I was doing some research recently and discovered an infographic that explained just how much data is being generated by the information-rich world in which we live. The image showed things like “Google receives more than 2,000,000 search queries” and “Twitter users send more than 100,000 tweets” and “Facebook users share more than 684,000 pieces of content”. All across the board, these are truly staggering numbers illustrating a veritable mountain on content. But consider this: all of the numbers depicted in this graphic represent what happens every minute of every day. Every minute. (You can see the image here: Data Never Sleeps for reference.)
Aside from being just a little bit mind blowing, it also speaks to another growing problem: We’re generating more information at a faster rate than ever before, so there’s more to remember every second. And, for the record, I don’t know anyone who feels as if their memory is improving.
It’s certainly true that we’ve all become fairly adept searchers at this point. My parents can find just about anything they’re looking for in the public domain using one of the very excellent (and constantly improving) search engines. But Google isn’t going to be very good at helping them find the name of that restaurant in Wilmington, the recipe for Grandma’s Cinnamon Rolls, or the clothing sizes for my kids. But Evernote (www.evernote.com) will.
I’ve been using Evernote to store all kinds of information for a couple of years now and I still have trouble explaining exactly what it is. It’s a filing cabinet to supplement your memory. It’s a bucket for anything and everything, with the ability to pull out random connections between items to help you retrieve the information; much like pulling out the data from inside your mind. It’s like Google for your own brain. While all of these might begin to paint the picture, you’ll only fully understand it after you’ve used it for awhile.
The whole exercise began with CEO Phil Libin, who had been considering how our memories work. How do we remember something, like the name of a restaurant? It’s largely through the associations we have with it in our heads. The trigger might be thinking about whom you were with when you heard about it, where you were, what else you were doing at the time, or a related word or image. From these bits and pieces, we can often dredge up a forgotten but important thought. But not always.
Libin realized we needed something better than our own brains: We needed an electronic memory. Somewhere we could put in information in any form, be it a typed document, a handwritten note, a photo, a webpage, a spoken conversation. The key would be instantly retrieving the information on any of your devices on the fly without worrying about how to organize it. The result, says Libin, is your brain offloaded to a server.
“When people want to capture a thought, they don’t want to stop what they’re doing,” he says. More important, you would be able to find whatever it is whenever you need it, as effortlessly and intuitively as we now find things using Google. “Google is great, but it only knows about public information,” says Libin. “We needed something that could handle your information.” More importantly, you wouldn’t need to remember much about what exactly you were looking for. As with your brain, what you would need is only a vague clue, like a person, a place, a word, a time. Evernote is that tool. And with it’s growing suite of complementary applications, it’s working hard to become the absolute repository of everything you might ever want to remember.
Optimal use cases include meeting and class notes, voice memos, web pages, photos (including text that is automatically recognized and indexed for searching), receipts, product manuals, warranty information, phone numbers, and on and on. You can put information into Evernote directly, clip it from web pages, upload photos, send it via email, or use third-party applications to automatically insert with their robust API. It’s great for people in business, parents, and students. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be a demographic that wouldn’t benefit from having instant access to their own memories.
There are native applications for both Windows and Mac desktops, all smartphones, and most tablets. All of them sync over the Internet to keep everything, everywhere up to date (and regularly backedup.) Evernote offers a feature-rich version completely free. It’s Libin’s strategy to get people using the software with a full set of features so they will truly understand what it’s capable of (and so they’ll love it as much as he does.) So far, the strategy is working. They surpassed 15 million users late last year and are adding more than one million new users a month.