Thomas Roedl 0:00
So, I’m really excited today that I can welcome Ian Small to this show. And it’s really, really awesome to have you especially at this time. If you’re following my channel, you know that I was talking about the latest release of Evernote 10 on the desktop. There was a lot of back and forth between my community, and the expectations they had and all this. So, I’m really interested to talk to Ian Small today and also address some of these comments you had in these videos.
So Ian, thank you. Thank you for joining the show.
Ian Small 0:40
I’m more than happy to be here. And, I’m also happy to straighten that the first and most important questions you had at your last show, which was this Ian not iron?
Thomas Roedl 0:50
Oh, yeah, you watched it. That’s awesome.
So Ian, LinkedIn actually told me that you joined Evernote just after the rebranding started. So, was it you triggering all the whole thing or what was your motivation to join Evernote? Maybe you can tell us more about the background there.
Ian Small 1:08
Yeah, I think I joined Evernote, just a little under two years ago now. Right at the beginning of November 2018. I was asked by the board to come in and take a look, and see what I thought should be done. The board thought, as I think all the users knew at that point, that things were a bit stuck in the company. And, they felt that the fact that I came from a product and engineering background was in the set of skills that they thought they needed leading the company at that point. And so, that’s why they asked me to join, I’ve known some of the people on the board at Evernote for a very long time. There is an existing trust relationship between us, in terms of I trusted them, and they trusted me. So, I thought I agreed I would come in and take a look. That was very much the point at which, you know, the idea that we could actually tackle this problem of being stuck at the root of it, which was fundamentally, that over the course of 10 years, we built up an enormous amount of product and technical debt. That it was really stopping us from moving forward. I mean, the the rate at which we’re able to innovate and ship was was severely constrained. That was really the point
at which I think, at the board level, the company made the decision that they were willing to contemplate taking that problem on. They brought me aboard and I was the person who was bold enough. It would be the positive spin crazy enough might be the other I’m actually take it on and say “Yeah, actually, really, we can’t just keep, ignoring this and pushing it into a corner, we have to actually tackle the root of the situation that we find ourselves in, not keep putting band aids on”.
Thomas Roedl 3:27
Yeah. I can feel with Evernote, because I’m using Evernote was one of the very first note-taking apps or knowledge management apps, I actually used it mostly for document management, as my following knows, for all the automations I have in there and so on. But I can absolutely feel with you because I also have a background with product management and as a business analyst, I know how long it takes to change things, I mean, to build an application that’s nothing different. I would say you had to start from scratch. That’s my point of view. You know, you’re talking about you have to fix the basics. That sounds like, for people that can’t take that long. Obviously, for the users, two years is really long. They have to work out and have to rely on the productivity system they’re using on a daily basis. However, I absolutely understand, that this cannot done within a month. Obviously, when you even just start to get the journey right and the vision, I just want to say at this point, that is a really big undertaking and I was following this that that sounds really good. But maybe, you can give us a insight from your point of view what’s been going on in the past two years.
Ian Small 4:53
Yeah, I mean, I think people think of Evernote as the interface that they use and the app that they use. They don’t realize that there’s obviously an entire product stack behind there reaching all the way back into the cloud with cloud based systems and protocols. Obviously, the code that sits inside the app and the UX itself is the thing that they experience. Really, we had challenges sort of at every layer in that stack. I know for four years, I go and read the forums, you know, people have been asking,”Why don’t you just add feature X? It seems so simple”. And it’s like, well, it turns out, it’s not actually so simple. And people don’t understand how stuck, we were right, I mean, we were at a place where to introduce some features that we might have wanted to build would have required us changing the schema of the databases and the database systems that we run in the cloud, but there was no longer enough capacity in those systems to actually change the database schema while the systems were running. And, there wasn’t a bigger system to put them on, they were already on the biggest systems available. So it wasn’t like, we’ll just put it on a system twice as big and it will be fine. And so you sit there and you’re like, so you tell me I can’t actually introduce this feature, because I can’t change the schema. They said, “Well, yeah, you could take the system offline for eight hours and then we could change the schema, and we could put it back on again” But you can’t take everything offline for eight hours, that’s not really an option. And so, when you look at the amount of work we needed to do, yes, there was trying to figure out how to come up with a new interface in a design that would be coherent and consistent across all the devices. And that’s obviously the thing that people see most. Then it was underneath it, revising the protocols that we use for communicating between the client and the cloud to allow and give us the flexibility to be able to start to do new things in the future. And then it was rebuild the cloud system, so we weren’t constrained by the cloud systems. And, and if you watch the entire behind the scenes video series, you will see aspects of each of those things. But obviously, the behind the scenes video series only touches sort of one quarter of what we did, because a lot of it is just not translatable in any way to a normal human being who isn’t like a low level code engineer to make any sense of it. So, we try and pulled out the things that were most understandable and talk about those but the level of work we did across the board was was fairly remarkable. And, the challenge isn’t just that we are building this really very complex and powerful app, it’s that we have to do it while the app is actually running. It’s pretty straightforward to architect a modern cloud storage system for the kind of data that we have in Evernote. That UserStore in Evernote, that’s not actually that hard. Taking the existing Evernote and moving it to that system while nobody notices, that’s hard.
