Scott Hanselman

Plaxo and my Contact Database

January 07, 2004 Comment on this post [5] Posted in Musings | Tools
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Sometimes a tool just works really nicely.  There’s a lot of little inexpensive Add-Ins out there for Outlook.  Personally I use the Addins DateLens and NewsGator in Outlook because they integrate to seamlessly. 

Today, I was completely snowed in so what did I do?  I did some housecleaning.  Not the Vacuuming kind, the Data kind.  I’ve got 500gigs of crap that I’ve been saving since I Stacker’ed my then-full 200meg HD in 1993.  So I started with my contacts.  I’ve been carrying THEM around in a giant CSV file since Lotus Organizer.  Literally as I was organizing, debating how to update this pile, I get an email from the venerable Sam Gentile asking to update my contact information via some service called “Plaxo.” 

I updated my contact info for Sam without having to sign-up or -in for anything.  Upon deeper inspection, I check it out, and install it.  TRULY a seamless install. 

I wrote a form letter and told Plaxo to request updated info from my friends and acquaintances.  True, you might think it initially smacks of spam, but it’s a REALLY clever idea. 

While I wait around for Longhorn, Common People Dialogs and WinFS to realize that and are the SAME GUY, Plaxo links my Contact Database in Outlook with all my friends.  For those folks that were already Members I get their updated info immediately and they can choose whether to share business info, personal info, or both, or privacy is maintained.  For those folks who don’t want to join, they can just give me their new info and it’s all good.  It’s the automatic updating that I think is so compelling as I’ve lot track of dozens of people that I don’t have time to go googling for.

It’s only been 3 hours minutes and I’ve already updated 12% of my 1688 contacts.  Not shabby, Plaxo.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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January 07, 2004 21:20
Have you gotten any spam complaints? My spam filter is now set to send plaxo emails straight to the junk pile.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on Plaxo after you've used it a while.
January 07, 2004 23:26
Looks pretty good to me! I suppose there's a certain risk in making all your personal details public to anyone who knows your email address, but it's just so slick and convenient....
January 08, 2004 2:11
i don't get it. Is the only purpose to make it easy to send updates of my contact info (which doesn't change much anyhow) to people? What if they don't have or use outlook? most people have their data on yahoo or hotmail, no? why should i encourage them to download more add-ins that might or might not work (hey, its windows you know). sounds like unnecessary automation for a tiny problem.
January 08, 2004 9:55
So far of 200 of my contacts have responded, and only 2 have asked if it were spam. I don't know how many of my messages have been dumped as spam.

to comment on Bob's comment, its a lot more than just ME sending updates. It's about data cleanliness and correctness, its about connecting with people and creating a layer of abstraction. If someone in the Plaxo system updates their information I will get that updated info immediately.

Also to the point about yahoo and Hotmail, I personally don't think that most business people use hotmail for their contact management software.
January 08, 2004 20:33
Scott, what does the privacy policy look like? Do they say they will notify you before they change it or is it one of those "please go to our web site to see any changes that may have been made" types?

Does it bother you to have something "living" in Outlook that can get in and out at will?

Can you choose who sees your information or is it a simple "everyong in my contacts" rule?

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.