Over the last few weeks, I’ve managed to get hold of invitations to a few semi-private (semi-public?) beta versions of interesting bits of software. OK, they’re not for Royal Ascot or even a posh dinner party, but I have to take what I can get. So be prepared for some serious geekery — sorry.

Evernote wants to be your “offline brain” — a place where you can store all of the interesting detritus of your life that you might want to recall later: this “place” is on the internet, in “the cloud” as people are starting to say, accessible from your desktop, your mobile phone, etc. The further cleverness comes that this isn’t just a place to store files, but a whole lot of so-called metadata besides. So Evernote knows the type of files that you give it, when they were uploaded, and any “tags” or descriptions you care to attach. But the cleverest bit of all is that it can generate its own metadata: it can read text in your files. Well, that’s the idea. I know the camera on my iPhone isn’t very good, but it’s a surprising that it can’t read “Moro” on the left, although it gets “Against” on the right (note that the stored versions are better than these tiny reproductions):
Right now, the software is a web-based service (including one specialized for mobile devices like the iPhone), and offline clients for Mac OSX and Windows. Eventually, they claim it will move beyond character recognition to faces, video, and anything else that can be automatically parsed. Well, someday.

Still, even if they haven’t quite got it working yet, the visionary ideas behind Evernote are best described in this interview with Evernote CEO (?) Phil Libin by John Udell (whose excellent ongoing podcast series “Interviews with Innovators” treads an interesting path between the web and academia).

I’ve also managed to get an account on the Microsoft Mesh “tech preview”, discussed all over the web last week, and, in particular, touted at length on this Gillmor Gang podcast (which is how I got my invitation). I admit, I don’t quite get it — or at least it’s pretty clear that we’re in very early days here. Apparently, the Mesh will be a repository for “all” of your data, translated as needed to different formats and synchronized with different devices, with granular control of who gets to see it and use it. I guess the point is that this becomes the basis for a net-based operating system (perhaps more so when combined with something like MS’s Silverlight to handle the user interface–these all Steve Gillmor’s ideas, not my own).

But at present it’s not an improvement over (say) Apple’s .Mac service, which lets me have an “iDisk” which I can access from anywhere and which shows up on my OSX desktop as a local disk, and which furthermore automatically synchronizes my calendar, contacts, etc. But I’ll wait until the Mac and iPhone clients come around before I pass judgement. And of course there’s an opening for it to be combined with the intelligence of a system like Evernote.

Apparently, I’ve got 10 invitations for the Evernote beta-test and five for Mesh: get in touch if you’re interested. I can, of course, be bribed with, say, co-authorships (I’m an academic, after all).

One response to “Invitations”

  1. an an0ymous economist avatar
    an an0ymous economist

    Could you send an invite to me? I am one of the economists working on coupled climate change/economics computer models. Our model is quite cpu intensive (we do lots of monte carlo analysis stuff) and we have been looking quite a bit at various grid projects that can distribute workload onto different computers. I want this to be very “low tech”, in a way, a la invite a friend so that he can just contribute time from some of his computers to this scientific work. Turns out, that is all quite complicated, in particular because we would have to build a full “mesh” like infrastruture (i.e. you need an idea of which computers are around, how to move stuff to them, which people are willing to contribute computer time, distribute the computer modele/app itself and so on). I’d love to base all of that on mesh. Even the current version without the SDK would help a lot, because we could distribute the various data sets with the corresponding models via the mesh and then step by step integrate it once the SDK stuff becomes available. So, this is your chance to help understand the economics of climate change ๐Ÿ™‚ In all seriousness, the model I work with is quite well known, it is all ported to .Net by now and if things work out as we hope this might be an excellent showcase where one can put the mesh into use, which probably quite a lot of people did not have on their mind at first.
    We have also run out of mesh invitations, therefore some of us are left out. We are currently running around the net for extra invitations. If you can, please send one to
    Thanks from all of us from the team ๐Ÿ˜‰