Syncing into oblivion
There were hoods over the parking meters. All parking near the building was reserved for special permit holders. My meeting was in two minutes and suddenly I was having to go hunting for parking in downtown Boulder for a meeting on the University of Colorado campus. This could take a while.
So naturally I wanted to call to say I would be a few minutes late. I pulled over and dug out my Droid. But when I opened up my contacts, I realized I had a problem.
Android 2.2, or the Twitter app I had installed, had synchronized all my Twitter contacts into my Contacts directory. That is thousands of people. And of course I don't know most of them personally, so all these entries had were avatars. What's more, when I found the contact I was looking for, the useful information — phone numbers, email addresses — was missing. Here I was pulled over, barely out of traffic, looking for a phone number and my "helpful" device had synchronized me into oblivion.
Thankfully the email app remembered his email address, so I dashed off a quick note that I would be late, and drove off to park.
Are more connections better? When Google Buzz decided to make all my email contacts into Buzz contacts, that was not helpful. These were different worlds that Google decided I should have mushed together. No thank you! When I tried to enjoy the convenience of XMarks to synchronize my browser bookmarks across browsers and machines, I ended up with a cascading mess of multiple copies of all my bookmarks, replicating over and over and over with every sync-up. I'm still trying to clean up my bookmarks, and can't find anything I had anymore.
Today a CU student told me that Facebook is not a good way to promote things because everybody's doing it, and it's so much noise that everybody just ignores it. She even unfriends people who promote too much. Merging business-world marketing into social-context social media does not work for her or her friends. (And they "hate" Twitter.)
First we had a proliferation of community sites. Then we had a proliferation of social networks. Having to register for each and every one — and fill out profiles over and over — was a pain, so the sharing of contacts and content across systems has an appeal. But when the social networks decide how to do that merge, it can become a mess — due to technical glitches or simple misunderstanding of what users want.
I found the setting to disable contact sync with Twitter in my Droid settings, and the option to remove all those useless contacts … which promptly crashed my phone. Now my Contacts don't work at all, and I get warnings that "phone storage is low". No shit.