Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fixing Thoughts: From Notebooks To Evernote

More than six years ago, when I did not do any legal practice and enjoyed my LL.M. classes just two times a week (the schedule was made in such a way, honestly), I invested a lot of time into reading books on the disciplines which were not in the curriculum, finding out literary devices while reading fiction for fun, writing down random ideas and some other similar things.

I kept several notebooks for each theme where I made structured handwritten notes fixing all of the above, like this one:

I did not have any specific goal in mind while doing this, I just enjoyed the process. I completed more than ten various notebooks in such a way. Generally, I can recommend this practice to anyone who has enough time. It helps to sort your mind and move forward by dropping ideas to paper while developing patience and anything which gets improved with manual writing.

However, this became less practical when I began to dedicate most of my efforts to work. For a long period of time I did not systematically write down my thoughts. I fixed something somewhere occasionally, and part of my experience was to be tracked anyway in law firm's billing system or other similar records, but it was not enough.

Today I am excited with the opportunities which Evernote provides. 

I like it very much, and see it as a development of my initial 'paper' practice. What is good for me about Evernote is that it motivates me to continue keeping notes throught friendly interface and diverse options. Besides this, Evernote is really convenient. 

Here are several features which make this software attractive for me:

Synchronization. I use Evernote client on home computer, Evernote apps on smartphone and tablet along with Evernote online at work desktop. All information I keep within Evernote is the same, because it is stored at one server and automatically synchronized.

Notes can store various formats. In fact, you can store almost any popular file format with your notes. For instance, when I worked on my last academic article, I stored the academic articles (retrieved from public domain) which I widely cited in one note with my preliminary ideas for content.  

Several ways of input. You can not only type contents of a note, but also record audio messages or even dictate content to be recognized and automatically put into words. The fact that you can choose between several input options is an additional motivating factor due to convenience.

Saving Internet pages. There is a specific plugin called Evernote Clipper which allows you to grab entire web pages. Of course, there can be a lot of legal concern about IP protection, but not everything in the net constitutes protected IP or is not subject to a kind of creative commons license. 

Sadly, but Evernote has an obvious legal drawback which ultimately means that anyone should use this service at his or her own peril. Here is the respective extracts from Evernote's explanation of the terms of use in human (and as opposed to legal) language version:

What Is The License I Have To Grant To Evernote?
In order to enable Evernote to operate the Service, we must obtain from you certain license and other rights to the Content you submit so that our processing, maintenance, storage, technical reproduction, back-up and distribution and related handling of your Content doesn’t infringe applicable copyright and other laws. This means that by using the Service and uploading Content, you grant Evernote a license to display, perform and distribute your Content and to modify (for technical purposes, e.g., making sure content is viewable on smart phones as well as computers) and reproduce such Content to enable Evernote to operate the Service. You also agree that Evernote has the right to elect not to accept, post, store, display, publish or transmit any Content in our sole discretion.

Will Evernote Look At My Content?

Your privacy in your Content is a paramount concern for us, and we hope that we never need to examine anyone’s Content. However, there are limited circumstances in which we may have the need to review part or all of your Content, as discussed in our Privacy Policy.

Privacy Policy shows that Evernote may review your notes in various situations, in particular to ensure that you do not infringe the rights of other users.

However, in all fairness, the position of Evernote is understandable and it hardly varies from attitude of many other data processing companies. 

I would have said that Evernote users should just be sure that they store information which does not infringe rights of any other user, but instead I would say that we, as usual with Internet services, may face some tangled court practice related to these issues, because whether you infringe some other's rights or not should be determined in multi-jurisdictional situation without clear insight on applicable law.

Let us just hope that the defendant will be neither you nor me, and for this time just enjoy the oppotunities for personal and professional growth Evernote provides.

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