Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Ghosts in the Machine

It used to be that I'd get queries and submissions to the wrong address because folks were using out-of-date guidebooks like the WRITER'S GUIDE or Jeff Herman's book. Not that these are always out-of-date, but if the year is 2009 and you've got the 2004 edition of either of those books, chances are people have moved.

Now, though, I get Google Alerts about me and my firm that show websites that are horribly out-of-date and you just know authors are using them and still sending queries out to my New York address. No doubt the gentleman who lives there now is sick of getting that mail. Thus I urge you to always use the latest primary resources, like my website, and not third-party websites or old guidebooks.

The other "ghost in the machine" I seem to be running into a lot is Plaxo. Plaxo, if you don't know, is a lot like Facebook, except that it also tracks pretty much anything you would track in your address book. The goal is to have one central phone book, really. If you are on Plaxo and you move, you update your info with Plaxo and then all of your contacts who are also on Plaxo will get an update that you moved. Great, right? Well, the problem is that Plaxo is now trying to be Facebook and stopped letting you send out requests for address updates. Now you can ask folks to "connect" with you, which means they have to join Plaxo. Okay, that may or may not be better than the Plaxo update requests. Depends on your viewpoint I guess. But this is what kills me. Well, two things:

1. People join Plaxo and input their info like they are a ten-year-old texting. Like this:

john doe
555 Anywhere st
new York, ny, 10029

As opposed to:

Mr. John Doe
555 Anywhere St, Ste 305
New York, NY 10029-0567
+1 (212) 555-8989

Now why is this important? Because people who are actually using this information on a daily basis would like to not have to clean up your sloppy entries, just like editors don't want to clean up sloppy manuscripts. If I'm a businessperson trying to write you a letter, I would never use version one; I'd use version two. But if YOU PROVIDED VERSION ONE in Plaxo, am I to blame if I use it and you think it looks like crap? Garbage in, garbage out, folks. Keep that in mind if you are going to use these services.

Second thing is folks that don't update Plaxo when they actually move. There are apparently millions of Plaxo users. You likely know some of them. If you signed up for Plaxo then have the courtesy to actually keep it up-to-date. Otherwise, delete your account. For example, I know a very bright editor who took a much better job, but he never updated his Plaxo entry. I even sent him a reminder about it, because Plaxo is CONSTANTLY trying to change his info back to his old firm in my Outlook.

C'mon, Bruce, you don't work at S&S anymore. Take five minutes and put your Harper info in there, okay?

The point is, with all of the services out there from Plaxo to Reunion.com, from websites you voluntarily put your info on to those you did not (hello, anywho.com!), it has become up to us, the end users, to police the world wide web and keep our info up-to-date or private. Your choice. But if you get an email from me asking you for your latest info and don't reply, then by all means don't be surprised if you never hear from me again. I'm probably sending everything to the wrong street address!



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