a new angel came down from web 2.0 heaven this week. a new social crm plugin for gmail provides a 360 view of people with whom you correspond. but is the full monty treatment appropriate for all your contacts? and what are people seeing about you? never heard of rapportive? well, they've heard of you, and they're sharing that info with all your gmail contacts.
rapportive, a service that integrates with gmail, got fabulous writeups. the next web was among the first to trumpet the news: "gmail gets a slick social crm tool. you're going to like this." "stop what you are doing and install this plugin," gushed readwriteweb.com. and so on.
what is social crm? in this case, it's the ability to see what social channels one's correspondents are using, along with information collected from those social channels. rapportive adds a widget to the gmail interface (click on image to see larger):
naked to the world
cool beans, yes? well, kind of. let's take a closer look. rapportive found a pretty good picture of me on my linkedin profile. it found my birthdate somewhere or other and did the math. I don't much care if people know how old I am, but the placement is a little prominent. I think the work history comes from linkedin, as well. trouble is, it's not very current. to look at this, one would think I was still fighting the good fight to make a mortgage company look pretty. um, not since 2008.
the twitter handle? not me. the myspace account? not mine. hmm.
how do they know?
I tweeted my curiousity about where rapportive was getting its info and, more importantly, how I could correct it. I was impressed by how quickly rapportive's founders got back to me through twitter and by email. the information, they told me, came primarily from a site called rapleaf.com. rapleaf appears to be some kind of scraper site on steroids. it searches up and down the lonely corridors of the interwebs looking for email address. my yahoo address was in my google profile, so apparently it looked for that, too. I secured btodd early on (a college nickname), and have been plagued since then by mail intended for every idiot in the universe with last name todd, first name starting with b, and an inability to correctly enter their email address. thus the bogus twitter and myspace. but I digress
there is no way to edit information in one's rapleaf profile. cup half full? it offers a preview of what the private eye will turn up for your divorce trial. but overall, not a good situation. the guys at rapportive tell me they are working to bring editing to profiles. that's good.
don't use gmail or rapportive? you're still in the crosshairs
the profile at right is for a professional contact. I was very surprised to see her age - she looks and acts far younger. I'm not going to visit her bebo profile or myspace page. but I could, and so could anyone who receives correspondence from her. what if the information is erroneous or incomplete, as on my profile? the millions of people who don't use gmail or keep up with social networking stuff are unknowingly providing access to personal information.
what about those who are part of the social media set? skillful personal branders and the like? how will they deal with a social profile outside their control? is this how chris brogan wants to appear? no smoking guns, to be sure, but the new media labs twitter handle is at odds with his formidable personal brand. or jeff cutler? it's no secret jeff drinks a bit, but surely he's more than just a billboard for a brewery?
especially after the recent furor over google's buzz service, the absence of any contrary opinion about a service I see as far more intrusive and arbitrary is surprising.
what do you think? are you using rapportive?
note: research for this post was gathered by my amazing girlfriend and sleuth extraordinare alice hanes. if you want to find out about something (or someone), hire her.