Wednesday, 19 January, 2005

The answer to contact list confusion?

Several of my friends and business contacts have asked me to update my contact information on Plaxo.  With the trouble that Debra and I have keeping our address books up to date and synchronized, I'm seriously considering taking a closer look at using Plaxo myself.  It's a very attractive idea:  keep all of our contact information in one place where we can get to it from any computer in the world.  That sounds like a whole lot better solution than what we currently have:  contact information spread among three different computers, two mobile phones, and a couple printed copies of old address books complete with cross-outs, additions, and indecipherable chicken scratches.  Add to that the inevitable confusion that results from conflicts due to one of us updating somebody's phone number or email address and not telling the other, and you begin to see why we spend so much time trying to figure out how to get in touch with people.

According to the Web site, Plaxo "plugs seamlessly into Outlook or Outlook Express."  That's nice, I guess, but I don't use either of those programs here at home.  I use Outlook at work because I have to, but for my personal mail I'm quite happy with Mozilla Thunderbird.  Even if it can't integrate with Thunderbird, though, Plaxo might be the way to go just to have everything in one place.  It'd be easy enough to add the few people I correspond with on a regular basis to my Thunderbird address book.

As attractive as Plaxo looks at first glance, I'm still a bit nervous about storing all my contact information on somebody else's server.  Not because I'm afraid they'll lose the information.  No, I trust their backup procedures, and I can always replicate the information on my local machine.  What worries me is the potential of that information being misused by an unscrupulous employee, a hacker, or the Federal government if they come in with a search warrant.  I wonder just how hard it would be for the FBI to seize somebody's address book.  You can learn a lot about a person just by seeing who he's talking to.