I recently named Evernote as one of my go to Mobile Apps. I’ve been using it for quite some time. Actually, I was using Evernote before it became the Evernote we know today, back in the day when it was a very good Digital Ink note taking App for the original class of Microsoft Tablet PCs. I mentioned in that article, and in others, that Evernote had been frustrating me because after a year it has still not been able to solve bugs for the Windows RT version. The App on that platform crashes frequently, won’t sync, and has gone through several iterations since it first debuted on the Windows RT platform but no solution has effectively been found.
Jason Kincaid recently posted his experiences using Evernote to record some music. The post, Evernote, the bug-ridden elephant, caught quite a few eyeballs, including those of Evernote CEO Phil Libin who issued a typical pro-forma response promising to make things better. (Tech PR responses to issues are becoming as much of a cliché as politicians saying they want to spend time with their families after being caught in a scandal.) Kincaid points up not only a bug that prevents his audio files from being stored and synced properly, but a data security issue that became apparent when he followed through with Evernote’s byzantine support process. As a part of Evernote’s support process they request users create a support ticket and also send in logs to help diagnose the issue. (More on that in a moment.) No big thing typically. But Kincaid discovered a more serious issue thanks to the Evernote Helper, which is a mini-App that allows for quick note taking or capturing without opening the full App. Apparently that “helper” grabs the full text of a note, which is then included as plain text in the logs and thus is available for the Evernote techs to see when diagnosing a problem. Oops!
Kincaid points up that Evernote has been slow to respond to his original issue and Evernote support suggests he posts another ticket on this data security issue. I’m familiar with the slow response or no significant response from Evernote tech support on the issue I mentioned above. In fact in my case, the only reason I eventually got any response was that I took a video of the App crashing over and over to prove that I couldn’t capture the log data to send in. Here is a sample of one of the emails.
I love the fact that they acknowledge that a bug is causing this. I think I knew that. By the way, the issue was not solved in the next and latest update after I reported the bug.
What Kincaid’s story points up is more than a problem with Evernote, although I’m sure that won’t give Phil Libin any solace. The root of the problem is actually one that exists far too frequently with software in this crazy fast paced mobile age. Simply put, the focus on adding new features and attracting more users takes precedence over making sure software is working correctly. I don’t think you can draw any other reasonable conclusion. I’m guessing this is a resource issue. Maybe I should say I’m hoping it is a resource issue. The alternative wouldn’t be that welcome to contemplate.
As I said, Evernote isn’t alone here. Apple still seems to be content that users of iOS 7.0.4 (and earlier) have their phones Spring Board crash on a regular basis (if not multiple times a day) as it tries to come up with fixes for iOS 7.1. Users don’t seem to want to stop buying the new flagship iPhones with a buggy OS even though we have no real indication of when it will get fixed. Anyone remember when Robert Scoble and Microsoft took major flack because they recommended rebooting Tablet PCs once a day to solve a memory leak bug? We seem to be more forgiving in some instances these days.
Other software has these issues as well. I’ve never seen an App update as frequently as the Android version of Facebook during this past month, which tells me that while adding features they aren’t checking things to gauge impact on existing functionality. BTW the App is still clunky after all of those updates. Twitter gave us a new definition and synonym for FAIL on its way to the big bucks. The Internet is filled with these kind of issues with software and devices large and small. Perhaps it is easier to forgive small companies that have difficulties with quality control and customer support. Most of those Apps are free, so getting what you pay for isn’t part of the equation. There’s always a duplicate App coming down the pike.
I don’t think, though, we should be that forgiving of bigger companies that have products and services that make it onto every Top 10 list compiled on the Internet. It’s obvious that investors, both public and private, don’t take these issues into consideration. But customer acquisition is the metric that reigns, not attentiveness to customers already in the installed base. It makes you wonder if we are just too forgiving by nature, too complacent, or too hungry for the next thing. I find this intriguing with mobile tech, because we don’t seem to be that laissez faire when it comes to the other products and services in our lives.
So, we step back and blame the pace of keeping software fresh and current. But that would just be an excuse, especially after bugs are reported. I also think those of us who cover mobile tech and software deserve some of the blame. We typically report on an issue when it arises, or follow the mob when someone else does. Nothing helps create a passionate post more than outrage at a bug or perceived indifference or ignorance by a company. Posts about a flaw burn bright and white hot for a few cycles and then cool and fade. Take a look at the Snapchat data leak story currently. Come back to that in a week and see if it has the same traction. I don’t think we hold the feet of these developers to the fire long enough for them to feel the burn. Some might argue that they welcome the warmth of attention. (As long as they spell your name correctly?) We follow the shiny and report on new updates and new versions, but we don’t perform enough diligence to see if these problems and bugs actually get fixed appropriately. I think that lets big companies like Evernote, Apple, Facebook, and others off the hook far too easily.
I certainly understand the pressures these software and service companies are under as they try to move forward, gain traction, keep investors happy, and make an impact. But when those that cover the industry, and the users who use the stuff, let them slide by with sloppy work, it is only logical that they take advantage of that.
Elephants may never forget, but mobile users don’t seem to have that retention capacity.