What I Shed Today

lightening up a little at a time

outdated and duplicate contacts

on April 7, 2014

I was satisfied with my system for managing my contacts on my BlackBerry (recently retired and replaced with an Android phone). It was a little complicated, but gave me what I wanted. Research in Motion never got around to porting Linux versions of their software, so I installed the BlackBerry Desktop Manager in a WinXP virtual machine in VirtualBox. I had to use version 5.0 of the Desktop Manager, because RiM removed the key feature with 6.0 and later updates. But DM vintage 2009 could sync the phone’s contacts to a .csv file. I opened that spreadsheet in LibreOffice Calc, and cheerfully updated and sorted with the conveniences of a full-sized keyboard and screen. Not incidentally, keeping the .csv file gave me a reassuring backup, locally and on a cloud server.

Now it’s a whole new game. One appeal of the ‘Droid to me is its integration with Google apps, which I’ve used heavily for years. But I haven’t cared for Google Contacts. Its acquisitive habits continually dumped clutter into the database, and the interface hasn’t given users a lot of control. Though Google’s improved it, I’ve mostly just ignored that tab over there in the Gmail sidebar.

I can’t ignore it any longer. As soon as I signed into my Google account from the phone, Contacts moved to the center of my information management. It synced everything it had collected in “My Contacts” over the years to the Android device. Much of that is either stale or utterly useless to me.

The first thing I did to try to make it better was import my BlackBerry .csv file. But the translation only worked for names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses; everything else landed in a notes field. Since a lot of those names and e-mail address were already in Google Contacts, I wound up with hundreds of duplicates. It’s a mess.

So for this evening’s shed … (sigh) … I’m down in the belly of the Google Contacts beast, separating the wheat from the chaff. I’m glad to discover that the “merge contacts” feature works pretty well. I still have a couple hundred contacts to edit, one at a time, on the web interface if I actually want mail addresses to appear in the proper fields. I’m considering going back to where I started (yes, I did export a backup before I dove in!) and attempting the import again with a more massaged source file. And then exporting the Google Contacts again so I can use my old trick of dealing with the data in a spreadsheet.

However I work through it in the end, for now I can count several hundred trash contact entries deleted. I’m virtually lighter!

shedding style: throw away
destination: the bit bucket

Comments welcome … would your contacts file benefit from a data diet?

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3 responses to “outdated and duplicate contacts

  1. Anne Lene says:

    After an upgrade to newer version of outlook at work some programmer obviously thought it a great idea to add the feature in the new version, that anyone that ever contacted you (for one reason or another) would be automatically added to contacts! What the…!!!! Well trust me when I found out, I turned it off, but now my contact list is full of people I have no clue who is :-( the cleanup is in my list, right after I have done all my email cleanups: http://minimalistsometimes.com/2014/03/20/7535/

    I have done a bookmark cleanup though ;-) http://minimalistsometimes.com/2014/02/27/bookmarks/

    • revdarkwater says:

      Oh, gosh, e-mail … I think sometimes, “I’ll start chipping away at it 100 per day.” But the physical de-cluttering often seems more present and urgent!

      • Anne Lene says:

        I agree with physical de-cluttering, but my mailbox was close to 20000 emails, yes twenty thousand, that was not a zero to many ;-) and it was weighing me down a LOT (as much as physical stuff)… :-/

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