An open letter to t-shirt


You and I have been blogging together for a while now. It’s been exciting; I can’t deny that. I was all over your Premium service when you introduced it in 2014, and even got a t-shirt. I wear it all the time.

I stuck with you through the “new billing model” crisis of early 2015, even though it gave me pause. I still had great hopes for what you could become. I wanted to be along for the ride.

You have to appreciate,, there were others vying for my attention. As a bit of a closet socialist-anarchist, I was never really completely happy with funding a privately owned, for-profit venture, which was only, tangentially, economically accountable to its users. But, above all, I was looking for simplicity, and willing to compromise. And, with Evernote, you certainly provided it.

I was excited about your service, and you flattered me by asking to repost one of my posts on your blog. I was looking forward to doing more of that, maybe even evangelizing on your behalf.

Clueless, by almost any measure

It was when I saw Miguel Guhlin’s post, about leaving, that it really struck me how short-sighted and clueless your no-free-tier billing strategy was. To chase away someone you had promoted as an ambassador for your product was, I thought, remarkable. It was as if you had no appreciation for who your users were, or what their expectations were for your service.

One of the great things about, was that it had the potential to be an easy entry point for students already using Evernote to try their hand at blogging. I even imagined using it to introduce my kids to blogging. And the “freemium” model is the perfect model for this, giving students and others a free shot at using the service and, as blogging became a bigger part of their lives, giving them an upgrade path to a paid tier with more features.

You’re, like, so opaque!

What was more disturbing, however, was how you went dark after the billing changes. In the immediate aftermath, I could certainly understand being overwhelmed. I could imagine the angry emails, the frustrated pleas. But the darkness continued. After the post on your blog about the billing changes, early in the year, there was only one other post in all of 2015, and that was only “10 Tips for Writing Better Blog Posts."

I didn’t blog much last year, but I have been a loyal user since the early days of your service. And, still, it was a complete surprise to me to discover that you had once again changed your billing model, now to include three different paid tiers, as well as reintroducing a free tier. I understand that, given that my original premium plan was grandfathered, this change didn’t immediately impact me. But I didn’t hear about anything and, apparently, nor did anyone else.

Given that your blog was essentially dormant, I would occasion scan Twitter to look for any activity. As a general rule, the only posts I found on Twitter were apologies for service disruptions, encouragements to open support tickets and, perhaps tellingly, reassurance that your service was still a going concern. In fact, when I checked today, the three most recent tweets were of this variety:

I need something I can count on

Hey, look, we’ve known each other for a couple of years now. I’ve been honest with you about my challenges; it’s been a crazy fifteen or so years for me. I need people (and services and software) I can count on, that I know will be with me when the chips are down.

I don’t know you folks at personally, although I’ve exchange various messages with a few of you. But the way you run this service, the capriciousness with which you approach features and your business model, leaves me feeling like you guys might be the types to wake up one day, leave your possessions behind, and disappear to join a Fijian foosball league. That’s not really what I’m looking for right now.

To be honest, I’ve been spending some time lately working with Ghost. Now there’s a platform that’s got it’s head screwed on straight, and its users’ best interests at heart. Of course, paying for a Ghost(Pro) subscription is a little steeper than what I’m paying for your service now, and it would cost even more if I wanted three sites. I would also have to post via the web rather than with Evernote. But given the way Evernote’s been going the last few years, maybe they aren’t an outfit I want to hitch myself too anymore, either. After all, once they get around to their IPO, all bets are off...

At the end of the day, though, I think Ghost has it where it counts the most: Ghost is a non-profit, and its platform is open-source. Even if John O’Nolan decides he’d rather be playing foosball, there will still be some pieces left for others to pick up. Ghost aligns better with my values, with my core belief that we need to be working together to solve problems and build a better world, not climbing over each other trying to make money doing so.

Regardless of the value question, there remains the question of building trust with your users. This is an age where software, and particularly cloud tools, merge, vanish and get gobbled up with head-spinning regularity. Leaving users in the dark for most of a year, especially after a paradigm-shifting change in billing structure, makes it hard for someone like me, and I imagine others, to feel like they’ve found a reliable, trustworthy service they can count on. Having trust with users is critical, I think, especially when you come, hat in hand, asking them to hand over their hard-earned money.

So…about the future

Don’t feel too bad,; you’re not the only one. So much of what we have available for software and services now offers very little in the way of respect or long-term value for its users. Many of us have busy or challenging lives. The last thing we need is to have to revisit the tools we use because they no longer offer the same value proposition or, indeed, because they have disappeared.

Of course it’s fun to try out the newest, shiniest app or service out there. It’s entertainment, like anything else. But for tools that people are going to use to do serious work and solve serious problems, there has to be something more. There needs to be an expectation of durability. Is this service going to be around for me to use in two years? Will the developers still be maintaining this software four years from now? Will my investment in learning this software, or moving my content to this platform, be worth it?

You could almost imaging Miguel Guhlin sighing with resignation, as he remarked on how predictable was his exit from

Alas, there can be only one result for educators who rely on companies in the education space. This doesn’t make the companies bad for trying to make money, but it means you have to have an exit strategy.

So,, while I’m disappointed in how you’ve handled yourself this past year, I’m also more broadly disappointed with the environment that serial entrepreneurship has brought us: More and more software and services that trade long-term user value for a kind of coding playground, where everyone is throwing stuff, including business models, at the wall to see what sticks.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that may be exciting for some users. But for me and, I imagine others, who are trying really hard to build something of substance, that shit doesn’t cut it anymore.

I can’t say I’ve decided anything for sure; obviously, deciding isn’t my thing. But the more often I come back to this problem, and the more I think about what I want, and what is important to me, the more I’m inclined to ditch for Ghost. I’ve already started moving some of my posts over, testing it out, and the experience has been great.

So, hey, if I don’t hear from you guys again…Gavin, Shawn…whoever else is still there, take care. It was a blast.

And thanks for the t-shirt.