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1/19/2012
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Plaxo's Broken Services: Part Deux

I love the power of the Internet to quickly rectify--and confirm--information. Here's what Plaxo had to say about my claim that it's broken.

About two weeks ago, I published an article here on BYTE on how Plaxo's services were broken. In summary, I cited these problems:

  • Syncing through a VM doesn't work or takes hours to complete.
  • Calendar syncing can't handle recurring appointment changes correctly.
  • Syncing is not performed in real time.

Some of these are clearly in conflict with Plaxo's product claims. Some are just not the way synchronization should work and what I, and a lot of other premium customers, pay for. I have some interesting news to report.

After the article published, I was contacted by Preston Smalley, Plaxo's general manager. We had two meetings over the last two weeks and I'm pleased to say I have some good news to report. Preston was frank, honest, and straightforward with me. I'm going to break this down as succinctly as I can, as we covered a lot of ground.

  1. Synching through a VM.
    This issue is actively under investigation. Plaxo synchronization should take minutes, not hours; and should always complete regardless of where the sync originates, according to Preston. For my part, I've provided detailed diagnostic data from my Plaxo toolbar. That information is currently being analyzed by Plaxo's engineering team, and I've committed to working with Comcast (they bought Plaxo a few years ago) and Plaxo to test any possible solutions they provide. The bottom line here is that my running Outlook 2010 from inside a Parallels Desktop VM shouldn't be preventing Plaxo from syncing data with its servers, according to Preston. However, we'll have to wait and see what the analysis of my log data reveals.
  2. Plaxo's calendar sync is indeed broken.
    Preston admitted this is a bug, and that it's not likely to be fixed in the near future. According to Preston, although Plaxo does synchronize calendar data between different calendar systems and from one Exchange data store to another, the nature of recurring appointments is at the root of the problem. Plaxo would have to completely license and recreate an Exchange server environment in order to adequately and appropriately handle all recurring appointment changes, and unfortunately, Plaxo just doesn't have the resources to complete a venture of this magnitude. Plaxo has given this a low priority on its priority list. Unfortunately, Preston and I have agreed to disagree here. According to Preston, Plaxo is downplaying this product offering due to this particular issue.
  3. Syncing isn't in real time.
    Plaxo 'fessed up to this as well. There really wasn't any way for Preston to deny this, so he agreed that the wording of the product offering on the site most likely could be revised.

While Preston and I were speaking of Plaxo's products, we also touched on Plaxo's Personal Assistant service, which is supposed to scan your address book data and then offer suggestions for updates that it finds from available third-party data sources. The service is just about a year old, and Plaxo is making some really wonderful changes to it to help make it more accurate and more proactive. I had the changes applied to my account, and it offered suggestions to 5% of my total contacts. If you're a Personal Assistant customer, you should see the changes hitting your account over the next few weeks.

I want to thank Preston and Plaxo for all of their help in resolving my individual issues as well as helping me understand their individual service challenges.

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