Why would I say such a thing after having an option to upload all my photos to Google Photos for free?
You know that saying that if you’re not paying for a product, then you are the product? If we start paying for our photo storage on Google Photos, then doesn’t this change the dynamic, somewhat?
If we start paying for our Google Photos storage beyond the free 15GB that Google gives all Google accounts, then we can expect that –
Google Photos not fall into the category of abandoned Google products; and
Google respect our privacy as you’d expect from a paid service where they earn revenue directly from users, and not from ads, and so on.
Although I also use Flickr, and have a Pro account with unlimited storage, Google Photos is my go-to service for sharing photos. The search capability is just incredible, and it works really well for me.
Google’s pricing is pretty reasonable through Google One where plans start off at about $2 a month for 100GB of storage.
All in all, while the transition away from a free service is a pity, expecting this service to remain free, and to be constantly improved, while remaining free, is unreasonable. Worse than that, it’s a path to Google Photos being shelved one day.
I play DnD with my wife and daughter at home, so I don’t have an immediate need for this. At the same time, there are loads of people who find themselves playing remotely, so this is a compelling option.
Even though we play in person, I’ve been using a number of digital tools to help manage our games.
I’ve been using DnD Beyond quite a bit lately. I’m trying out the paid, Master Tier subscription to manage our campaign. The subscription enables me to create encounters based on the characters’ levels (that translates into somewhat more accurate difficulty estimates).
I also like that I can share the digital books that I’ve purchased.
The Combat Tracker is terrific, and helps managing initiative, and monster damage a lot easier. This works hand-in-hand with the Encounter Builder. I’ve realised that creating encounters from within the campaign manager/page allows me to create campaign-specific encounters.
The DnD Beyond character sheets are also terrific. I only use the online version for my character, and my wife has switched over to that version for the most part, too.
The new digital dice are really nice too. I’m looking forward to trying those out too (although I think I prefer physical dice on the whole).
Notion has been really useful for my campaign notes, and tracking the party’s progress through a campaign. I add maps, tables to track overall encounters, XP awards, and even individual encounters (there’s some overlap here with the DnD Beyond Combat Tracker).
Options like inline tables, internal links, and other Notion blocks are proving to be really helpful, although I’d like to build page templates that I can start a new adventure with.
There are a number of terrific digital tools available to us. They add to in-person games too, and can really enhance online game play if you can’t meet up to play your games.
Integrating the service into Gmail is an aggressive move and something we haven’t seen the company do since the Google+ days. Reportedly a lot more integrations are coming in the future—the G Suite team apparently wants to make some kind of “new unified communications app” that merges features from Gmail, Drive, Google Chat, and Google Meet.
I don’t see myself reproducing what he’s done, and building a new site for myself in the foreseeable future. That said, I have tremendous respect for Wes Bos, and how he approaches his work.
He shares openly, offers pricing for his courses that make it much more affordable (I especially appreciate that), and he produces really good quality content.
I found myself exploring Notion as an Evernote alernative again, yesterday. I looked at it briefly about a year ago, and it didn’t seem like something that was worth switching to at the time. After all, I’ve been using Evernote for years, and given how much I was using Evernote, I wasn’t sure that investing in a new service was worth it.
My prompt to explore Notion originated in my thoughts about my Dungeons and Dragons adventure notes, and my curiosity about it as a possible replacement for my handwritten notes (handwritten notes leave me feeling a little twitchy because there aren’t any backups).
I found a couple great discussions online about the tools that other DMs use for their adventures. Popular options include OneNote, Evernote, a number of services designed for role-playing games, and Google Drive.
I found a couple discussions about Notion as an option, too. One reddit user posted an intriguing Notion page template that they use for their adventure notes.
What I like about Notion
There’s a lot to like about Notion. It uses blocks, much like the WordPress Editor, to insert different types of content into your pages. Evernote supports some options, but my inability to add media from other sources (or even, in some cases, directly), feels somewhat limiting when I want to create richer notes.
For example, my options for adding content in the Evernote Web editor (probably on the leading edge of where the editor is going) look like this:
By contrast, I can embed a YouTube video in Notion much like I can do this in WordPress:
I keep mentioning the WordPress editor. The reason for the comparisons is that I really like using the block editor to add different types of content to my posts and pages. It’s a remarkably flexible editor that gives anyone the ability to create some really interesting, and complex layouts, pretty easily.
Some of the other Notion features that I enjoy, and that I’d love to see in Evernote (or any similar service I use) include –
Support for Markdown;
The ability to link to individual blocks on a page;
The option to create a wide variety of page types, including simpler databases that I could refer back to later in other pages; and
Frankly, Notion is cheaper than Evernote (almost $20 a year cheaper relative to the Evernote Premium plan that I’m on).
I also like how easy it is to import my notebooks from Evernote into Notion. I ran a test import of my DnD notebook, and it generated a really handy index page with links to the individual “notes” (or sub-pages):
Room for improvement
All that said, moving to Notion isn’t an easy decision. For one thing, Notion lacks the powerful search features that Evernote has. Evernote will not only search your notes’ text, it also does OCR-based searches on your note attachments.
I also use the Evernote add-on for Gmail to quickly archive emails that I want to refer to down the line. I don’t see a similar option for Notion, or even an email address that I can forward emails to.
A small issue that I noticed is that I also can’t change the storage location for Notion on my Android device. I made the mistake of buying a phone with 32GB of storage, so space on the device is at a premium.
Not being able to move the app’s storage to the SD card on the phone is a challenge.
Can Notion replace Evernote (for me)?
Currently, I’m not sure. I still want to spend more time experimenting with Notion, and may use it to create my next DnD adventure as a sort of “real life” test.
The search feature limitation is, well, a limitation. I add PDFs to my notes because I want to reference them later. Many of them are already searchable, so not being able to tap into the text that’s there already isn’t ideal.
The speed at which many schools have closed, and kids and educators have had to switch to distance learning platforms have caused quite a bit of frustration, especially for parents overwhelmed with the sudden influx of messages.
Here’s a funny (and true) rant from an Israeli mother who found herself overwhelmed by the flood of messages on WhatsApp, and expectations from teachers that she (and we) be able to fill the gap left by in-person learning.
The Internet can be a tremendous distance learning platform. It just takes some planning to deliver a more rational, and accessible distance learning system.