Saturday, September 18, 2021

To give you my business card or to ‘Google Me’: The future of contact management

April 22, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

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Anyone who has gone to a conference or party where contact information is exchanged knows of the dreaded period after the event, where you attempt to add the entire stack of cards to your contact manager / address book.

To date, there have been a huge number of solutions thrown at this problem, but the ‘problem’ is really comprised of two problems:

A) The adding of new contact information to your contact manager; effectively, how do you get the card/vcard into an app or device that you use. Technologies that have tried to address this problem with mixes results include: card scanners, Infrared, Bluetooth, and NFC devices

B) The live updating of contact information so as to never have ‘dead contacts’; effectively, how do you manage changes done once they are in your contact manager. Services that have tried to address this problem with mixes results include: Plaxo, LinkedIn etc.

Unfortunately, in spite of having had so many solutions thrown at the problem(s), it seems we still default to the traditional exchange of cards, which then defaults to the traditional post-event data-entry headache.

Why is this? The Yellow Pages for business info still work, but they have migrated almost entirely to the web.

Why do we still use paper to exchange contact information then?

The obvious answer is cultural. The exchance of  business cards is a symbolic representation of appreciation and interest in the person you are giving it to. That is why in certain countries, a card is handed with both hands on the card and “presented” vs given. Culture and habits don’t die quickly even if taken somewhat lightly.

New services, however, such as the new .Tel domain are trying to innovate ways to deal with both the exchange of information and the managing of information. .Tel, for example, allows you to streamline what information you share with the world and also gives you WAP access and downloadable VCards. Access controls and privacy are something you can set, and of course, any changes you make will be reflected on the site (not sure yet how you update the address books of people that are subscribed to you but not registered on the service, may be difficult). Google is also promoting their profiles service which very well may become the lowest common denominator for searching and discovering the contact info of people you’ve just met. For people you already know, networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn along with future connected platforms, such as Palm’s WebOS, will automagically update any changes to your devices’ address book, thus solving both problems A&B above.

In the longer term, although I think these problems may disappear through a combination of smarter contact managers that are web-aware, such as WebOS, and via a potentially standardized contact discovery service such as Google’s profiles; in the short term other contact services, such as Apple’s Mobile Me, could just as easily set up your default card as a shareable set of field and provide you with a URL with a VCard download and compete with the likes of .Tel.

One thing is for certain though, I will not underestimate the staying power and longevity of the simple paper business card.

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