First impression - Fake local first strategy and the user don't actually own their notes

First impression with windows desktop version

What I like

1.No tedious setting prior to note-taking all the tools and data arrangement strategy were presented by the software. Anyone could use this software to start taking notes immediately and don’t to worry about the aggregation and organizing information afterward. For other softwares like obsidian, you really need to think about how to organize your note for later organization by dataview plugin or other plugins.

2.Nice UI without any complex configuration.

What needs to improve

1.Fake local data storage strategy, although the data were claimed to be stored in local disk, the user doesn’t actually own the data. The local data cannot be read or manipulated by third-party editor, which makes the entire user-own-their-note concept failed, and your note might die if the Anytype project is discontinued. so in terms of data availability, this app has no difference with Notion, since notion also has ways to export data as markdown or other formats.

2.Bad dark theme. The dark theme will have a blur glass like blurry effect in front of the reversed text and background color, which makes the dark theme lack of contrast and hard to read the content of the notes.

3.Unable to adjust the margin and font size. although I understand the restricted line length for a better reading experience, but the unadjustable font size makes it hard to read.

4.If you have to restrict the length of the line and have relatively large margin space, maybe you can offer a split or multiple panes to show more notes.

5.Predefined note structure makes user have to curate and standardize their note while writing their notes, which makes it easier for others to exploit these informatiton if the notes were accidentally leaked.

My opinion about the software

In general, this software has no intrinsic difference with Notion, it’s not an Obsidian-like local note-taking software that allows the users to actually own the data, but you have to accept the encryption strategy and syncing that the company set by default, you don’t have easy access to note storage files which are in .idb format.

Previously I thought that Anytype could reproduce a Notion-like note taking experience on a markdown-based file system, but actually, it’s not and I am a little disappointed. still, this is a very nice note-taking software. And the developer has the ambition to push it into the next level, while I read the documentation, I found the developer mentioned machine learning multiple times, Anytype offers note-taking environment that allows high level of curation and labeling of information which might be exploited by machine learning algorism. this could be a concern for privacy first users.

14 Likes

I always thought local first means Offline first approach. If notion dies, you cannot login into the app at all or add more data into it. However, with anytype, you’ll have the app and can still continue to use it. So data availability is guranteed.

It is an impossible feat to have markdown based backend and have notion like note taking experience. But sharing the data with other apps as you said is very important else all you have is your data but nothing to process it with. The team is working on Local APIs which should make this possible. With Local APIs, you can even create a local Anytype-Dav server which could act as a cardDAV bridge to sync contacts to your addressbook from anytype. So in theory it should be possible to convert the data from anytype to any different format as long as the API is sophisticated.

10 Likes

For anytype, you also have another form of login process called the key chain phrases. it’s this phrases work completely offline? I thought even if you have the offline app, when the company server is down, you lost the way to verify the key chain phrases and at the mean time you lost access to your notes. maybe there is a concept that this works like a blockchain that all members in the chain could provide verification for others, but I still doubt about the stability of this way, which means you not only have to provide space to store others note information but also have to pay for this service so that you can retrieve your notes form other computer and the anytype company don’t need to provide space for note data storage and you still have to pay for the sync service? this is not fair. as to markdown based Notion, with the help of metaedit and dataview plugin, and some CSS modification, Obsidian could realize maybe 90% of notion like note taking experience.

I don’t know how it works exactly now, but the keychain phrase should only be used to encrypt and decrypt your data. Which makes sense, because they said that you don’t need a backup server at all and can use it completely offline (not during they alpha though). So there should be no login required in the future, except when you use their backup node.

4 Likes

Information on Anytype is still incomplete and scattered, which makes it a bit frustrating to understand how it works. But if you take some time to read everything you’ll get the answer to all your questions.

No need to be online to validate your key. Also, once its released, you can have your data fully offline, and opt out of keeping other people’s data. (If anyone knows otherwise, please correct me!)

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Hi, I agree with most of what you said.

1. Fake local data storage strategy
I don’t think it is fake, but at this moment in the Alpha it sure is. To make it “worse” before the Sets and Relations update whas live the Anytype team could activate this update per user. Which in my mind means they can disable features per user. Which also means, they can remove data all while claiming that your thoughts should be your own!

I hope Anytype will become the hybrid between Obsidian (local storage, open software, plugins, etc) and Notion (for databases, the look and feel and ease of use of the interface).

2.Bad dark theme.
I think it is pretty nice but as you said, has a few issues.

3.Unable to adjust the margin and font size.
You can adjust the page width at the top under Layout/Set layout width
image

4. split or multiple panes
I believe it has been said that this will be on their roadmap (but currently is not) Release plan - A general roadmap UPDATED: 11 Jan 2022

5.Predefined note structure
Not really sure what you mean. I like the predifined structure though the setup and interface still need work in my opinion.

