Contact pictures, whether you want them or not

I am an early adopter (but then if you’ve been reading this blog for more than 10 minutes, you knew that already). Recently, two fairly new pieces of technology have been working together in a, shall we say, unexpected way.

First is Outlook 2010, which I’ve been running for some time. Overall I like it a lot; it performs well, it supports multiple Exchange accounts, and it has lots of grace notes (like the configurable "Quick Steps" feature) that make using it both easier and more pleasant than earlier versions.

Second is the newest release (3.1) of the Facebook client for the iPhone. It has the option to automatically sync Facebook data (including profile links and pictures) for contacts it finds in your iPhone address book.

Put these two together, and what do you get? Pictures of people you don’t really know showing up in Outlook, like this:

image

Yes, that’s right: any time I exchange mail with someone whose e-mail address is registered with Facebook, I get their picture! In this case, a college student bought a book I had listed on Amazon, and she was writing to ask whether I’d shipped it or not. Imagine my surprise to see a picture of her and her two BFFs (at least that’s who I assume the other two girls are.)

What’s making that happen? Outlook 2010 has a feature called "Suggested Contacts" that automatically adds the e-mail addresses of people you correspond with to a new "Suggested Contacts" folder. This replaces the old .nk2 file that earlier versions used for nickname autocompletion. Unfortunately, Suggested Contacts appears to most applications (well, the ones that aren’t Outlook 2010) as a regular Contacts folder. On the iPhone (and in Mail.app) that means that people you’ve exchanged e-mail with show up in your contact list until you manually purge them.

The Facebook app on the iPhone is trying to be helpful, so it looks for people in your address book—which now includes the contents of Suggested Contacts—and downloads their pictures. Ta da! Instant confusion.

The contact-picture feature is one of my favorite Outlook 2010 enhancements, so I’m not going to turn it off. Likewise, having up-to-date pictures of my actual Facebook friends is a neat feature, so i"m leaving it on as well. For now, that means that I’m stuck occasionally seeing pictures of people I don’t know—part of the price for being an early adopter, I guess.

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