Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Idea for Outlook (or any contact list tool)

Posted by shannonclark on April 7, 2007

This idea occurred to me tonight while entering in my large backlog of business cards.

It could, I think, be embedded into Office, and certainly could be built into any online contact management tool, however it does require some relatively radical rethinking about how most such systems currently work.

The idea: embed rss feeds as well as clips from websites into a contact record

What I generally try to do when I enter a contact into my address book is enter all the basic contact data – name, mailing address, phone numbers, email address, website – but then also include a short bio as well as a record of when, where and why I met the person.

I am starting with Outlook at the moment, and then planning on syncing it back up to Plaxo, LinkedIn, my cell phone, google/gmail, yahoo/yahoo mail, and to (via Plaxo)

However I really should, these days, be including a lot of other data – data that Outlook (and most other contact systems do not handle).

– blog address (with space for more than one)

– rss feed(s)

– twitter

– Skype

And instead of fully manually finding and inserting a bio, ideally my tools should be smart enough to try to seek out the contact’s own bio in their own words. Starting, perhaps, with sites such as LinkedIn then on to Facebook,, Ryze, Ecademy, Friendster, Tribe, etc. Also looking for an “about” page on their blog (and for their blog) or bios on their corporate website. Lastly looking for a bio of them from a conference where they spoke or other online resources.

In a fully idealized world, I should be able to enter in a stack of business cards into my contact tool, and then through the magic of the Internet and various web services build up a list of their public data and profiles, one that is not a static picture but an updateable one – with RSS feeds ready to be subscribed to, lists of which services they are a part of (and which I too am using – i.e. Skype, Twitter, gtalk, LinkedIn, etc)

Now I don’t necessarily want to import this list of feeds into my primary blog reader – but I do want to look at ways to look at the whole collection. Ideally I also want the reverse to be the case – anyone whose blog I read regularly should probably also be in my contact lists – with as much detail as I can easily find (i.e. their email address if they publish it, phone numbers, city at the very least, full business address even better etc).

Today my network is a very diffuse – yet also very complex entity. Realistically there are probably about 5000 people or so whom I have some significant connection to, close enough that I would want to be aware of them when I am traveling, would invite them individually to events which I organize. That is a large number true, but realize I probably meet 10+ new people a week on average, and have for a decade or more. I generally try to meet at least 2, preferably 5+ new people every day. Of course, not everyone I meet is someone I want to keep in touch with, but I would like to keep in touch with many more people than I manage at the moment.

More importantly whether you are a small business (like NELA is for now, though we don’t plan on staying small for long) or a part of a much bigger business, it is no longer sufficient to enter data about someone once and forget about it – whether they are a random contact, a customer, a partner or a blogger you read – today their online presence will be an ever evolving and changing thing. Even people who are not deeply active online are, increasingly, present online – via their customers writing about them, speaking engagements, writings by or about them etc. Fewer and fewer individual business people or their companies are note present online.

So why do our tools not make it really easy for us to embed this live web of information into our records about who we know? (and yes, technorati searches of the live web would be useful as well.)

One Response to “Idea for Outlook (or any contact list tool)”

  1. Danyel said

    You should check out the Kaddressbook part of Kontact. It’s from KDE. There are versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It is very flexible in what you store in your contact fields and comes with a lot of the fields you are looking for. It also uses the vCard as well asother formats and server backends and data stores including Exchange and WebDAV and IMAP and ssh and file system.

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