Moving on from Evernote......

Why is it whenever you find a product or service you really like, it seems to fall apart? If you haven't been following the news this past week, Evernote has announced changes to their privacy policy that take effect January 23rd. The internet has been pretty upset with these changes because the new policy explicitly states that Evernote engineers could be allowed access to view your data for various reasons ranging from law enforcement requirements to them just trying to improve their service. 

Now, perhaps Evernote has been doing this for a long time and they are just now clarifying their practice. What is unfortunate though is that Evernote has now established a trust problem with its users. Evernote has been the better part of the past five years migrating their platform from a note taking application to a business collaboration platform. With that migration has come a rather hefty annual fee. The business account is $120 a year. I paid for that account because I liked Evernote and I prefer to pay for my services whenever I can. The problem though is that when you pay for a product or service you expect certain things in return. If Google or Facebook were to come along and state that their engineers were going to look at my data for their own uses I would be annoyed, but their services are free and they make money off of leveraging my data. 

Evernote is not that service. I am a paid user and when the service costs as much as it does I expect my data to be fully secure. They have courted businesses and it is not unreasonable to expect some of those businesses to now have confidential or proprietary information store in their Evernote accounts. Having any sort of direct access by any personnel at Evernote is just not acceptable. I would even expect these days that my entire Evernote database can be fully encrypted so no one at Evernote can ever access it. 

Not everyone may share my point of view, but I think it would be in Evernote's best interest to encrypt the data so even if law enforcement does come knocking with a warrant, they can simply say "We don't even have access to the data". 

Evernote's CEO posted a clarifying statement this morning, which I don't feel has clarified much. In the end I feel that Evernote's fundamental and core initiatives no longer match my own and what I want to get out of the service. It makes me extremely disappointed. 

I have been an Evernote user for more than five years now. I have everything from my grocery lists to tax information to my creative writing stored in there. They have continued to show that they are losing their way though. They have increased the prices of their service while not implementing features that have progressed the platform. Basic things such as a night mode for their applications, distraction free writing or even archiving of data just doesn't exist. When you have thousands of notes like I do then searching can become cumbersome. 

Just a few months ago I finally found a great writing application that uses Evernote called Alternote. That app is great, but now I feel like I can't really use it. 

So where does that leave me? At this point I am not sure if I can really stay with Evernote unless they come out and really change the course of their ship. Evernote's business account was nice because my business note and personal notes were kept completely separate. I feel like I will now have to bring my business notes over to Onenote. 

The question is where do I end up with my personal notes and writing? Right now I don't know. Apple's Notes app actually looks pretty robust and being an Apple users I think I can be fine living in that platform. That would solve all of my basic note taking needs. What it won't do is get me where I need to be for my writing. I want to have that minimal writing platform with a night mode. 

I may give Ulysses another look, something I was testing a few months ago. Another candidate though looks to be Bear. It is a really clean note taking interface and with a $15 a year subscription it seems affordable. Time will tell though as I begin to test stuff out over the next week. 

Alternote - My New Favorite Writing App

As some of you who have been following me know, I like to do some writing here and there. I have done Nanowrimo twice in the past few years and both times I successfully completed the 50,000 word goal on both attempts. I won't be competing this year, because I would like to actually finish the two previous novels that I wrote for it. 

So for my writing I have been using Evernote. Many people use Google Docs, Word or even some specialized writing apps like Scrivener. I have liked using Evernote. It is a super clean and simple interface and I was able to keep my writing notes and the writing itself all together in one location. Evernote has some basic text formatting, but that is really all I need for writing. All of the bells and whistles that Word has just aren't necessary. Evernote's desktop application presented two major issues for me when writing. The first, it did not have a "night mode" in the app. Everything is white and it made working on a document in the evening really stressful on the eyes. Second, was that the management of the text size was a bit cumbersome. I like to work in a minimized interface and at times having the text nice and "big" on the screen helps to keep me focused. 

