I Want My Integration

Loraine Lawson

Recently, one of my favorite online productivity tools, I Want Sandy, e-mailed me to announce it's shutting down. Sandy was a virtual assistant. I would forward the site appointments with a little note: "Sandy: Remind me of this appointment Wednesday at 10."


And she would sweetly reply: "Salve, Loraine! I scheduled this for you..."


Then, come Wednesday at 10 a.m., I'd get another friendly reminder, this time with German:


"Guten Morgen, Loraine! You asked to be reminded about ...."


I could even use Sandy to remind other users-such as my husband-about things I wanted done - such as the dripping faucet fixed.


I loved it.


When I received notice that I Want Sandy was shutting down, I assumed Sandy was another victim of the economic recession, and mentally wished her the best at the unemployment line.


Then I read the real reason for Sandy's abrupt departure: Twitter bought out Values of n, which built I Want Sandy and Stikkit. Twitter opted to turn both sites off for good.


I thought it was a bit rude, especially since Twitter doesn't serve me half as well as Sandy.


A recent Technology Review article suggests these buyouts "were more about acquiring talent and technology than about investing in viable new businesses."


I can only dream of a day when Twitter will be useful for reminding me of stuff I have to do, rather than distracting me with tweets from Santa Claus and the occasional integration news.


I've abandoned more social networking sites and online productivity tools than most people ever hear about. I was on Facebook before any of my friends, who, inexplicably one day in March, started to use Facebook for everything. (Okay, maybe it wasn't literally one day in March, but it sure seemed like it.)


Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn, del.icio.us, Remember the Milk - all of these sites have features I like-but frankly, I forget them because they operate in a vacuum.


I know there are gadgets I can download to integrate Twitter with Facebook or Twitter with my browser. But by and large, these integration tools are often built by civic-minded end users, and tend to be a bit temperamental to use.


At one point, Twitter integrated with Gmail, and my usage of Twitter picked up. But even that gadget was testy, and Twitter eventually shut the tool down.


My Web 2.0 problems may soon be solved, however. According to Technology Review, many in the Web 2.0 space believe the next year to two years will see consolidation, particularly among social networking sites. I feel bad for the start-ups that gave us these cool tools, but consolidation could be good for users and the Web 2.0 companies. We might even stumble across that sweet spot called, "Useful."


Or, as Charlene Li, founder of the social media consultancy Altimeter Group, told Technology Review: "These companies had really interesting features and services that are much stronger being part of an existing service that has a lot of people using it."


So maybe it's not a bad thing if we see some consolidation in the social networking, Web 2.0 space.


Of course, what I want isn't really consolidation. What I really hope to see, what I actually need, is integration. Wouldn't it be great if I could build my social network-maybe even manage my personal and professional social networks-without maintaining five or six sites? Or if these sites would, like Sandy, help me manage my actual workflow or accomplish something - but within a site or application I already use?


For instance: Why won't Twitter help me remember appointments, a la Outlook or Sandy? Now that, I could totally use.


The one exception I've found is FriendFeed, which seems to exist solely because of this Web 2.0 integration gap.


I can't help but think it's ironic: These sites are designed to connect people. They're called "social networking sites." And yet, each functions as its own island, as if the rest of the Internet didn't exist.


Remember the motto on Lost, season two: Live Together, Die Alone? Too bad social networking sites apparently missed that episode-and the moral.

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