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Time to Re-Address Address Bloat

Have you looked at a colleague’s business cards lately? Once pristine, with a simple name and mailing address, today’s business cards feature a litany of links and social networking connections.  Some of them have forsaken the physical address, replacing it with a list of every social network in existence. Others, who can’t let go of the physical, have business cards that are approaching War and Peace-like length. For example:

Name – Address – Company – Title – Email – Personal Email – Phone – Cell Phone – Twitter – LinkedIN – Facebook – IM

And on it goes. It’s no longer a business card, it’s a biography. And who’s that important that they need to be contacted seven ways come Sunday?

But, besides being a sensory overload, the biggest bother about business cards that go on ad nauseum is that they’ve stymied most attempts to automate their entry into a contact database.

Here are a few of the options I’ve tested:

Electronic signatures using cut and paste: Slow and tedious. You mark the signature information in the email, copy to the clipboard and paste into a contact manager. Then you manually stick the correct information into the correct fields.  Accurate but painstakingly slow. EHow offers some good tutorials on variations of the cut and paste theme.

Business Card Scanners: I use an early version of Neat Receipts. The problem isn’t with the scanner; like with most card scanners, the scanned image of the business card is pretty good. The problem is parsing the information from the card into your contact manager. Most card scanning software understands a name/address and phone number, but from there the results disintegrate. You wind up fixing many entries manually.

Mobile Phone Apps: I use CamCard to take photos of business cards with my Andorid mobile phone. A free Lite version of the program gives you 10 scanned cards followed by 2 per week. You can upgrade to the full version for $11.99. Once you use your camera to snap a photo of the business card, the image goes into a special CamCard database. The database is pretty smart: you can decide to email, look them up on LinkedIn, IM, map the address, look up the contact on the web, or heaven forbid, actually give them a call. The downside? You can’t sync this with other databases easily.

Gwabbit App (and PC versions): With email signatures, I use Gwabbit. I’ve used it since the day it launched and it keeps getting better. Gwabbit works with Blackberry and Microsoft Outlook. It sits on the toolbar and with a single click it captures the signature information and organizes it into your Outlook address book. If it messes up an address – say it doesn’t recognize a Twitter or Facebook – you can go back to the signature, manually highlight it, and click. This usually remedies the problem. The company says it’s at work on a new version of the program that will be better at parsing weird addresses.

Gist: Gmail users tend to like Gist, an add-on that lets you bring your contacts from all of your social networks and email into one place. But that assumes your contacts have already found your way into these lists.

And to get your contacts out of your social networks and import than into your contact database is pretty simple. Just export your database into .CSV file and then import it into your contact database.

Hoping the next generation of contact managers gets smart about complex addresses and taking info from multiple places.

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