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There are some things I wish would just go away forever. Business cards are one of those things. I stopped carrying them several years ago and simply give people my email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) as my primary contact data. But at the end of every day I have a handful of cards to deal with. Sometimes it is one or two; often it is a big pile.
Yesterday I was at the Xconomy Big Data Conference in Boston. I was the lead off keynote speaker so I decided to spend my 30 minutes doing a rant on Big Data that I started off with the line “Big Data is Bullshit.” It was fun for me and I hope useful for the 500 people in the audience.
I ended up with 20+ business cards from people who I talked to in between sessions. During the afternoon, I took a photo of each of them with my iPhone, emailed the photo to email@example.com, and then tossed the card in the trash. I now have a photo of my card on my iPhone and due to the magic of the FullContact CardShark API the data was automagically turned into a vCard and a Google contact. I got emails back with each card, clicked one button on the email, and voila the contact data was in my Gmail Contacts data.
My friends at FullContact talk about how they do this in their post If Only CardMunch Were An API… Oh Yes We Did!. When CardMunch first came out I was a happy user. I struggled some with quality, but put up with it because it was better than the alternative. I stopped using it about six months ago due to reliability and the overly tight integration with LinkedIn at the exclusion of other approaches.
- Take a photo of a business card (two photos if it’s a two sided card)
- Email the image(s) to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Wait a few minutes for the reply email
If you are a web developer in Boulder who does stuff with APIs, I encourage you to join our friends at Singly on Thursday 7/26 at the Bitter Bar from 5:30 – 8:30. They are building an organic network of friends and evangelists around APIs and looking to have a conversation with anyone interested. Several Foundry Group companies who are API-centric will be there including FullContact and SendGrid are co-sponsoring the event and helping to promote it.
When: Thursday July 26th
What: APIs and IPAs. Free drinks and appetizers; Sign Up Here
Where: Bitter Bar Boulder | 835 Walnut Street | 5:30pm – 8:30pm
Singly is an API abstraction layer and data service for developers who are building apps that consume data from multiple authenticated/private social data sources. They handle/unify auth, data syncing, unified access patterns for query, cleaning (deduplication, etc) and storage. In general, they are seeing more apps being built that are “smart” apps that create new data/experiences drawing from the growing body of already generated data/experiences and are aiming to make it increasingly easy and cost/time efficient to do so.
It’s 2012 and the “contact information problem” is getting exponentially worse. I’ve personally been struggling with this for 20+ years since I remember going from a custom database we built at Feld Technologies (in DataFlex) to Act! to try to manage the contacts across the company. While all the technology has changed, the problem has gotten substantially worse, as every web-based and mobile app now has some kind of contact info associated with it.
Today, there is no single authoritative contact record for an individual. I’ve been through a bunch of different iterations of technology around this such as SAML, FOAF, and Oauth. I remember Firefly and Passport. I’ve been involved in a number of companies who have tried to build “clean contact lists” and tried virtually every service I’ve ever run into. I’ve completely fucked up my address book more than once, especially as I tried to wire in data from other services that use Oauth or an email address to join data across web services. And yet we still have address blocks in emails, vcards, and crappy, incomplete, and incorrect data everywhere. And I still get referred to as Brad Batchelor in physical mail that I get from Wellesley College (which both Amy and I think is cute.)
Nothing works and it’s just getting worse. Fragmented data, incorrect data, changed data, duplicated data – it gets proliferated. All you need to do to see the core problem is look at the same data for a person in LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Multiple email addresses, lots of different contact info, time-based information that isn’t treated correctly, and huge errors all over the place.
That’s why we’ve invested in FullContact. They are on a mission to solve the world’s contact information problem. Imagine a unified address book in the cloud that has perfect information for every single person with a contact record of any type. This unified address book is continually updated, cleansed, enriched, and validated. It integrates with every web-based or mobile application that uses any sort of contact data, and it is available to every developer via an API.
This is a massive data problem. The team at FullContact is approaching it as such. It’s one where the machines do all the work and don’t rely on us silly humans, or the IT people, to change behavior and systems. For a look behind the curtains watch this short example from FullContact’s Identibase.
If you are a developer, FullContact’s goal is for you to use their cloud address book via their API. If you are an individual, you can use the FullContact cloud address book as your source address book. And if you are a business, you can finally get a unified contact management system across your organization without having to do very much. Data will automagically get cleaned up, enriched, de-duplicated, validated, and backed up, making it easily accessible in any context.
We’ve gone after the world’s contact information problem a number of times in a number of different ways over the years with different investments. We’ve never been involved in conquering it and it’s just gotten worse. This is the first time I feel like we are investing in the right approach to solve the problem once and for all.
Oh – and we love the team. If you want a fun view of why, take a look at From Basements to Brad Feld: The Story of 126 NOs and 1 Big YES.
I love Fitbit. The product is great, the team is great, and I’m psyched to be an investor. I’ve been a user for a while – my data is public – but I just recently started using the food tracker which is superb. The only thing that was missing for me was an API.
Fitbit released the Fitbit API quietly a month or so ago. I’ve encouraged them to make more noise as some great applications are coming out. I use two of them – Earndit and the Fitbit Low Battery Notifier by Joshua Stein. There are a bunch more coming but I thought I’d encourage any of you out there who care about human instrumentation to take a look and consider integrating with Fitbit.
And, if you want the best fitness and sleep tracking product in the universe, go take a look at the Fitbit.
My friends at Orbotix are hiring. Following is the list of open positions. If you fit the description, like playing with robots, want free beer all day, and live in Boulder, email them a note with a resume.
- Game Designer: Are you passionate about gaming and have a deep understanding of game design and game mechanics? This isn’t a programming job but you will need to be able to create wireframes and rough graphics for games that bridge the gap between the virtual world on your phone with the physical gameplay aspects of Sphero.
- Android Game Developer: Same as the iPhone developer but on the Android side.
- Social Media & Marketing Manager: Do you love robots, toys, and games and can think of nothing better to do than talk to people about them – both in person and on Twitter, Facebook, and a blog? If yes, then this is you!
- PHP Developer Internship: This paid internship is for someone fluent in PHP development who can help manage the Orbotix web sites.
- Marketing Internship: This paid internship is for someone who will be working with our marketing manager to promote Sphero.
Orbotix has some exciting announcements happening in the next 30 days; if you’ve been waiting for the right time to join a hot startup in Boulder, now is the time. And, if you are at SXSW, go hunt down the Orbotix gang and participate in their “Where are my balls?” contest to win a free Sphero.