Flirting with Poken

June 9, 2009

It seems like every conference I go to this year has successively stronger ties to virtual networking. There are increasing levels of Twitter activity being shown on giant displays. It’s interesting to watch conference attendees routinely ignore giant displays, until they realize that one is showing real-time tweets about the conference, and then stopping in their tracks to take in the twitter stream.

The advent of blogs dedicated to individual sessions is also interesting. These blogs provide an unintimidating venue for people who are not comfortable asking questions in a large room. They also allow a conversation to continue after the conference. Although, the traffic to them is quite limited. I imagine that we are all struggling to keep up with the bandwidth demands of these new networking tools.

But my most interesting recent experience was with the Poken goven to all conference attendees at the recent IBM Information on Demand conference in Berlin. The Poken allows you to exchange a “digital handshake” with other conference attendees. By touching Pokens, you exchange contact details, including information about your accounts on popular social networking sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. You can also exchange details with a special Poken to get the presentation for the session you are attending.

The first thing I must say is that I was very happy to see a Poken help desk after registering. I did need a little help because initial attempts to exchange information were not succeeding. I was not giving my Poken enough time to exchange details.

The second thing I must say is that, after using the Poken for the entire conference, I still want to give out business cards. You see, after I get a business card, I find a few minutes to write a few notes on that business card. This way I have some additional context when I return from a conference with another stack of business cards. Thankfully I continued to do this at the conference because all I get with the poken is a sequential list of new Poken friends. I can see their profile, including a photo if they uploaded one. But it does not give me enough context for a follow up (unless they are especially memorable).

So, in my opinion, the Poken is a useful addition to the business card, but it will not replace it. You may argue that I could simply write some notes elsewhere and keep track of them. But there something very easy about writing a few key words on the back of a business card. For me the best solution would be to use my smartphone to easily “poke” people. Then, if I could add notes to newly acquired “business cards” on my smartphone, I could truely consider replacing the business card.

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