Alex’s ebook unlocks the professional power of Evernote

It wasn’t that long ago that “notebook” just meant the paper kind that you’d carry to meetings, refer to as you worked, and jot random thoughts down in… provided you had it with you.

Then came the web, and then smart mobile devices, and everything changed. Today’s web-based notebook lives on your laptop, desktop, tablet, smartphone and web browser. And the most successful by far is Evernote.

Synchronizing your notes across your various devices and the web is just the tip of Evernote’s iceberg (or, if you prefer, the flyleaf of the notebook). Evernote does everything from handwriting recognition to photo synchronizing to web clipping… and much more.

Work Smarter with Evernote by Alexandra Samuel

Figuring out how to harness all that power, though, can be a little daunting. (Your last paper notebook probably didn’t require help documentation.) To put Evernote’s features to work for you, it really helps to have the guidance of someone who not only knows the software itself, but how to make the most of it.

Enter Alex’s new ebook Work Smarter with Evernote, the first in the Work Smarter with Social Media series from Harvard Business Review Press. It’s available on Amazon, iTunes and HBR.org. (As of right now, it’s topping the time management category for Kindle volumes, and hit the number two spot for Amazon’s time management books.)

Work Smarter with Evernote isn’t a software manual. It’s a guide to using Evernote to make your professional life more effective, productive and satisfying. Alex shows you how to use Evernote to capture notes no matter where you are, and to organize your work and your priorities. And show you how to realize the full potential of Evernote’s social features — the ones that make it a powerful tool for collaboration.

Maybe best of all, you won’t have that long apprenticeship period where you have to patiently learn a tool’s intricacies before it starts being useful. Alex’s 30-minute setup guide can get a beginner up and running — or, if you’ve used it before but never really got it, let you give it a real try.

Alex draws on a wealth of experience and knowledge, both around the app itself — she was one of Evernote’s earliest adopters and evangelists, and is now Evernote’s research ambassador — and around effective online work and collaboration. (You can sample some of that expertise in a few of her recent posts for the Harvard Business Review, Vision Critical and Evernote.)

We hope you’ll check out Working Smarter with Evernote. And let us know what you think!

Alex’s ebook unlocks the professional power of Evernote

It wasn’t that long ago that “notebook” just meant the paper kind that you’d carry to meetings, refer to as you worked, and jot random thoughts down in… provided you had it with you.

Then came the web, and then smart mobile devices, and everything changed. Today’s web-based notebook lives on your laptop, desktop, tablet, smartphone and web browser. And the most successful by far is Evernote.

Synchronizing your notes across your various devices and the web is just the tip of Evernote’s iceberg (or, if you prefer, the flyleaf of the notebook). Evernote does everything from handwriting recognition to photo synchronizing to web clipping… and much more.

Work Smarter with Evernote by Alexandra Samuel

Figuring out how to harness all that power, though, can be a little daunting. (Your last paper notebook probably didn’t require help documentation.) To put Evernote’s features to work for you, it really helps to have the guidance of someone who not only knows the software itself, but how to make the most of it.

Enter Alex’s new ebook Work Smarter with Evernote, the first in the Work Smarter with Social Media series from Harvard Business Review Press. It’s available on Amazon, iTunes and HBR.org. (As of right now, it’s topping the time management category for Kindle volumes, and hit the number two spot for Amazon’s time management books.)

Work Smarter with Evernote isn’t a software manual. It’s a guide to using Evernote to make your professional life more effective, productive and satisfying. Alex shows you how to use Evernote to capture notes no matter where you are, and to organize your work and your priorities. And show you how to realize the full potential of Evernote’s social features — the ones that make it a powerful tool for collaboration.

Maybe best of all, you won’t have that long apprenticeship period where you have to patiently learn a tool’s intricacies before it starts being useful. Alex’s 30-minute setup guide can get a beginner up and running — or, if you’ve used it before but never really got it, let you give it a real try.

Alex draws on a wealth of experience and knowledge, both around the app itself — she was one of Evernote’s earliest adopters and evangelists, and is now Evernote’s research ambassador — and around effective online work and collaboration. (You can sample some of that expertise in a few of her recent posts for the Harvard Business Review, Vision Critical and Evernote.)

We hope you’ll check out Working Smarter with Evernote. And let us know what you think!

