Address Boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo- oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooook

I’ve complained about Lion’s Address Book messing up the merging of updated entries and about iCloud failing to sync certain contacts. And I’ve complained about iCloud doubling some of my calendar entries, although to be fair, that hasn’t happened since the early days of iCloud and iOS 5. Today I had a new problem:

My Address Book now has 63 copies of a contact I added a few days ago. I doubt I’ll be trusting turn-by-turn navigation for a while.
  — Dr. Drang (@drdrang) Mon Jun 11 2012

Don’t believe me? Think 63 is some [2^n - 1] hyperbole? Here’s a screenshot from Address Book on my iMac at work.

Address Book Copies

This particular entry wasn’t the only one to be duplicated. All three contacts I added at the end of last week got this treatment. Of the other two, one of them had 28 copies, the other had 9.

I’m not sure when the duplicates were made, but they propagated across all my devices. Address Book on my MacBook Air looked the same as above, and my iPhone looked like this.

Contacts Copies

The Contacts on Also duplicated.

There were some similarities among these three entries: I had imported all of them from vCards and had edited each one to add a courtesy title (Mr., Ms., Dr., whatever). Of course, I’ve done that sort of thing before and not generated a bunch of duplicates.

As weird as the duplication was, what’s weirder was the lack of consistency. Why did I have 63 of one, 28 of another, and 9 of the third? Aren’t computers supposed to do things the same way every time?

The fix was simple. I just deleted all but one copy of each contact and held my breath as I waited for the update to propagate. As of now, I have one of each contact on the MacBook Air, the iPhone, and on I assume I’ll find the same on the iMac when I get to work tomorrow.

Although I was joking in my tweet, Apple’s cloud problem is real. Today’s WWDC keynote showed us lots of cool new features coming to Mountain Lion and iOS 6, but so many of them depend on a reliable iCloud service that I can’t help but be skeptical.

5 Responses to “Address Boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo- oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooook”

  1. Wuffers Lightwolf says:

    I’ve had some similar issues — though usually only a single set of duplicates, not as many as 63! It usually seems to stem (for me) from migrating. Like from MobileMe to iCloud. It could be that Apple simply doesn’t take as much care when it comes to migrating customers as they do totally new ones.

  2. David Avraamides says:

    It seems so many companies are implementing their own cloud sync logic but so few of them get it right. I’ve had problems with Things, Wunderlist, Outlook-Google sync, Yojimbo and Microsoft’s Offline Folders in addition to iCloud. Is it really that hard? Can’t companies with the resources and talent like Apple, Google and Microsoft figure this out?

    There are two examples I can think of that always seem to work: Dropbox and Simplenote. So clearly some people have figured this out. It may not be an easy problem, but it’s a solvable problem.

    It is frustrating that Apple is pinning so many of their new features on iCloud and they don’t have the core sync feature working properly yet.

  3. TJ Luoma says:

    Next time you have this happen (If?!), I’d suggest selecting all of the duplicate cards and then choose “Card » Merge Selected Cards”. I’ve had better luck with that than with deleting for preventing duplicates from re-appearing.

    @ David Avraamides: Simplenote falls apart if you have a lot of small notes. I’ve gone to only keeping some few “essentials” there.

    OTOH, Dropbox just went completely haywire on me and claimed I was using 150% of my allotted space. I had to completely empty it out and let it sync, and then start to re-load files. But that’s only ever happened once. Simplenote has failed for me several times.

  4. Anthony says:

    I have repeatedly had the same issue and for me it appears to be linked to using CoBook - the recently promoted address book sync app.

    After deleting the duplicate contacts, and uninstalling cobook it stopped.

    Does this ring true to anyone else?


  5. Dr. Drang says:

    Not for me, Anthony. I’ve never used CoBook.