s they use).  It gets everything first.  And therein lies the rub. I’m not sure real-time is always what we need.   This is like drinking from a huge firehose, without taking a break. It can be suffocating – unless monitoring Twitter is what you do full time.  Here’s my computer screen, while I am typing this very post:

I have a single column for Twitter on the right edge, but my eyes are not glued to it. I can focus on work, but notice the periodic screen updates in my peripheral vision, can quickly glance over to see if there’s anything noteworthy, and continue working.  That’s how far my continuously divided attention can spread.  The new TweetDeck does not give me that 30-second to a minute break to focus on work.  It’s in constant motion, updates come in tweet by tweet, not in batches, and I find my eyes glued to it.  It’s a productivity killer.

If I am live-tweeting during a conference, the firehose is what I want: set up TweetDeck with multiple columns, allow it to occupy the entire screen – in that environment I want absolute real-time.  But for most of my productive life, I need those split minutes undisturbed.  I turned off the firehose.

Update: The video does not fully support my point. As luck would have it I recorded a slower minute or so.  But it can become dizzying under heavy Twitter traffic:-)

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve)


Gmail Back to Earth – In Search of $, I Suppose…

Image credit: LifeHacker

Image credit: LifeHacker

I’ve been long-time Gmail fan, having used it from the very early days, for almost 5 years now.  The key reasons why I switched and have stuck with the service ever since were the productivity boosters, first of all:

  • Threaded conversations
  • Labels
  • Search

I also must say that for all other Web Office needs I prefer ( and always have) Zoho’s products.  Now, take that with a grain of salt, I do have a bias, since Zoho are is the exclusive Sponsor of CloudAve, my main blogging gig, and before launching CloudAve, I had been a long-time Zoho Advisor. Being an Advisor is a controversial role: sometimes your Clients listen, sometimes they don’t.

I must admit for a long time I was going nuts trying to convince Zoho to throw out most of their email product and radically revamp it to offer Gmail-like benefits, mostly threaded conversations.   Why didn’t they get it?  I was frustrated.  But the two things happened.  I looked at the email (both Zoho and Gmail ) accounts of several people and was surprised that even the Gmail version showed only 1-2-3 items in a thread.  My folders labels are full of threads with 30+ entries each.  I’m a productivity-maniac freelancer, part of a few hyper-active discussion group, but not everyone’s usage pattern is like mine…

In fact I also had to realize that I don’t really represent Zoho’s paying customer base.  Sure, freelancers, bloggers..etc can generate a lot of hype and get enthusiastic about change, but the real money is in those “boring” businesses that are willing to pay, but don’t really want to change.  Corporate employees live in Outlook, whether they like it or not is almost irrelevant, they (or their employers) resent change.  So Zoho decidedly resisted turning everything upside down, staying “boring” for a long while, because this is what customers told them to do.  (Zoho has this strange philosophy about business: they don’t want to be coolest company. Just a profitable one.)

Of course over time they added conversation threads and labels, albeit implemented less radically than Gmail – it’s a mix, you can have either traditional or conversation views, and both labels and folders.   But this story is not about Zoho – it’s about Gmail.  Funny changes are happening in Gmail-land.  They added folders, then improved them.  Not that it makes a lot of difference – while for some it is a religious war, I’ve always said:

All folders are labels, but not all labels are folders.

Really. Read the details here.   And now Henry Blodget reports: Google To Change Gmail, Add “Normal Email” Option Instead Of Just “Conversations”.

OMG!  Is that the End of the World, or what?  Not really… I suppose it’s all about financial realities and what the real world wants: you can be innovator, but if you want to sell, you better listen to your customers.  (For clarification: customers are those who pay.  That’s not me ).   Welcome back to Earth, Gmail!   I for one am happy the “new” old way is just an option and conversations remain, otherwise I’d have to switch again – and switching is a major pain.

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve)


ToonDooSpaces: Comics-based Social Network for School Kids

Zoho is mostly known for their Web-based productivity and business software, but sometimes they venture into … hmm… unproductivity.   In the past year or so close to a million cartoons were created @ ToonDoo, and that number grows by 3-4 thousand every day.  (Hey, even I contributed onesmile_wink)

Today they have announced  ToonDooSpaces, private comics-based collaborative space for classrooms, be it school or kindergarten level.  (Remember when FaceBook – actually TheFacebook at the time – was strictly limit to the confines of actual colleges?)   What can you do @ ToonDooSpaces?  Here’s how the kids at one of the pilot schools explain:


Even before this launch, ToonDoo has been used at hundreds of schools including Auburn High School, US, Totino-Grace High School, US, Leawood Middle School, US, Korea International School, Korea, Mount Scopus Memorial College, Australia, Lake Superior College, US and many others -  apparently all the way to college level.  That said I think ToonDooSpaces will be most favored by the younger ones.  Here’s a detailed review by Kevin Hodgson who has been using ToonDooSpaces in his class for months:

All spring, my sixth graders (11 and 12 year olds) were fully engaged in the use of our ToonDoo Spaces site. They would walk in the door and immediately ask: Are we going to make comics today, Mr. H? And they give a little shout of “Yeah!” with a fist pump when I say “yes” (after we do whatever other work we have planned).