Terms of service changes deserve more than just a shrug and a click

The debate simmering over Instagram’s pending terms-of-service changes shouldn’t come as a surprise. These days, changes to a site’s or app’s terms of service get a lot more scrutiny than they used to.

True, most of us just grumble a little at the inconvenience of a nag screen popping up, then click through without reading. (And who can blame us?) But with a growing awareness of issues ranging from online privacy to usage rights, more and more people give amended user agreements a good hard look.

And when they find something they don’t like, there’s a receptive audience of users ready to spread the word, often on those same platforms. Sometimes those concerns arise from overblown, out-of-context misinterpretations of legal language. Other times, they’re just plain delusional – and if you posted one of those Facebook-is-now-a-publicly-traded-company disclaimers, you probably got an earful from your friends to that effect. (I suspect the issue around Instagram using photos in advertising has less to do with conscripting your next coffee photo as a Starbucks billboard, and more with serving “Rob Cottingham also followed [insert brand here]”-style “social ads”.)

Yet many user agreements really are downright abusive. They’re drafted by the company running the service, and are pretty much always skewed in their favour. Reading them, it’s hard not to think that the company’s legal department drafted them with one mandate: “whatever we can get away with.” The site Terms of Service; Didn’t Read documents the ways a range of services put users at a disadvantage (along with a handful that actually do a pretty good job of balancing conflicting interests).

The issues are real. But when people complain about changes to user agreements, as many are doing about Instagram today (the EFF outlines its concerns here), there’s often a backlash. They’re accused of whining about the free service they’re receiving, trying to prevent the company running it from making a profit, and having way too high an opinion of their content’s value. (If you’re looking for a post that hits the trifecta, with a trollish dollop of sneering, try this one.)

To take the first two arguments on quickly:

  • It’s a free service: Yes, a service like Instagram doesn’t charge a fee. You don’t pay in money. Instead, you pay in time, creative effort and attention. And that, in turn, creates the community without which the service would be worth far, far less. (See “Just because there’s no price tag doesn’t mean you aren’t paying for it,” a post I wrote three years ago.)
  • Companies need to make money, you commie freak: Of course they do. Even the most co-operatively-owned company needs to bring in enough income to keep the lights on. (Unless it realizes an indirect return for its owners in some other way, an idea we’ll set that aside for another day.) But one-sided exploitation isn’t the only business model out there (and in the participation business, it’s a risky one). Companies and individuals strike mutually advantageous arrangements every day; Flickr’s deal with Getty images treats its users as partners.

But it’s that third “Get over yourself and your crappy pictures of food” argument that I find especially toxic. (This is apart from the objection that, if the content users are generating have no value, why put the rights to use it commercially on the table at all?) The backlash against user advocacy plays into the idea that all that time and creative energy we’re pouring into Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Cheezburger, Flickr and the many other services out there, and all of the images, videos and stories we’re sharing are worthless.

Sure, a lot of the content being shared is frivolous and silly, or executed with little thought and effort. So is a lot of human conversation and activity; we’re playful by nature, and we’ll sometimes dabble at things without ever being good at it. (Also, if you ever have a look at some of the drek that often gets pawned off as children’s entertainment, you’ll look at LOLcats and Twitter memes with a whole new level of respect.)

And all that light conversation keeps the channels open for the more significant stuff. I discover deeply moving personal stories, glimpses of awesome beauty, laugh-out-loud humour and unexpected insights through my social networks every day. They come from people who don’t always have the talent and experience to craft a polished, professional piece, but whose distinctive perspectives and voices outweigh those deficiencies.

One of the most powerful things about the social media revolution has been to give those voices an audience. And whether that audience is a small circle of friends and family or a network of hundreds of thousands, it has opened up the world of creative self-expression to hundreds of millions of people, drastically lowering the barriers to participation.

One barrier remains, of course: creating something and sharing it with the world is still an act of courage, especially with the “so… what do you think?” of a comment field or a Like button. There are still many out there who delight in running down things other people have created, and still plenty of opportunity for a first-time creator to experience shame and embarrassment for caring about what they’ve created. Easier and safer, then, to do that ourselves pre-emptively, to be the first to describe our content as trivial.

