De-Activating My Evernote Account

It was very unpleasant for me. I’ve been a user of Evernote almost from the beginning, and a Premium user for almost as long. But today I erased all of my notes and deactivated my account. “Why?” you might ask. Let me tell you.

  1. The price increase. Earlier in the Autumn, Evernote announced a price increase. It was pretty substantial, at least for me. At about the same time, they announced that they were moving our data to Google’s infrastructure in order to take advantage of improved economies of scale among other reasons. So they are lowering their costs of doing business but still increasing prices for customers. That just doesn’t sit well with me.
  2. Change in Privacy Policy. The company has recently announced a change to their privacy policy effective 23 January 2017. Now they will have engineers “overseeing” simple AI that better personalizes the way the service works. Put another way, they will have people who read your notes. I just don’t want that. Even though I don’t have anything truly private in my Evernote account (I use SpiderOak for that kind of stuff — medical records, tax records, etc.) I just don’t want that.  My notes belong to me and no one else.

The Evernote approach highlights one of my big gripes about the way a lot of AI research is done these days. I don’t believe there is any real reason for requiring access to user data to “make sure things worked”. It’s a symptom that much current AI is being developed to work for the vendor, not the customer/user. The folks developing this technology are continuing on in the belief that our data somehow belongs to them, not us.

As for a replacement, I haven’t found one that can completely replace Evernote, but have looked at a few.

Getting Existing Notes out of Evernote

The first step in moving to another application was getting my existing notes out of Evernote. Evernote supports a nice export format called ENEX, which is a form of XML. If you have web clips, the exported data contains a bunch of indecipherable gobbledygook from the original web page. In the case of images, the exported notes can contain a lot of data relevant to the in-image search function. The files can be parsed with a relatively simple piece of software if you only want the simpler parts and don’t need to reproduce the original web page.

During the export process, I came across a few bugs. Evernote’s support group was very helpful at fixing the errors and I was able to export all of my notes successfully, even some as old as nine years.

Alternatives

I had used Microsoft’s OneNote in the past on a tablet with good handwriting recognition. When I tried to import my notes this time, it choked. It just couldn’t handle the organization of all those notes and produced something unusable.

Other programs (and there are tons of them) just don’t have the flexibility of Evernote. In the end, I settled on importing my notes into a wiki system. For the type of work I use my notes for, this seems to work fine.

The search goes on for a complete replacement, but I don’t feel crippled in the meantime.