[Web Informant] 14 October 2009: How to extract your LinkedIn contacts

David Strom david at strom.com
Wed Oct 14 16:33:00 EDT 2009

Web Informant 14 October 2009: How to extract your LinkedIn contacts

If you have spent any time online using social networks like LinkedIn
or Facebook, you know they can be difficult to grow your network and
add contacts. But even harder is the ability to extract your contacts
once you have built up a reasonably sized network. None of the social
networks makes it very easy to get this information.

Why would you want to do this? Several reasons. First is the peace of
mind that you have control over your own data. Should you decide to
leave the network, or should the network decided to leave you (either
for cause or for lack of funds to continue operations), it would be
nice to have your contacts tucked safely on your own hard drive.
Second is the ability to do some targeted marketing emails or just do
some research: none of the networks has the right search fields when
you need to find everyone that lives in a certain area with a certain
job or works for a specific company. Sometimes I can find people on my
network using the search tools, but often I can't. And wouldn't it be
nice to see if everyone that is on your LinkedIn network is also on
your Facebook network? Or not, if you are still trying to keep these
two separate?

Before you hit the reply key and tell me that there are several
different services that allow for you to synchronize your contacts,
that isn't quite what I mean. Yes, there are services such as Plaxo's
Pulse and MyOtherDrive.com that allow for synchronization of your
desktop to their cloud-based contact list, but that is usually in one
direction only (Pulse offers de-duplication services and better
searching tools if you want to pay them for a premium membership.) Say
I don't want to have anyone from my last employer on my LinkedIn
network, because I left that job under a dark cloud. (Purely
hypothetical, of course, not that I am saying that this ever happened
to me!) It isn't easy to find this out with these networks, even if
you do know how to manipulate their complex privacy settings.

So if you are still reading down here, I suggest you take a look at a
Web service called Open Xchange, at ox.io. You can set up a free
account and within a few minutes have it setup to automatically bring
in all of your contacts from Google's Gmail, LinkedIn, Facebook, and a
few other places as well. What is more important though is that you
can easily publish all this information (or some of it) to a Web site,
or download it to a comma-separated file, so that you stay in control
of your data at all times.

OX is the same technology that is white-labled by Network Solutions
and 1&1 Internet as their own email services. You can also purchase a
software license if you don't want to run it across the Internet and
on your own Linux servers. It has a lot more under the hood, including
plug-ins for Microsoft Outlook, import/export of calendar items,
iPhone apps and a shared document repository. If you want to get a
feel for the software, go on over to my screencast video that I just
finished on the product here:

(And while you are over there, if you haven't seen these videos, you
might want to browser around, or better yet, hire me to do one for
your company's product.)

I am glad to see products like OX take hold: all of us need better and
more open ways to control our contacts.

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