Friday, December 28, 2012

The Contacts dilemma

Contacts CalendarsI’m in the quiet period that ends each year, always a time for thinking on events past and opportunities to come.   I’ve resolved, if nothing else, to get the cloud-office cleaned up and functioning this year.  Email, social media, contact lists, web sites, and calendars need to be spruced up and functioning as I head into 2013.

Email:  Accounts, each linked to my business websites, feel scattered, but aggregators have gotten much better.  I can collect mail from every source in a single client and access it from phone, tablet, or PC.  The early glitches that caused downloaded mail to be automatically erased, or of carrying a page of port numbers and security settings for each account, seem to have passed. Bliss.

Phones: I standardized on simple USB-capable Nokia phones, one for each country, and synchronized contact lists between them.  This also works great.  And no smartphones yet:  the more features a handset gets, the less able it is to make regular voice calls.

Calendar:  I’m trying to get the Google ecosystem running, but it’s been a struggle.  Our office assistant has organized calendar sharing, but getting everyone to enter, maintain and heed event notifications remains challenging.  I want to stop using paper diaries, but the cloud isn’t (yet) cooperating.

Contacts are a whole ‘nother story.

I want to integrate my Contacts from across my email and social media into a single address book with fewer than 500 entries.  It should be self-maintaining:  As people update their contact information on social networks, it should update in my contacts.  Business cards and new email contacts should flow into the list automagically.  I should be able to subgroups for Christmas cards.

Reality differs.

I currently have about 1000 contacts.  Half should be culled: they are in the book because Live Mail adds people if I write to them more than three times. 

There are lots of errors.  Thinking I could solve this by computer, I imported everything to Plaxo to run a general clean-up on the lists, resolving duplicates and linking social media informtion.  It was a disaster: Plaxo spawned new contacts (Debell Fred J Debell DeBell), leaving me with a terrible mess of 3500 entries.

So, I‘ve set a 30 day goal of going through the alphabet with my Outlook.com address book and get that right, then propagate it to other devices and mail/phone clients. It’s a 4-step cure:

Delete the obvious duplicates and marginal people, fix the First and Last Name errors in the  rest.

I’ve decided that if someone isn’t a connection on some social media, then I’ve lost touch.   Delete, or send an sending an invitation to connect.

Delete old work, address, and phone information entirely so that those fields can be updated by imported data.

Attach a group designation so that I can do some minimal sorting and filtering.

I can get one letter of the alphabet done each day, so I’ll hopefully be done by Valentine’s.  Hopefully for the last time.

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