Joplin: OSS Alternative To Evernote Teaches Me To Finally Apreciate Hubzilla Cards

 somewhere between the lines,  senast redigerat: Fri, 18 Jan 2019 00:39:26 +0100  
Hej all,
this morning I have come across Joplin, an Open Source note taking tool that aims to be a more privacy inclined alternative to Evernote. I have never used Evernote, therefore I am not able to compare, but I took the chance to familiarize myself with the concept of such an app. I can say, I quite like it but am going to uninstall it as soon as I hit the share button for this review. But as a result of playing with Joplin I believe I understand the intention of the Zotlabs|Hubzilla Cards app much better. I believe we definitely are on the winning side when looking at the available privacy options, but at least to me it has not been as obvious that we have already many of these note-taking features at hand, as they are less obvious for the unfamiliar (read: me) and we may need to communicate them better. Maybe even develop the UI of Cards further into that direction. Or think about renaming. Or ...
What we are  definitely lacking is an offline mode. This would need some dedicated development approach.

Joplin note taking app impressions

Joplin is available for Linux, macOS, Windows, Android and iOS. I habe checked out the Android version, available from the project's github, f-droid or Google Play.
Some of the basic features are what we can expect:
  • Create individual notebooks to store and sort your items
  • ToDo items
  • Note items
  • Tagging is supported
  • Attachments are supported
  • Geotags can be used
  • some basic conversion featurs such as "convert into todo list"

Joplin supports Markdown which means you can easily integrate your notes into a publishing workflow with for example Pandoc. (Pandoc is a pretty nifty tool that is able to convert preferably markdown textfiles into a plethora of document formats, ranging from LaTeX to Word doc or docx, HTML or even ePUB eBooks etc.)

Syncing notes to web storage

The concept is local first, which means your files are stored on your device and stay there, if you don't want them to sync. There are a few syncing options available and the selection already indicates that Joplin does not make the impression of being truly built around enabling maximum possible privacy: the default option is Dropbox. Other options are filesystem, OneDrive, OneDrive Dev, Nextcloud, WebDav. And WebDav is where it gets interesting for us, and Joplin does work quite nicely with Zotlabs|* file space WebDAV sync.

I recommend creating a folder for your Joplin files first within your Hubzilla files app. I went for the obvious and called it "joplin" and will also keep that for the examples.
Webdav URL Syntax:

Which due to Hubzilla's comanche magic would be for you:
To protect sensible notes on a not so private cloud space you can enable encryption, but beware! This is actually misleading. Please read on.

What I don't like

As mentioned above I don't like that even with enabled encryption local files are always stored as unencrypted plaintext. There is another seemingly minor thing that I do not like about the app, which will finally be negative decision maker for me. As of Exodus Privacy the app uses Google Firebase Analytics. This is something I don't want for such a comparably basic app.
In addition there is a github open issue thread requesting local data password or pin protection. It's an interesting read that made me decide to delete the app after writing this review.
The dev stated that his protection is exclusively used for uploaded syncs, not for local files, which I think should be communicated somewhere to us who feel attracted to Joplin due to it's promise of a privacy respecting alternative to Evernote. If you look at that encryption config screenshot above ... I'd go as far as calling that describtion outright misleading, creating a false sense of security. Especially on mobile devices this is a let down IMO and even more so the dev's unwillingness to even consider this a valid request.
Another drawback is that the sync interval is fixed and the app syncs no matter if some local files have changed or not if you are using it. Plus I had the impression that with a bad internet connection it appeared to accumulate quite a bit of system load, up to being hardly usable.


So these aspects reverse my initial delight in finding this app and will make me delete it pretty soon now that it has served it's "purpose", turning my attention to Hubzilla Cards. It's a pity as I actually do like the general approach. But I see now what we have got with Hubzilla Cards. It may profit from some hypothetical future creative interface and handling tweaks, but the basics are available to us right now with as a much more thought through privacy concept and even the built-in possibility to share and collaborate.
The only thing we are lacking is local and offline storage and working. But that should be doable for a willing developer.
Part of the "not communicating well" about many of these features is that so many people look at Hubzilla as a "social media platform with added functionality." In reality, Hubzilla is a secure and extensible web based authentication, storage and messaging platform with social media capabilities.

Most people coming to Hubzilla so far have come because it is able to communicate across many of the different messaging protocols (Friendica, ActivityPub, OStatus, etc.). So that's what people think of when they think of Hubzilla.

The reality is, that is only a small part of what Hubzilla is and can do. 80% of the existing functionality is generally unexplored by most users (web pages for web sites, articles for blogging, notes, wiki, etc.). It also means that some of those things have not received as much development attention as they may otherwise have, but that's something that can be fixed over time as well. And, since the platform is built for extensibility and expansion - many other things are possible (and in the works!).
@M. Dent Ues, true. I sometimes explain it as
  • the roots are social network
  • today it's anything you want it to be with automatically enabled privacy
  • you could say it's a proof of concept that privacy does work well with feature rich, though admittedly many of those still need some love, but it's there
@JamJarChris We could be using this in time.