Thomas Roedl 8:22
Obviously, because if you just copy and paste, then it’s already updated data on the old system again, so you really track it.
Ian Small 8:29
The time it takes you this stuff from system one to system two, what’s on system one has already changed then
Thomas Roedl 8:36
Then pray that everything works afterwards.Yeah, absolutely, I understand this. So yes, it was a big undertaking. And, I think what people also need to understand when we look at Notion and all these new knowledge management systems coming up there, they use already, the new infrastructure, what we have there. They already have all the devices in place. And, I mentioned this in the video as well, that Evernote was actually started in 2000, isn’t it? So there was no, there was no iPad really around or something? I mean, nobody thought about how we use smartphones today that you have all this. So I think it was already working very well on all the different devices, but the undertaking to make the UI seamlessly that was a that was a big step.
Ian Small 9:27
A lot of the decisions that were made, made all the sense in the world at the time. They were good decisions, it’s just that over 10 years, all of a sudden, you’re like, “Ah, okay, that’s not what we would do now and we’re constrained in all these ways”. So that’s the challenge. It’s in a lot of ways, our success and the fact that we are long lived, and the fact that we’ve had hundreds of millions of users, that actually created lots and lots and lots of our problems. So you know,
Thomas Roedl 10:00
Maybe people can relate to this and the gaming industry, you see all the awesome new graphics you could do with your graphics card, but you wonder why are those games not as awesome as these engines nowadays. And the thing is, because development started three or four or five years ago when the attention wasn’t there yet. So maybe, Evernote has now an advantage that now you go to the newest technology, compared to others who started a few years ago, because they will end up in 10 years that they have to restart everything.
Ian Small 10:34
I believe at this point, we have a pretty interesting situation, because we’ve gone from a world and the transformation that we’ve been going through over the last two years has been going from a world where our engineering team, which is much larger than anybody else’s engineering team in the industry that we’re in just because we’re bigger. But our engineering team has been spread very, very, very thin because everything they build, they have to build five times for five different applications. The way that the cloud was architected meant we had to have people working on all these different things. Today, as we work through this process of getting the new clients out and getting them in a place where everybody is happy for them, it becomes much more efficient for us to actually deliver new features, which means that that large scale engineering team, actually instead of being spread very thin and moving slowly gets to start focusing on things and starts to move very quickly. I believe that is very much, you know, the place that that we are starting to find ourselves in. I’m really looking forward to sort of the next year, I mean, one of the things that I’ve, I’ve said, and I’ll say here as well, as I fully expect in the next 12 months, we will ship more than we shipped in the last five years. That actually is the objective, the understanding that users for a two year journey, haven’t seen much of anything. And now, they’re seeing the new apps, they think the new apps are the objective. In fact, the new apps are the platform. The new apps are the platform for delivering this objective of being able to move at speed in the market with the scale that we have.That’s really where we’re trying to get to and you talk about like modern architectures. All of these things are what will contribute to the speed we believe we’ll be able to show in market.
