Chasing the mobile context dream

We are now in the post-desktop, mobile-first world, and there’s a number of interesting efforts that are  pushing at creating an experience platform based on mobile context. Because the mobile experience is made up of a number of silos — calendars, emails, documents, contacts, tasks — there is a huge opportunity in pulling together bits from some or all of these information reservoirs into some intentioned context.

This area is closely linked to the concept of deep search (see Deep search is coming to mobile, and will change everything), because the siloing of information on mobile is the biggest impediment to the potential for personal and networked productivity that mobile offers.

A simple example is the meeting. I have meeting information on my calendar — including meeting attendees, meeting times and location, and perhaps other clues — and a context-oriented tool might take that information and pull up more information that is potentially pertinent to the meeting, such as contact information about the attendees — perhaps a dossier assembled from Linkedin and other sources — recent emails from the attendees, and files shared via email or file sharing services.

In just the past week, I looked at a few new entrants in this space Refresh and Cotap.

Refresh is a calendar-centric application — pulling its primary data from an iOS calendar, only, at the present time — but augmenting that with a great deal of  information on the attendees from social services like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Angelist, and Foursquare, as well as the contacts on the iPhone.

Here’s an example of the sort of presentation you see on the app of meeting attendees.

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Ms Davis, however, was not an attendee of the meeting on my calendar, is not a contact of mine, and was accompanied by another spurious profile. So, although the app is now in open beta, it seems to have some rough edges.

The app notifies you with info about attendees just prior to the meeting, and allows annotations — like notes about people, and follow-ups to be created. Strangely, these last two can’t be easily used, since they wind up being internally managed, and not integrated with other services. For example, I created a note and a follow-up after a recent meeting, but that info is trapped in the app. It would have been much better if I could have synced the note with a Dropbox textfile, and the follow-up could have better been tied to a Todoist task.

The notes can be categorized, which may be useful:

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I encountered some other glitches, as well. Here’s what happened when I created a single follow-up:

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I wound up with three. And they can’t be edited.

The Bottom Line

I really like the motivation behind Refresh. It’s a great deal like Tempo, which I use frequently (see Tempo smartens up the smart calendar), in that it is calendar-centric. It has a Rapportive character in that it pulls contact information into context. However, at the present moment I find that its a bit buggy and too closed into itself for me to actually start entering notes and follow-ups there. Maybe in a few revs, though.

Next week, I will write about Cotap, an application headed in a similar direction but from a different starting point: an enterprise messaging app that’s chasing the mobile context dream, too.