A Technology Nerd's Notion Review

Posted by on 1st Feb 2019

I love notes, writing, and storing ideas. I use my bullet journal for most things and enjoy the feeling of writing with a fountain pen. That said, being INTP I tend never to have a rigid schedule and find myself writing very little in my Bullet Journal from day to day. The same three to five things hit my plate daily and so most of my daily log in just that. When I have a busy weekend, the pages fill up quite fast, and it feels really great to be able to capture the day. The more I use the journal, the more I like it and plan to keep it around.

The one thing I can't (or won't) put in my journal are my blog posts. Writing them out by hand just to type them again seems foolish. So I use a note taking app for creating and storing this content. I started out using my Nextcloud instance, then moved to Simple Notes, after then I relocated to Standard Notes because Standard Notes encrypts your data by default.

Keeping my data, my data is important to me.

I Need More Cohesion

Then I was browsing YouTube at the end of the night to relax before bed and came across a video talking about note-taking applications that are both cross-platform and robust. This is where I heard about Notion again. I can't remember where I first heard about it, but the first time I chose not to give it a go. After that first video, I looked up some others on Notion and saw how much this app can do and aims to achieve.

From Notion:

We want to break away from today's tools—and bring back some of the ideas of those early pioneers. As a first step, we are blending much of your workflow into an all-in-one workspace. Want a task list? A product roadmap? A design repository? They are now all in one place. You can even customize your own workspace from dozens of LEGO-style building blocks. Solve your problems your way, bounded only by your imagination.

This caught my attention because we have so many different apps to do many different things that are all related. Yes, some things need to hold the UNIX philosophy of doing one thing and doing it well. This concept works exceptionally well for programs on an Operating System, but I don't think it makes much sense when it comes to getting thoughts out of our head.

Having the research notes, the drafts, the updated copies, etc. all in the same place for a document we are working on makes much more sense than having three different apps to achieve this end. Even using something like Google Docs still cause more fragmentation that will allow our brains to stay in the flow.

But Muh Privacy!

This leads me to another question about Notion. How private is this? I want my data encrypted, to remain mine, and not be sold for profit.

Don't mine me, bro!

I assumed all these needs of mine would not be met by this app since it is much more common for new applications to mine the data so they can sell it to other companies. After all, free of cost still costs something. So I did what any privacy-seeking nerd would do, I read their privacy policy.

Here are some snippets from the Notion Privacy Policy:

TLDR:

Notion does not own your data, nor do we sell it to others or use it for advertising. It's your data, period.

Needless to say, that line caught my eye, but I needed to read more.

Notion Security Practices:

SSL Everywhere Data is encrypted at rest in the database Cloud-based within a VPN that cannot be accessed over the public internet, except our public facing proxy servers Perform quarterly independent security audits

They even say this in their Data Collection section:

If you wish to opt out of any data collection, please send us an email at team@makenotion.com, or install a browser analytics blocker plug-in.

To further increase your privacy I recommend using browser extensions like uMatrix and uBlockOrigin. Also, make sure to sign up with your email address and not the auto login with a Google account. When you use an email there is no password; instead they send you a one-time login passphrase to your email each time you log in on a new device (or every time if you delete cookies after each session).

To use cookies and stay signed in on a personal device make sure to use Firefox's tab containers and their Multi-Account Container add-on. This way you can set up a container strictly for this application, and it will not be able to see any cookies other than what the site itself adds. Of course, if you choose to use the mobile or desktop app, they may be able to harvest extra data on you, but hopefully, they mean what they said in the TLDR. If you are weary stick to the web app with the privacy add-ons for Firefox.


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