February 3, 2006

San Franccisco Reawakens the Need for a Smart Address Book

I am back home in Bethesda, Maryland from my trip to the San Francisco Bay Area this week, coming only a couple days after getting home from Seattle. Today I was wiped out, some from the travel itself (red-eye overnight flights and getting up at 4 am on the East Coast to catch planes), but mostly from 19 to 20 hour days this week. The brain begins to go a wee bit with this shift.

I met with many wonderful people and had great conversations and business meetings, as I always do in the San Francisco Bay Area. The downside it WiFi networks blocking secure connections. I have had more mail blocked or "reached my quota" notices to fill a year all in one short trip.

Need for Better Mobile/Portable Communication

I also realized we (those of us that are not always stuck at a desk or have friends or collaborators that are not stuck at some desk) need much better communication. We need an address book and multi-medium communication tools that are a hell of a lot better than the poorly thought through mess we currently deal with. I was needing to repoint a group of people from one location to meet-up to another at 4:30 for a 7:00 gathering. People may not be pulling e-mail (which I did not have access to the account I sent the initial e-mail from and that caused 6 of 15 sent to bounce back with spam challenges, which I did not get on my mobile device for some very odd unknown reason).

Solving Communication with People in Digital Context

What is the solution? Again, (again that is for those that heard or read my Design Engaged presentation on Clouds, Space & Black Boxes, that I have yet to write-up, but come to a same conclusion for a very different reason) I know we need a very smart address book. We need an address book that has exhaustive contact information, should the person permit us to have this information, for their communication devices and means of accessing them. The address book should have contact rules based on that person's preferences. Connecting to a calendar for that person could instruct our address book the best means to connect to this person. Another alternative could be a ping service that our address book queries that tells our address book what is the best means of contacting that person.

Smart Address Book Contents

Once we have a smart address book that has all of the rules, or could be easily updated through the same ping service for the address book, we prepare our message and our address book selects the best means of contacting that person. We would have some information going out to e-mail, a blast SMS/text message to mobile devices, voice script that gets dropped directly into voicemail, calendar updates, etc. Not only should our networks (WiFi, mobile device, broadband mobile, etc.) not inhibit out transmissions, but our devices should use the best or a combination of messages that work for that person, based on their current context.

The Smart Address Book in Action

Simply it would work like this (any device will do - desktop, laptop, mobile, etc): We create a message we need to send and mark it with the proper urgency and time to live (Tuesday night the message had 2.5 hours for time to live). In our address book we select the people we want to receive the message. Our address book pings that person's communication priority file, which checks who we are requesting the ping, the urgency, and the time to live of the message. The response back to the ping weighs our request and based on the person's preferences and availability (calendar or live settings) and a rating of how good we are in their eyes we are with our requests. The response tells our address book the preferred method(s) of contact for the information. Our address book adds the address/routing for the message in that person's preferred interaction mode and sends the messages. The smart address book and message preparation can be done on a device or on an external service. Either way we should easily have the ability to do it from any device we have at our disposal.

This should some much of the information routing problems we have. If our smart address book could also capture some of the addressee's preferences and rules it would be helpful too, such as they do not answer their home phone, but may answer their mobile phone, but their preferred method of hearing from us is IM or personal e-mail. I have really been noticing in the past couple of years that the world is made up of text people and voice people. It is all about preferences and understanding personal need and personal interaction efficiencies.

Attention to Personal Information Workflow

The rules could also account for often to contact a person when you have not heard from them on a request or deadline. There are cracks in life (some very small and some large) and things fall into these cracks. The smart address book and messaging system could trigger follow-up based on one's own known personal workflow.



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