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Thank you Plaxo: You synchronize my life

For years I have wanted this service. Some promised, but no one delivered. And now along comes Plaxo.

I remember Plaxo a bit in the same way that I remember PointCast. PointCast was really a first generation RSS reader, in that it would go out to various websites and pull down new content, new articles that were published. I don't recall all the details, and probably never knew them anyway, but I do recall that PointCast went down in a ball of flames, largely because the whole "push" model went down in flames. I was disappointed when the IT director started to block PointCast traffic, and then I realized that it was happening everywhere, and PointCast fell away.

Now of course Plaxo is a much newer service, but in a way, I think the name still carries some "first generation" baggage with it. Plaxo used to be about keeping my address book up to date; it would walk through my contact list and email everyone in there, giving them the option of updating their own information. I liked the idea initially because it pushed the problem out where it belogned ... to the owner of the information. You know if your information is up to date, and you can quickly re-enter it for me, thank you.

But soon Plaxo got a bit of a bad reputation. People got sick of receiving the self-updating invitations, and many spam filters started blocking Plaxo traffic. It seemed to many, especially with the upsurge of social networks and free competition from CardScan, that Plaxo would die a slow death, or that it was already dead.

Not so! Plaxo came back a few months ago with a 3.0 beta product that is now central to my life. They have identified out a most difficult problem: synchronization across home and work. So now I have Plaxo running on my MacBook Pro at home, my iMac in my home office, and my Outlook at work. Not only that, but it is connected in wild and wacky ways with my Google GMail account, so now my Google Calendar and Address books are automatically synchronized with my home and work life.

And everything is all good. No longer do I have to wonder whether something I create at home will be sync'd with my work calendar. No longer do I actually have to fire up Outlook or Outlook Web Access to set an appointment from home. I simply enter it anywhere ... on my iPhone, on my iMac, on my MacBook Pro, on my Google Calendar, or on my Outlook at work, and it magically appears everywhere else.

It's missing a few things in my view. For example, its duplicates tool is not good enough to be useful, and I think it needs a sort of audit service. I have 1000 contacts, and I'm sure there have been a few mistakes in sync'ing; I have found some entries that are total nonsense, so I wonder if there may be some bugs. Also, Plaxo does not sync photos from my Mac address book. I know that Outlook doesn't have photos as an option, but both of my Macs do, and my iPhone does, and I'd like to sync them.

Customer service is also on Plaxo's radar. I had one inquiry that went well beyond their promised SLA. I emailed their "Customer Advocate" after not getting my response in time, and I got a response pretty quickly.

Notwithstanding these glitches, this is a service that I love. They have overcome their own first generation hurdles and created a new product that solves a big problem for me, and I hope they are successful forever. Amen.

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