What's so great about Notion?
September 18, 2023 7:37 PM   Subscribe

I've been hearing more people talk about this app. I help run a small service non-profit business with a dozen or so part-time and volunteer helpers. We're using Discord to manage, along with the usual Google workspace stuff. What can Notion do that would make a difference? Are you a Notion user, what is a feature that makes you love it? What makes you hate it?
posted by storybored to Work & Money (5 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
With the amount of times I've suggested Notion around here, I feel like I should be getting some kind of sponsorship, so I guess take this with a grain of salt.

The two things I find most valuable are 1.) the flexibility of being able to set things up in different ways to suit different kinds of data, and 2.) the ability to create databases that can interlink to other databases. It isn't better than other specialized software for some tasks, but this allows me to use it to handle a wide variety of purposes, including:

- Tracking a complicated novel timeline in a way that accounts for different POVs, as well as catalogues character and location information
- Tracking graduate school planning, including requirements within the program, across the program, and creating a portfolio to satisfy requirements
- Tracking monthly bills, and how average costs of the recurring bills change over time
- Tracking reading notes and creating views that highlight findings

For most of these uses I periodically adjust the structure, but the flexibility makes it easy to do that as my needs change (or I simply get peckish). That said, it's also easy to end up spending a lot of time rejiggering things, which is a fantastic way of procrastinating. So, it's useful in all sorts of ways.
posted by past unusual at 8:07 PM on September 18, 2023 [2 favorites]

Notion fills a niche for non-tech people to work with databases and project management quite elegantly. You have a fairly typical use case - small group of people sharing info that need asynchronous updates and tracking without a big learning curve.

One advantage would be organising info in ways that make sense now and being able to réorganise it easily later. Discord isn’t great for things like tables and step by step guides if you need those.

However! The best tool is the one your team enjoys using. If you guys like discord and google workspace stuff, put time into improving those not into adding a new tool.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:54 PM on September 18, 2023 [2 favorites]

I've also heard many great things about it and I've looked at it. It seemed to be designed for tracking big/complicated to-do lists, it's basically a light-weight project management tool.

We use Trello and Jira for that at work quite happily and I just stick post-its on my office wall for home stuff so Notion was overkill for me. I know some people who rave about it for managing work streams but I also know people who rave about Trello or Slack or Microsoft Project or Github for the same thing, depending on what they're used to and what part of the work stream they sit in (no-one raves about Jira though).

I agree with dorothyisunderwood that the best tools are generally the ones your users have already got and are familiar with unless you have a specific unfilled need. Do you have a specific problem you're looking to solve with Notion?
posted by underclocked at 11:51 PM on September 18, 2023

I use Notion at work, a lot, for things that other people might use text files or documents for, or a wiki, or a lot of lightweight project management. For example:

* I have to set up a queue of work for one of my colleagues; this goes into a Kanban type board that lives in Notion (yes, like Trello) but on the same page is a bunch of intro text that tells people how to use it.

* Every time somebody goes on vacation, we copy a template page that contains a list of instructions for how to set up for vacation - admin tasks like telling a manager, but also reminders on how to communicate this to our clients, and a checklist for every item so you confirm you're taking care of it. Also, as part of each page, there's a section for people to fill in "what you missed" so the vacationer doens't have to read through every single Slack (or for you Discord) message just to catch up. We put things there like "Your X project is cancelled, sorry, talk to Tom about it" or "Angela accepted the offer, please start working on her onboarding when you get back."

Basically, we've started using it as a replacement for most of the google workspace stuff, because it's richer and more focused on doing things than just writing static content.
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:49 AM on September 19, 2023 [2 favorites]

As a solo developer I liked Notion’s potential for letting non-technical people easily stick their data in reliable, sturdy databases instead of, as they often do, Excel.

It’s often a pain when a client wants me to write code to talk to a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is not as sturdy as a real DB, so that the data can be inconsistent and all over the place. But with Notion, the data can all be very code-compatible (SQL) while easy for users to manipulate.

What I don’t like is that Notion is a SaaS which I imagine is run by some private equity people who will inevitably, if not now then later, charge your organization too much for Notion after making you dependent on it.

I always wanted to find a Notion-like alternative that was not like this, and that got me interested in alternative software for nonprofits.
posted by earthstarvoyager at 7:04 AM on September 19, 2023 [1 favorite]

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