My friend, Sharon Hurley Hall, asks the tough questions.
If I can find the first quote* I ever made regarding Evernote, I would be able to find peace. In the meantime, let me share something with you. Actually two somethings:
- Live Each Day As If
- Why Do You Buy A Bigger Hard Drive?
- There Are Three Kinds of People: Those Who Can Count And Those Who Can’t
Chris Rock said:
“You know, some people say life is short and that you could get hit by a bus at any moment and that you have to live each day like it’s your last. Bullshit. Life is long. You’re probably not gonna get hit by a bus. And you’re gonna have to live with the choices you make for the next fifty years.”
When we decide to install applications to organize our digital lives, we should constantly remind ourselves why we feel this is important. If we ever lose sight of this reason, we may find ourselves wandering down paths that serve no other purpose than to make our legs grow weary.
George Carlin said:
“That’s all your house is: a place to keep your stuff… Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore.”
When we get larger hard drives, why do we then fill them up with so much stuff? Didn’t we learn our lessons the first time?
“I can remember the first time I had to go to sleep. Mom said, ‘Steven, time to go to sleep.’ I said, ‘But I don’t know how.’ She said, ‘It’s real easy. Just go down to the end of tired and hang a left.’ So I went down to the end of tired, and just out of curiosity I hung a right. My mother was there, and she said ‘I thought I told you to go to sleep.’”
I like Steven Wright. I had him for dinner. Erm, I invited him to a Dinner Party Line of Sight.
Bottom line: I will just keep throwing stuff into Evernote, searching for it* and spending more time on things that matter.
This concludes the Evernote experiment. Go Meet Someone Special.
* OMG, you’re still here? Okay, here is one of my earlier references to Evernote. It’s on my good friend Cathy Miller’s blog, SimplyStatedBusiness: Cloud Computing: 3 Questions to Ask Before Taking Off.
I don’t have an Elevator Pitch. Those are so 20th Century. It’s more fun to wave my arms expansively, mutter some technical terms and then blurt, “BAM! Out comes this neat document.”
Seriously, though, I try not to pin myself down when I am offline. Just because the Web requires hyper-vertical niches doesn’t mean that a description of my work has to fit in a tweet-size box. In fact, marketing experts tell us that we will have a chance to explain all of the other things we do once the prospect has gotten more comfortable with us.
But, what if somebody stumbles upon my testimonial page and sees something like this?
Excellent work ! Great communication ! Very pleased! Recommend to everybody !
I appreciate this client’s enthusiastic support and I don’t wish to imply that this testimonial is not as near and dear to my heart as any other hard-won praise. However, I don’t want the new visitor to do an eye-roll and bounce away. So, I link the testimonial to a page like this to draw the visitor in.
Roman had hundreds of automobile descriptions pasted from websites. He needed a way to automatically extract specific keywords from each description. Aliases had to use the same keyword and the output had to be in a single Word document. He required the ability to add and delete keywords whenever he wanted.
I built a VBA macro that included a tiny, dynamic keyword database from Roman’s supplied keyword file. This database is created each time the macro runs, so he can make changes and apply them immediately. All he had to change for me was to add a marker at the end of each description (we agreed on ###.)
I’ll let the collage tell the rest of the story.
Evernote is one of those products that really needs to come with a choking hazard warning label. If you start off without a solid plan for organizing your notes, you will experience pain changing your setup later. I found this out when I took on this monster task of simplifying my 3,000 plus notes.
Bo Nash via Compfight
Ironically, I did a bit of research on best practices, only to find that none exist. That is the beauty and the bane of Evernote: you are not forced to use an organization style that doesn’t suit you; however, you can wind up with a mess of tags, stacks and hard-to-find notes if your style is chaotic or too simplistic.
Elephant in the Room
Anyway, what’s done is done. I gamely exported my notes into a massive file that may actually be too big to process as I had intended (with Excel). I’m sure that attachments account for a good portion of the bulk. The thing is, if this massive file is supposed to be converted into a new import file, I can’t exclude the attachments.
Here is a collage of the action:
I tried to open the file with XML Notepad, but it complained. I laughed at the offer to open with Notepad, before pressing No.
Pass the Spoon
With no way to examine the file, I can’t formulate an attack plan. So, I am going to experiment with exporting a single stack (collection of related notebooks, sort of like a subfolder.) If I can find a stack with no attachments, I will be able to open it up and examine the structure.
While this series might be entertaining and maybe even educational, if you happen to be looking for a way to get started the right way with Evernote, I recommend that you purchase Integrate: Evernote. Read it before getting too deep into your note taking habits.
The reason I suggest this useful guide is that you get real-world examples of Evernote in action. Plus, the authors show you neat ways to organize your account. If you study this from the beginning, you’ll have a better idea of the pros and cons of the different methods for storing your notes and attachments.
I do a lot of text processing. Think for a second of the images conjured up by the terms food processor and paper shredder. That is how I think of text processing. Many times, I don’t care what you feed me, I just grab it, churn it up and regurgitate a report.
Chris via Compfight
For example, if a client needs a tool to extract email addresses, I don’t care if the file is email from Outlook, customer contacts from a spreadsheet, or the Quaker Valley Quilting Bee membership list. As long as the email addresses look like email@example.com, the tool will find them.
For this Evernote consolidation project, I will test the limits of context-free text processing. By exporting the notebooks into a specially formatted file, I can write a utility to parse and manipulate the key elements: titles, tags and stacks (Evernote’s implementation of a notebook within a notebook.) Even though it would seem that some conscious effort must be made to categorize, tag and regroup my notebooks, I believe that the tool can be designed to automate that effort.
Evernote itself is built upon the very foundation of context-free frameworks: XML. Validation is the hallmark of XML’s lack of contextual constraints. By that, I mean to say: XML is used to examine documents based upon its definitions! This magic trick is possible because XML validation only ensures that the documents are well-formed. It is left to the content consumer to decipher the message carried in the documents. (Read more about XML validation)
Here is a screen shot of part of the Evernote export format Document Type Definition:
To be honest, it looks rather generic. That’s a bit like dismissing a parked Ferrari – I know there is more to Evernote exporting than meets the eye. Still, the initial plan is to treat the exported Evernote file as one continuous stream of text.
I will refer to my own previous Evernote project for inspiration. Later, I will dig into some code provided by Marty Zigman and his readers, as they attempt to import Excel data into Evernote.