But we sell ourselves short, and lie to ourselves, when we dismiss what we’re creating and sharing as worthless – and shrug off our rights as creators as being just as unimportant. Which is why it’s deeply gratifying to see the protests that arise over terms-of-service changes: we’re starting to take our time and self-expression a little more seriously.

And just as important is the way that the platforms themselves are responding. While I was writing this post, Instagram published one of its own, featuring – among other points – an overdue explanation of the most contentious terms-of-service change, governing the use of photos in advertising and promising clearer language on that point.

Instagram’s owners clearly understand and respect that, clever and innovative as their technology may be, it’s the community and the content they create that gives Instagram most of its value. We should show our time and creativity at least as much respect as they do.

Terms of service changes deserve more than just a shrug and a click

The debate simmering over Instagram’s pending terms-of-service changes shouldn’t come as a surprise. These days, changes to a site’s or app’s terms of service get a lot more scrutiny than they used to.

True, most of us just grumble a little at the inconvenience of a nag screen popping up, then click through without reading. (And who can blame us?) But with a growing awareness of issues ranging from online privacy to usage rights, more and more people give amended user agreements a good hard look.

And when they find something they don’t like, there’s a receptive audience of users ready to spread the word, often on those same platforms. Sometimes those concerns arise from overblown, out-of-context misinterpretations of legal language. Other times, they’re just plain delusional – and if you posted one of those Facebook-is-now-a-publicly-traded-company disclaimers, you probably got an earful from your friends to that effect. (I suspect the issue around Instagram using photos in advertising has less to do with conscripting your next coffee photo as a Starbucks billboard, and more with serving “Rob Cottingham also followed [insert brand here]”-style “social ads”.)

Yet many user agreements really are downright abusive. They’re drafted by the company running the service, and are pretty much always skewed in their favour. Reading them, it’s hard not to think that the company’s legal department drafted them with one mandate: “whatever we can get away with.” The site Terms of Service; Didn’t Read documents the ways a range of services put users at a disadvantage (along with a handful that actually do a pretty good job of balancing conflicting interests).

The issues are real. But when people complain about changes to user agreements, as many are doing about Instagram today (the EFF outlines its concerns here), there’s often a backlash. They’re accused of whining about the free service they’re receiving, trying to prevent the company running it from making a profit, and having way too high an opinion of their content’s value. (If you’re looking for a post that hits the trifecta, with a trollish dollop of sneering, try this one.)

To take the first two arguments on quickly:

  • It’s a free service: Yes, a service like Instagram doesn’t charge a fee. You don’t pay in money. Instead, you pay in time, creative effort and attention. And that, in turn, creates the community without which the service would be worth far, far less. (See “Just because there’s no price tag doesn’t mean you aren’t paying for it,” a post I wrote three years ago.)
  • Companies need to make money, you commie freak: Of course they do. Even the most co-operatively-owned company needs to bring in enough income to keep the lights on. (Unless it realizes an indirect return for its owners in some other way, an idea we’ll set that aside for another day.) But one-sided exploitation isn’t the only business model out there (and in the participation business, it’s a risky one). Companies and individuals strike mutually advantageous arrangements every day; Flickr’s deal with Getty images treats its users as partners.

But it’s that third “Get over yourself and your crappy pictures of food” argument that I find especially toxic. (This is apart from the objection that, if the content users are generating have no value, why put the rights to use it commercially on the table at all?) The backlash against user advocacy plays into the idea that all that time and creative energy we’re pouring into Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Cheezburger, Flickr and the many other services out there, and all of the images, videos and stories we’re sharing are worthless.

Sure, a lot of the content being shared is frivolous and silly, or executed with little thought and effort. So is a lot of human conversation and activity; we’re playful by nature, and we’ll sometimes dabble at things without ever being good at it. (Also, if you ever have a look at some of the drek that often gets pawned off as children’s entertainment, you’ll look at LOLcats and Twitter memes with a whole new level of respect.)

And all that light conversation keeps the channels open for the more significant stuff. I discover deeply moving personal stories, glimpses of awesome beauty, laugh-out-loud humour and unexpected insights through my social networks every day. They come from people who don’t always have the talent and experience to craft a polished, professional piece, but whose distinctive perspectives and voices outweigh those deficiencies.