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I have the same fears as you, and unfortunately my latest research leads to the same conclusions
:arrow_right: Concerns about security with deletion/new account request protocol

The Nirvanapp :pray:t2::sweat_smile:

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Keeping notes offline is not the point, actually, a lot of web-based note-taking app actually cache their data offline and you can use the browser to assess them, but this is not what our users want to have. we want to have full access to our notes, even if anytype is discontinued. this means that your team needs to build a notion-like app based on a very simple data structure that could be accessed by other text editors, for example, markdown. I believed this is what attracts most user to try anytype in the first place, but once we tried it out, we got disappointed. because anytype doesn’t do what it promised. yesterday there is a new release that include multiwindow and a crippled kanban.

The things you want, are also what Anytype is wanting. But what they tell they are wanting to create has to be done first. So comparing an alpha version and its functionality with their vision doesn’t make that much sense to me.

There are already some topics discussion the data format etc. Please check them out and write your opinion there. Iirc there was already talked about Markdown.

What you called “crippled” kanban was a decision made of the safety of the users data. So it’s just some bug fixing away.

If Anytype in the current state, is not what you would it like to be, thats okay. Feature requests and discussion are always welcome in here if you want to talk about specific topics.

13 Likes

Hi @Ocarinalover thanks for sharing your thoughts. Your feedback is very valuable but I personally find wording a bit harsh. I can feel your disappointment but kindly ask you to think about everyone else who reads this text. We are community after all :people_hugging:

We have a plan to give users more power on how they manage data.

  1. All the data including media files already stored locally and your devices can communicate purely offline
  2. We will introduce ability to turn off sync completely and go fully crypto. Or to setup private caching node like your local home server.
  3. We will opensouce source code and make encryption algorithms publicly exposed.
  4. We will introduce export to major formats like json or markdown to export all your data elsewhere

So far we were more focused on finding product market fit with our productivity part and tailor product side to users need. But in the meantime maintaining architecture making possible all things I mentioned above. For now we are approaching to more stable version of the app and more solid product market fit so we could start implementing more privacy focused features.

We never had plans to build our app on top markdown or smth similar. It is too limiting and there are several already existing products on the market like you mentioned above.
Hope it clarified the things for you, looking forward to your response :blush:

One more thing

but this is not what our users want to have.

What do you mean by our users are you represent some group of people or it is just an artistic statement?

19 Likes

I was wondering how this works in the background. Is there a place I can read more about this?

The “Backup node” and “sync” wording inside the app makes me think that data is sent somewhere over the Internet.

Also, could you please explain what “your devices can communicate purely offline” means?

Right now our sync works like this (in a nutshell):

  • whenever you add the data to your document, it is synced via Textile Threads (DocSend) and saved in IPFS as “records”
  • as a primary mechanism these “records” are sent through Textile Threads to (1) our backup node (we sometimes call this “replicator node”) and (2) all your other devices having the same account - that’s what we mean by “offline” communication (i.e. communication without going through backup node)
  • as a secondary mechanism these “records” are synced via IPFS bitswap between the same agents (i.e. your devices and a backup nodes) - Bitswap | IPFS Docs

Meanwhile we are completely rewriting our infrastructure, so stay tuned for new updates

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okay, I know you have fancy syncing strategies, but I just want it to be completely offline and privacy first not encryption first. Other alternatives to notion like AFFiNE are following up pretty quickly. They all promise a local first and privacy first concept. and your team might be the first tier at first but you have this desire to capture users’ data to the server that whatever encryption strategy you promised it would be no difference as to user’s prospective except you have the data stored offline that might help to solve to lagging open issue that notion has when facing large vault. I believe notion, for now, must also have some kind of protocol to transfer their user’s data to their server and also have a fancy encryption for this process, beside as to how you define local first is just store data locally, the notion could also cache their user’s data on their computer. then you name this local first?
what I know about local first is like logseq or obsidian, that the data could at least be open by a commonly used third-party editor to allow users to access the note even if the software to create the not disappeared. this is local first.

at the end, I think the way your team devises for syncing notes to each related device is genius, without a central server to record the data and just let the user’s devices to communicate with each other, this is insane if it works. Some people might like it, but you may not promote anytype like privacy first or offline alternative to notion. you may promote this block-chain-like syncing function to attract the targeted clients, and put less emphasis on the offline part. since it’s not

2 Likes

The difference between Obsidian / Affine and Anytype is. That Anytype is also developing the sync component. And because they do, they have to test it like everything else. Thats the reason for syncing to their server. If you don’t like that part, you have to wait until this part is optional, or block all Anytype connections from your system.

Regarding the file format, I think it would be the best to open a separate topic and write your constructive feedback there to get the reasons why the team choose their option. Then your points and theirs could be discussed better than here between other things.

5 Likes