Thomas Roedl 12:35
Yeah, and in this regards, a word that always comes up are these electron apps that you use for the clients? Maybe you can just explain to the community what this is really all about, and why you chose to take them.
Ian Small 12:49
Thomas Roedl 16:38
Yeah, so thank you very much for the explanation here. But talking about harmonization between the different apps, so there was obviously the ultimate goal here. I wonder, too, when I look at the new desktop version, that we have some fee about? You mentioned it already, people complained that features go away. That’s one point that we will come and a community question come up. What I am personally interested in is, when I look at this, and I go to the new note feature, maybe I missed this part, but when I use it on iOS, I can do audio recording and a lot of different things that I can’t do on a desktop. And then I started to wonder, oops, I thought I have a harmonized version now. And it makes sense in an old desktop version that you know, not many people at a webcam and so on. But just now, I could just record everything into Evernote, I think you get that.
Ian Small 17:35
So our thinking around this is that we’re trying to create a coherent and consistent Evernote experience that makes sense for the device that you are on. So the objective is not simply to lift and shift the experience from what we call a large screen device, or a desktop or laptop, whatever, and somehow shrink fat and make it makes sense on a phone. What we want to do is make sure that people if they’ve used the Evernote on a laptop or on a desktop, and they install Evernote for the first time on a phone, it should feel immediately familiar to them. And they should know where to find things they should know how to do things, things should be more or less where they expect them to be. But it has to be adapted to the form factor and it has to make sense for the capabilities of that device. So to your point, yes, the the phone focuses more on things like capturing from the camera and capturing from audio and these things which are sort of more inherent capabilities to the phone, the desktop over time, we’ll worry more about capturing from the desktop and sources of input like that, then necessarily from the webcam, we haven’t had a lot of demand from people wanting to take pictures of themselves from the webcam because faces them for the most part over time, if that turns out to be a demand, yes, we’ll put it there. But we’re not trying to make the apps identical, we’re trying to make them make sense. Probably the closest place you can see that is in the editor, the note editor, which is obviously the center of a lot of things in Evernote. The editor interface is obviously completely different because you can’t make the same interface makes sense on both platforms. But we try and reveal as much of the functionality as we can and we’ll keep making progress on that over time. But we adapt it for the form factor and the same thing will fundamentally be true of devices. You know one of one of the things that it’s easy to do on your phone is take your phone, hold it up to a document, click a picture and get it scanned. We just don’t see this as realistic that I’m going to pick up a document and hold it in front of my webcam here and take a picture of it. It just that doesn’t feel to us like a realistic mode. But whereas you know, importing a PDF, easily off your desktop, that’s the thing we want to be able to do on a desktop app.
Thomas Roedl 20:19
I think this just shows that it is not just a web app because if it would see this case, then you would have everything on everywhere. And yeah, I absolutely agree. It makes no sense to have a scanner app or scan function in this way. Maybe a function that I can scan with my documents can on my desktop version, and using my camera on the iPhone, the only thing that I wanted was the voice recording, maybe there was some misunderstanding. So I don’t take pictures of myself.
Ian Small 20:49
I think things like that, those are possibilities for continued expansion. And in the most in most cases here, I think there is so much room in which we could push Evernote that we’re trying to find the things that will make a difference to the largest percentage of users.
Thomas Roedl 21:12
Yeah, exactly. Let me put it this way. Did you or have you done any research on what functionality was used the most and focus on these to really bring back these features? All the things that I have listed here now, maybe are just individual needs, it’s not for the majority of the users? Obviously, you have a big user base where you can have a statistical fundamental outcome.
Ian Small 21:40
So way back in the day, Phil Libin used to talk about Evernote having a 5% problem. He called it, we have a 5% problem. The problem is that users only use 5% of the features. The problem is that every user uses a different 5% of the features. That’s 100% accurate about the way Evernote is.
Thomas Roedl 22:08
I think that’s the same foot a Swiss Army Knife, isn’t that?
