If only there was a good way to keep track of people and organizations. The good news is that there is. The bad news it that there are many such ways.

This post focuses on three web-based services for managing contacts: Highrise, Nimble, and Contactually. To be more specific, the focus is on free web-based services for managing contacts. You may not need such a service to be web-based: indeed, you may find an address book, made from dead trees, to be more than adequate. You may have decided that your email service gives you all the online contact management you need. But the premise of this post is that you want a contact management service other than the service provided by your email.

Each of the three services (again, that’s Highrise, Nimble, and Contactually) is freemium: there’s a free version, and one or more versions for which you pay, and which give you more than the free versions gives you. I focus here on the contrast between the free versions. I’m trying them out for contact management. So I provide here a view from the low end of the target spectrum, since they are mainly services for Customer Relationship Management (CRM), which the respective vendors are selling into businesses.

Highrise is Simple CRM by 37signals: that’s how 37s describes it. I’ve been using the free version for contact management for a while. I haven’t had problems, but will bump against the 250 contact limit for the free version if I use it in earnest. 37signals is keen to upgrade me to a paid option such as Plus (20,000 contacts, $49/month) or its suite, in which Highrise is one of four services.

Nimble proposes that you “Turn Your Social Communities into Customers”. It brings together contacts, calendars, and conversations from services including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. The free version allows up to 3,000 contacts, which will be more than enough for me to be going on with; the paid version is $15 per user per month. Nimble was recently written up at TechCrunch and elsewhere, since it raised $1m in funding from notables including my former colleague Don Dodge.

Contactually (also recently at TechCrunch) is the newest of the three CRM/contact management services. It proposes that you manage relationships “right in your [email] inbox”. I haven’t had time to use it much yet. I should note that I emailed support soon after singing up, and receiving a helpful and friendly reply a few hours later, in the early hours of the morning. That’s not due to a different timezone: Contactually is a local (to me) business, being DC-based.

Now, I should stop writing this, contact some contacts, and look out for any comment you might wish to post here…

Favorite Photo of 2011

December 21, 2011




Flora in Foreground, Fauna in Background

Originally uploaded by AndWat.

… Was taken by my daughter Maddie, 7. I am the fauna in the background.

So, you’re on the web (or you wouldn’t be reading this) and you need to identify yourself to various web services and to various web readers, many of whom are real human beings. I was enthusiastic about OpenID a few years ago. But OpenID resonated with only a small and rather specialized subset of people.

Most people want to use an online identity they already have, or are already considering having, rather than forging a new “one identify to rule them all”. That cuts the field down rather drastically.

Maybe you want an identity that is lightweight, in the sense that it doesn’t carry the burden of private information. That’s an argument against Facebook, which seems to want to be your identity and to gather somewhat private stuff about you.

Fred Wilson argues that the lightweight criterion suggest Twitter as identity provider.

Twitter is default public and everyone knows that’s what it is. Your Twitter identity is the lightest weight, most public, and therefore the best identity on the web.

I’m inclined to agree with Fred. How about you?

In the years I’ve been blogging about social media, even before we thought that Web 2.0 was a cool and cutting-edge term, ReadWriteWeb has been among the feeds I follow. So I knew (or at least emailed and otherwise interacted with) Richard MacManus when he was an ambitious and hardworking blogger. I continued to follow RWW as it became a new media property (whatever that means) and added staff, such as Marshall Kirkpatrick.

I’ll continue to follow RWW as it moves into the third stage. Having been a blog and a media property, it’s now part of a media empire. RWW has been acquired by SAY Media.

Richard, sincere congratulations. I hope that this is a very profitable event financially. I also hope that it is not an exit from RWW for you as a blogger.

It’s time to stock up on t-shirts, and also time for a sale at Threadless. The sale end is due to end at the end of tomorrow (Monday), and the design is “Larry the Fox Doesn’t Feel So Clever Anymore.”

