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Contxts, Quasi-Contacts, and Slush Pile People

by Joe Loong on March 20, 2009

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Twitter profile, business card, and SMS contact info
My friend Stephanie posted a Tweet about a Mashable item profiling Contxts, a startup that lets people use SMS text messages to swap contact information.

I’ve just started playing with the service, so this isn’t going to be a full review, but I thought I’d revisit the ever-relevant topic of business cards and contact management in the modern era.

Switching to… “INFRA-RED”

Technology solutions to make it easier to swap and manage your contact info are nothing new. Way back when, Apple Newtons let you beam your contact info via infrared. Of course, the other person also had to have a Newton, which was a problem, and continues to be a problem for any hardware-specific solution — Palm devices, various (and silly) dedicated contact-exchange gizmos, and of course schemes for iPhones (which, tech conferences notwithstanding, are still not universal).

However, using SMS as the transfer protocol, which is pretty universal, is a nice approach, at least until we all turn into Media Lab-style cyborgs, with people’s info automatically overlaid onto our augmented reality heads-up displays.

Anyway, the service is interesting — the Contxts scheme is somewhat similar to, say, having a preset message on your phone with your contact info that you can text to other people, with the added features of a persistent profile, contact lists, and a knock-knock feature for people who request your info.

(Though in any event, you should already be making sure that your card features your primary public profile, and that your public online profiles interlink, so that people can find your other relevant stuff online.)

Welcome to Contact Purgatory

But do we need yet another social network for networking contacts? I would say there’s at least one niche to be filled, and that’s for a buffer or holding tank for contacts. A purgatory, if you will, as I decide if I’m going to add you to my LinkedIn or not. A slush pile of people.

Here’s the thing — just because I meet you at a networking event and I take your card (in whatever format), doesn’t mean I necessarily want to add you to my LinkedIn or other network. Because that’s kind of an endorsement, or it dilutes my real contacts. Yet I don’t want to chuck your info in case it may be useful someday. So at that point, you’re a quasi-contact.

So I’m thinking this network (or something similar) might be a good way to manage your quasi-contacts. At least it’s better than the “drawerful of cards” method. Though is there really value in posting and sharing your “people they’ve met” file? If so, what happens when you graduate proto-contacts into real contacts?

Contact Clutter — We’ll Take Anyone!

Now, Stephanie hates paper cards; I like them — though I do agree that having the info in digital form makes it easier to manage. Theoretically. But the technological aspect is only one part of the problem, and whether it’s digital or analog, that problem is contact clutter. By keeping a distinct network for quasi-contacts (or at least a separate category in an existing network), you can be as indiscriminate as you like and collect as many people as you want, without messing up your primary networks.

How do you handle the random folks you meet at events, manage your contact clutter, and keep tabs of your quasi-contacts? Do you keep a separate “People I’ve Met” file, or do you just add people to your LinkedIn / Facebook / Twitter?

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