The following is also my latest MediaPost column…
I’m Drowning In My Own Complex Web Of Contact Databases
February 1st, 2008 by Max Kalehoff
The perpetual problem with my Outlook contact database is that my information becomes dated and unwieldy. There’s built-in entropy that worsens over time. It’s become especially problematic since I transitioned three months ago to Entourage, the Mac version of Outlook.
Not coincidentally, I’ve been turning to Facebook and LinkedIn over the past year to fulfill core functionality of my legacy contact database and some Web communication. In fact, I estimate that nearly half of my personal and business interactions over the past six months involved at least one of those social networks. (Although email still is the mother of all social networks.) I find myself using these two services to discover new and existing contacts, communicate with them or review background. Along with my traditional Entourage email client, this smorgasbord has fast become my larger contact and communication suite. Oh yeah, add Skype in there as well.
The problem with this system is I’m forced to navigate among too many unique interfaces, while failing to realize the potential of tight cohesion among databases. This 20th century, jury-rigged configuration requires my Entourage email client, Skype, and Firefox to run simultaneously. Moreover, Firefox requires two separate browser tabs, one for each of my primary social-network databases.
The next problem with this system is that I’m toast when on the go. It starts with the fact that my Treo’s VersaMail calendar and address application only does a mediocre job syncing with Entourage. Couple that with slower connections and barebones mobile interfaces for LinkedIn and Facebook, and I’m left paralyzed. Oh yeah, no Skype on my mobile, either.
But my ranting is not a complaint. It’s an opportunity. The market is in dire need of a simple, intuitive Web service that combines contact databases, calendaring and living profiles. A service that spans all the major social networks, computing platforms, devices and access points. A service that enhances value by eliminating the need to toggle and sync through clunky patches and plugins. A service that gets to know me and then delights me! A service that doesn’t become nuisance and make me unpopular by automatically spamming everyone else in my own multiple contact databases!
I know the pain and complexity of contact and productivity management is massive, and the market is desperate for relief. Similar pain is what caused Meebo, an elegant Web experience that spans all the instant-message networks, to strike a chord with millions of people, and many more everyday. If you haven’t tried it, you should. Similarly, I’m witnessing firsthand at Clickable, my own startup, how simplicity and network cohesion is striking a chord among search marketers.
There’s probably hesitance among several, if not all, of the companies involved in this complex web to open up and work together – or at least open up so some third party can build a revolutionary system on top. Sure, there’s comfort in legacy and proprietary ways, and desire to protect and control network value and unique software experiences. But for consumer and business users – including me – we could care less. Everyone will win if disparate contact databases can be seamlessly plugged into one elegant experience.
Someone, please help. I’m drowning in my own tangled web of incompatible contact databases.