You've got a meeting in 15 minutes. You know who else is going to be there, but imagine whipping out your phone to get more context: what have the other meeting attendees posted this morning on Twitter, what have they written on their blogs, what were the last email threads you were on with them and what events did you last attend together?
Research in Motion, the parent company behind the Blackberry business smartphone, is betting that its customers (and would-be customers) would like to be shown this kind of information about their contacts quickly and easily. That's why the company has acquired Gist, a Seattle-based startup that provides just such a service.two months ago when he first reported it was underway:
For RIM, the idea behind acquiring Gist would be to possibly re-invent the phone address book and make it integral to its core offering. It would actually make a lot of sense for RIM to do this, as it plays to its core strength - namely, messaging. By making the address book more networked and more social, RIM can build a social inbox, much like the one being championed by Facebook.
A few thoughts I've got about Gist that seem worth articulating, in case the service disappears into the borg of the Blackberry:
- Will the Gist apps on all the different platforms, from the iPhone to Outlook to Gmail to Android, continue being offered? Supported? Developed? Hopefully. Neither company said so explicitly in their announcement posts, though that's clearly a concern of the commenters on the Gist blog.
- I like the idea behind Gist, but I can never get myself to use it regularly and it doesn't work as well as I'd like it to. People become associated with RSS feeds of old employers and I can't edit their profiles from my iPhone. I too seldom make calendar events using peoples' real email adresses and there's a requirement that structured data be used in order to get the maximum benefit from it. Do you find yourself using Gist regularly? I've trained the system even to know who is most important to me (it did a fair job on its own) and yet I still don't find myself using it often enough. Presumably Blackberry will bake the technology into its OS much more intimately.
- One of the cool things the service does is the little game that encourages you to name the people in your contact list by looking at their avatar and then picking out their names and employers from a list. How quickly can you identify people and how often can you get these quick picks right? I find that fascinating, even if the feature was never fully developed.
What about you, readers? Do you want an adress book that tells you the recent Tweets, posts or Facebook messages of the people you're about to call or reading emails from on your phone? I love the idea, but I'm not sure how viable a compelling execution is right now.