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How do you integrate your online communications? [Mar. 7th, 2012|12:38 am]
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I communicate with a lot of different people in a lot of different ways. For most of the people with whom I communicate most often, I do so in multiple different ways. I have always been disappointed in the lack of integration between different forms of electronic communication. Here I'm going to catalog all of the ways that I communicate with people, and some of the solutions I've come across to combine and integrate them. Hopefully someone can point out some additional ways to improve the situation.

I communicate with voice. I can initiate this in my phone's Dialer app to other phone numbers (which identifies me to the caller by my mobile phone number), in my phone's Google Voice app to other phone numbers (from my Google voice number), on gmail.com to a phone number (from an apparently random number that rarely changes for a particular call recipient), on gmail.com to another Google Talk or GMail user (from my gmail name), on voice.google.com (from my Google Voice number), on Skype on my desktop or phone to another Skype user (from my skype username), on Skype to a phone number (from a random number). I can receive calls to my mobile phone number, which rings my phone or falls through to my Google Voice number and voicemail box, or directly to my Google Voice number which rings my mobile phone and voice.google.com and gmail web interfaces, or to my Google Talk account on my desktop but not on my phone.

I communicate in instant messages. I can initiate this on my desktop or phone from an app specific to the IM service being used, or from a multi-protocol IM app. I can receive messages the same ways, with varied per-service caveats for trying to use the same IM account from two devices at the same time.

I communicate in SMS. I can send SMS from gmail.com on the desktop but not on my phone, and receive similarly, and they appear from a number that might be random but doesn't often change for a specific recipient. I can send SMS from the Google Voice phone app or voice.google.com on my desktop, which appears to be from my Google Voice number. I can receive SMS in all of these locations as well.

I communicate in email. I do this using a number of accounts, and can initiate or receive from mail clients on any device or from the web interface for the account. This is notable for being the *only* method of communication where it is always easily possible to make historical/logged communications visible to all devices that might access an account.

I communicate in website messaging systems. Facebook, OKCupid, etc. Each of these has its own proprietary web interface, and often its own mobile apps. These usually allow centralized storage of contacts and message histories, but not always.

Those are the primary ways that I communicate. I use almost every one of them every day. The ways that they integrate with each other are much less numerous...

Many IM services can be combined into one desktop or phone app, or one web service, with contact information merged across services. GTalk + AIM + gmail.com SMS can be combined on gmail.com. Phone numbers + AIM + GTalk contact information can be synced on my Android phone, with additional syncing for Facebook and other contact locations provided by apps. Email from multiple providers can be handled by one email client on each platform, or centralized with a webmail service.

Some of these integrations provide very handy shortcuts. If I am on gmail.com on my desktop and we are chatting using gtalk then you go offline, I am given the option to immediately switch to SMS. If we are talking via SMS and you come online, I am prompted to switch to gtalk.

Some of them have horrible caveats. If you send an SMS to my gmail #, it will not be visible to me on my phone in any way other than logging into gmail.com in a browser and explicitly viewing my Chats history. If you send me a message on gtalk, it may appear on my phone or my desktop web interface or my desktop gtalk app, with little predictability, and I might not see the message until I get back to the platform it showed up on. Most IM apps provide no way to synchronize logs, so I can't recall on my desktop what we discussed on my phone, or vice versa.

Obviously it is unlikely that anyone will ever integrate all of these forms of communication. What I'd like to find is a way to integrate even 25% of them. I'd love to find some way to get my gmail.com SMS and voice.google.com SMS to work together. Or to get my phone dialing and voice.google.com dialing and gmail.com dialing to work together. Or to find out when I receive an email somewhere other than gmail that the sender is online on a non-gtalk IM service. Or to place a phone call to someone who has just sent me a non-gtalk IM. Or...

What solutions are you using?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: seferin
2012-03-07 06:15 am (UTC)

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Pidgin. Combines chat platforms, plus Facebook, and allows me to text message.
[User Picture]From: sparr0
2012-03-07 07:32 am (UTC)

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Is there a version for iOS or Android? What number do the text messages get sent from? Can you sync contacts between it and Google Contacts?
[User Picture]From: seferin
2012-03-07 02:05 pm (UTC)

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http://alternativeto.net/software/pidgin/?platform=android

Don't think there is. Re: Texting, it's not a number, but it is a consistent address, so after the first message is sent, further messages can be associated with the same ID.
[User Picture]From: sparr0
2012-03-07 03:11 pm (UTC)

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Can people text you back?
[User Picture]From: seferin
2012-03-07 03:13 pm (UTC)

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Yes. My friend texts my phone from this service. I respond. I save the id to her Contact in my phone. Going forward, it recognizes the ID and I can message her from my phone
[User Picture]From: sparr0
2012-03-07 03:22 pm (UTC)

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what does the ID look like?
[User Picture]From: seferin
2012-03-07 03:25 pm (UTC)

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Random numbers and letters.