‘Keeping in touch’ and doing it well, is hard.
I’m not talking about being passively aware of what someone you went to school with is up to because you saw an update on Facebook/LinkedIn.
I’m talking about staying close friends with the people you really care about, the people you’ve been through things with – that holiday to Portugal in 2007 or that night you all went out dressed in white ladies silk pyjamas.
Our complicated modern lives mean we often have different groups of people we meet, in different places (e.g. travelling) and over time (e.g. university). From each of these groups we usually have a small number of people we’re closest to. It’s these people I want to ‘stay in touch’ with as time and geography march on.
The problem I have is all about visualisation and mental accounting.
“When was the last time I spoke to Hamish? Was it last month? I need to give him a call and see if he’s in town for a beer next weekend.” I tend to hold all of this information in my head and then have a sudden pang that I haven’t caught up with someone for a while.
To solve this I came up with On My Radar
The idea is you see at a glance who is drifting away from you (because you haven’t spoken to them in a while) and use it as a cue to get in touch.
The interface is your own ‘radar screen’ with a limited number of your closest friends on (because if you’re honest – you’re only really close with a fraction of your 500 Facebook friends) and their avatars get bigger as time passes and they move away from you in the centre. Once you get in contact with them through the app (text message, call, email etc), they move back to the centre.
If you and your closest friend are separated by a continent and five timezones, an email or Skype call usually has to suffice but if a friend is closer to home, meeting up in person is the best way to catch up. Given that, some of the guys I spent time with on the FounderBus trip last year (yes, I’ve had this idea for a while and been lazy with it!) suggested you could pull in a local event stream to provide a venue/purpose for meeting up.
Why haven’t I built this yet?
Executing is harder than dreaming and there are a few services I’ve come across that almost provide me with this ‘keep in touch’ utility:
All have elements I like.
RelateIQ, geared towards professional teams, does a particularly good job of providing a list of the things you need todo today by semantically analysing the content of communications (“You should get in touch with John because you said you’d get back to him in November”.)
I look forward to a time when I can completely outsource my ‘who do I need to catch up with’ mental accounting process to an app or service. In the meantime, I’d love to hear how others manage keeping in touch with those closest to them, do you have a system or is it all ad-hoc?