An unexpected comeback for a paper notepad

PARIS–I’m still not a fan of taking notes on paper, but I was glad I had a reporter’s notepad in my bag when I flew here to moderate six panels at the VivaTechnology Paris conference. Why? As I was getting ready to head over to my first talk yesterday morning, I saw that Evernote’s Android app was stuck on the “Opening note, please wait” dialog when I tried to open the note with my outline, even though I had enough bandwidth to tweet out my annoyance at that malfunction.

Notepad and panel notes(Yes, this happened only two days after Evernote announced it was raising its subscription prices. Regrettable timing all around.)

I don’t trust myself to memorize panel talking points, so I had to write them down on the paper I had available. Then I had to do the same five more times–Evernote’s app continues to have that hangup, even though it opens other notes without complaint.

In this context, ink held some distinct advantages over pixels. I didn’t have to keep my phone refreshed throughout the whole panel, draining its battery that much more. I could rest it anywhere without worrying about it falling on the floor. There was no risk of people thinking I was texting somebody or looking up cat videos in the middle of my panel. And a reporter holding a notepad during a panel looks more natural in a picture than one clutching a phone.

I will admit that I somewhat regretted not being able to use Twitter as a panel backchannel. But at this particular venue, carrying around a paper notepad brought one other benefit: The Paris expo Port de Versailles was a little toasty, and I soon got in the habit of fanning myself with the notepad between panels.

2008 called, and it wants its PR pitches back

The other week, I engaged in a futile exercise to avoid having to pay for extra storage in my Google Apps account by getting a few years’ worth of old pitches out of my PR folder. It would have been a quick process if I’d just dragged those thousands of e-mails off the server and into a local folder, but I had to glance over them first to see if I’d filed any important interviews there by mistake… and so went many hours stumbling down memory lane.

2008 calendar closeupBeyond my surprise at how many PR pros can still stand to deal with me (thanks for the continued tolerance, Jesus, Brooke, and Steve), I was also amused to see the PR pitches I’d blown off or misunderstood in just one year, 2008.

For instance, what if I’d known then that I actually would make this app my external brain?

Writing with a company called Evernote— not sure if you are familiar with them, but they have a fascinating story around how consumers can capture their memories in a completely unique and innovative way. The company has already been seeing a lot of buzz around their Web beta and we’re excited to finally be opening the product to the general public. Evernote’s CEO, Phil Libin, will be in DC June 4-6 and I wanted to see if you’d be interested in taking a meeting with him to get an introduction to Evernote and how it can become a user’s external brain?

I ignored the following because, I sniffed at the time, I don’t cover accessories. Look, anybody can ignore a story that becomes a $3 billion acquisition!

Monster, the leader in audio/video accessories, along with legendary artist and producer Dr. Dre and Interscope Geffen A&M Chairman Jimmy Iovine have teamed up to develop a brand new level of headphones, Beats ™ by Dr. Dre ™. The headphones were created to reproduce the full spectrum of sound that musical artists and producers hear in professional recording studios.

I actually did review the gadget offered in the following pitch. But I passed on the CEO interview, and my writeup spent too much time whining about the slow speeds of broadband and the limited availability of streaming movies (even if that remains an annoyance).

Good Morning Rob:

We’re happy to introduce The Netflix Player By Roku.

Please let me know if you would like additional information, JPEGS of the product or would like to speak with Anthony Wood, founder and CEO.

And then there were all the pitches I got for Yahoo sites and services, even after setting aside all the announcements and commentary about Microsoft’s unsuccessful attempt to buy Yahoo. Maybe I should have paid more attention to them?

Post-travel to-dos

Cards and card

I’m through the worst of what I’m not-so-fondly calling Conference Month, and all of this travel is reminding me of the tasks that await each time I come home and finish unpacking.

