Posted on Wed 17 October 2018

Read Time: 3 minutes

Updated (November 24, 2018) - When Good Software gets Trapped in the “Cloud.”

Updated Comments

Please see the above for my updated comments on Notion and my mea culpa as I missed a key part of their feature set which essentially resolves all of the concerns I outline below.

One of the challenges of living in an era where software applications and their associated files are rented instead of owned is that there are moments when I find something that I really love that is completely broken.

I really like what Notion does. As a project management tool, it is an amazing piece of software. On a very basic level, it is a simplified document and project management system, but that is really under-selling its capacity. The genius of the software is in its simplicity and accessibility. I can build a rapid version of project tracking database in less than 30 minutes, add a documentation space, connect it to a Slack channel for regular project updates, and be good to go. Courtney and I have been using it for our game design project. I am tracking my dissertation work and my job hunt via the site, and it has been quite useful. I have no complaints on the use of the software. There is no denying that.

If Notion was a software package I could buy, I would already own it. Sadly, it’s not. It’s a web-based application. If I use it, I place all my critical project data into it and trust that nothing will go wrong. I trust that Notion has my best interests in mind. I trust that they have managed their security. I trust that they won’t suddenly raise prices or sell to another company with different data and privacy policies. Essentially, I would have to trust a lot. If you’ve been paying any attention to online companies these days, you know that trust is absolutely not warranted.

But wait,” I can hear you saying, “What about Slack and Github/Gitlab? Aren’t they online tools? You use them.”

I do. But my Slack data is not critical (my Discord data is even less critical). I could lose both sites tomorrow and be fine. If I were to lose my dissertation and job hunt project databases, that would be catastrophic. While Notion allows me to export data (which I do), it really isn’t usable in the exported markdown formats. My hosted git repositories, on the other hand, are all backed up locally and completely usable. I would be sorry to see Github or Gitlab die, but nothing would happen to my data. The same is true for Dropbox; although, I am in the process of migrating to Spideroak simply because I like its feature-set. I regularly backup all my critical files. Dropbox, like Spideroak, is literally a fancy version of the rsync tool for me and nothing more.

I don’t have a problem using cloud based software that allows me to control and access my data in a usable way. I do have a problem with software that demands I keep my data inside its systems to be usable. I like Notion. I love what it does, but I don’t think I will be using it much longer.

Author: Geoff Gimse

Category: technology

Tags: cloud, privacy, notion

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