Ian Small 22:16
So when you look at it, particularly when you look at the desktop apps right now, and and where they are the new apps, you know, what got prioritized for being in the desktop apps before we shipped them were features or all the features that were used by the largest cross section of individuals. And yes, we use instrumentation because the apps are instrumented. And so we know what percentage of people use what for doing which. We basically start at the top, and we work our way down. Now, we’ve been very open on the desktop apps and saying, “We’re not done. There’s more stuff still coming”. And in fact, in the blog that announced them, we call that two or three things and said, “If these things are central to your workflow, it’s not ready for you yet. Just wait”. The challenge is, right, if you’re a user, and there’s a feature that we haven’t implemented yet that is essential to your workflow, while your answer as well, these things are useless. Why did anybody Why did anybody ga without this thing that is vitally important to me? The unfortunate answer is, is not that it’s not vitally important to you and that we understand that, but that actually, you’re probably in a small minority, because if you weren’t in a small minority, we would have implemented it already. That doesn’t mean we won’t implement it yet. It just means we won’t hold the apps up for 95-97% of the community for another 2 or 3 or 6 months while we work on the two to 3% stuff that’s left. That’s just basically a decision that on the desktop side and the laptop side, we are much freer to make that decision than we are in like iOS context. In an iOS context, you as a user can’t ever go back. Once we ship you an app, Apple doesn’t give you the flexibility to say, “Oh, I don’t want this one. I want the older version”. Apple refuses to give you that. So we know on iOS, when we ship, it’s got to be all there. But on desktop, you as a user have choices, you can actually go and run the older version, you can do all those things. So, our goal there was to do the trade off between what’s good for 95% of the audience.
Thomas Roedl 24:34
Yeah, and obviously, then 5% left over they’re always the loudest.
Ian Small 24:41
But you know, and it’s okay. We understand and we’re listening. In fact, this week, we will, I believe this week, we’re shipping another version. The next version of the first fast update of the desktop stuff. I think the number one thing that people we’re missing or the number one complaint that we receive, the missing feature was the ability to change the creation date of a note or to edit the creation date of a note, because that was central to a lot of people’s workflow not to just stick with. That wasn’t the end version we shipped two weeks ago, that will be in the version we shipped this week then start knocking them down one of the time as we go.
Thomas Roedl 25:24
I would have thought that I can’t open two notes on the desktop version, or tabs. I can’t, so it was me. I was asking community, nobody told me that I can.
Ian Small 25:36
So you can open notes but you have to open a new window. So, you can Command click or there’s a Ctrl option to open a new window. So, you can right click to open a new window and you can Command click to open a new window.
Thomas Roedl 25:52
Alright, so I have to check this out again because, you know, sorry to compare it to Notion, but when I go to window that says, open your window, and I have to shortcut as well. So, thanks for telling me this, and maybe others are happy now as well. Because then I understand that you made the decision that taps are not needed. You can just open two windows.
Ian Small 26:16
We are not implementing tabs at this point. That’s correct. We will see what happens to that set of feedback, but that was not a massively heavily utilized feature. We’re now at the point where we have to learn from being in market, we’ve sort of done most of what we can do from beta, and now we have to learn in market.
Thomas Roedl 26:39
Yeah. But as I said, when I can open two apps, I personally don’t see it, maybe somebody in the comments feel different now. But yeah, thank you very much for diving in into this. Interestingly, we covered already a lot of the community questions here like the different features with the voice recording. I just wanted to ask one thing that I even didn’t understand. What’s the difference between checklists and checkboxes? Why did you edit one and didn’t remove the other?
Ian Small 27:13
Well, we tried.
Thomas Roedl 27:16
Okay, there we go.
Ian Small 27:18
So, this is actually a fantastic example of learning through the beta process. We implemented checklists, which we thought were in every possible way better than checkboxes because you can indent them, you can nest them, you can drag sub chunks around and reorder them. I mean, what’s not to like about this? When you check them, the thing crosses off. There’s so many things to like. In an early version of the editor, when we went out to the beta community with the early version of the editor, we got two responses, one of which was “Wow, these are amazing and what happened to checkboxes?”. And we’re like, well, “You don’t need checkboxes, you have checklists”, and then people started sharing, “No, let us show you the way we use checkboxes. First, we put checkboxes in the middle of the line, not at the beginning of the line to get through that with a checklist. Second, I have things where I use four check boxes in a row to represent the four stages of this task I need to go through and I check them off one after another check, check in when all four in a row are checked off, then something is done. I can’t do that with a checklist”. And so we started to realize, there’s this whole other set of use cases for checkboxes, which literally, we didn’t actually know about, that we’re not people putting the checkbox at the beginning of the line, but people using many check boxes at once, or putting them in the middle of content that checklists took away.