Let’s see:

  • Do laundry.
  • Catch up on other household chores: sweep the floors, do the dishes, bake bread, reaffirm my earlier decision that the late-summer lawn is a lost cause.
  • Go over my e-mail to see which messages I should have answered three to five days ago.
  • Tag and categorize business expenses in Mint, then verify that I didn’t forget to record any cash transactions in the Google Docs spreadsheet I use for that purpose.
  • Send LinkedIn invitations to people I met on the trip, assuming their profiles show signs of recent life. (Go ahead, call me a tool now.)
  • Throw the latest set of press-kit USB flash drives onto the pile.
  • Scan business cards into Evernote.
  • Download, edit, geotag and caption photos, then post them to Flickr (for public viewing) or Facebook (for friends).
  • Make sure I got the proper frequent-flyer credit for the last round of flights.
  • There’s probably some other chore that should be on this list but that I will only remember when I’m on my way to National or Dulles.

As I write this, there’s a stack of business cards on my desk and several dozen pictures in iPhoto that have not been edited, geotagged, captioned or shared. And I only have five days before my next work trip, the Online News Association’s conference in Los Angeles, so you can imagine how well this is going.

Conference organizers, maybe you could find other months to host your events?

 

Weekly output: Android app permissions, Google Photos and lifetime service, Rovi’s vanishing TV guide

After last week’s travel and travel-induced delays, I enjoyed going no further for work than Capitol Hill.

Yahoo Tech Android M permissions post6/1/2015: Six Things to Know About Android’s Apple-esque App Permissions, Yahoo Tech

I could have written this post right after the Google I/O session that provided me with these details, but that Friday-afternoon talk didn’t wrap up until after 6 p.m. Eastern–and the delay allowed me to inspect the new permissions interface in a developer-prevue build of Android M on a loaner Nexus 9 tablet I picked up at I/O.

6/2/2015: Will Google Really Store All Your Photos Forever?, Yahoo Tech

Instead of trying to do a full review of this service based on only a day or two of playing around with it, I opted to use my Yahoo Tech column to unpack the long-term deal Google is offering with its new Photos service. One thing I didn’t mention in the column: I have near-zero hope of using any online service to back up all of my pictures, because I have about 20 years’ worth that exist only as negatives or prints, and I have nowhere near enough time to scan all of those.

6/7/2015: How software, service shifts disconnect smart TVs, USA Today

Not for the first time, my 2009 HDTV served as review hardware for a story. This time around, it involved the unexpected and unexplained shutdown of Rovi’s onscreen TV guide on some older Sony sets.

Why do I keep seeing journalists take notes on paper?

I was at a lunch briefing today, and of about 10 people around the table–some Visa executives, some PR minders, most journalists–I was the only person taking notes in an app instead of on paper.

Paper notepadThat’s a typical situation. And I don’t get it.

I started jotting down notes on mobile devices in 1995–anybody else remember the Sony MagicLink?–and by the turn of the century I’d switched to pixels over paper as my primary medium for that task. Back then, the Palm OS memo-pad app left much to be desired but still had two features absent from any paper notepad: a “find” function and the ability to back everything up.

Those two abilities alone made it worth my while to learn Graffiti and a series of other onscreen text-input systems–then have to explain to people that no, I wasn’t texting somebody else while they were talking to me.

It’s now 2015, and Evernote not only does those two core tasks but syncs automatically over the air, lets me embed everything from audio recordings to lists and tables, and runs on about every desktop and mobile platform ever made. And its eminently-usable basic version is free, although I finally started paying for the premium version this year to get extra features like scanning business cards.

Don’t like Evernote for whatever reason? You could use Microsoft’s OneNote. Or Google Keep. Or Apple’s Notes apps for OS X and iOS. Or any of dozens of third-party apps. I realize that you need to be able to type reasonably fast on a phone’s screen–but hasn’t that skill pretty much become a job prerequisite anyway, between texts, e-mail and Twitter?

I’m not saying paper notepads are useless–I keep one in my bag, just in case. But I haven’t brought that out for any reporting in years. Its most recent use: I handed it to my daughter to play with, and she drew me a picture of a flower.

