Manging Contacts in our Cloudy World

Back Story

Winter holidays are upon us, and for many of us in the tech scene that means doing some techsupport to improve our loved one's lives (and decrease the risk of headaches in the coming year, converting into phone calls when we don't have cycles to deal with that).

Contacts... A while back I settled on managing my contacts in a centralized manner where I could have them available in an omni-device manner (mobile, browser, thick-app). Tifoil aside, this allows me to have the same information everywhere, and implement a consolidated managment process.

In mom's case, she's got a primary Gmail account, a sunsetted Yahoo account, iCloud (thanks, Apple...), and a work Exchange account. Naturally, iCloud took over everything and made itself the default, and she's got contacts in the other two accounts. She uses a Macbook Air with a browser and the contacts app, an iPhone with all the accounts configured, and who knows what else in the wild. This is a scenario I see in many people's experience, and it's something that's not simple for them to figure out on their own. I've been putting this off because the solution is unique to each person's current technology choices and preferences.

This solution requires the following components:

  • Centralized contact storage (cloud)
  • Contact management interface(s) (web, app, etc)
  • Contact API (CardDav, etc)

Mom's Case

The snowflake of a situation at hand is the following:

  • Devices:
    • Macbook Air (Yosemite) - Contacts (app), Messages, FaceTime, Gmail web, etc
    • iPhone: Contacts, Mail, Messages, FaceTime, WhatsApp, etc
    • Everywhere else: browsers, etc
  • Accounts:
    • Gmail - active, many contacts
    • Yahoo - sunsetted
    • iCloud - becamse default contact repository on the iPhone, causing pains elsewhere
  • User's Preference (mom)
    • Gmail for everything
  • Requirements:
    • Reconcile, merge, and centralize all contacts
    • Configure all devices to use the same contact management approach
    • Success

Game Plan

Given the above, here's the plan to get everything consolidated

  • Configure all the accounts on the Macbook's Contacts app
  • Export contacts from all accounts except for Gmail (vCard)
  • Import contacts into Gmail contacts
  • Clean up unused accounts
  • Clean up duplicates in Gmail account
  • Configure Gmail to be the default account on all devices

Averything worked as planned, and the Conctacts app on OSX Yosemite even warned about duplicates and gave an option to merge/delete - nice!

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