Evernote backing out of Work Chat, but committed to ‘Deep Work’

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Evernote Work Chat

Casey Newman interviews Chris O’Neill, Evernote’s newish CEO — he’s been there a year now — in a far-ranging interview, and with regard to Evernote’s push into the work chat marketplace with Evernote Work Chat, it looks like the product is going to be retired as soon as replacement partnerships can be developed.

Casey Newman: So let’s talk about business. Evernote invested significantly in a feature called Work Chat, which allows for collaboration around individual notes. But it doesn’t seem like the company has gotten much of a foothold. How will you tackle the business market? Should we expect the company will orient itself more toward collaboration uses?

Chris O’Neill: No. It’s important to not try to be all things to all people. You have Slack, you have Hipchat. That’s a well-served market. Let’s just politely say, collaboration and chat is well served. So I don’t see it as, we need to try to do everything. If we do well with frictionless capture of ideas, and world-class search and retrieval, I think we can partner with a lot of other players. Collaboration is a fact, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we have to carry all the water. I’d just as soon do some integrations and partnerships to fill out that part of it.

Good timing, especially since the Internet monsters are all paying close attention to Slack’s rise, and tools like Facebook At Work are in beta.

Still, I was intrigued by the discussion around ‘collaboration overload’ and the role of ‘note taking’ in the article:

Chris O’Neill: Our place is as relevant today as it was when Stepan [Pachikov] started the company 10 years ago. Our market’s growing. The globalization of the economy has led to more knowledge workers — that’s good for us. Smartphone penetration continues to grow, albeit at a lower rate. That’s good for us, too. And the other thing, which may sound counterintuitive, is that it isn’t just information overload — it’s collaboration overload. It’s good that we’re working across borders and functions, and silos are coming down. The bad part is that it’s crowding out to time to actually think, and do what some people call “deep work” — the ability to focus on a task for more than 15, 20 minutes at a time. Deep work is the killer app of the knowledge economy, and Evernote is the killer app for deep work. It allows you to capture your ideas and cultivate them.

Casey Newman: That rings true for me. We need one great place to capture the knowledge in our lives, and then I think there’s a lot of opportunity in helping people easily manipulate that and turn it into other things. Whether it’s turning numbers into charts, or turning text into HTML. There needs to be a central repository. And it’s not email, or Dropbox, or Slack.

Chris O’Neill: It’s interesting — Forrester or IDC, they don’t have a category for “note-taking.” But we intuitively know, you have groups like students and knowledge workers that basically take notes for a living. So we think the market is real, and we think it’s big. And we think there’s an opportunity, to your point, to connect it to action.

I’ve been writing a lot recently about content-based work management, so I have to say I agree that ‘note taking’ is a less understood and less examined technology area, one that is at the core of ‘deep work’.

Written by

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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