Thomas Roedl 28:59
But it’s so interesting, because isn’t there also the issue for people who already have check boxes in their notes and you just take them away? What would happen to the notes then?
Ian Small 29:11
Well, one of the things we looked at was we kept the checkboxes we had, but we took away the checkbox control. So if you were really clever, you could actually select Copy and paste, and old checkbox.
Thomas Roedl 29:27
This might have spread over the internet, but now, you left it in there anyway.
Ian Small 29:32
Because there were this set of things. Now at some level, it’s like, “Wow, do we really need all these things?”. But this goes back to the fact that if we were introducing this app that is completely new, we probably would just have checklists, and not checkboxes. But when you have millions and millions and millions of users with existing content, and existing workflows, and just something as simple as a checkbox actually can become a stumbling block in moving across this. Now, we are doing things like I think you you noticed in your video that if you start a line with a checkbox and you type something in and you go to the next line, it doesn’t give you another checkbox and that’s really frustrating because part of it is what you should be using checklists, not checkboxes, so we remove that. What we are now doing, I believe, again, in the version that goes out this week, is if you start your line with a checkbox, when you hit return, will actually convert it into a checklist and make a checklist on the next item. So we will try and train you over onto the new, more powerful way to start lines with checkboxes. Now, if you put one in the middle of the line, we won’t change it. But at the beginning of the line, we will automatically convert that into a checklist and start the next line with a new checklist.
Thomas Roedl 30:51
So, it’s as easy as using my keyboard
to convert it back if I don’t want to have a checklist.
Ian Small 30:57
I believe there is a way to convert it back. I couldn’t tell you what to do it.
Thomas Roedl 31:03
Yes, I recommend adding this, because if I just want to have one line and I go to the next line, I have to reach out to my mouse.
Ian Small 31:11
No, you just hit backspace for that.
Thomas Roedl 31:13
That is what I mean, just backspace and check list. That’s just a line. Okay, I understand. Okay.
Ian Small 31:19
I did also notice, by the way that you tried some markdown in your demo.
Thomas Roedl 31:23
I forgot about this. I already got the answer in the comments.
Ian Small 31:28
Put a space after it and it would have work great.
Thomas Roedl 31:31
Yeah, there wasn’t really marked on it either. But
well, there’s no bold and there’s no italyics marked down.
Ian Small 31:37
I agree. We don’t claim to support all of markdown. But we are making progress.
Thomas Roedl 31:44
I also mentioned there that Evernote is the main document management system on my note taking, so I apologize for this. So it is there and everybody heard it now, Tom made a mistake in the markdown. I can take that. No problem. That was really interesting. And when we talk, let’s stay in the computer community feedback or let’s put it in the user research area. Yeah, so we’re talking about UX. and actually, UI in this case, where you move the text down to the bottom, and it’s not on top anymore.wIt’s also the majority in your beta testers who gave you the feedback and so on, and there must be a reason why it’s on the bottom now, do we have a reason for that?
Ian Small 32:37
Thomas Roedl 32:41
Ian Small 32:42
definitely one of the more controversial changes amongst people who are heavy tag users. The issue is that tag users are less than 2% of our audience. And so the question comes, do we put that real estate up at the top of the window for the other 98% of the audience or do we move it down to the bottom where it can a get a lot of space so it make sense for people who use tags, but not be so much in the way for the 98% of users who don’t? And that is fundamentally what drove that decision. We know that there’s a lot of angst about it amongst the tag users. We know some tag users like it and are used to it, but probably most tag users do not. So, I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise, we are looking at whether or not that is something we can make configurable, so that it’s at the bottom by default, but if you want to move it to the top, then you can do that, so that the 2% can put it at the top and the 98% aren’t bothered by having it at the top. It really is a function of wanting to expose the functionality to 100% of users, but not take up the real estate required to do it.
