I get a lot of email – hundreds of emails a day. My contact list is a mess – many thousands of contacts, many with extremely out of date information and lots of duplication, format errors and the like. I’ve always been interested in cleaning up my contact list – in part because t would help drive my productivity but largely because my obsessive compulsive tendencies would appreciate a contact list with correctly formatted phone numbers, full contact details and the like.
Recently I was told about an interesting service called writethat.name. The idea behind the service is that we all get emails with lavish email signatures but generally we ignore the data within those signatures. Writethat.name scans our emails and updates our contacts with all the useful information trapped down there in the signature – phone numbers, URLs, twitter handles etc. Alongside scanning daily email to update contacts, the company has an additional product, Flashback, which scans through past emails to update existing contacts. While the older the emails are, the less accurate the signature data is likely to be, writethat.name also has a degree of duplicate merging technology to ensure that the most up to date information for any particular contact is included in a users contact list.
I decided to give the product a go and scanned five years of email to update contact details. The results were interesting to say the least. From the notification email:
- Scanned 214,078 e-mails
- Spotted 30,967 valid signatures
- Identified 3,376 different contacts
- Compared this to your current address book
- Updated 3,020 contacts in Google Contacts
That’s an awful lot of updated information and my contact list is definitely in better shape than before. While the service did a great job of what it set out to do, it seems to me that the ultimate contact list updater is a mixture of lots of different services. What I’d like to see, all in one offering, is:
- A service that goes deep into contacts and looks for duplicate names, email addresses, phone numbers etc and de-duplicates. I’ve used Scrubly before and this does a pretty good job of this part
- A service that extracts contact information from emails, both past and current. This is where writethat.name comes in
- A service that goes through an entire contact list and smartly normalizes phone numbers – I have phone numbers with international codes, with local codes only, with spaces, with brackets, with plus signs and without – I ‘d love to see them all resolved in a way that works nicely on my phone
- A service that trawls the web to find social information related to the sender of an email I’m looking at (tip of the hat to Rapportive which I find indispensible for this)
- Lastly and most importantly I want a service that goes out to the outside world and trawls public information to ensure contact information is as up to date as possible. This is the area that Jigsaw (now owned by Salesforce) fills and it’s something that would be super valuable to me
So there you go – that’s my wish list for a contact list manager – if someone knows of something that ticks all or most of those boxes, please let me know!