A Nimble Way to Manage Your Online Social Life

Artwork: Chip Taylor
I don't know about you, but lately I've been suffering a failure to communicate -- and it comes from having too many ways to do it. Tweets. Facebook updates. E-mails to six different accounts. Skype chats. Google voice. Text messages. Sometimes I even manage to talk to people. But mostly the efforts of the world to reach me pile up unread and unresponded to, because it's too much damned work to keep up with them all.

Part of the problem is that I need to use different tools (or sites) to get at each type of communication. Thus we come to today's TY4NS topic: a cool new "social CRM" tool called Nimble.

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Started by Jon Ferrara, one of the brains behind GoldMine -- the original 1980s power PIM and the forerunner to today's Customer Relationship Management software suites -- Nimble picks up where GoldMine left off those many years ago. Back then, contact management was all about email addresses and phone numbers. Today it's all about Twitter feeds, Facebook status updates, and LinkedIn resumes (as well as email addresses and phone numbers).

So this is what Nimble does: It gives you one-stop shopping for all your social contact needs -- essentially, one Web site to rule them all.

Nimble universal inbox

I got an early look at a private beta of Nimble, which is set to launch publicly next month. Right now it offers the ability to get your Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn feeds inside one universal inbox, as well as manage all of those contacts from one location. Later on it will add support for other services such as Skype, Ferrara says.

Better yet, you can take one contact from, say, your Twitter posse, and merge it with their Facebook or LinkedIn persona in one contact record -- then view all of their social activities on one screen.

Anything you do in Nimble is automatically transferred to those services. So if you read or delete a Gmail message in Nimble, it's marked as read or deleted in Gmail. You can update your Facebook and Twitter status directly from Nimble, or retweet nice things other people say about you (assuming they say nice things). You can Like things and comment on Facebook posts.

You can do the same with Google Calendar. Enter an appointment in Nimble, invite some guests from your contacts list; and it's there in Google when you look for it.

However, I did say Nimble was still beta. As I write this, the site isn't ready for prime time just yet. For example, I had problems importing all of my contacts into Nimble. Linked In and Twitter, no sweat. Facebook and Gmail ... sweat. Also: Creating new appointments and exporting them to Google Calendar worked great. Importing existing appointments from Google to Nimble, not so much.

Ferrara says some of this has to do with limits placed on the services' application programming interfaces; their APIs are deliberately throttled to prevent being overrun by requests. Some of it has to do with the fact that Nimble is still a work in progress.

Ultimately Nimble will be aimed at workgroups, so you can use it to not only manage contacts but also assign tasks and manage them as well. At that point it will likely be a paid service, similar to Salesforce.com. But individuals will always be able to use it for free, says Ferrara.

And then, maybe, I'll finally get to all those messages that have been piling up on me. Possibly before the end of the next decade.

ITworld TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan is not ignoring you, really -- he's just still going through his unread e-mail from 2007. Catch his brand of juvenile snark at eSarcasm (Geek Humor Gone Wild) or follow him on Twitter:@tynan_on_tech.

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