Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tagging for contacts

Has any one else had this problem? You need to IM someone and you can't remember which group you filed their name under. I realize that if I just kept an alphabetized list, and I remembered their name this wouldn't be a problem. However, sometimes it not that I’m looking for a particular person, but someone on a particular team.

Basically, what I’ve found is that I want to attach “tags” to my contacts that describe attributes about that person. Then I can find people by my own “folksonomy” whenever I need to. This would allow me to “query” my contacts (or IM client) by a “tag”. So I could say, “Show me all the architects at AOL that are currently online?”. It also allows me to do queries like “Does Bob have an ‘Extended Family’ tag?”. This is really a membership query and can be thought of as “Is Bob a member of the group ‘Extended Family’?”

Combining tags with contact data allows for all sorts of interesting capabilities. For instance, my Adium IM client could query my Portable Contacts service for all contacts with at least one IM identifier present and return all IM identifiers and tags. With this information Adium could auto-create groups, show me a “tag-cloud” of who’s online, etc. Another use would be true access-controlled sharing of protected resources. I’ll have another post on that soon.

With the emerging Portable Contacts specification, I think there is a great opportunity to enable this kind of capability in an open standard. The portable contacts spec already supports both tagging and filtering. What is a little unclear from a quick read of the specification is whether filters can be combined. However it should be easy with this specification to support the queries listed above. For a membership style query, the following should suffice...


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