Thomas Roedl 34:09
You know why I wouldn’t mind where it is anyway, if I can just include it in my text, so if I write a tech in my text, that it automatically applies. I think that’s the simplest solution. I mean, maybe not simple to implement, but I also want to go into this direction now actually being inside a text. You wanted to say something?
Ian Small 34:34
again, just like the the new app is a platform, the new editor is a platform for us. You will see things moving in the new editor faster than you have before. Issues like type ahead and being able to do things in line are absolutely on our agenda for things we’re going to be doing in the future. And so there are a number of aspects there where we would expect over the course of the next six to 12 months to be starting to bring stuff in that are is going to be really powerful for power users who want to learn ways to get direct access to things in line as they’re typing, etc, etc.
Thomas Roedl 35:27
Well, that’s really interesting to hear now and I’m getting excited a bit here, maybe too much hope, I don’t know, you have to tell me. But when I used Evernote and I tried and tried again, to use it as a note taking app as well build up my knowledge management system, one thing that I was searching all over the place was building up mind maps out of my notes, get proper connections between my notes. And I know that I can just put a link into there and link it to another note. And so, but this is just interrupting my creative workflow. And that’s what I’m teaching in my Inner Circle as well, we want to have a productivity system that is seamlessly integrated with all the different parts, which is Note-taking Knowledge Management, and Task management. Now, looking at Roam Research, so this just came out, this introduced the backlinks and the cross functionality. All of the sudden, Notion also implemented backlinks. I think from a technical point of view, it is not that hard to implement, isn’t it? To make a mention, you have a search in in your text, and then you add the other notes, so you can build up a connection. And just to go further, they’re making a visual map out of this. Nowadays, you can get engines for this.. So Roam Research was just implementing this first, but it is no magic. That’s why I bought it already back two years and so on my there is nothing.
Ian Small 37:08
So I think one of the things that I like about what’s going on in the market right now is that there is a lot of innovation going on in the market. And
you know, for a long time the
the sort of personal productivity market, you know, wasn’t so exciting for a while. And right now there’s there’s a lot going on Notion has a strong point of view at what they’re trying to do, Roam has a really strong point of view about what they’re trying to do. And I think, you know, there are definitely both building on the foundation that in lots of ways Evernote created out in the market. And you know, they’ve taken a point of view on here’s how we think we can make it better, which I think is good. We fully plan to make things better, too.
That’s the reason we spent the last two years doing this.
I think, to your point, one of my observations about Roam and about Evernote is that we haven’t spent a lot of time focusing on helping you think. The vision of Evernote was always to be your second brain, to be your external brain, in particular. For a long time, that con got translated into a mantra of remember everything and so a lot of what Evernote was about was remembering. One of the things that Roam is about is thinking. That results in a very different set of functionality and a very different focus. I don’t think thinking is inconsistent with a vision of being your external brain. We have we have talked externally about we want to expand the mantra from being remember everything to be remember everything and accomplish anything. We want to start being able to turn this system that is excellent that remembering into a system that helps you get things done, and there’s lots of different dimensions to helping you get things done. One of them is thinking. I think in that world of thinking it’s fair to say that backlinks have become something that is interesting. I’m not going to commit to future roadmap here because you just you just end up playing what I call feature bingo, everybody says this feature implementing that and you end up with like this.
Thomas Roedl 39:54
I have to say for me, it is so obvious looking at Evernote and the capabilities when you look at a search engine, you have the power of Google and that you already went into this direction even before you started rebranding by having a powerful Web Clipper and presenting the notes in the Google search function. So, when I search something in Google, I get my notes. And I say, Oh, I already searched for this already. So that’s the remembering you’re mentioning there. So I absolutely think that when you put in some AI that realizes what you forget, or something like that, you might have a really good chance to get back in pace to the competitors. So, we’re talking about competition already. That’s really interesting to see that you’re not committing, but you see also what I’m talking about.
Ian Small 40:47
I think, anybody you know..