Here’s an interactive video showing off more of ToonDoo’s features:


But hey, I’m writing a business / technology blog, so let’s get serious here. smile_wink   I often talk about Freemium (more here), and I think this is a perfect showcase.


Remember, Freemium takes patience – in this case ToonDoo has been available for over a year, attracting hundreds of thousands of users before the launch of the “premium” version, Spaces.

And here’s something else: I guess the inner child must have died in me a long time ago, how else do I have the most fun on the Pricing Page?  The fact is, we often talk about the need for transparency, and how SaaS should be easy not only to learn, use, but to buy, which includes price information, without having to endure lousy sales calls.  Well, it doesn’t get any easier:


Move the cursor along the users / months axis, click anywhere, and voila! – there’s your price quote.   SaaS companies, take notice: you can get rid of the kiddie appearance, but should offer a pricing tool this easy.

Now I am off to create a cartoon(doo). smile_shades

(Disclaimer:  I am Editor of CloudAve, a Zoho-sponsored group blog.)


Google Finally Ends the Folder vs. Label War – What’s Next? Find the Answer Here.

Bear with me for this somewhat long post, for I am not only discussing the sweeping changes Gmail made today, but in the end will also tell you what they are going to do next year – or perhaps after that.

Gmail Changes

The Gmail label changes announced today and to be released to accounts slowly (you may not see them yet, I only have them on one account) are ones that I’ve long been waiting for, and that most reviewers seem to underestimate, thinking of them as mere cosmetic or usability changes, i.e. “drag and drop”, “right-side labels retired”..etc.  We can always trust good old Lifehacker to call it what it is: Gmail Gives Labels the Folder Treatment.

Folders vs. Labels

Because they are. Folders, that is. Just very few people realize that.  The Folders vs. Labels debate is older than the tenancy debates we discussed recently, with two deeply religious camps (apologies for the extreme characterization):

Continue reading


Gmail’s Undo Send Isn’t Really Undo, Just Like Multiple Inboxes Were Not Really Multiple Inboxes

First of all, I love Gmail, it’s my one-and-only email system.  And I’m certainly glad to see the ever accelerating rate of enhancements, whether “official” or just the Labs variety.  But oh, please, can we have some control here and call features what they really are?

First there was the multiple inboxes announcement.  Nice. Except that it wasn’t. Multiple inboxes, that is. Think about it: that would defy logic – unless we’re talking about handling multiple email accounts, which is clearly not the case with Gmail.  This feature is multi-pane viewing – no more, no less.

Today we’re getting another new feature: Undo Send. Except that it really isn’t. Undo Send, that is.

Undo Send is what Outlook has offered for ages: you can actually recall a message that had already been sent, provided the recipient has not opened it yet, and you’re both on Exchange.  What Gmail offers now is a momentary delay of 5 seconds, during which you may just realize you’re emailing the wrong Smith or Brown, and hit the panic Undo button. It’s not really undo, since the message was never sent in the first place – Gmail was holding it for 5 seconds, if you had enabled this option.

Of course, as just about all TechCrunch commenters note, 5 seconds is not enough, the delay might as well be configurable.  Something like this:

Oh, I forgot.  It’s from that other Web-mail system (the one that actually has multiple inboxes, too).

UpdateMG Siegler over @ VentureBeat agrees this is not real  unsend,  and he remembers AOL had a real unsend/recall feature, just like the Exchange theme I described above.

Update #2:  Oh, please… per Wired, Google already plans configurability, but all you get to pick is 5 or 10 seconds.

Related posts:


Gmail Themes Go Beyond Cosmetics

I couldn’t care less when Gmail added those cute smiley, but the newly released themes go beyond cosmetics, they can actually increase your productivity. How? By helping you differentiate between multiple Gmail accounts.  

I have branded (Google Apps, using my own domain) accounts for business and personal use, and a few generic types for subscriptions, lists, online purchases.  It’s all neatly tied together by Gmail Manager, the excellent Firefox extension.  Even then I sometimes find myself typing an email in the wrong account window.  Here’s the solution: give all your Gmail accounts its own distinctive theme.


I don’t really care for the fancy themes, but at least the top row are all subtle, minimalist styles.  Pick one for each of your accounts, you’ll get used to the colors fast and never mix up your accounts again.

Well.. almost.  As usual, Google rolled out this new feature to the generic, accounts only.  Google Apps users will have to wait – lets’ hope not too long.


Yotify – an Almost Impressive Personal Alert service

Reading that TechCrunch calls  Yotify  “Google Alerts on Steroids” I had great expectations… that did not last long. For now, it’s a no-go… read my quick review on CloudAve.



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