I’m not attending Mobile World Congress this week and rather than blog about news from Barcelona which will be admirably covered by my MIR colleagues on the ground there, I thought I’d pick up on a related subject – contactability. One of the interesting points I’ve picked up from tweets, blogs and conversations is the number of devices people are taking with them – maybe not surprising really as it’s a mobile show! Delegates are of course keen to avoid being stiffed by the mobile networks’ roaming charges and therefore many are using local Spanish SIM cards, travel SIM cards and mobile VoIP like Truphone. However with all these handsets and SIMs comes the problem of making your contacts aware of the best numbers to use at any given point in time. Plus of course there are all the other contact methods that we use.
This reminded me of an issue I faced at a billing conference I attended a few months back in Budapest. I had a number of contact methods whilst I was there - two mobile numbers, DeFi VoIP number, Truphone and of course Twitter, Skype etc. At the last minute I even acquired a Budapest number for my MAXroam SIM thanks to Pat Phelan. So what’s the solution in this situation? What I lacked was a simple method of making these numbers and IDs easily available and, as important, controlling which ones were available at any point in time. Of course this idea isn’t just relevant to conference visits; most of us are acquiring more and more contact methods for everyday use without even realising it; and with no consistent way of making these methods available to our friends and network.
Services like LinkedIn, Facebook and Plaxo don’t fulfil this role because they’re designed with different objectives in mind and don’t make simple contact data easily available. I thought about posting my contact data to my own website but that isn’t designed for easily changing contact data availability and doesn’t provide any privacy functionality. Better to use a system that’s designed for contact data management ‘out of the box’.
To test out a solution to this theory I’ve started to only give people my .tel address. A quick check of my .tel will only show relevant contact details at that point in time and because .tel is mobile optimised my data is available very quickly and I can be contacted via simple click through. I can manage the availability of individual contact methods in real time via profiles, so for example if I’m not online I can hide my Skype details. Of course there’s an education process here but as users start handing out their .tel addresses people will increasingly start to see the benefits. Okay this solution won’t work for MWC this year because .tel doesn’t go live until towards the end of February (existing IDs like mine are part of the beta) but plan ahead for your next trip. In fact, why give out phone numbers at all – just point people to your .tel so it becomes your preferred contact method at all times. Of course some of your details will be private and not something you want to share with everyone so .tel uses a simple system of friending to protect items of data that are only available to specified people.
If you’ve got any solutions to the multiple contact method dilemma do share them here.
Jonathan’s also at jonathanjensen.vip.tel