I don’t think any company is ever in the business of doing what their competitors do. That’s never the strategy. Any company that doesn’t learn, they learn from their users, but they also learn from competitors. I think that there are competitors out there that learn from now and I am sure we’ll be learning from them as well. Which things we choose to pick up and which things we choose not to pick up, you will see over time. But certainly, I think there are things for us to learn from what a Roam and Notion are doing in the market.
Thomas Roedl 41:26
I absolutely understand that this is now the right time to think about these things because when I started the paperless movement, I was talking about handwriting notetaking apps on the iPad. This was just the way I went paperless, but in fact, that’s what I’m teaching and coaching as well. You have to understand that notetaking is just putting information somewhere and what we just did with the digital assurance and all there’s something that I even sell on my own website for people who are used to a paper journal or paper planner, they can do and replicate exactly the same experience and sensation on the iPad, so they don’t have to interrupt their workflows. It is a seamless transition from paper to digital. However, Notability, Good Notes, Noteshelf, all these apps, they work great when it comes to handwriting, but it ends there. There is no connection to other applications, so I can’t build up a proper knowledge management system the way we could do nowadays. Looking at Notion and Roam, Notion also is very limited. I think that’s a big advantage of Evernote still– you have connection in any app, you have API’s all over the place where I can connect my automation, looking at field arised as deeply integrates in Evernote and automates things and all this. In Notion, you can’t even have a recurring task or something like that. So this is where you’re way ahead when it comes to these points. But getting back to the point that it is the right time, because with Roam research and Notion and backlinks and people talking about this, the understanding of leveraging knowledge and the flood of information we got on a daily basis and filtering this in a proper way, this was just not possible a few years ago. I couldn’t have explained people why I need integrated connection between my notes, because there were so structured with their paper based note taking and I know a lot of people using Evernote when I started going paperless. They just replicated taking notes there. But they could have just written they’re gonna post it and paste it somewhere. There was no system behind this. So yeah, that was a long talk. But I think that’s exciting times now.
Ian Small 43:46
We have always viewed that Evernote is not important. What’s important is what people do with Evernote. That’s always, always been true inside the company, that the app is just a vehicle for people to actually do things that are much more meaningful and obviously what’s meaningful depends on the person. For somebody, it might be helping them in their real estate business. For somebody else, it might be helping with their kids football team. For somebody else, it might be writing a play or curing cancer or anything you want to pick in it. I mean, literally, someone doing everything somewhere in Evernote. And so, when Stefan started and created the business, his vision was to be your external brain. The only thing you could aspire to from a technical standpoint was remembering. There was pretty much nothing else you could reasonably aspire to at that point. Technology has come a long way in 20 years, and there’s no question that we should be able to do more than just help people remember and be able to help them turn that content into some kind of action, some kind of activity some kind of a accomplishment. And that’s really where we’re trying to go. But again, led by what is the largest set of people doing in Evernote today that we don’t really help them do very much that we could do better, and that’s what’s going to guide us over the course of the next year.
Thomas Roedl 45:19
Yeah, so that’s good to hear that you actually, at least, aware of this wave of new knowledge management systems coming up there. In the new way we approach this, I absolutely agree with remembering thing, it was already easier to put it into Evernote or any other system where I can search my notes. When I said, if you have a notebook and you take notes, and you do it in Notability, or wherever, and you have OCR, then you make your note searchable. This is still, for so many people, a big, big win, because they can search their notes. And, this was something that Evernote was doing also all the time. But with the advantage that I can hand write now, this is this was the game changer when the iPad and the Apple Pencil and all this came up. But now the people ealize it’s becoming hard to to search this. So yeah, that was a really interesting talk here, about this area. So to sum things up, maybe you can give us as me a brief preview of the next three years, or let’s say 10 years. Three years and 10 years, because in 10 years, we have the loop again when systems no longer work.
Ian Small 46:39
I think when you start to look out over many years, I start to think about Evernote, truly acting as your external brain. You can think of it as your knowledge wingman or your knowledge copilot or whatever. You know, whatever you want to think of it as, but there’s no reason that Evernote shouldn’t be able to help you move from remembering to accomplishing and also help be more proactive in getting you the information that you need when you need it. You know, Evernote from the beginning of time has always, if you allow it to, if you consent to it has always recorded the geography of where you make a note. That was something that Stefan believed in from the beginning because his point was that if I have the time at which you made a note and the place in which you made a note that is unique. You as an individual could only be in one place at one time.
