Categories
Applications Useful stuff

The new Dropbox is a compelling alternative to both Evernote and Google Drive

Why thoughts about switching

All of what I’ve explored below is premised on me wanting to migrate away from Evernote and Google Drive. I don’t have a particularly strong desire to move away from either service, although there are reasons for me to have a Plan B in mind if it becomes necessary to make the moves:

  • Evernote seems to be struggling to maintain momentum, and although recent Behind the Scenes videos show some encouraging directions, I have invested a lot in Evernote and want to make sure I have another option for my data if the company runs into major trouble;
  • Google is, well, Google. I’m mostly comfortable entrusting Google with my data, and practically everything I do in some form or another, but who knows what lies ahead in the future.
  • Lastly, and totally superficially, I like cool new things. The new Dropbox looks pretty interesting, and I’ve been using it (albeit passively) for quite some time. Moving to Dropbox would simplify some workflows for me.

How I’ve been using Dropbox and Google Drive

I haven’t actively used Dropbox for managing my files for many years. At the same time, I have a number of background processes, mostly using IFTTT, that capture things like tweets, app data, and so on into my Dropbox folders.

For the most part, I’ve been using Google Drive as my shared file system. I keep various documents there that I share with my wife, and access using various devices. I recently upgraded my personal Drive account to the Google One account where I have just over 200GB of storage space for about $3.50 a month. Before that, I was paying for a 100GB upgrade.

The idea was to make this space available to my family to use, too, but they’re using G Suite addresses on two domains I own, so they can’t join my Google One profile.

Still an Evernote user

I also still use Evernote to capture stuff. “Stuff” is a pretty broad category. I’ve been capturing information that I may want to reference into Evernote for about 11 years, and I have almost 28,500 notes. Most of those notes are containers for documents, photos of interesting things, and other documents.

I don’t really use Evernote for plain text notes. For that I create, well, plain text notes with Markdown syntax, and my personal directory for those notes is a synced folder on Dropbox. I then sync that with another folder on my laptop that I push to GitHub to a private repo. I’m all about the multiple, redundant backups.

I’m using the Evernote Premium plan that costs me $69.90 a year (about $5.84 a month).

The new Dropbox

I saw an announcement that Dropbox has been updated with some interesting collaboration features. Here’s the announcement video:

It was interesting, but more of a curiosity for me until I watched the video from the launch event, here:

The event is pretty similar to any other launch event these days (“I’m excited to announce the new <insert name>. It’s the best <insert name> we’ve ever made …”), but it’s worth watching the demos in the second half of the event.

What makes the new Dropbox pretty compelling for me is how I can still use Drive documents, add in integrations with Zoom and Slack, and add shortcuts to other links that may be helpful. It looks like new Dropbox is using a white labelled version of Google Drive to enable users to create Docs, Sheets, and Slides that use the Google Drive apps, but save on Dropbox.

Microsoft Office users will also be able to use the Google Drive apps to view and edit their docs on Dropbox too. In this sense, the experience is probably pretty similar to just using Google Drive natively.

One of the areas in which Evernote has an edge, at least for me, is that I can use Evernote notes to add a combination of text, media, and documents to a single note. This enables me to maintain a coherent context for my information that relates to that particular topic.

You can create a Google Doc, but the format isn’t that easy to use, and there isn’t a convenient Web Clipper like you have with Evernote to capture stuff on the Web into a Google Doc. I poked around in Dropbox Paper, and it’s the closest I’ve seen to what Evernote can do, and surpasses Evernote in some respects. Here’s a demo where I added a couple items to a Dropbox Paper document:

What I didn’t demonstrate here is that you can also add a YouTube preview to your note that plays inline. I was a little disappointed that this isn’t possible with Evernote, and then realised that Evernote needs to take into account offline and mobile screens too. That said, if I view a Dropbox Paper document with embedded videos on my Android phone, the embed is available there.

What I don’t see just yet is something like the Evernote Web Clipper for Dropbox, so capturing stuff from the Web isn’t as easy with Dropbox.

Switching costs

Leaving aside the Evernote Web Clipper, I can see the new Dropbox being a pretty effective replacement for both Google Drive and Evernote (well, you’d still potentially be using the Google Drive apps to access many of your documents, just not on Google Drive itself). The Dropbox Plus plan is $11.99 a month (if you pay monthly), and you receive 2TB of storage space. The equivalent Google One plan costs about $11 (converting from my local currency).

If I compare the costs of a Dropbox Plus plan ($11.99 if I pay monthly) with the combined costs of my Google One and Evernote Premium plans (about $9.34, although this is a blend of annual pricing for Evernote, and monthly for Google One), it’s not far off.

