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Nov 16, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

As the warm days of summer are coming more scarce, its time to start thinking of your yearly contact cleanse. I just completed my annual cleanse of my contacts. It is a problem all sourcers encounter. Our contacts are spread across dozens of websites with restrictive data policies, device, sim card contacts, phone contacts (not the same thing) and many social media and professional networking websites.

For the last few years, my sourcing toolbox hasn’t changed very much. However, I did switch to the paid tier of FullContact last month when they forced all users with more than 1,000 contacts to upgrade. I have been FullContact when it used to be called Rainmaker, so I know what to expect from it. You import your contacts directly from the websites that allow it and import the ones that don’t, all while deciding if they should be kept separate, or merged into your master contact file. In return, they augment your contacts with public data from the web. FullContact also syncs changes directly to your Google Contacts. If you use the Gmail extension (and pay) they will parse email signatures automatically into your contacts to update or create new contacts.

This process merged almost 1000 duplicates from my contacts. My caller ID for phone and text messages now work properly.

So we’re all done, right? Not really. For all this tool does, it still does not let you import Facebook contacts or clean up sources that sit on your phone. The next step is to install the iPhone or Android version of contacts optimizer by famous forensic analysis firm MOBILedit. The same folks that make software forensics used by detectives and the FBI to offer an end-user application to tidy up those external contacts.

Here is my workflow:

1.   Back each source up to excel (Toolbox >backup/transfer)

2.   Find Duplicates

3.   Merge “Similar Contact” will take time and patience. Here it will look for patterns not noticed by Google or FullContacts as duplicates including Maiden Names, Empty Names (Thanks, Google Plus for that garbage), and professional titles falsely imported as last names (Thanks LinkedIn for people named LION, MBA, and PHR)

4.   Move your contacts (Toolbox > Move all contacts) to your phone’s synced Google Account (if you copy them, you will not solve them problem)

5.   Repeat for each data source

6.   Daydream about the ABBA reunion tour

7.   Review and merge your Google Contacts

8.   Find the model number for that yellow, indestructible Walkman

9.   Review and merge your FullContact

  • I skipped the option to simplify phone numbers, Internationalization, and Capitalization. Simplify phone would be great if the powers that be redesigned the official vcard format to include phone extensions. You can play with the other options if you have the time.
  • Steps six and eight are optional, but you will need to wait 15-20 minutes.

In the past, I have also gone out of my way to pull Facebook contacts by syncing with Yahoo email, but many of my Facebook contacts don’t have quality contact data, and if I have ever emailed them I have their contacts already.

FullContact uses version control backups of your contacts automatically, so you can download and restore your contacts if you mess up.


You can’t fix stupid (AKA  – what this does not fix)

LinkedIn has a ridiculous way of handling names means that non-unicode symbols turn into garbage. With LinkedIn, you are also stuck with professional titles in their name since changes made to your official contacts will either be written over the next time you import your LinkedIn contacts or a duplicate will be created.

Phone number formatting is best done in excel, but again failure to sync correctly can lead to messes. If you want to full OCD with this, best to export, delete, fix, and import in FullContact at your own risk.

Old work email and phone numbers can also be cumbersome. Again, blame the vcard mafia for that. There is no way to distinguish an obsolete email or phone number. In the past, I have deleted them, but consider how keeping those data points allows for better search and recovery of that old contact into a new lead. You can custom rename a field, but those custom fields rarely map between tools, and seriously who has time for that?


Sync you very much. If you notice the contacts rebuilding in a bad way over time, the most likely culprit is a phone app that syncs with your contacts in read/write mode. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter offer Read Only, which is not really sync! it is just an excuse to build on their social graph.

Sharing is caring. There are tools that exist to help you share your contacts with co-workers, but these monthly services like that get pricey and complex to build. Once you pick a standard format, you can build a mega collection shared of contacts with excel or Google Sheets. But it is not as easy as it sounds.

You shouldn’t bother with Apple or Android desktop software unless you are nostalgic for the days of driver issues, apps that require the reboot, and general disappointment. Opening Itunes is a great reminder why Apple is hardware company now.

Outlook 2010 users take a look at “suggested contacts” folder and drag-n-drop the good ones into your Contacts folder.



An easy jab here on software automation since this requires some serious manual tasks, but they are doing a good job overall. I feel the issue is the lack of a microformat standard that matches the complexity of social interaction that takes place today.

If you are in need to clean up your Chrome Extensions, check out this article from Dean Da Costa.

Don’t forget to read the discussion on LinkedIn Pulse.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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