How to switch off Evernote’s Contexts feature

I was going to call this How and Why to do it, but you don’t need the why. Context is a new feature in Evernote that completely unhelpfully recommends Wall Street Journal articles that are not in any way related to your note.

Okay, that’s not how Evernote would describe it. But, hey, I’m in an Evernote note where I keep my invoice details and popping up in my way is a notification that “UK Police Drop Begg Charges” and that the WSJ wrote about this on 1 October 2014. I’m sure the case is riveting, but I don’t know who Begg is and he (there’s a photo too, it’s a he, whoever he is) doesn’t get a mention in my list of invoice numbers.

But on the Mac and I presume PC versions of Evernote, go to Evernote/Preferences, find Context, uptick Show Context.


So far I’ve not been so interrupted by Context on my iPhone or iPad so it’ll be interesting to see if the preference carries over to it.

Evernote’s new Context feature isn’t for you

Well, the odds are that it isn’t. This is the new feature that scans your entire Evernote database and tells you exactly how many relevant articles there are in the Wall Street Journal. I could tell you that now: none. Ever. Not a one.

I can also tell you, though this is more of a guess, that Context scans your Evernote notes really slowly. Because when the new feature appeared in an automatic update on my iPhone, Evernote became unusable for hours. Buttons wouldn’t respond, screens wouldn’t scroll. I filed a bug report and I’m a premium user – I pay for various extra bits above the very good free offering – so I knew I’d get a response and maybe a solution within 24 hours. That didn’t help me right there and then when I needed some information in order to get where I was going.

And it didn’t help me within 24 hours, either. I got my first support response back at just under 240 hours. But in fairness, they apologised and extended my paid premium subscription by a few months.

And the app had righted itself by then. So I suspect that the slow down was due to Context indexing the articles but I can’t prove it and there’s little point asking an idle fact when a support request that says Evernote has been rendered literally unusable gets ignored for ten days.

The result of that indexing, by the way, was of course nothing. There never will be any relevant article in the Wall Street Journal and I could’ve told you that. I did tell you. Moments ago. But now I can tell you with gusto because it didn’t find any to flag. Maybe, though, things are going to change now – because the Japanese media firm Nikkei has joined the party. Any second now, Evernote will go looking through my notes to find relevant articles there. What are the odds?

Nikkei is the first international news source that has been integrated into Evernote Context and the partnership is expected to become available to Evernote Premium and Evernote Business subscribers by early 2015.

Evernote Context looks at data in your files and feeds you news articles and other information that it thinks you will find relevant. As TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden noted last month, this builds into Evernote’s attempt to build its content discovery play, a similar strategy to the ones taken by Facebook and Twitter as they seek ways to encourage people to spend more time on their sites. Libin has said that Evernote is considering an IPO within the next few years.

Evernote’s partnership with Nikkei is also interesting because it’s a reminder that a good portion of its international user base comes from Japan.

Evernote Raises $20M From Japanese Media Giant Nikkei, Forms Content Partnership For Evernote Context – Catherine Shu, TechCrunch (9 November 2014)

Cool. But I hope the Evernote users who do have anything that could be called relevant to Nikkei or the Wall Street Journal like the fact that they do. And that the rest of us can switch the stuff off.

Evernote adds unwanted Context feature

That is, the new Context feature is unwanted. It isn’t that it does something useful with unwanted features.

I think it’s unwanted but you never know: I might find it useful, you might. But it puts links or information into your Evernote account that the company’s algorithms think you’ll want. If there is something in your notes that in any way lets Evernote reckon you burn to read a Wall Street Journal article, there it is.

This is a Premium user feature and is like a reverse of that other paid-for trick, the Google search look up. If I search Google for something and already have a relevant note, Evernote displays it for me. I use that, I like that, it’s very useful.

What I can’t conceive of is using Context to pull in WSJ articles. Any articles. From anywhere.

Maybe it’ll be something I come to like. Hopefully it’s something I can switch off. But right now I can’t tell either because the new Evernote update for iPhone brought me a different problem.

I suspect it’s re-indexing my Evernote notes or doing some heavy lifting. If it’s searching all my thousands of notes to find me relevant Wall Street Journal articles I’ll be pissed because whatever it’s doing, it’s stopping me using Evernote here on my iPhone 5.

In the last half hour it has got better: I can now get into a notebook I need and some buttons do respond. But I can’t then scroll down the notebook, I can’t get in to the notes.

Usually I like the automatic updates on iOS but I’d have more liked a warning this was happening and I’d even more have liked a warning and the option to postpone updating.

Please don’t picture me crossing my fingers that it’ll work before I get where I’m going today. No, don’t picture that. Instead, picture how useful Evernote is that being effectively locked out of it is causing me these problems and making me this ratty.