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Google Contacts syncing issues with the iPhone

Google iPhone SyncFor some time, I’ve had a major productivity issue:  the phone numbers (and in some cases email addresses) of all of my contacts that I keep in Google Contacts were not synchronizing with my iPhone making it pretty difficult to make calls on-the-go.  After a decent amount of searching, I found a lot of people having similar issues but not a clear path to fixing it.  It seems it is a known issue and centers around inconsistency in how Google contacts and the iPhone handle contact fields, the number of fields that will synchronize, field labels, etc.  More concerning, most people who were able to fix their issue did it manually by editing every field for every contact in their address book to use one of Google’s default fields.  This is an extremely painful and tedious process, and could induce sheer madness for anyone with a sizable number of contacts.

The quick summary is, from what I can tell, that Google will only synchronize fields that meet their standards (Home, Mobile, Work Fax), and most importantly, case sensitivity matters.  So if you imported from another address box, your fields may not be matching up even if they are named ‘home’ and ‘mobile’.  Those will be ported into Google Contacts as custom fields and custom fields do not synchronize.  This also applies for the field ‘other’ which seems to causing a lot of people angst as well.  Also note, that Google will only synchronize a certain number of fields such as phone numbers and email addresses.

Finally, I came across a post by Seth Jaffe (thanks Seth!) on a message board that outlined an easy way to make a lot of changes to your contacts in one pass.  I used the basis of his post to fix the issue for myself and thought I would pay it forward with a post outlining how to fix this for yourself if you are dealing with the same issue.  Note, this should only be a fix if you are synchronizing your contacts from Google Contacts to your iPhone (which you can learn to do at MacTalk or here at Google if you are interested).  Also, disclaimers apply.  Back up your data.  I don’t want you go from missing a few data elements to missing an entire address book!  Okay, here we go…

1.  Export your contacts from Google – Click ‘My Contacts’, Click the ‘More’ button and ‘Export’.  You want to export as a Google CSV file.  When it gives you a choice, most of you will want to pick “My Contacts” as the group you want to export as it will be where most of your contacts are.  To be safe, I recommend you do this process twice and also export as an Outlook CSV as well.  This way you will have a back up for either Google or Outlook if disaster should strike.

2. Save the Export to a file – You will need to save the export to a location on your computer and should end up with a file named “google.csv”, but you can name it whatever you want.  Just remember where you saved it.

3.  Open in Microsoft Word – Because it is a .csv file, most of the time this will open for you in Microsoft Excel.  You don’t want to do that, for some reason it did not work for me.  (another alternative would be to open the comma separated file in a standard text editor as well)  In the case of Word, simply Right Click and open it with Microsoft Word instead.  Note, the information in the file will be comma separated and will be all jumbled, don’t panic, this is okay.

4.  Search and Replace – Now use search and replace in Microsoft Word to change a lot of the fields so that they are in the format that fit Google’s defaults and thus they will synchronize over to the iPhone.  Here are a few examples to give you an idea that I used:  Replace all instances of ‘mobile’ with ‘Mobile’, Replace all instances of ‘home’ with ‘Home’, replace all instances of ‘other’ with ‘Work’.  This should get your contacts file to be in the right format.

5.  Save the file – Save the file but be sure to save it as a different file name, like GoogleNew.csv so you don’t overwrite your original.  Microsoft Word will probably add the suffix .txt on the end of your file name if you save it in text format.  Just go to the file where you have it saved and rename it so it ends with the .csv extension only.

6.  Delete your Existing Contacts – You’ll want to delete all of your existing contacts in your My Contacts group because you want that folder empty when you import all of your clean data back in and avoid a duplication issue.  Again, make sure you’ve backed up your data before deleting.  You can do this by clicking “My Contacts” in Google Contacts, selecting all and deleting.  You’ll probably need to do this for several pages if you have lots of data but it is not that bad.

7.  Import your file – Once you have an empty “My Contacts” group, you are ready to import.  You do this by clicking “My Contacts”, then clicking the “more” button and then import.  Choose the file that you created. For example, GoogleNew.csv.  And then click ‘import’.

Once you do that, it should pull in all of your contacts from the new file into your “My Contacts” group and if already have synchronization set up on your iPhone, Google will begin synchronizing your data over to your phone almost immediately if you are on wireless.  You can make sure if works by going into a few of your contacts and you’ll notice the data fields showing up and synchronizing with the right information.  Hope this helps some of you that have been having the same synchronization issues between Google Contacts and the iPhone.

