Evernote Jumped the Shark

Bottom-Line-Up-Front: Evernote is crashing on me left and right – leaving thousands of notes stranded. I wonder if Evernote Jumped the Shark and I have a few ideas why they did – and how to fix it.

I have been an avid Evernote user for years – since the open Beta in 2008. I’ve was hot and cold on Evernote for the first few years. I was using it, then I’d stop for months (or years).

Lately though I have been using it daily dozens of times. I have thousands of notes, scans, and the like stored in this system.

But I noticed the Evernote was getting long in the tooth. Little things weren’t getting fixed (e.g. bullets that just won’t work so you have to remove them all and restart a note) and very few big things were happening. I can’t really think of any big things.

But the iOS version 8 app was supposed to fix that. It looks nice and clean and makes adding a note way faster – that’s awesome. But is CRASHES all the time – now to the point that I can’t use it at all – it “remembers” where I was – goes to that point in the app again – and crashes.

I was excited about the new v8 release, but since the day after the release I can’t even load the damned thing. Apparently a normal effort killed it??? The details are below (see The Meat of the Issue …)

As you may realize, I know a bit about software companies from deep on the inside and as an intervention-style consultant (when a company needs some UNFUK-ing), and as an investor. I’ve “smelled” this situation before.

And I started thinking that Evernote Jumped the Shark after the iOS apps suicided on me. Then I read a Wired article (Evernote’s App is More Than an Update – It’s a Reboot) that drove home the problem…

Evernote is flailing. They have massive pressures from 2 or 3 distinct camps that are likely working against the future success of the company. These camps have distinctly different, and in the short-term, opposing goals:

  • User’s/Client’s Goals – there are a few
    • Get Evernote back to the point where it is really an “outboard brain” for us (yes – US – I am still holding out hope). Right now it is BROKEN. A part of my brain doesn’t work now. That’s a “NEVER DO THAT” kind of bug.
    • Prove to us that you’re better than the competition. Microsoft OneNote and even Apple Notes are getting damned good. Not good enough – but they can get there.
  • Venture Capitalist’s Goal- Get Evernote to create either Valuation or cash flow that justifies their investment.
  • Company Leadership ( Founders, senior execs, and Employees) Goal – Get our Mojo back.

So what does Evernote need to do? Given that Evernote Jumped the Shark (my supposition) – they need to do the following:

  • Get back to basics. Take the believers from the company, grab a few uses, and head somewhere to hammer out what Evernote really means. Evernote doesn’t mean “drive revenue to create a VC exit”  – it should mean “be the outboard brain of our clients so they can accomplish magic” (hint: that drives revenue).
  • UNFUK the whacked decisions that these competing camps (Users, Investors, Company Leaders) have created.
  • Show us some magic.
  • Stop flailing around and adding stupid features (e.g. restoring me to exactly where I was – I don’t need that – especially when you include the crash causing piece).

Is that easy? Nope.

Is it doable? Totally.

But it takes guts. The hardest part will be looking at themselves in the mirror and acknowledging that “we’re fucked.” After that hard look things are still hard work but they are just that – work…

Does it matter how they got here? Sort of – but not as much as you think.

They need to show forward progress with us, the user base. The Investors will shut up once they start seeing metrics improve again. Right now I get the feel, as a total outsider, that they are meddling now because they aren’t getting what they need (visibility that things are improving). They may not even realize that they (the Investors) are likely a major part of the problem. They brought in a smart guy but I bet that they have tasked him with the wrong Outcomes (note that word – OUTCOME – not goals/metrics/KPIs/etc.).

I hope they make it. To think that Evernote Jumped the Shark is horrible. I have so much invested in their tool – but I am wondering if there is an Export/Import tool for a replacement.

For now though, I’ll hope they wrap their heads around this.

Otherwise they’ll be dead and won’t know it. Software companies with recurring revenues don’t see their death until it is too late. But they have solid VCs behind them that can help.

But they need to admit that the problem is real.

The Meat of the Issue That Triggered my Evernote Jumped The Shark Thoughts

I was in an investment meeting and searched for a note to share with a startup founder. Finding it was hard – there are two ways to find things it seems. One just teased me – it showed the list of items matching my search but I couldn’t click it – that part of the UI was disabled. However, I found another way to search and was able to open the item and share it. Happy guy then.

But now, when I load Evernote, that same note appears on my phone – with an error reporting prompt.

Evernote Jumped The Shark

I send the error – I hit that Back button – CRASH. Load Evernote. Repeat ad infinitum…

So I tried a bunch of things including reinstalling the app in my iPhone. No Joy.

Evernote was nice enough to remember everything that I do apparently and return me to this state. The state that I can’t get out of. I don’t like bitching but this means Evernote is dead for me when I just have my phone.

But it gets better – I avoided installing the v8 release on my iPad. Well, I tried to – but Apple is very helpful and while it was charging, it updated all my new app.

And now the app fails out on my iPad. Whoever thought of this “put the user back to exactly where they were” wasn’t thinking this through. I’d argue that is a strange ass thing to do in the first place. If I am in the middle of typing a note – sure – bring me back. Other than that though? I am likely coming in to do something different anyway (e.g. add a note, find a note, browse).

Picture of Fonzie on waterskis (Happy Days) after he Jumped the Shark

Fonzie and Evernote Jumped the Shark (source: Wikipedia)



Also published on Medium.

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