One of the most powerful things about the social media revolution has been to give those voices an audience. And whether that audience is a small circle of friends and family or a network of hundreds of thousands, it has opened up the world of creative self-expression to hundreds of millions of people, drastically lowering the barriers to participation.

One barrier remains, of course: creating something and sharing it with the world is still an act of courage, especially with the “so… what do you think?” of a comment field or a Like button. There are still many out there who delight in running down things other people have created, and still plenty of opportunity for a first-time creator to experience shame and embarrassment for caring about what they’ve created. Easier and safer, then, to do that ourselves pre-emptively, to be the first to describe our content as trivial.

But we sell ourselves short, and lie to ourselves, when we dismiss what we’re creating and sharing as worthless – and shrug off our rights as creators as being just as unimportant. Which is why it’s deeply gratifying to see the protests that arise over terms-of-service changes: we’re starting to take our time and self-expression a little more seriously.

And just as important is the way that the platforms themselves are responding. While I was writing this post, Instagram published one of its own, featuring – among other points – an overdue explanation of the most contentious terms-of-service change, governing the use of photos in advertising and promising clearer language on that point.

Instagram’s owners clearly understand and respect that, clever and innovative as their technology may be, it’s the community and the content they create that gives Instagram most of its value. We should show our time and creativity at least as much respect as they do.

Terms of service changes deserve more than just a shrug and a click

The debate simmering over Instagram’s pending terms-of-service changes shouldn’t come as a surprise. These days, changes to a site’s or app’s terms of service get a lot more scrutiny than they used to.

True, most of us just grumble a little at the inconvenience of a nag screen popping up, then click through without reading. (And who can blame us?) But with a growing awareness of issues ranging from online privacy to usage rights, more and more people give amended user agreements a good hard look.

And when they find something they don’t like, there’s a receptive audience of users ready to spread the word, often on those same platforms. Sometimes those concerns arise from overblown, out-of-context misinterpretations of legal language. Other times, they’re just plain delusional – and if you posted one of those Facebook-is-now-a-publicly-traded-company disclaimers, you probably got an earful from your friends to that effect. (I suspect the issue around Instagram using photos in advertising has less to do with conscripting your next coffee photo as a Starbucks billboard, and more with serving “Rob Cottingham also followed [insert brand here]”-style “social ads”.)

Yet many user agreements really are downright abusive. They’re drafted by the company running the service, and are pretty much always skewed in their favour. Reading them, it’s hard not to think that the company’s legal department drafted them with one mandate: “whatever we can get away with.” The site Terms of Service; Didn’t Read documents the ways a range of services put users at a disadvantage (along with a handful that actually do a pretty good job of balancing conflicting interests).

The issues are real. But when people complain about changes to user agreements, as many are doing about Instagram today (the EFF outlines its concerns here), there’s often a backlash. They’re accused of whining about the free service they’re receiving, trying to prevent the company running it from making a profit, and having way too high an opinion of their content’s value. (If you’re looking for a post that hits the trifecta, with a trollish dollop of sneering, try this one.)

To take the first two arguments on quickly:

  • It’s a free service: Yes, a service like Instagram doesn’t charge a fee. You don’t pay in money. Instead, you pay in time, creative effort and attention. And that, in turn, creates the community without which the service would be worth far, far less. (See “Just because there’s no price tag doesn’t mean you aren’t paying for it,” a post I wrote three years ago.)
  • Companies need to make money, you commie freak: Of course they do. Even the most co-operatively-owned company needs to bring in enough income to keep the lights on. (Unless it realizes an indirect return for its owners in some other way, an idea we’ll set that aside for another day.) But one-sided exploitation isn’t the only business model out there (and in the participation business, it’s a risky one). Companies and individuals strike mutually advantageous arrangements every day; Flickr’s deal with Getty images treats its users as partners.

But it’s that third “Get over yourself and your crappy pictures of food” argument that I find especially toxic. (This is apart from the objection that, if the content users are generating have no value, why put the rights to use it commercially on the table at all?) The backlash against user advocacy plays into the idea that all that time and creative energy we’re pouring into Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Cheezburger, Flickr and the many other services out there, and all of the images, videos and stories we’re sharing are worthless.

