Ever notice how MS Office can import umpteen different document formats but export options are pretty much limited to Microsoft formats (by the way, rtf is a Microsoft format)? This is by design. Smart companies have realized that data is an asset, to use strategically, including as a barrier to keep customers from jumping to the competition.
Why data portability does really matter
The ability to transfer data from one application to another, data portability, is becoming an issue for users on the social web as they try to find the social and business contacts they cultivated on one social site on other social websites. Contacts accumulated in Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and similar sites don’t happen by chance. They’re the fruit of socializing with friends and professional networking over time: activity such as photographing the moment, speaking at conferences, contributing at barcamps, and, why not, just being simpatico. Activities people do, not Facebook, not LinkedIn, not Google+. A social website is just a container, albeit a significant container. If a user has worked hard to fill the container, they should be able to transfer their contents, at will. That includes priceless contact information which has been shared with them. The user shouldn’t be locked into the container.
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It happens to every company and / or professional which wants to promote their products and services on social networks: they are asked to permit the social network to access a contact list in order to find contacts which are already on the social network and to invite others to join them on the social network. A find contacts feature can be an excellent opportunity to quickly grow presence and influence on a social network, but it is also a process that contains many potential pitfalls. The sections that follow consider some of the most important traps and look at how the use of a temporary webmail mailbox can help in avoiding many problems.
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