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):
And 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…”
Look 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.
Try the new Pulse on Plaxo. I’m curious what the reaction is going to be.