I want my mobile social address book

We have the technology. We even have the data. So why are we still using business cards?

Business cards are as obsolete as fax machines. And like fax machines, business cards have us still using paper to move electronic data from one digital system to another.

Let's review the whole archaic process. Send your electronic contact information to some company that prints it out on dead tree pulp. (The printing company requires the information electronically because, of course, giving it to them on paper would be an absurd waste of effort for them.)

Before leaving on a business trip, you have to make sure you remember to bring a stack of business cards, and transport them so they don't get folded, dog-eared or mutilated.

Meet someone. Shake hands. Exchange those tiny pieces of paper.

If you're good, you'll remember to find the card and do something with it after returning home -- along with all the other 20 cards you collected. Take a deep breath because, despite all that college education, you're now a data entry worker. Type that information into Microsoft Outlook or some other application that supports contacts. Don't make any errors!

Congratulations! You've now spent a huge amount of valuable time and effort to transmit digital data from one electronic contact database to another. The Internet could have done it for you more accurately in less than a second.

If you have the right kind of mobile phone, you might synchronize your desktop contacts list with your phone.

Over time, the people you meet get new phone numbers, e-mail addresses or even new jobs. Women get married and change their names. Your contacts grow increasingly inaccurate and useless over time.

Separately, you maintain a LinkedIn profile, and maybe one on Facebook, too. This is better, because contact with "friends" is maintained. But that doesn't help the obsolete numbers on your mobile phone. So when it's time to call someone, you're out of luck.

What a time-wasting mess.

Here's how it should work

Shake hands. Each of you pulls out a mobile phone. "What's your LinkedIn profile?" Open your phone's contact application, and press a single button. Choose LinkedIn from the drop-down menu, and type in the other person's profile specifier (in my case, it's "elgan" -- five quick digits). Press "Send." Done!

In bigger meetings, it becomes standard to add the appropriate social address book links with the invitation. The contact exchange happens before the meeting even starts, and that ridiculous contact exchange ritual is banished from the boardroom forever.

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Mike Elgan

Computerworld
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