Your Network…In A Book!
Much has been made over the importance of cultivating one’s personal network, especially with the proliferation of social networking tools available today. Google made a strong statement with Google+ when it debuted its Circles feature. Facebook responded with Lists. Meanwhile, networks such as Path have been gaining momentum as people look to make better use of their personal networks, connecting and sharing with those who matter most to them. I played around with just about every social networking tool I could get my hands on and nothing re-created what now may seem like a relic to most people under 35 — an address book.
The address book serves one simple yet important function: house all contact information for all people with whom one would want to communicate. Need a phone number? A birthdate? An actual address to *gasp* mail something? One need go no further than a well-organized address book. Great, right? Well I don’t know about you all, but I haven’t maintained one of these useful little tools for a very long time. Instead, I have my Mac Address book. And the address book on my phone. And Gmail. And Facebook. And LinkedIn. And…well…you get the point. I found my contact information spread across a multitude of applications and devices. In fact, I had no real idea what my network looked like since it was fragmented in so many different places. With this frustration in mind, I decided to look for technology that would help me create a modern day address book. What follows are the results of my search.
After hours of research and testing, I finally settled on CoBook, a free contact management tool for Mac (other formats on the way). A dead simple application, CoBook allowed me to aggregate my contacts across my laptop, phone, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. It turns out that my network is about 1300 people! I now have a profile for each person that sits on my phone and on a convenient pull-down app in my OS menubar. CoBook automatically unduplicated my network. It pulled in photos, birthdays, and company names for all of my contacts. It offers me a super fast way to add new addresses using the menubar application. And it allows me to “tag” my contacts and create lists, such as San Francisco, Wharton, etc. (In fact, I used it to create a short list of stakeholders, which became the invite list for this blog). Are there any drawbacks? Well, the seemingly obvious one would be having 1300 contacts in my phone, some of which do not have phone numbers listed because they were imported from social networking sites. But this doesn’t bother me, because the search process on the iPhone is incredibly fast and more importantly, I can use Siri to find the right contact anyway.
If you identify with any of the challenges I’ve mentioned and you have a Mac, just download the free CoBook app on the Mac store and follow the easy instructions. The company is led by two engineers in Europe who seem to really understand this problem and are working hard to make the CoBook product even better. I’ve browsed the Support and About tabs and it looks like more great updates are on the way.
Regardless of the tool you use, it’s important that you find a solution that fits your needs. I was motivated to find a digital system that would sync across my devices and applications and for that I think CoBook is best. I know there are other options out there and you can be sure I’ll continue to explore and revise the system I’ve put in place — more updates to follow on this subject. Meantime, if you have any thoughts or suggestions on how to cultivate and maintain a strong network, I’d love to hear them.
P.S. Now that I’ve graduated from business school, moved across the country, and settled into my new job at Google, hopefully I’ll reduce the amount of time between posts. Thanks for your continued support!
As a child, I often had trouble falling asleep. I would lie in bed, restless, convinced I was the only person in the world still awake. The darkness of the room always made me feel totally alone. Staying in hotels in big cities, however, had a strangely calming effect on me. Surrounded by views of city lights, I had no trouble sleeping. Too young to realize I was looking out at street lamps and empty office buildings, I saw each light as another person, who, like me, was still awake. Feeling more connected to an alive and vibrant world comforted me, and I would quickly fall fast asleep.
Even as an adult, city lights still represent the same possibility for me that they once did—the potential for connection. But they have also come to represent innovation and the exciting world of technology. My passion is the nexus of these two forces: technology and human connection.
Every day I hear about a new product or service that makes life more enjoyable. Sometimes it’s about saving 5 minutes on a mundane task (“did you know there’s an app for that?” is one of my favorite mantras). Sometimes it’s about learning how to do something better than I ever thought possible (like calendar management with Tungle or news feeds with Reeder). And sometimes, it’s about accomplishing something I didn’t even previously know I wanted to accomplish, but am now certain I cannot live without (the most classic example: Facebook).
Technology, however, is only part of what makes this world so exciting to me. Every day I am inspired by the interactions I have with other people: friends, family, acquaintances, and often, even strangers. After all, human connection is one of the most powerful forces on earth. Nothing is more energizing (or sometimes terrifying) than someone else’s undivided attention (for more on that, see Quiet by Susan Cain). It’s not just technology that helps us accomplish amazing things, but it’s people as well.
With these two thoughts in mind, I have decided to start this blog. Going forward, I will offer tips, tricks, and insights on how to use technology to make life better, and, specifically, to make more meaningful connections with others—the human side of technology. I intend to show how technology can bring people together instead of driving them apart.
Now, I could really use your help.
As the people whose opinions I value most highly, I would like your advice on choosing a blog name. I’m currently using “The Soft Machine” to capture my two themes of technology and humanity. But for now, it’s a placeholder. Feel free to use the comment box, send me an e-mail/text, or call me with your ideas. In return, I will take whoever makes the greatest impact on the final name to a dinner of their choice. I look forward to hearing what you have in mind. Meantime, I hope you enjoy what’s on mine.