In its current form, the service polls your Gmail and LinkedIn accounts to understand who you're connected to and how good a job you're doing at staying in touch. They apply a proprietary algorithm to generate a red/ yellow/ green coding for all your contacts, where 'red' indicates that you've fallen out of touch, 'yellow' that your communications frequency has declined, and 'green' that you're doing a good job maintaining contact. Not rocket science, but a very useful tool for those who try to maintain relationships across a large and diverse group of contacts. As a further value-add, the service also provides a real-time news search engine for each listed contact, offering one-click access to topics that might spark a fresh conversation.
As a standalone service targeted at sales, recruiting or business development professionals, SocialMinder offers real, if limited, utility. But the foundational ability to merge and parse your personal contacts and message history, with the additional capacity to integrate additional data about your contacts (including relevant news items), opens up a much richer set of possibilities. I riffed on this larger vision - and some of the datastores I'd like to see included - in a previous post; as I wrote at the time:
"[t]his integrated personal data store will become the foundation of a personalized analytics, recommendation and content creation engine that can only be gestured at using current examples."It's smart of SocialMinder (and others working the same seam, like Last.fm, Xobni, Wesabe and Skydeck) to carve out a single, narrowly-defined value proposition for their first release. But I'm expecting the clear line dividing these services to blur over time, and a new market for personal data management and analytics to emerge, building on the capabilities (and APIs) of these standalone offerings.
The pace at which this is all happening - where ideas that seemed like science fiction not that long ago are now visible on the horizon - only reinforces the sense that the future is coming much more quickly than most people expect.