My Ongoing Contact Management Challenges

If you’re like me, you’ve got friends all over the electronic landscape: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, you name it. Which means all of those are potentially also “contacts.” And, of course, you’ve got your real contacts — those people that would normally be in your Rolodex, if we still used such carbon-based approaches to managing contacts.

Instead, we use electronic contact lists. Outlook has an address book, as does almost every other mail program. The operating system itself might have one, as does our phone, and our tablet, and our work computer, and our home computer, and and and and.

And keeping them all in sync is a nightmare.

For a while, I had found the answer: Memotoo. Memotoo is one of the coolest tools I know. It exists to do one thing well: sync. It syncs your various contact lists into its own contact database, then syncs that whole thing to Google Contacts (and back). It will also do the same with multiple calendars, task lists, browser bookmarks, and other stuff. But I only used it for contacts, and for that it was perfect.

Essentially, it worked like this:

  • It would PULL data from Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and many other sources, into its own master list. As it did so, it would look for duplicates, and combine various records into single ones with all the data from all the sources.
  • It would also SYNC BACK with Google contacts.
  • I then set my Mac, my iPhone, and my iPad to use Memotoo as their contact list.

Any change I made on any of my devices would sync back with Memotoo, and propogate to everything else. Finally, contacts kept current!

And then Facebook broke everything.

In April, Facebook changed their API such that outside apps could not get your friends’ data unless your friends ALSO used the same app. This broke Memotoo, and Cobook, and Full Contact, and a bunch of other contact management apps.

So, I started looking around. Here’s where things stand at the moment.

  • I’m taking a look at a new app called CircleBack. It looks, on the surface, to be similar to Memotoo, but without as much functionality. Based on their web site, I thought they had figured out a way around the Facebook problem; but today, I got an email from their VP of Consumer Products, Andy Cohn (a very thorough and helpful email, by the way), and they are relying on the sync of the Facebook app on your iPhone to the contact list on your iPhone to sync in the Facebook contacts. So, even though I like their app overall, they haven’t solved the FB dilemma.
  • This then got me to thinking — can I do the same thing with Memotoo? Can I use my phone to sync Facebook to Memotoo? I tried it, and apparently the iPhone contact app keeps the FB contacts separate from everything else. So, the answer appears to be No.

I’m going to try the CircleBack system and see if it works for me. If not, I’m at a loss. I really want one contact list that is the “source of truth” list, and not three or four.

I’ll keep you posted.

::

How about you? How are you keeping your contacts straight?

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4 Responses to My Ongoing Contact Management Challenges

  1. Austin Duck says:

    Bruce,

    We certainly appreciate you giving CircleBack a try. If other tools you used had functionality that you found valuable and would be a compliment to CircleBack, feel free to respond to any of Andy’s emails with the suggestion. We’re committed to building THE contact management app, and if there’s something we’re not doing that needs to be done, we definitely want to know about it.

    If you have any comments or questions, or you’d ever like to talk further, feel free to reach out to me (austin.duck@circleback.com), Andy (just respond to his email), or Elizabeth (cb-feedback@circleback.com).

    Have a good one!

    Austin Duck

  2. Bruce says:

    Austin — thanks for dropping by and commenting! Yes, I’m going to give it a try — BUT, the setup I had with Memotoo was really the ideal. It pulled from all my sources into one central database, then I pointed all my devices to THAT as their single source of truth.

    I know that you (and the Memotoo guy, and everyone else) were messed over by Facebook when they changed their API. I hope someone can convince them to change it back at some point, so we can all recover some functionality. But in the meantime, I’m going to see if the somewhat-Rube-Goldberg setup with CircleBack-to-iPhone-to-Facebook can at least keep things copacetic for a while.

    Thanks!

    Bruce

  3. David Kirk says:

    I’m really trying hard to love Memotoo, but I’ve been trying for 2-3 months to get an answer from the developer … last ask was July 24th and no response. Perhaps you have come across this and know the answer.

    I am using Memotoo to sync two Google contact lists. Since I’ve been using Memotoo there are mysterious situations where the changes entered in one Google contact list “overwrite” the record in the other. That’s OK until there are changes made to the contacts in BOTH Google contact list. So the question I have asked, for past a month now is … how does Memotoo handle conflicts when changes are made to the same contact in different Google contact list but NOT directly in Memotoo?

    • Bruce says:

      First of all, thanks for reading and for commenting. Sorry to be late getting back to you.

      Memotoo uses name plus email, if the record has both. If not, it uses name only. (Which means, of course, that you can’t have two contacts with the same name and no email, which is just silly.)

      As for your question about double conflicts — as far as I know, it goes by the last update (date and time). So, it just assumes that the last record update is the right one. Again, not necessarily the best choice.

      The developer is, indeed, hard to get hold of. I suspect that he is getting to the point of diminishing returns, and is putting less time into the project. I don’t know that; it’s just my suspicion.

      And finally, just a comment about your situation. Since you are making the edits to the contacts yourself, couldn’t you just decide that one list was going to be the primary list, and edit only the records in that list? Just sort of wondering out loud.

      I’ve added an app called CircleBack, and will be giving it a try. If it works to replace Memotoo, then I’ll write about it in a few weeks. Stay tuned!

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