Tag Archives: search

Reclaiming the Rolodex

Facebook is the new RolodexI’d like to talk about the statement to the left, made by Brian Devine via Twitter yesterday morning. (I should mention that it caught my attention when it was forwarded by Jonathan Rick, who, in case you’re wondering, I met in person first and then connected with online.)

I completely agree with Brain: I do believe that Facebook and other online networks – loosely defined – such as LinkedIn and Google have become the contact management systems du jour.

The problem, and what worries me, is that we, as individuals, had full control of the data in our Rolodexes of yesteryear. We chose when to add, when to remove, when to edit contacts. And that Rolodex was ours to keep, save any unfortunate circumstances (I’m thinking natural disasters here), for as long as we wanted no matter where we went.

Now, we are at the mercy of these companies. For example, I use Google Contacts to stay in touch – by e-mail and phone – to friends, family, colleagues, and former classmates around the world. But let’s say that Google decided one day without warning to stop supporting that feature? I would be left with no numbers or emails addresses for any of my closest contacts. And, at least with Google Contacts, I am able to export all the data I’ve inputed into the system and take it to another provider or save it on my comptuer (or another location) for safekeeping.

Neither Facebook (nor LinkedIn nor MySpace) allow anything of the sort. (It should be noted that Facebook, in its infancy, did have this feature enabled. With its epic growth, however, I think Facebook thought that for privacy reasons, enabling users to exports the contact information of other users they connected to through the site could be dangerous.)

Where does that leave us? What happens if our account were to get hacked or accidentally deleted? I’m sure many of you shudder at the thought of losing all those connections (and pictures and videos and messages and everything else that’s now contained within the site).

When I said this all to Jonathan (in less than 140 characters!), he replied: “Since we all use Facebook voluntarily, if we disagree with the Terms Of Service, then we should stop“. He has a good point. BUT – because that’s where the majority of our contacts are active, we miss out by not participating in the service. So, we’re stuck in between a rock and a hard place since there’s not much we can do, is there?

I can’t offer a solution (other than to reiterate how important backing up and creating copies of such information truly is) but I do continue to hope that in this era of collaboration, Facebook as well as other services can find a balance between user privacy, a competitive advantage and allowing users to own and manipulate their data in a suitable manner.

Twitter Tip

Yes, we all know that twitter is used as a mini-blogging platform through which you can see what friends, colleagues, peers, strangers, etc. are doing right now.

But, like with many things, it’s even more interesting to take a step back and be able to see the whole picture… By examining the collective, trends quickly become apparent. And search.twitter.com allows you to do just that.

Simply go to the site (search.twitter.com), type in a search term, and you’ll see recent tweets from twitter users that contain the term. In addition to simply browsing through the results, you can also create an RSS feed and/or a twitter post for the results.

For the past couple days, I’ve been searching for “red sox” and it’s been really interesting to eavesdrop on this aggregated conversation. For example, the number of posts that cheer on the Red Sox far outnumber those that mention them unfavorably. What does this mean? That Red Sox fans are more likely to use Twitter than other MLB fans? Or, more likely, simply that Red Sox fans are more passionate about their team winning than non-Red Sox fans are about the Red Sox losing.

Another thing that I really like about the site is that it displays the most frequently twittered terms. This is great for bringing attention to a topic I may have overlooked. Right now, the results are Halloween, Plumber, SNL, Michigan, Liberty Mermorial. The first four make sense to me: Halloween is coming up soon, Plumber is obviously a reference to the presendential debates, SNL is on people’s minds because Sarah Palin will be appearing, and Michigan football is winning a game they were expected to lose. I clicked on “Liberty Memorial” and it turns out that Obama is speaking tonight in Kansas City, Mo, tonight and people are pretty excited. That’s something I wouldn’t have known otherwise.

Twitter search really is a great way to quickly see what has people talking, and how those people feel about the topic.