If I paid for an annual Dropbox Plus plan, the monthly breakdown is around $9.99.

Worth switching to Dropbox?

At a fairly high level, it may be worthwhile switching to the new Dropbox from Evernote and Google One. That said, there are a couple challenges to resolve:

  • Can I coherently migrate my Evernote notes to Dropbox? Sure, I can export all of my content, but how accessible will it all be when exported into HTML documents with attachments in folders?
  • Can I migrate my Google Drive documents across to Dropbox? More specifically, if I move them across to Dropbox, will they open on Drive, or in Dropbox? I suppose this may not matter as Google Drive documents aren’t factored into Drive storage, as far as I remember. Also, it looks like this type of migration is possible.
  • Moving away from Evernote means giving up the Web Clipper. Is there an alternative for Dropbox? I’m not sure about that.
  • Another disadvantage of moving away from Evernote is that you lose OCR for your documents. That option is only available with the Dropbox Professional plan that costs $16.58 a month, if you opt for annual billing (so you’re paying about $198 upfront). Google Drive and Evernote both provide OCR for your documents, in varying degrees.
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Categories
Devices

Jamboard and Surface Studio are hints of our future tech

Have you seen Jamboard yet? Future tech, particularly interfaces with our data, fascinates me. I love the visions we see coming from the likes of Corning and Microsoft’s research teams.

Many of the visions look like something right out of the Star Trek reboot movie series and we could well see that as our reality in the coming years. Two new devices bring those visions a little closer.

Google just launched a product called Jamboard which looks like a step in this direction, for sure. Jamboard is a step forward for team collaboration and data interfaces but it is still rooted in our current, clunky interfaces.

Watch the video from about 01:00 in and you see what I mean. As progressive as the interface seems, the moment you see a person pushing this big screen on wheels with a power cable out of one room and into another, you can see the limitations of the technology right away.

By contrast, take a look at this 2012 Corning video titled “A Day Made of Glass 2: Same Day. Expanded Corning Vision”. Sure, the future tech in the Corning video is probably still some way away in our future but the interfaces are far more fluid and portable.

Jamboard looks terrific. I like the design and I am very curious about it’s capabilities and whether it can support remote teams. At the same time it seems a lot like the enterprise Google Goggles of 2016/2017. It feels very much like an intermediary technology designed to test real-life use cases and inform the design of the next thing.

On the other hand, just look at Microsoft’s latest release: Surface Studio. Isn’t this even closer to Microsoft’s own vision of our future tech? Leaving aside that the Surface studio looks a lot like a really big iPad or slimmer iMac, I love the interfaces in this video:

Realising these future tech visions will probably require big steps forward in high-bandwidth data availability; ubiquitous and smarter interfaces along with a new generation of highly capable and multi-modal devices.

I have little doubt this is on our horizon and both products like Jamboard and Surface Studio, along with visions from the likes of Corning and Microsoft are really exciting peeks of what may lie ahead for us.

Categories
Applications Business and work Creative expression

Those who can’t, PowerPoint

PowerPoint is to agencies and marketers what MS Word is to lawyers – seemingly critical and effective but really a tool that receives far more attention that it deserves. It rapidly becomes a crutch because you can throw some design elements at it and call it “brainstorming”, “prototyping” or, worse, “design”. When I see people preparing notes or something other than a genuine presentation (and perhaps even then), my first thought is a lack of imagination and creativity.

You can imagine my amusement when I read this article by Digiday titled “‘They’re the worst’: Why agencies are trying to kick the PowerPoint habit”:

That’s what they say at 100-person agency Work & Co., anyway. The agency recently banned PowerPoints (and Keynotes, and Prezis), or as every agency staffer inevitably calls them “decks.” Said founder Gene Liebel: “They’re the worst.”

For Work & Co., banning Powerpoint presentations was necessary because the person holding the remote or controlling the presentation dominated the room. “It’s like a lawyer at trial that wants to control everything,” said Liebel. Powerpoint just isn’t collaborative.

Although I still have a fundamental resistance to Microsoft products, there is probably still a legitimate place for PowerPoint (and, grudgingly, Word). That doesn’t mean PowerPoint has to be your go-to tool for everything. Use something more appropriate for what you are trying to communicate. Evernote came up with “Presentation Mode” a couple years ago. It isn’t necessarily the ideal solution but it is a creative alternative that turns Evernote notes into something closer to a presentation deck while preserving a more dynamic form factor. I used it in a workshop once and it worked fairly well.

