You know this? Let's assume you are working on whatever new (research) project and are doing some initial information search on the web: relevant papers, journals, conferences, people, and so on. Your learning curve will be steep - you will be retrieving information that seems relevant to you every other minute. How do you keep track of this vast amount of information?
- Old style: use a notebook. This is great for sketching initial ideas and noting down basic knowledge. However, it apparently lacks all the online possibilities (videos, talks, slides, ...) plus you would have to print every interesting paper ... hence you will separate these resources somehow, which is suboptimal.
- You could use bookmarking. Sure, this will let you save the links to the information you found but does this help you in organizing your new project? In my opinion, it does not. Will tell later why.
- Use evernote! If you don't know it or haven't tried it: it's totally awesome! And it's free (in the basic version)!
Evernote easily let's you save articles and links, using it's webclipper, a very useful tool. Additionally to that you can store typed notes, handwritten notes from you tablet, pictures taken with your phone, and so on, in one big virtual notebook. This alone is great, since it allows you to later easily "reconstruct" the line of thought you were following.
So far, so good. I think you got it: having one place to store all kinds of information is enormously useful. However, personally I think that the search functionality in evernote is the Killer Feature! Not because of the mere fact that you can perform search on your notes (if you were using emacs and storing notes in .txt files on your hd you could do this 20 years ago) - but because of how they implement it.
There are basically two ways of searching your evernote: a) open evernote (the client or online) and type something in the search field. Fine, these are the basics you would expect. Problem here: you have to have a clue, that a certain piece of information is already in your collection, otherwise you wouldn't do a search in evernote but in google, right? And this is where awesome possibility b) comes in: when you install the webclipper in your browser, it will ask you whether you want your evernotes searched, whenever you do a google search. How awesome is this?! Think about it for a moment: with enabling this features (and I highly recommend to do so) you will basically enable searching through your "virtual memory" - on the fly - whenever you look for whatever information on google. Meaning: with evernote you are not only able to store any relevant information, but you will also be able to find this information again! Even when you are unaware that you have it! Without evernote you would most likely spend a lot of time to look for it again, using google.
Summa summarum: the crucial part here really is the integration of evernote search and google search. And the latter, most of you will agree, is exactly what we do all the day: searching information on google, and not actually thinking about the stuff resting in our bookmark folders, delicious accounts or note-files somewhere on our hd. In this sense, one could also say that evernote is not only a tool for storing information, but for optimizing your personal information retrieval, in that it remembers what you already found. And this is truly ... awesome!
PS: Putting in my five cents - if you lost a lot of money because you were too *...* buying stocks of a social network company without a good business plan - if evernote goes IPO: invest!
I was waiting for such a service for quite some time. Actually, with some friends I built our own little cloud-based system to do similar things. However, it never really matured (science keeps us busy ;-) and we were merely using it on a private basis.
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