Thomas Roedl 47:54
They wanted to get it when it came out, so I can look at the places where I have the notes. I have all my thoughts at this place.
Ian Small 48:03
And yet, we’re not particularly using that information in a really strong way to sort of be able to say, “Oh, I don’t know you’ve arrived at home. So maybe the notes that are most relevant to you are the ones that are home notes as opposed to work notes, if you use Evernote in both their lives and things like that”, and so I think where we’re trying to go over three years is really
today Evernote is a tool where
you do all the work in a lot of ways and then you reap the reward of having put the information you can search things and find things, whatever. But Evernote isn’t doing that much work for you and we’d like to start to shift that burden where Evernote is increasingly doing more of the work for you and so it is helping accelerate you.
Thomas Roedl 48:52
I have the feeling that you started this already. When I look at you know, you’re bringing up these related notes and this might be related to the other.
Ian Small 49:05
We have experimented in the space, I don’t think we have yet cracked the code. But you know, we are getting there and my observation is, in the new search function, when you click into the search box, it immediately suggests, “Are you looking for any of the following things” before you actually type the very first keystroke
One of our goal is we should get to the point that actually you don’t have to search for anything, it’s already there. Now, obviously that will be magic, and we can’t pull off magic. But we are driving that percentage of searches that resolve in a suggestion successfully higher and higher and higher and driving things like the number of suggestions that get clicked on without you typing a single keystroke, because we’re trying to get to the point that you know, in a perfect world, what would be interesting. If you had your phone, you open your Evernote and it actually showed you the note you’re looking for, before you actually were looking for it.
You know, that would be a nice place to be.
Thomas Roedl 50:24
Yeah, that sounds also, I mean
that’s a really interesting topic. I’ll stop here, but
just want to mention one more thing. People love Notion because they can’t just place it the way they wanted and build their dashboards and all this. That’s something people didn’t understand when Gdrive was actually published. People said, “Where’s my folder structure?” The hierarchy is not there. It’s the same Notion, you have the hierarchies. And that’s also something when we say it’s such such a small percentage of people using text and all this. If you have a powerful search engine, you actually don’t need to have, everything in place because the notion I’m still searching for stuff, and when I use the search function, it is not as powerful as Evernote. That’s just the case. Thank you very much for giving us these insights. Again, the 10 year thing, we will see in 10 years then, so I’m already excited for just next 365 days, and to see what comes there. I also think we we addressed a lot of elephants in the room here. I had
to bring this up. And, I also love that.
Yeah, exactly. Thank you very much for being on the call. It was really, really insightful. I really enjoyed this call. Thank you very much. So, any final words you want to give to my community? Before we end.
Ian Small 52:04
Two things, one, for people to understand that this is just the start. You know, I know it feels like it’s the end, because it’s been a long way. But for us, this is absolutely just the start. And you will see that, you know, over the next three and six months in absolutely concrete terms. I think the second thing I would say is quite honestly, thank you, because for a company to go silent for 18 to 24 months, and yes, we had videos, and we communicated and all the rest, but we didn’t really release much software, and for people to stick with us while we went through that journey is incredibly generous of our users. Ultimately, we are doing all of this for the users so that we can get back to having a live and dynamic and evolving application that is once again leading through innovation, which is what we think everybody at the end of the day wants. But the journey to get here has been a long one. And absolutely, I appreciate, you know, the patients that so many of our users have shown and sticking with us through this process.
Thomas Roedl 53:23
Thank you very much. I really appreciate that. I’m sure a lot of us do this as well. Okay, then.
Ian Small 53:33
I look forward to seeing you again soon when I have new features to talk about.
Thomas Roedl 53:37
I can’t wait to talk about this with you. In the next interview, it would be brilliant to have you back and talk about these. So you committed already within the next three months that we see something so, I will book a slot now.
Ian Small 53:59
I have faith I’ll be talking to you by January one way or the other.
Thomas Roedl 54:04
Thank you very much.
Ian Small 54:06
All right. Take care.