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Integration + Simplification = Paradise

Evernote - love itII recently picked up Evernote again after an extended absence and a came to reflect why that had happened. I was an early adopter of the cloud-based productivity tool and used it extensively across business and home life, it became very much a PA for me during 2010 and 2011 but I seemed to have fallen out with it last year. So much so I cancelled my premium subscription and removed it from my phone. Nuts, really, when you reflect it was my passport, credit card, boarding pass, PIN storage, workshop manual and all manner of really useful things.

Today, I’m pleased to say, I came back to Evernote and I’m pleased. I find I split my life approach in both the present and try to guess what’s coming round the road. I’m a classic early-adopter so many think I’m really bright in being able to look into the future. Not true, I play with hundreds of new apps and ideas every year and just a handful ever make it into the following year’s present tense; most stuff ends up getting dusty and then being wiped from my life-space.

I’m overloaded with kit, mainly Apple, so wander thru life with an iPad, iPhone, Mac Air, iMac and a few Apple TVs. Each has it’s space, each has it’s purpose (usually environmentally based) and the simple ability to synchronise my life across devices was (and is) critical to my digital nomad life.

So why did Evernote get wiped? … simple, it slowly got replaced by other applications.

Apple’s cloud had a major hand in that but lots of smaller applications just did a better job than Evernote. JotNot is a better scanner, Expensify is a million times better at receipt management, Dropbox just rules for raw file-storage and Instapaper made Evernote Clearly redundant. With a diminishing need it ceased to be the go-to application so I actually started to forget what and why I used it.

Then along came BitCasa. This was the trigger, oddly, that drew me back to Evernote. BitCasa is like an unlimited Dropbox, as much space as you would ever need for a few quid a month. I’m sold on stuff like that as I have 20k songs, 30k photos, 500 films and a whole pandora of other digital stuff that currently sits on a 6TB NAS box under the telly.

I know that under the telly is a really bad place to store my entire digital life but that’s the problem, where do I keep it? And once it’s there how do I retrieve it? The Bitcasa promise is big and I’m sure they’ll eventually get the service reliable enough to trust but going back to the story I made a decision to move everything to a single place (and then back that up, probably to the device under the telly!).

Planning hat was donned and I immediately hit a problem. I don’t have one-type of digital data … but I don’t really want to have to hunt in a million places to look for what I need. The answer to this conundrum was actually staring me in the face. At Connected we have recently re-built a a product valled VITES (it was a digital framework that delivered clever stuff over the web but that’s an aside) and the new version is far simpler, faster and cheaper. The new version (VNX 4.0) is so good because of the integration-based approach we took. Rather than re-invent the wheel the new version simply talks (via an API for those who are technical) to existing systems and applications. Eureka! This is what I needed, a way to integrate the various digital lockers, pockets and boxes that my digital life exists in.

Take a look at the real market-leading applications and you’ll see the (general) big difference to their weaker cousins is how they integrate into your life and the other stuff you already use. Take a look at the world of pain Microsoft is in and you’ll see a big part of that problem is their lack of integration (take note Apple, who may or may not being going down a slightly-less-than-ideal integration path).

So rather than shuffling everything around I rationalised the locations down slightly and made sure each locker could talk to another locker, allowing the simple flow of information around my curated, semi-mashed version of a semi-private cloud environment. The great thing (like our VNX platform) is that when a new shiny service comes along I can simply plug into it. Lovely.

Fast forward to the start of 2013 and now my digital life is neatly arranged on fewer platforms, each of them can talk to the other (mostly) – all my value, my information and my data is now at my finger tips and on any device. Evernote was, in this case, the last piece of the jigsaw as it glued together the bits that needed it (for example; saving Instapaper Favourites, storing legal documents that I can search and big manuals) and at the same time it talks to pretty much everything I use daily including Podio and Google Apps.

2013 has become a year of integration and simplification. Leaving me to spend more time being productive, or playing golf; whichever takes my fancy.

by Martin Dower
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