Virtual Extension of my Brain?
February 19, 2010 10:32 AM   Subscribe

How can I keep track of all the people I meet, and things I know about them? There are so many people.

I'm looking for a way to keep track of people, and projects and things that I have going in my life. A virtual extension of my brain if you will.
I've looked into Personal wiki's. Tiddlywiki and the like. I just cant seem to find an implementation to stick to. I'd like something I could just have locally. Web access would be a plus.

I just want to be able to remember things I've learned about people, and relevant information on projects and whatnot.

Anyway, I'm sure a lot of you have systems similar and I'm just wondering what has worked for you.
posted by lakerk to Technology (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Evernote sounds like it would do what you want. If it's just people you are talking about, maybe contacts in an ipod touch or iphone or something like that?
posted by AltReality at 10:36 AM on February 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Well for keeping track of people and what you know about them a CRM is a good place to start. (Customer Relations Manager).
You can also use it to keep track of projects, just think of a project as a sales order.

Now, for something less structured and enterprisy you could use Evernote.
OneNote on windows. Journler on Mac.
posted by digividal at 10:37 AM on February 19, 2010

There's always the business card method. Tall. Beets.

Are you looking to do this solely in a business context? Obviously facebook is perfect for this on a personal level. Linkedin isn't terrible on the business end, depending on how prevalent it is in your field.

For the most part, a lot of the important things I need to remember are discussed via email, so gmail's search function does wonders for me. I'll occasionally reply to myself in a conversation to add in important information, often phone numbers in the like, so I can immediately find them later. A little bit of mastery of some of the searching tips and tricks in gmail goes a long way.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:37 AM on February 19, 2010

Always carry a small, thin Moleskine and a pen in your pocket (an inner jacket pocket works best, weather permitting). Reserve that notebook just for details about other people. Take notes whenever you get a chance. If you prefer business cards and scrap paper (stray receipts, &c.), you could store them in one of these.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:45 AM on February 19, 2010

Do you have a good smartphone or PDA? Does it allow you the flexibility to manage your contacts and projects?

I'm a Droid user and love the integration with Google Contacts, Voice, Gmail, Calendar. I'm also an Evernote addict and nth the recommendation. I use it through a web browser, phone app, and desktop app. It's a lifesaver.

With Google Contacts you can add notes to your contacts. With OneNote you can create org charts if you like. With Evernote you can add a tagline to their name to act as a mnemonic.

Can you take pictures of your contacts? Facial recognition is much better than looking at someone's name for bringing back social recognition.

One thing I used to do before ubiquitous smartphones was to keep a textfile with people's numbers on it, grouped by social or work circles and with phone numbers listed. It forced me to arrange them in ways that made sense to me, and I would dial their numbers manually to help to remember them. It also helped as a backup in case I lost the phone.

You can also use a basic HTML editor and some free hosting space to create a mobile portal for yourself. Once you run through the process, it's very simple.
posted by sonicbloom at 10:52 AM on February 19, 2010

In professional settings, Outlook is a great tool. You can record information about people using Contacts, you can assign tasks to yourself, or deadline notifications, and you can assign tasks and contacts labels.

In my personal life, I use Gmail contacts.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:13 AM on February 19, 2010

I knew someone who kept notes about all her friends/acquaintances in her Outlook contacts. Every time she meets someone or gets a business card from someone she may have further contact with in the future, she makes a contact entry for them and includes any important details about them in the Notes section... birthdays, husband's name, children, doctors who were recommended by which friends, etc. Seemed to work for her.
posted by wondermouse at 12:18 PM on February 19, 2010

In a similar question asked before, ACT! by Sage has been recommended for Contact management specifically. Alternatively you may want to try business contact manager for outlook as well.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 12:34 PM on February 19, 2010

I've been thinking about the same thing. I don't have solution yet, but some requirements that I think will be important:

- It keeps the data in some kind of standard open format, ie the database is multi-platform and not tied to any particular software. This is so that five years from now, I'm not trying to keep some ancient computer or smartphone running just because the person-database software was never updated and doesn't run on modern operating systems any more, or if I've gone Mac<>PC at work, or whatever.

- tags. So I can search for people by things like how I know them, or where I met them, etc.

- works on smartphones. I don't have a smartphone, but I can see that having this database portable would be useful, so I'd want something that will enable that for if/when I do get a modern phone.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:37 PM on February 19, 2010

I use Business Contact Manager (BCM) in Outlook 2007 to keep track of information regarding business and professional contacts. I have also used it as a job search manager to keep track of leads, opportunities and other information with regard to the job.

As a personal rule, I make notes in outlook contacts personal and business to keep track of information about people.

A feature I like about BCM is it gives me an opportunity to rate my contacts, mark them as leads, active or not, this really helps in keeping in tune with my contacts.
posted by VickyR at 12:53 PM on February 19, 2010

I would split information on projects and contacts and not attempt to tie them up in one database.

Project information could be printed into pdf using cutepdf writer (for free btw) and place that info in a folder. Or, you could use OneNote.

For contacts, I'm monitoring this question for answers myself.....
posted by iNfo.Pump at 1:10 PM on February 19, 2010

For keeping track of people, and your interactions with them, Highrise might be helpful. For keeping track of projects, perhaps Basecamp?

I have been meaning to write my own system with a SQLite backend, but haven't got round to it. However, my `interim solution' of a SQLite database accessed through Base is considerably better than my previous non-solution.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 2:08 PM on February 19, 2010

Microsoft OneNote is a really good brainstorming/organizing type tool. I use it for almost everything I'm learning/doing.
posted by amsterdam63 at 3:21 PM on February 19, 2010

I like Google contacts synced with my Blackberry for this purpose. I used/was trained by some ACT! professional for a job and didn't like it much. It may be more updated now, but I thought the interface was kind of bleh.
posted by ishotjr at 6:59 PM on February 19, 2010

Found Contact management system examples for you
was surprised to know there was a wiki on it!
posted by iNfo.Pump at 8:01 PM on February 19, 2010

Take a look at LinkedIn, if networking is what you're looking for. Otherwise, a WordPress site might be up your alley as a way to keep in touch. Both are free.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 12:28 AM on February 21, 2010

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