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Hearts, Minds, Wallets, Address Book Entries


Some industries are more cut-throat than others. To my mind the male and
female escort service industries in Kabukichou, Tokyo must be somewhere
at the top of the competition list. Slap down a couple of hundred Euro and
their silky smooth conversation skills plus whatever else you can negotiate
will presumably be yours for the night. Given the money floating around
and the intense competition for that money it makes sense that they’ll do
what they can to have a presence in the minds, wallets and mobile phone
address books of prospective clients.

So it is unsurprising to find a business card shop in the heart of Kabukichou
offering to print QR (2D) bar codes onto otherwise standard business cards.
(The photo above shows the mockup/advert from that shop). I’m not
particularly enamoured with QR bar codes, but they seem to pop up with
increasing regularity here in Japan – in magazines advertising mobile phone
services, on receipts, on collectables. My gripe with the design is that the
barcode graphic is by and large damn ugly, and tends to dominate whatever
they are printed on. However, with camera phones from all the Japanese
carriers equipped with software to capture and interpret the information
from the bar codes they are one fairly ubiquitous way to provide short cuts
to information. Don’t want to type in that URL? Switch on the camera, point
and click and its transferred to your phone. Don’t want to enter the details
of a contact? Names, URLs, email addresses, phone numbers, mail
addresses can all be embedded and saved to the phone.

I’m given a lot of business cards and have only ever come across the use of
QR bar codes printed on the business cards twice – both times from people
working in the mobile phone industry. For most people the effort involved
with generating a personal bar code and having it upset the balance of the
card design are two barriers too many compared to the potential benefit to
the person whom receives the card.

The task of exchanging contact information typically involves effort from
both the giver and receiver of the information. With QR barcode reading
software already installed on the receiver’s camera phone a suitably
motivated giver of the information can take over some of the task-burden
from the receiver. On business cards its seems this currently equates to
escorts, and mobile phone geeks.