Web applications? I’ve tried ’em all, from the well known through to the obscure. I even tried to join Facebook when it would only accept alumni from US universities; I was refused, which must put me in a very select group of people who’ve been declined membership of Facebook. Perhaps I should start a Facebook group for Facebook rejects.
Amongst my favourite web applications is Evernote. I’ve been a subscriber for almost three years and it’s one of the few applications that I find genuinely useful and usable. But recently something changed.
Everyone’s doing the two-step verification
In common with Twitter, Google Mail and Facebook, Evernote introduced two-step verification on 30 May. It’s a bit of a faff to set up, requiring the registration of a phone via SMS before being able to use my preferred method of authentication, Google Authenticator. Once configured, all Evernote client applications then have to be updated to support two-step verification. It was here that I noticed a change to the Evernote Mac application.
I like it like that
My preferred way of working with the Evernote Mac application is to have a lefthand panel showing all my notebooks and, in the righthand panel, the list of notebook entries at the top and the contents of a note at the bottom. I’ve subsequently found out that this is called the “Horizontal List View”. It works really well, particularly when viewing grabbed website pages on the 13″ screen of an old Macbook that I haul around wherever I go.
After the update though, this view disappeared. I assumed that it was maybe just a problem with some settings having been changed during the update so I set about hunting down how to get back my default view. I hunted. And I hunted. And I hunted.
Deep in the Jungle
So I went to a place that I seldom visit, the Evernote user forum, and I found out that I was not the only one who couldn’t find out how to get their favourite view back. There was a reason why: the view had been removed in its entirety, apparently replaced by brand new reminders functionality. Now I’m not usually too hung up on ways of working but the attitude displayed on the forum by the Evernote staff and evangelists incited me to take a more intransigent attitude.
One posting by an Evernote employee was met with forum incredulity when it asked “would you guys have preferred to keep Horizontal List View over Reminders or vice versa?” In a subsequent post the employee suggested that “functionally speaking, it was very difficult to reconcile Horizontal List View with Reminders”.
“Put down angry birds next time you go to the bathroom”
But really taking the biscuit was an Evernote evangelist who asked “where were you all when Evernote asked on these forums to hear from horizontal list view aficionados!?” There were even unsolicited tips for everyone’s workflow: “you have to speak up. Sorry, but you need to be doing this for every app that you care about, even if you only care about it a little bit. Bookmark the relevant forum sites and pop in to follow things every once in a while” before blethering on with “it only takes about 5 minutes. Let’s say you have 10 apps you use enough that you’d miss them if they were gone. Email one app developer a day, and by the beginning of next month, with just 50 minutes invested, you will have made your voice heard. Surely, everyone has 5 minutes to spare for something they care this much about, right? Put down angry birds next time you go to the bathroom and send off an email instead”.
Fight! Fight! Fight!
I’ll save you the trouble of reading the flame war that ensued between post 74 and post 261 but it spiralled to such as extent that one user has to declare: “I’m sorry for making it personal”.
So how does something so seemingly trivial become the tech equivalent of a barroom brawl? Working on a computer is an intensely intimate and personal affair. If someone temporarily uses your desk and they change the position of the telephone, the angle of the monitor and adjust the height of the seat then the first things that you’re going to do when you reclaim your realm is to put the telephone back in its rightful position, alter the angle of the monitor and correct the height of the seat. Now imagine that your seat’s previous occupant comes back and starts shouting at you that you need to position your telephone better, that the angle of your monitor is dodgy and that you’re doing seat positioning all wrong.
The stones in my shoes get sharper all the time
I’ll have to admit that the responses from Evernote staff and evangelists incited me to download a previous version of the Evernote Mac application in order to get back the old view. However, after considering the consequence that I would have to remove two-step authentication I desisted and decided to persevere with the new interface design, but it did feel akin to walking around with a stone in my shoe.
Toys meet pram
But there’s a happy ending to this teacup-storm. To their credit Evernote accepted the complaints and requests of its customers and re-instated the horizontal list view in an update. And all the toys were safely back in their pram.