I say all this as someone who has given a number of presentations at conferences and my weapon of choice has been Keynote. It worked well enough but there are ways to use it effectively and ways to make a complete mess of it all. I’m not entirely sure where my decks wound up on that continuum but I like to think I did more things correctly than not. At the same time, with all the tools we have available to us, there are so many other ways to present ideas and concepts as well as more effective ways to collaborate.

To be sure, agencies are a bit late to the game. Almost three years ago, physicists working on the Large Hadron Collider in the U.S. banned the use of the presentation software. Jeff Bezos famously banned it at Amazon two years ago; and Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, eliminated presentations at the company in 2013 and asked people to send meeting materials 24 hours in advance instead.

At Work & Co., Liebel said clients are thankful for the change since it enabled them to work with the agency on an ongoing basis without presentations stemming the flow of content, marketing or even ideas. The agency is leaning more heavily on showing proof of concept, whether through prototypes or simply more discussions.

It all comes down to sharing ideas, doesn’t it? Find better way to do that. Friends don’t let friends PowerPoint (if they can help it).

Image credit: Earth Day Presentation by NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre, licensed CC BY 2.0

Categories
Business and work Mindsets

“Can we sit to discuss X”: the productivity death knell

There are times when the most effective way to discuss something is to get relevant people together in a room and work through the issues. The problem comes in when an invitation to “sit to discuss” something becomes the norm at the expense of more efficient ways to collaborate on projects. At that point that quick meeting just kills another productivity fairy.

Categories
Business and work Creative expression Social Web

Restarting Production at the Digital Stunt Factory

I came up with the idea for a project many years ago at a facilitation session with Rich Mulholland and the smart people at 21 Tanks, called Digital Stunt Factory. At the time, it was meant to be a next step in my digital risk consulting business but it felt more like a digital agency than a legal services business so I didn’t take it much further than an initial concept.

I recently started thinking about it again but with a difference. My career change when we arrived in Israel pointed me in a different direction. I spend most of my time focused on digital trends and social marketing so it seemed like a good time to start building a focused collection about social engagement and how we collaborate on digital platforms.

Digital Stunt Factory seemed like a perfect home for this collection so I collected a number of articles I’ve written about these themes and shared them in a Medium collection. I’m going to be adding to this as I go so take a look and let me know what you think?

Digital Stunt Factory

Categories
Applications Useful stuff

Why is Evernote offering a free Dropbox Pro trial?

Evernote is offering a free Dropbox Pro trial to new Evernote users (or Evernote Basic users) and who are also not Dropbox Pro members …

What?!

Dropbox and Evernote have been implicitly targeting each other’s users for quite some time now. Dropbox has even developed features that challenge Evernote directly on some features that only Evernote offered previously. Here are two examples I noticed along the way:

This is very strange. These two services may not be explicitly competing but they certainly offer competing services in broad terms so why are they collaborating like this? So why is Evernote offering a free Dropbox Pro trial to new users of both services? Surely those are the most vulnerable users to target?

Is one buying the other out? Will we see Dropbox integration coming to Evernote to boost available storage? That doesn’t seem likely.

What is going on here? Is it April suddenly?

Categories
Business and work Social Web Useful stuff

Git or GitHub in our workflows?

I’m pretty interested in Git and +GitHub and whether there is scope to use either in our work. Perhaps if we were working exclusively with plain text files there may be scope as an internal collaboration option. Adding it might just add more complexity to our workflows unless we’re going to replace something with it.

One thought is to replace our current Simplenote sharing option with a Git-powered sync option for our plain text notes (or use a private repository on GitHub) which we generate as file notes or draft documents and reports. What we do is we share these notes with each other as we go. We still use Dropbox to sync other documents like Word docs and PDFs (and which won’t really sync across GitHub) but when it comes to text notes, we shift to Simplenote (we could also just use Dropbox syncing for that too but my team likes having all their notes in one place).

At the moment I use Simplenote to sync notes with Dropbox but the syncing seems to require manual reminders to keep working and that is a problem where my team creates notes in Simplenote to share with me and I don’t receive them locally until I manually sync Simplenote.

I wonder if using GitHub with the GitHub app installed on our machines wouldn’t be a solution. Can you set it all to sync automatically and in the background?

Another question I have is security. I saw that GitHub using 128/256 bit encryption for transmissions although I can’t tell what level of encryption is applied to stored data in GitHub’s servers. I suppose I could use Git to transmit and store securely on my own servers if that became a concern?

Categories
Business and work Design

When lawyers kill fairies

A fairy dies every time lawyers create documents that look as dense as this. And yes, we’re partly to blame for the fairy population devastation by participating in this madness.

I’m resisting the urge to totally reformat this document …