Weekly output: Facebook Messenger, Evernote business-card scanning, right to be forgotten, Miracast

This week allowed me to cross one tech-related item off my bucket list: operate a soldering iron without injury to myself or anybody else. More on that later…

8/5/2014:Facebook May Be Addicted to Apps, but You Don’t Have to Be, Yahoo Tech

Facebook’s decision to make Android and iPhone users of its regular app install a separate Messenger app to continue chatting with their pals is not earning many Likes. This post compared that move by Facebook to Foursquare moving check-ins to Swarm–but now that Foursquare has shipped a complete rewrite of its core app that reinvents its privacy model, I don’t mind that split as much.

8/5/2014: 3 Flops from Facebook (and 1 from Twitter), Yahoo Tech

Remember when Facebook was going to reinvent e-mail? Yeah, that was awesome. Consider this post my own penance for all the words I wrote about Facebook Messages back in 2010.

VentureBeat Evernote review8/6/2014: Here’s how Evernote’s business card scanning feature tackled 1,333 cards, VentureBeat

I had planned to use Evernote’s card-scanning feature to dispatch all the cards cluttering my desk, then decided I might as well try to sell a review of the experience. If you were wondering about the creature with the oversized eyes shown up close in the app in my photo, it’s a tarsier on the card of O’Reilly Media founder Tim O’Reilly.

8/8/2014: Can Europe Force Search Engines to Censor Information You’re Looking for on the Internet? Assessing the Right to be Forgotten, Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee

I enjoyed debating the European Union’s dubious doctrine with Internews’ Mike Godwin, Future of Privacy Forum policy counsel Joe JeromeEmma Llansó of the Center for Democracy and Technology, Intel global privacy officer David Hoffman, and moderator Michael Kubayanda. Courtesy of Congress being on recess, this was broadcast on C-SPAN–C-SPAN 1, even.

8/10/2014: Windows can do wireless displays, but watch for glitches, USA Today

Only five days after a reader asked me about this on Twitter, my column answering that query ran. Not unrelated: I’m still awaiting answers on the other topic I’d pitched to my editor, so it was this topic or nothing.

Weekly output: 4K UHD TV, Tech Night Owl, stolen phones

This week was a lot less productive than I’d hoped, even factoring in Monday being a holiday and most of Tuesday’s schedule getting canceled out by snow and sub-freezing temperatures. I’m going to be paying for that this week.

1/20/2014: All of the Potential Problems with 4K TV, Yahoo Tech

This was set to be last week’s column until the net-neutrality ruling upended my schedule. Considering that nobody’s rushing out to buy UHD sets before the Super Bowl, I don’t think the delay hurt this post too much.

1/25/2014: January 25, 2014 — Adam Engst and Rob Pegoraro, Tech Night Owl

I returned to Gene Steinberg’s podcast to talk about my new role at Yahoo Tech, net neutrality, the Mac’s 30th birthday and more.

USAT stolen-phones update1/26/2014: Tip: Serial number can’t recover stolen smartphone, USA Today

Barely a year has elapsed since I’d last covered find-my-phone apps in my USAT column, but two major changes have come around since that piece: Google offering its own, free phone-finder app for Android, and increased attention to the lack of a persistent kill-switch feature for smartphones beyond iOS 7’s capability and Absolute Software’s aftermarket Lojack app for some Samsung Android devices. Besides, the reader asked for help nicely.

On Sulia, I noted my old Washington Post colleague Ezra Klein’s departure from the paper, voiced some anger about a Kafkaesque overreaction by law enforcement and the MPAA to somebody wearing Google Glass to a movie, griped about bad USB-port placement and the stubborn survival of obsolete music formats in cars shown off at the Washington Auto Show (yes, you’ve read those two rants before), and reported about my experience using Absolute’s software to wipe and lock a Galaxy Note 3.