The phrase "the Rolodex era" popped into my head this morning, and here's some results I get when I search for it.
What the digital age can learn from the Rolodex era, Full Contact:
Old school salesmen took notes on business cards, but you can enter your notes electronically. Did your new contact mention their hobbies? Their blog? Their personal Twitter and Facebook pages that weren’t on their business card? How many kids they have? What apps they love to use? If you take the time to store this information, you can review it before your next meeting and then add personal touches to the conversation. People want to do business with detail-oriented people who care about them as a person.
9 to 5, The Musical
Based on the hit 1980 movie of the same name, this outrageous, thought-provoking, and even romantic musical features 12 original songs by Dolly Parton, including that famous title tune. It is the story of three unlikely friends who conspire to take control of their company and learn there's nothing they can't do — even in a man's world. Set in the late 1970s, 9 TO 5: THE MUSICAL is a hilarious story of friendship and revenge in the Rolodex era.
Facebook for Lawyers: Don’t overlook the efficiency and power of a network on Facebook, Virtual Marketing Officer, 2011
Then I thought, how much better than the previous, one-dimensional Rolodex era! As a marketing director in the era of the ROLODEX, I would sometimes suggest to lawyers that they go through their Rolodex contacts once a week and choose someone to call up just to say,
“Hello, how are you doing? I was thinking about you and thought to give you a call.”
This suggestion was more often than not met with three objections: (1) I don’t have time (2) I don’t feel comfortable doing that, and (3) what would I say after hello?
A New Era for EMILY's List, American Prospect, 2010. Holly Yeager writes:
As I noted in a July 2008 piece for the Prospect, EMILY's List faces significant challenges, none more important than whether its Rolodex-era fundraising techniques are suited to the Internet age.
While the group sometimes ventures online, "most of its money is raised the old-fashioned way, through the mail and one-on-one solicitations, which remains well-suited to the donors the group taps," I wrote.
My conclusion from this little foray is that the mere mention of a Rolodex makes something sound outmoded, but also that people and organizations that had a good Rolodex strategy could be extremely effective.
I wrote an early review of Contactually, and I signed up for their pro service after the trial period expired. I used the system for a couple of months, but have decided to back down from the pro version back to the free version for a while. Here are some reasons for that.
First and perhaps foremost, Contactually is relatively expensive at $20/mo. I looked at what I was spending (or not spending) on other internet services that I use and like. I don't have a Flickr Pro account, but I used to, and I could get a year of service for less than two months of Contactually. Similarly I could renew another year of Pinboard pro service for less than two months of Contactually. It's not that it's expensive in absolute terms, but relative to other things I want to spend money on online, it looks spendy.
Second – and this is as much of a criticism of my habits than of Contactually – I never really managed to get it to systematically unearth new people to contact that had fallen off my radar. Rather than provide an ever-changing set of new folks to prod me to reconnect with, it seemed to recommend the same people over and over. That was useful at first to be mindful of people a second time if I had passed them by the first time, but the net result was that there were fewer people than I expected that Contactually re-introduced me to.
I have an Android phone, and Contactually doesn't yet have an Android app. I don't think that's a deal breaker, but I'm hoping that they come out with something that's awesome – and I'm willing to re-up for pro service again in order to try it out if that's what it takes.
I'm still unhappy overall with the state of Android contact managers. I would have thought that everyone ever designing a contact manager would have an updatable field for "last contact date" that had some kind of easy to view screens to see how you're doing, and that would be smart about noticing phone calls, emails, text messages, and meetings from your calendar. Hey, you could do that even on paper rolodex cards! Contact management basics need to be better across the board so that your phone can prompt you on who to call next, a sort of predictive dialer for your life.
Facebook announced a new search tool today that lets you search through your "social graph". Techmeme's front page has plenty of commentary.
I wrote myself this unpublished note about it a few years ago, which looks pretty much spot-on now:
For each person in your rolodex, draw a little graph of how they are related to others. There might be a few or there might be a dozen links you'd want to make explicit, and each link would have a name so the edges of the graph are also labelled.
Then, when you want to surprise someone with a plausible association, or bring someone to mind who had been lost to mind, you shuffle the rolodex and unearth the connections that had disappeared but that because of your graph will reappear.
Of course "rolodex" will never show up in a Facebook press release, and the fact that I even mention it makes me look old.
There's a great use of the term in an LA Magazine review of "Run Lola Run":
Lola tosses her red phone up in the air and instantly goes through her mental Rolodex of possibilities. Faces flash on the screen. She decides to hit up her banker father and darts out of the house.
Credits: the "mental rolodex" term is one I heard first from Terry Bean, who used it at an LA2M presentation. It's also from Rebekah Burgess's weblog of the same name, where she is doing a daily photograph and filing that away for reference.
And kids, if you don't know what a rolodex is, it's from the days when people had land lines phones only and their phones were so dumb that they didn't have an address book built into them. Instead, they wrote down phone numbers on little pieces of specially shaped paper, and those pieces of paper fit into a clever device that could be flipped through or (in ultra cool setup) spun like a Ferris wheel.