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Plaxo? Well, well, well. An old friend suddenly turns heads.

Posted by Susan Scrupski on August 6, 2007

So, I’ve been using Plaxo for a long time now. Probably years? I dunno. When did they launch? I seem to remember always having my contacts online with Plaxo in recent years. It’s always been handly to have an online database of my contacts. Plus, I really like the user-generated, self-maintenance of my personal contact database. Makes life really easy for people who never getting around to digital housekeeping. I guess LinkedIn is the same idea, but Plaxo has always been a nice convenience for me, but something I would have filed in the “personal productivity” category of life’s niceties. Kind of like a Swiffer or my Polaris.

But, all that is changing. Little Plaxo may be the engine that just could give Facebook a run for its market dominance. I know I’m not the only one who thinks so. I saw this piece on Wired today, “Slap in the Facebook: It’s Time for Social Networks to Open up.” It was also picked up by Tom Regan, an NPR blogger, here. And I’ve already blogged about the impression Plaxo made out at mashup camp with its 3.0 release demo.

What I really like so far about the Plaxo platform is the sensible approach to the nonsensible “friending” silliness of Facebook. For instance, our HR leadership at BSG Alliance has a hard time embracing Facebook as a serious social networking platform when new employees and customers are faced with choices such as these (see screen shot):

Facebook hookupsAnd try as hard as I might to convince others that Facebook really is for business, “REALLY GUYS!”, screen shots emailed around the company like this don’t help my case much. So, I have to concede that, yes, Facebook still has a way to go before we can allow it into the realm of real corporate power, quiet dignity, and serious prestige that comes with the territory of selling to the F500.

So, Plaxo, which did not start its business plan in a college dorm room majoring in party photos, approached the social networking exercise the way business people actually are networking. Basically in three large buckets: Business, Friends (real friends), and Family. Perfect.

Taking a page out of David Weinberger’s, “Everything is Miscellaneous” perhaps, we all can probably sort everyone we know into those three categories if we had to and add some to both or all three depending on how relationships change in our lives over time. Plaxo starts with the whole “mess” (in Weinberger’s terms), and we customize the sort from what we have already– if you’re already a Plaxo user, that is. I guess it’s even easier if you’re not a Plaxo user, you can start fresh.

The only major issue I had with assigning categories to my existing contacts is there are so darn many of them after these years. I emailed Joseph Smarr (the Plaxo Architect from the video on my blog) and asked him if there was any way to group categorize contacts. He said, “We’re working on it…”

Plaxo ConnectionsLook how easy they make it to connect to your “friends.” In this case, I’m sending an invite to Craig Cmehil who is already in my Plaxo network. Once I connect to Craig as a Business contact, I can isolate his feeds (blog posts, videos, twitter posts, delicious posts, and whatever else Craig is doing online that he cares to share with me and others) to my business network. Now, we are getting closer to a practical social networking tool for the Enterprise. Although, admittedly, it will be difficult to break the Facebook addiction.

plaxopulse

Try the new Pulse on Plaxo. I’m curious what the reaction is going to be.

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8 Responses to “Plaxo? Well, well, well. An old friend suddenly turns heads.”

  1. Frank Hamm said

    I discovered Plaxo only some weeks ago by accident when looking for having my addressbook and contacts stored online with access from almost everywhere.

    With the brand new Pulse and connecting to business network, friends and family I almost feel addicted to Plaxo :-)

    Just today I wrote a post on my blog in German but a friend wrote a short review of the new Pulse in English: Plaxo’s New Pulse

  2. I have to admit though so far this is only making me consider removing your feeds from my Feed Reader, not seeing this as being a “huge” advantage other than when I connect to someone for the first time and might not know about their feeds to begin with?

    Seems more of a glorified feed reader than anything else…

  3. Hi Craig. I’m thinking Plaxo is just getting started. What’s interesting about Plaxo is they have 15 MILLION users who are already engaging in online services (flickr, blogging, delicious, twitter, digg, etc.). They (their users) are the web, as I’ve heard them say before. I think Plaxo has a lot of potential. Let’s see where they go with it.

  4. @Craig, as a longtime heavy Bloglines user, my initial reaction to the idea of Pulse was the same as yours: “oh, this is something I already do with RSS”. While it’s certainly true that the “wow, i never knew all these people were doing things online” factor is greater for people that haven’t been into RSS, I’m still amazed at how many more people I’m tracking in pulse now that it’s automatically hooking people up based on my address book. Also, the range of content is much wider–photos, dugg articles, delicious links, twitter messagee, etc.–while in theory I *could* have manually found and subscribed to all this content, in practice I never would have. But the really remarkable (and frankly, unexpected) benefit of pulse is that you can see and feel all these people you care about reading and commenting on this content. When someone posts something that shows up in Pulse, you know everyone has seen it, you can see them making comments and you know who those people are. It’s a much richer and more satisfying experience. Maybe you have to try it to see what I mean. :)

    Thanks, js

    PS: And Susan is right–this is just the beginning, and we already have a long todo list of great enhancements planned!

  5. @Joseph, as I said the only advantage is just that. Finding out about them automatically, now I’m using it and it’s in my list of “daily” sites, so I’m checking it each day.

    But now the question is how many people in your address book are people you have a strong enough connection to “care” as you put it? One of the negative aspects I see about the automatic linking of things with my address book – do I want all of them in a “social” network or are some there for other reasons? I have to give it to you though from a dev perspective – sweet app and nice integration and functionality!! But from the social aspect I feel pressured at the moment to “pay attention” to all of them and the 3 hotels and 6 taxi services I have in my address book not to mention the restaurants – where do I put those? ;-)

    Basically I’m just not sold enough yet to make it a “multiple times a day” app but at least once a day is for sure so far.

    Craig

    PS – I’m still watching it though and looking for the “hook” I need to make it a primary app for me.

  6. @Craig, I agree, this is ultimately a social challenge, and it will be interesting to see what the right answer turns out to be. We’ve taken a first step by letting you categorize people into family, friends, and business contacts, so that provides some level of filtering, and we’ll be adding more on-the-fly abilities to turn off people/feeds/etc that you don’t want to see. But I think the big deal is that over time, more not less of your friends and business contacts will be living online lives, some of which you want to be able to keep in touch with, and so you’ll need tools to help you because otherwise there’s just too much data scattered across too many sites to manage on your own. Thanks for the feedback! js

  7. […] come up with the answer but somehow I don’t quite see it. This led me to consider Plaxo and Susan Scrupski’s critique: The only major issue I had with assigning categories to my existing contacts is there are so darn […]

  8. ckeene said

    Plaxo is the anti-brand for Web 2.0. They have so much negative goodwill left over from their initial spammy “please help me update me address book on a weekly basis” roots that it is next to impossible for me to convince me friends how useful they’ve begun. Thanks for helping to chip away at that resistance!

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