Over the past month or so I have been doing some testing on an alternative. I settled on an app called Ulysses, which I had demo'd for a few weeks. It had just about everything I wanted, including the customizable night mode and some other features. It wasn't perfect though as the text was justified to the left in the minimal interface and it was also $35. Not crazy expensive, but not cheap either. 

Just when I was about to pull the trigger on Ulysses though I found an app called Alternote. It is basically an alternative app for Evernote which happens to have all of the features I was looking for. Even better was that I was able to sync just the notebooks I wanted to (my writing notebooks) to keep the workflow efficient. 

A couple of other nice touches are that it shows me the word count right on the bottom right of the screen, and the text size can be adjusted with a slider if needed. Best of all. It was $7 on the app store. 

If anyone is looking for a nice writing app, and you are using Evernote, or if you just are looking for an alternative Evernote client on Mac, give this app a look. 

Writing Prompt: Your father left 20 years ago...Today he comes home...and the first thing he says to you is "You're never going to believe what happened."

Below is a short narrative I wrote from the sub-reddit "Writing Prompts". It is a sub where a topic is posted and users post a story that comes to their mind. This is what sprang to my mind. Below is the topic. 

[WP] Your father left 20 years ago the night before your birthday to get Cigarettes, Milk, and Bread. Today he comes home with long bedraggled hair, weather beaten skin, and a sword on his hip. The first thing he says to you is "You're never going to believe what happened."

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"I’ll be right outside if you need me,” said Private first class Jennifer Mutin before she turned away from me. I turned my attention back to the room and the door slid closed behind me and I found myself alone. 

The air smelled stale and cold and the room had no furniture. The walls were sparse, only covered with the steel panels from the inner ship hull. The floor was a brushed steel plate and my freshly polished boots contrasted starkly against the stainless steel. I took a long deep breath before I had the courage to look up from the floor to the center of the room, where I knew I would fine him. When my eyes finally saw him I had to choke back the tears. I steadied myself, straightened my uniform and then stepped towards the center of the room. 

Cast in a single spot light lay my father. Dressed in his marine blues, his body was draped with the flag of the marine corps. His arms were folded across his chest with white gloves holding a silver ceremonial sword. My eyes moved from the flag up to his face. It was dark, tanned and he had long curls of hair cast around either side. He looked exactly how I remembered him all those years ago. Is that what faster than light travel did? 

From my uniform I pulled out an envelope with a wax seal and my name on it.  “Marcus” was written in pencil on one side and on the other was a green seal stamped with the letter “R” for Robert. I had received the letter just that morning. It was hand delivered to me with the instruction not to open it until I saw my father. 

I hesitated before opening the letter, but broke the wax seal and then unfolded the paper inside. 

Marcus, 

You are never going to believe what happened, but i need you to trust me. What I am about to tell you now will determine if you ever see me or anyone again. It must be close to twenty years in your time since you last saw me. For that I am sorry, but it has only been a few months since I have left you and your mother. I hope she is doing well. 

That night, on March 26th, when I left the house to get milk and bread, something extraordinary occurred. Humanity finally made contact, or rather contact finally touched humanity. I was there and I went with them. I am still with them. But there is something dangerous out here in the deep of space and it is coming. It has taken notice for humanity.

Please believe me that I need your help. From here on out you cannot trust anyone. They know that I am going to try and get in touch with you. I need you to follow my instructions precisely. 

After you read this letter proceed immediately to the spaceport at NYC13. I have made arrangements to get you more information there. 

Please be safe, and remember do not trust anyone. 

Love, 
Dad. 

I lowered my hands and stared in astonishment at his body lying on the table. Was this some sort of joke? Had my father gone mad before his death? The official report stated that his death was classified. I had not seen my father in twenty years and then suddenly two days ago I received communications from the naval intelligence office stating that he had been killed in the line of duty. Questions were swirling in my mind and I looked from the letter back to my father lying on the table in front of me. What did this letter even mean? What did he mean “if you ever see me again?"

Before I could even think, the door to the room opened and I turned to see Private First Class Mutin standing in the doorway, only this time she was accompanied by two military police. 

“Ensign Caldwell. You need to come with me."