Sure, a lot of the content being shared is frivolous and silly, or executed with little thought and effort. So is a lot of human conversation and activity; we’re playful by nature, and we’ll sometimes dabble at things without ever being good at it. (Also, if you ever have a look at some of the drek that often gets pawned off as children’s entertainment, you’ll look at LOLcats and Twitter memes with a whole new level of respect.)

And all that light conversation keeps the channels open for the more significant stuff. I discover deeply moving personal stories, glimpses of awesome beauty, laugh-out-loud humour and unexpected insights through my social networks every day. They come from people who don’t always have the talent and experience to craft a polished, professional piece, but whose distinctive perspectives and voices outweigh those deficiencies.

One of the most powerful things about the social media revolution has been to give those voices an audience. And whether that audience is a small circle of friends and family or a network of hundreds of thousands, it has opened up the world of creative self-expression to hundreds of millions of people, drastically lowering the barriers to participation.

One barrier remains, of course: creating something and sharing it with the world is still an act of courage, especially with the “so… what do you think?” of a comment field or a Like button. There are still many out there who delight in running down things other people have created, and still plenty of opportunity for a first-time creator to experience shame and embarrassment for caring about what they’ve created. Easier and safer, then, to do that ourselves pre-emptively, to be the first to describe our content as trivial.

But we sell ourselves short, and lie to ourselves, when we dismiss what we’re creating and sharing as worthless – and shrug off our rights as creators as being just as unimportant. Which is why it’s deeply gratifying to see the protests that arise over terms-of-service changes: we’re starting to take our time and self-expression a little more seriously.

And just as important is the way that the platforms themselves are responding. While I was writing this post, Instagram published one of its own, featuring – among other points – an overdue explanation of the most contentious terms-of-service change, governing the use of photos in advertising and promising clearer language on that point.

Instagram’s owners clearly understand and respect that, clever and innovative as their technology may be, it’s the community and the content they create that gives Instagram most of its value. We should show our time and creativity at least as much respect as they do.

How right-sized graphics can lend a whole new dimension to your online appearance

Most organizations would never send their leaders to a news conference in pizza-stained sweatpants and a moth-eaten Planet Hollywood t-shirt. But a startling number of them do the digital equivalent.

They stretch low-resolution logos and graphics to serve as cover images. They shovel photos online without noticing that the call to action is getting cropped out. Use intricate, complex images as pinkie-nail-sized profile photos.

The result is a blotchy, pixelated, distorted, unreadable mess.

If you’re swallowing hard as you read this, and recognizing your own organization in these words, take heart. Because even if you aren’t a graphic designer, there’s a simple way to take a huge step toward a better first impression.

And that’s to learn the pixel dimensions that your social platform uses… and then stick to them when you create your graphics.

Do that, and your profile photo will suddenly look crisper and cleaner; your logo will be recognizable; your infographics will still contain all their info.

These tips and resources can help:

  • When you’re creating graphics for the web, set your app’s measurement unit to pixels instead of inches, picas or centimetres (which don’t mean a lot when you’re dealing with screen measurements).
  • Always preview your graphics at their actual size (also known as 100%) before uploading them.
  • Don’t keep hunting down the same specs over and over again. There are some lovely folks who’ve done that work for you and shared it online:
  • Store that information where you can get it when you need it. Scroll past Dan’s infographic, and you’ll find a table with all the values listed as text. I’ve copied that table into Evernote, and now it’s at my fingertips when I need it. (That feels especially clever when I have Photoshop open on my laptop and Dan’s table open on my tablet.)
  • Can’t find the specs for a particular image? You can measure it yourself.
    • Install a browser extension that gives you an on-screen ruler (such as MeasureIt for Firefox for and Tape for Chrome).
    • Or if you have a little HTML and CSS knowledge, right-click on the image and choose Inspect Element (or your browser’s equivalent).
  • The good folks who build platforms like Facebook and Twitter often change their interfaces, and that means changing image dimensions, too. So when an update comes out (like those banner images everyone’s been introducing over the last year or so), check to see if you need to rebuild your images – or create a whole new one.

Let’s be clear: how you look on a social platform like Facebook and Twitter isn’t nearly as important as what you do.

But as with the rest of life, a little attention to your appearance often makes a big difference. First impressions matter: looking crisp and professional can get you through the front door of people’s attention, and allow the conversations to happen that lead to deeper engagement.