My company is in the process of being acquired by IBM, and while this has many positives, it means that we will all be switching from Microsoft Outlook over to Lotus Notes. This feels a little bit like switching from driving a car to using a horse and buggy.
Now to be fair, I’ve never actually used Lotus Notes, so all of my negative associations are based purely on hearsay. I always try to go with solutions that on the “main road” that everyone else is using, and when it comes to desktop software for email, contacts and calendars, that is most definitely Microsoft Outlook. I can think of maybe two or three clients I have worked with that use Lotus Notes, and I figure here must be a reason. It also means that any methods for syncing with my iPhone are likely to be primitive at best. Not enough people deal with the problem to require Apple to build a really good technical solution.
The biggest pain point I foresee is my contact database, which started its life as a Palm address book over a decade ago but currently lives on my office’s Exchange server. I depend on it to sync wirelessly sync to my phone using ActiveSync so that I have the phone numbers I need at my finger tips. Rather than wait around to see what a Lotus Notes solution would look like, I figure my best option is to just bite the bullet and migrate the database over to my gmail account so that I no longer have a dependence on my work’s software.
Over the years, I’ve amassed a large pile of contacts in my electronic address book. There are the basic entries with phone numbers and email addresses of friends and family, but it also has large numbers of business associates, vendors, restaurants, and former colleagues. It’s quite a mish-mash.
I figure that if I am going to migrate my contact database, it’s time for a little bit of spring cleaning. Do I really need all of these addresses?
Some were out-of-date phone numbers for friends who had moved out of the community, so I deleted them right away. Others were restaurants that I had loaded in because I had a reservation and wanted to be able to quickly call or locate if I was lost; I had forgotten they were even in there, and if I needed to look them up again, I would just google it. They went into the trash too.
Where I found myself hesitating, however, was over the contact information from old colleagues. They made it into my database because at some point I needed to be able to call them, but that date has long passed. However, having been through multiple jobs over the last 15 years, I didn’t want to just throw them away. These are people I had forged a relationship with and might want to reach out to again in the future.
After thinking about it for another minute, I realized that the better location for these contacts was LinkedIn. The fact of the matter is that any time I do need to go networking, I just start with LinkedIn by default; I forgot that many of these contacts were in my address book in the first place.
So, before I deleted each contact, I made sure they we were already connected on LinkedIn, or else I issued an invitation. If I couldn’t find them on LinkedIn, or they don’t respond to my invitation, well, they probably weren’t going to be such a valuable networking contact anyways.
My address book is now a lot cleaner, but it does raise one concern – I am now placing my trust entirely in LinkedIn to maintain my networking rolodex. If they ever had a data loss, or someone maliciously wiped out my data, I would no longer have any way to jog my memory of all of my contacts. I have to trust LinkedIn.
After considering it, I’m okay with this. LinkedIn is a publicly traded company with a strong reputation, so I’m not worried about them just suddenly shutting down overnight. If they did cease operations, I would expect that I would have enough time to export my contacts out. I can’t completely eliminate the risk of the malicious hacker, but I do try to follow best practices on security (I don’t actually know what my LinkedIn password is, but it is a randomly generated string). I can also take a backup of my connections onto my laptop so that it wouldn’t be a total loss.
My life has been a lot more convenient since I have migrated most of my data to the cloud. Eliminating the data from my address book is just another step in that direction.
As a packrat, I often wonder why Exchange, Outlook, Google Contacts, etc. don’t have a way to keep old contact information around but mark it obsolete. I don’t want to use that info to try to contact someone, but I do want the email address associated with the name so that old communication stays associated with the person in addition to the address.
Would it be sufficient to just keep the old emails from that person around?