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Google Heads

Yet another very obvious sign that Google is having a profound effect on our society and culture. I believe we all need help. :) A cute video from 2006.

Metrics-Driven Innovation

Recently Marissa Mayer spoke at the Google Developer I/O Conference. This video has been promoted elsewhere but I thought it was worthwhile to promote again. The elements of web innovation and design approach, using Split A/B testing and the value of metrics is simply too important in our industry to go unnoticed. I think when people look back at Google’s success, their analytical approach to testing will go down as one of their key pillars. Eric Schmidt discussed its importance recently as well.

Here are some of the highlights from the video that I thought were great:

  • Story of why the Google home page is the way it is
  • The fact that Google even A/B tests white space; imagine testing negative space as a practice
  • Number of search results on a page; this is a dangerous one to blindly follow because I think it depends on how much data is on each search result but Google’s finding through regression testing that there is direct correlation between number of search results and results on the page
  • Making a product faster, you get that back in product usage: SPEED MATTERS!

Definitely check out the video, Marissa covers a lot of other interesting topics beyond the analytics as well discussing things Google is considered and how they are viewing things.

The story was also covered over at Yahoo!

Google Idea Factory

Shawn Boyer handed me a copy of BusinessWeek last week because it had a good interview with Eric Schmidt regarding Google’s Idea Factory. I’m embarrassed to say that it is probably the first magazine I’ve read in a number of weeks. Does show how much I’ve been reading blogs and reading magazine and papers online.

More on point, Eric Schmidt had two very good answers around innovation that I thought I would highlight. One regarding customers and the other regarding metrics.

How does Google make sure it’s producing innovations that change the game enough to create big new markets but also continue to appeal to its main customers, who might not want disruption?

We make an explicit decision to favor the end-user. [We] do not say, “Newspapers should be happy. Advertisers should be happy. Telcos should be happy.” Those are fine if we can do it. But it’s all about end-users.

Shows us that the winning model is to innovate for the benefit of end-users at all costs. If the end-users are happy and they deem the service valuable, they will continue to come and the revenue will also. The key is user-centricity.

How do you make sure all these Google engineering projects actually turn into useful services?

The No. 1 thing we do require is: You can do whatever you want as long as you track it. We have very sophisticated measurement systems at every stage of launch. We have what is called trusted testers. Then beta test, which is forever. We do these 1% launches where we float something out and measure that. We can dice and slice in any way you can possibly fathom.

What’s more important than the absolute number is the relative growth rate. High growth solves virtually all problems. If the growth rate is low, or negative, you’ve got a serious problem.

Google is renown for its beta testing and A/B testing. It is also renown for its metrics-oriented culture, basing all product decisions on highly quantitative and analytic methods. It is something to always keep in mind when you are caught in deciding how to roll something out and how to track whether your decisions are having a positive impact on whatever number you trying to move.

Another great article about Google’s Idea Factory but from the perspective of Marissa Mayer.

Print is back?

Not that it was ever gone, people often still like to read off the computer whether it be a newspaper, magazine, book or whitepaper (anyone try reading an entire research report online?, it is tough). And a patent filed in 1996 2006 [thanks to Bill at seobythesea for the correction] may not tell us one way or the other. But it is very interesting that Google has some very intriguing ideas for the space. Covered in Google Magazine?. My personal favorite for comprehensive coverage is from Dave Harry in his post, It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Google Personalized Publishing!

Anyway, think people have to get interested when you mix online/offline with content personalization and personalized advertising. As there have been some headway in the area for the Google engine hitting radio, the potential of redefining the level of control for users to get the content they want and the opportunity for advertisers to reach them is not too far of a stretch. It also ties back to the business Google is continuing to try to generate in the print ad business. And most interestings in my opinion, it does bring up a new twist to how print subscriptions and online business can emerge. The learnings that can be distilled in the online world and the rate learnings can occur (where all of the hype around Facebook is merited) could become a true disrupter.

As Greg Merkle joked today, “Time to go increase your toner supplies.” So as the holiday season is coming up, I’m sure HP would be ecstatic to have you add printer cartridges to your stocking stuffer list.