Saturday, July 22, 2006

FRM: Friend relationship management

Sometimes I think of how convenient it would be to have a database of all of the random facts I hear about people. For example, if you find out someone's vegetarian, you could file that away in a database forever. Basically, CRM (customer relationship management), but for friends, not just customers. You can sort of do this with Outlook or any other program that stores contacts—I already store certain hard-to-remember things like birthdays and middle names there—but it's clearly not designed for storing peoples' dietary restrictions, religions, current significant others, last vacation spot, and so forth. A dedicated program, probably with some kind of mobile component (for your smart phone or PDA), would probably be better. (Or, perhaps an Outlook add-in.)

But there'd be one huge problem if such software became prevalent: suddenly, potentially very personal information about you is everywhere—on your friend's home computer, office computer, PDA, and cell phone. And maybe on his friends', depending on how easy it becomes to share this information. Maybe something that will happen in the future is that people will just give their friends access to a variety of personal information about them stored in some central location, and then increase access level as the friendship develops. Today, many people's phone number is a kind of token that proves that the person likes you at least somewhat. Perhaps other "tier 1" information could include a middle name and dietary preferences, but later on that person might allow you to know somewhat more personal information like T-shirt size. It would have to be simple, popular, and pervasive for that kind of system to work, and I don't think it will happen anytime soon. But it's something that may happen someday. Perhaps with social networking experiments like Facebook, we're on the first stepping stone to having a wide variety of personal information available someplace in a standard format, meted out to people who have earned trust and respect.

But people are fickle. While nerds love to adopt technology for technology's sake, the system won't really work if only nerds use it. Normal people would have to use it. (Well, okay, I could probably get by if only nerds used it, since I rarely talk to people who aren't at least somewhat nerdy.)


Steven said...

I think dentists, and family doctors do that kind of thing. When I went to the dentist last week he asked a bunch of 'get to know you' type of questions, and it made me wonder if he is going to go write it down so that when I come visit next time he can take a brief look at his notes so that I think that he actually remembered me and our conversation.

I guess I'll find out in a few months.

I've thought about doing tha tkind of thing before... but I don't think I would keep it up-to-date anyway.

Anonymous said...

Hey, are you saying I am slightly nerdy? I object!