The Weekly Review

by Chris Bowler

Why I'm not crazy for Notion

There's a lot of hype about Notion these days. Everyone seems to be using it, trying to figure out how to configure its complexity to be their second brain, or share their public roadmap, or a place to document what they read. It feels similar to when Slack started to get momentum.

I confess I'm struggling to enjoy the product.

We looked at using Notion in its early days, long before it was the rage. It didn't stick, but our team was keeping an eye on it. Now we use it for a few things at Wildbit, and I've tried to put a few different things of my own in there. But no matter what I try to do with it, I stick with my existing tools.

If that sounds crazy to you because Notion is clearly the way of the future, hear me out.

Feel

First, thing first — how does a tool feel to use? That's a critical part for me. And while I appreciate Notion's wiki features and power, good gosh, the way text is handled feels like stabbing yourself in the eye.

I just want some decent vertical rhythm to the text. Medium does this well. Ghost's editor is lovely. Grammarly too.

But Notion makes each line break its own module that can be turned into any kind of content. Unfortunately, these modules have no whitespace between them, meaning that if a page is a document full of text, each paragraph is all up in its neighbouring paragraph's business. Not cool!

Need that whitespace to let your text breath and your anxiety down? Me too. Unfortunately, if you had an extra line break, it's too much space. Small detail, for sure. But it feels yuck to me and that makes me want to write somewhere else.

Content permanance

You know what else Notion reminds me of? Evernote. Remember when everyone raved about Evernote and some people made their living helping others get the most out of the app? That's where we're at with Notion.

My big beef with Evernote was getting my content back out. It was always difficult to do and the results were a mess. I have the same concerns here. How long is Notion going to be around? If I put my whole life into it, can I get it back out easily?

Environmental impact

The more time I spend digging into B-corp certification and measuring the impact of my activity and that of our team, the more I'm convicted to use local tools. If software is eating the world, cloud software is eating the universe. But every piece of Web-based tooling we use means multiple computers are involved (mine, plus however many servers/VMs are involved in my web apps).

As a member of team making web based products, I realize this may sound off. But I'm simply saying that this factor should be evaluated when considering adopting a new tool. Notion is one tool that offers what a collection of desktop tools already provide for me.

Meeting all the needs

On that note, I'm also skeptical of tools that try to be everything for everybody. Notion wants to be the Slack of the team productivity space, or the new Microsoft Office. Communication tool? It can be that. Task management? That too. Design reviews. Roadmaps. CRM. Calendars. Journals.

Notion wants to handle all these use cases. And it can!

But maybe it doesn't do them all really well. And when you try to do so many things, there are tradeoffs that perhaps make the whole experience less of a joy.

I could do all my writing in Notion. But it's nowhere near as enjoyable as using Ulysses. The same for Things, or Day One, or Fantastical.

The good

Not everything is bad about the product. The leadership don't seem to want to grow just for the sake of growth, so their approach to funding is great. And it is a good way for team members to work together on certain initiatives.

But I'm not jumping on this bandwagon just yet.

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