Our evening at L’Arpege was elegant, beautiful and surprising from start to finish. There were some lovely highs and some dishes that missed their lofty marks which were luckily only minor distractions and not able to derail the lovely experience.
Monday night, after spending the day scouring Paris 6 for goodies and the afternoon napping and recovering, we headed to La Table for dinner. Never having eaten at a Joël Robuchon restaurant before, we didn’t have much to go on for what to expect other than his appearance on Top Chef this past season (you may recall the episode where poor Kevin had the privilege of sitting with a whole table of people speaking French that later became the “what Kevin hears” segment?). Well that and the fact that I had heard about the small plates at L’Atelier.
Monday dawned wet and drippy, but not enough to stop our plan: an eating tour of the 6th Arrondissement following tips culled from bloggers from David Lebovitz to Dorie Greenspan. Even the concierge’s soggy attitude when he pointed out the way didn’t bring us down. We set out on foot from Montparnasse with maps and shop names in hand.
I promised myself I was going to give it a go: using no paper and living pretty much exclusively with my iPad in my purse instead. And last week was a good test with a variety of different contexts: hanging out with friends; going to the doctor; mixer with a panel of speakers; meetings / discussions with numerous different people; networking meet-up; and the Social Gaming Summit.
The major tasks for which I normally would use paper were:
- Keeping up with my calendar
- Managing to-dos and arranging follow-ups
Calendar management is fairly good. The calendar on the iPad is beautiful. There are a couple of nitpicks for ease of use (why can’t I touch a spot on the calendar or double-tap to create an appointment in that slot?) but overall, it’s easy to get reminders and check the schedule. The major issue with using the iPad for calendar management is the inability to manage invitations through the Mail interface. That’s said to be fixed in iPhone OS 4.0 and in the meantime I can use the full desktop version of GMail on my iPad to accept / reject / whatever calendar invites. I didn’t miss any meetings and I was able to easily check my calendar. But to be honest — I was more likely to pull out my iPhone than my iPad to do a quick check of my calendar. You want to meet when? Yup, I’m free. When do I have to be somewhere next? Phone in and out of the pocket, rather the iPad in and out of the purse and opening the case.
For managing to-dos and arranging follow-ups, as a part of my Personal Relationship Management experiment I’ve been using Batchbook from Batchblue. Here the key is that the mobile interface is pretty weak (read-only) but the full web version is completely usable on the iPad. I was able to make use of Batchbook’s full capabilities, including creating to-dos and linking them to companies, tags and more (full thoughts on Batchbook coming up later). It’s actually pretty satisfying to check off to-dos on Batchbook too, with the line drawing right through the item the way I would on paper… overall, this was successful, except that I was only able to use this solution when I was online. Since I don’t have a 3G iPad, I was at the mercy of freely available WiFi. Sure, I can get free WiFi at Starbucks. But when I first arrived at the Social Gaming Summit the conference wireless wasn’t working on iPads and iPhones (DOH!). So, I’m still looking for the right solution here — looking at going back to Remember the Milk(no iPad app yet?) or trying Appigo‘s Todo for iPad that syncs to iCal, Outlook (don’t need that) and to Toodledo to (w00t) but that would unfortunately lose the connection to my contacts… can’t win for losing.
Notetaking is the big one. I tried two separate apps to take notes by hand: Penultimate andPaperDesk. Penultimate was the first one that came along, and I took a shot during the first part of the week. As mentioned already, it has a couple of weaknesses, including an inability to change the width and color of the pen. Paperdesk brings a lot more to the table, with the ability to type into pages, a lot of control over the pen (color, width) and adding voice recording. Sweet. Unfortunately the sensitivity of the writing seemed a little weaker (that might just be a perception and not reality). The major drawback to both however is something that’s driven by the limitations of the iPad itself — and any device with a capacitative touchscreen: we write with a pen in our fingers, and rest the side of our hand/wrist on the table or notepad and move along. Unfortunately that doesn’t work on an iPad screen, which views that as a “touch.” So, you’re forced to hold your pen up at a strange angle with no rest for your arm, and it gets tiring. And old. Fast. Plus, the responsiveness of the screen to the stylus is a little iffy (maybe I need to try a new stylus). So even when you think you’re pressing, the line can sometimes skip a beat and leave your words illegible. Your mileage may vary but I found this frustrating.
The big winner application for me in this was Evernote coming through. I used it interchangeably on my iPad and iPhone during the week depending on the context. I didn’t want to start with Evernote because I’ve always liked taking notes by hand – and I was worried frankly about my ability to take good notes on the iPad. But — typing went well enough for me to take comprehensive notes during sessions. I held it in landscape mode and I’m really getting used to the keyboard — big enough to touchtype. I did experience challenges with being offline — namely, Evernote couldn’t sync to the cloud without an Internet connection — which I found frustrating and which led to me using my phone for those moments when I needed to get to additional material. But overall — Evernote came out on top as the notetaking solution of choice. I’m re-dedicated to using it! (I’m still looking forward to the ostensibly-on-the-way ability to handwrite notes directly into Evernote — because I love the idea of being able to draw pictures freehand right next to my typed in notes).
Verdict? The experiment was essentially a success. I survived the week without paper, with minimal misses (I didn’t take out the iPad to take notes while shooting the breeze with a friend about next steps and missed a couple points when I tried to take notes later… but I’m not sure I would have taken out a pad of paper either). However, I used my iPhone for a large part of the workflow from calendar to notetaking, with the iPad only coming in when I had the space and the right context to pull out the iPad. It’s just not as unobtrusive as a small notebook / Moleskine. It’s easier to jot a couple of quick notes and draw a little picture and then click a picture of it and put that picture into Evernote than it is to use PaperDesk or Penultimate.
At the end of the week, I found my hands twitching for a pen and paper. I’ve stuck it out through this week so far… but I’m tucking my Levenger Circa notebook into my bag for my upcoming trip.
Just in case.
You’re definitely throwing down the gauntlet when you name something the “World’s Easiest Dinner.” the second my FIL received his Esquire and found it, they had to try it. Actually, they emailed everyone a scanned copy of the recipe, and tried it that night. We’re up next.
I’ve been a complete blogging slacker since last week. That’s because I’ve been keeping myself busy with WordCamp and lots and lots of getting out there and about meeting and talking to people. And one entire afternoon spent figuring out how to do a better job of keeping track of who I’m talking to, and especially following up and keeping in touch.
I’ve been searching for a tool for what I call “Personal Contact Relationship Management” (or perhaps we should drop the “C” and call it “PRM”) for years. There are lots of tools out there that help companies with sales contact management across teams, tracking contacts and sales and deep data. Now, most of these systems are overkill for me. I don’t need sales tools, and I don’t need enterprise capabilities. But I would love to have help keeping up with the people in my life and managing all of my activities in one place.