Evernote Trunk Conference 2011

Evernote Trunk Conference EntranceLast week I travelled down to San Francisco to attend the Evernote Trunk Conference. I wasn’t originally planning to go as it seemed to be mostly a developer-themed event, and the last time I had a developer job was 2002.

However, when I saw the session list and saw that some people I really admire like Brett Kelly and Michael Hyatt were going to be there, I decided to make the trip. I’m really glad that I did.

I am not going to talk about all the sessions and goings-on, but just hit some of the highlights as I saw them.

What It Is

Here is how the Evernote people describe the conference:

The Evernote Trunk Conference (ETC) is a full day of sessions, workshops and discussions designed to help you take advantage of the Evernote platform. You’ll learn how to kick off your API project, hear success stories from fellow entrepreneurs and discover ways to improve your daily use of Evernote.

I’d say that description is pretty accurate. It was pretty clear that the genesis of the event was a developer conference, but I am pretty sure that the majority of the attendees were not developers (more on that later).

These different perspectives did make for interesting conversations, and it was very cool to hear what people are working on.

Evernote Trunk Conference

DocumentSnap Readers Are Cool

I have to admit that these sorts of conference settings are not exactly my forté. Sometimes I think I should buy one of these xkcd shirts.

However, it is awesome meeting DocumentSnap readers. I met a number at ETC including Dan (who I have met before, so clearly I am stalking him from conference to conference) and @loghound who I was thrilled to see as one of the Developer Competition finalists.

It is always fun to meet people at these conferences, so if you are a reader and see me, come say hi!

Opening Keynote

The opening keynote of the conference was by Evernote’s CEO, Phil Libin. I thought his talk was fascinating, both because of Evernote’s growth and because of their company-buiding philosophy.

All Phil Libin, All The Time

Crazy Growth

Anyone who has followed the Evernote Podcast for a while knows how crazy their growth is. It’s gotten to the point where they just throw in the fact that they’ve grown another million users as a footnote.

Evernote Crazy Growth

The most amazing stat to me is the paid user number. A year ago they were at 92,819 paid users, and as of the date of the slide, they’re at 568,677. 513% growth in paid users is not bad at all.

100 Year Company

One theme that the company kept coming back to in their presentation is that their overarching goal is to be a place for their users to keep their memories in forever.

Instead of a “build and flip” mentality, they say they are structuring things to be a “100 Year Company”. We’ll see what happens there of course. Their VCs are going to need a payoff for that $50 million investment sooner or later, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. I definitely admire the approach.

Skitch Acquisition

Evernote Acquires Skitch

One big announcement during Phil’s keynote is that Evernote has acquired Skitch, a photo and screenshot annotation program.

I love Skitch and use it almost every day, so it is great to see two companies I admire joining together. Already they’ve made Skitch free and have released an Android version, so hopefully good things will be coming.

Panel

After Phil’s speech, there was a panel with Tim Ferriss, Guy Kawasaki, and Roelof Botha.

Usually when these guys speak, it is at conferences costing hundreds of dollars, so it was pretty wild to see them at a $50 event.

The panel was mostly focused on raising money (in keeping with the developer theme of the event), so that part wasn’t too applicable to me (though if Sequoia wants to drop a few million on DocumentSnap, we can talk).

The three of them are entertaining and engaging, so it was a fun panel (you don’t usually see those words together).

Time For The Architectural Digest

Next up was the CTO of Evernote, Dave Engberg. Listeners of the Evernote podcast will know him for his so-bad-they’re-good puns, mastery of spices, and disdain for Apple fanboys.

Again, he returned to the importance that the company places on keeping their users’ memories safe, and how that informs the technical decisions that they make.

Dave’s talk (as expected) got very technical very fast, but one area thought I thought might be of interest to DocumentSnap readers is the part on processing priority.

Evernote Processing Priority

If you can make out the slide, their system prioritizes text recognition for Premium users first, then the time varies by the size of the file. JPGs are done almost right away, but PDFs can of course be longer based on the size and complexity of the file.

Developer Competition

The big feature of the conference was the developer competition.

All the finalists and special prizes were really cool, and I was torn between voting for NotableMeals, which was developed by a DocumentSnap reader, and Touchanote, because it is so insanely clever and from Canada.

Touchanote Wins Evernote Developer Contest

I won’t say who I voted for, but in the end Touchanote won. It is one of those things that a video helps explain better than I ever could:

User Sessions

In the evening, there were the User Sessions.

Brett Kelly, Evernote Trunk Conference

Unfortunately, I only caught two of them. I missed the one by Carley Knobloch, which I am sad about because I heard it was very good. Hopefully there’ll be a video someday?

The ones I saw by Brett Kelly and Michael Hyatt were excellent. Some tips I picked up:

  • Plan for your future self. Just because you remember something now doesn’t mean you will later. Make sure you put the words you think will help you find the note later in the note or tag
  • When searching, instead of coming up with crazy complex search terms to try to find the note you are looking for in one shot, just type a few words and let your eyes scan the list.
  • Pick a random week from the past and go back and look at your Evernote notes from that week. I just tried it, it is a blast.
  • Michael Hyatt had a fantastic Kindle/Evernote tip that I am going to try out and post about soon.

Michael Hyatt, Evernote Trunk Conference

Of course, since they are Evernote partners, the ScanSnap people were representing. I talked to them for a bit.

I was mostly asking about the ScanSnap N1800, which was helpful as I wasn’t quite sure where it fit into the product line.

ScanSnap Representing At Evernote Trunk Conference

Suggestions For Future Events

I thought the Evernote Trunk Conference was very very well done for a 1.0 event.

From the food to the location to the co-ordination, I thought everything was just great. It is really difficult to put on something like this, especially when it is the first one, so you aren’t really sure how it is going to go.

I do have some suggestions for future events, if the Evernote folks are reading:

  1. I heard a number of times that while this was nominally a developer event, there were a large number of non-developers there. It might be worthwhile to have two simultaneous tracks for developers and users or business-types.
  2. I’m not sure how you would do this for a one day event, but it might be worth having some short breaks in the morning and afternoon. Otherwise people take advantage of the video breaks to get up, and no one sees your cool videos.
  3. I assume you’ve already heard about the chairs. :)
  4. The setup of the User Sessions seemed cool at first, but it became clear pretty quickly that having the bar, the partner tables, and the speakers going in the same room wasn’t quite working. It was very hard to hear the speakers, and the poor speakers couldn’t hear the audience.

Again these are minor fixable things that you can only find out through experience. I would definitely go back if they hold the event again next year.

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