I see that today is the 6th anniversary of my very first Threadless order. Back in 2005 I lived in Boston and had only one kid; now I’m in Bethesda, Maryland, have two kids, and have seen a lot of other changes in those years. So has Threadless, although still has its community rate the submitted shirt designs.

Another social media site so old it can remember when Web 2.0 was a trendy term is Reddit. I see that I’ve been a redditor for 6 years. Mu current favorite subreddit is Breaking Bad, to which members submit links relevant to the excellent TV show of the same name.

The image shows one of my favorite recent submissions. It turns out that the original was sold on Etsy, “the world’s homemade marketplace”, and another older-than-6 social site. By the way, I did search for Breaking Bad t-shirts, and there are some out there, but none of them edged out the shirts I liked at Threadless.

This very blog is currently hosted at WordPress.com, which is run by Automattic, another social web company that passes the rather arbitrary 6-year test. Congratulations to the four above-mentioned veteran firms, and to other who have been around that long: it’s been a long and interesting passage of time.

Google Music launched to a rather lukewarm reception. Don’t Be Too Disappointed By Google Music’s Lackluster Debut was the advice from TechCrunch. Here’s How Google Music Plans to Compete So Late in the Game was the slightly-perkier reaction from RWW. GigaOm was rather more upbeat:

The service mirrors smilar offerings from Apple and Amazon, with a unique social twist: Users will be able to share their purchases on Google+, giving their friends and followers a chance to listen (one-time only) to singles and complete albums for free.

So essentially it’s a music locker linked to an MP3 store (i.e. Android Market). We can browse, sample, and purchase. The browsing works fine. The sampling, not so much, when I tried it on iPad: the browser-based player seemed to think it was playing, but there was no sound. Playing is fine on the Windows/Chrome setup I’m currently using. The Google Music/Android Market apps won’t work on my Android phone, but then, not many recent apps work on a G1…

I tried music purchasing in two ways. First, I compared Android Market MP3 prices with Amazon. Amazon was usually less expensive; for example, Laura Veirs’ Tumble Bee is $9.49 in the DroidMart, rather than $7.99 at Amazon.

But I did already make one purchase from Android Market: Los Campesinos!’ Hello Sadness for $5.99. I’ll get round to making a Google+ playlist including tracks from this, and other music I own, soon. Right now, I’m uploading a lot of music from disc, while barely making a dent in the 20,000-track Google Music allowance.

I feel rather overwhelmed, in a good way, by the options open to the web-based music listener. I’m not blown away by Google’s offering right now, but will keep on comparing it with Amazon’s – and with Apple’s, and Spotify’s, and with other – and plan to post as I compare. I’m interested in your comparisons also, so feel free to post them as comments here.

HTML5 kills the blog format! That’s the hope, if not quite the prediction, made by Scott Fulton at RWW. There’s a lot to like about the post. For example, Scott acknowledges that it’s strange to wish for the death of the very format you are using to express your wish.

But I’m not sure that Scott is aiming the HTML5 gun at the appropriate target. He detests “the fast food of today’s publishing society.” So do I, but blogs are, by today’s standards, leisurely and thoughtful repasts. His main complaint, though, concerns formatting.

The blog format relieves publishers from the tiresome duty of producing covers and front pages and things to make their content more attractive and make readers want it. In some cases, it enables publishers to surrender any responsibility for making content attractive in the first place.

This may have been true a couple of years ago. But it ignores the work done at WordPress, Tumblr, and other platforms to provide tools for the management of content – including the very aspects on which Scott focuses.

If Scott wants to aim to HTML5 gun at any platforms, for the reasons he states, then he has at least two targets more appropriate than blog/content management platforms. I refer to Facebook and Twitter. Each enables and hosts the production of vast amounts of fast food, in generic containers.

I expect to be blogging, probably using WordPress, for years after HTML5 makes its mark on the web. I’m less sure that I’ll be using Facebook and/pr Twitter that long. How about you?

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