Poken in the wild

Just back home* from the second Tuesday tweetup (excellent event once again) with a grand total of zero high-fours (the Poken term for exchanging contact information).

Everyone at the Information on Demand conference (@IOD2009) was given a Poken, so if I’d been in Berlin recently, there would have been a massive captive audience of Poken users to high-four with. A conference seems like the natural environment for a Poken: lots of people with a common purpose all wanting to network, and multiple brands looking for a new piece of plastic to give away with their logo on.


Photo from “IBM Information On Demand 2009 Berlin with customized Poken” set by Ayman van Bregt (some rights reserved).

Unfortunately, as Andy has already mentioned in his Poken review, there just aren’t that many around. One glaringly obvious question is why it’s not possible to use mobile phones to do the same job, which is something almost everyone has already. Poken themselves saw that question coming and have a plausible answer about compatibility and usability but I think the shear number of Poken required before they are even half useful means a phone based solution must still be a strong contender. Using bluetooth couldeasily get round the problem of working out who even has a Poken, and there are ways to use it just as easily as a Poken. For example, the cityware digital co-presence project was pretty similar in lots of ways, using bluetooth device IDs combined with a Facebook application to manage contacts later, rather than beaming bluetooth contact information directly, and all without any awkward high-fouring. Obviously it also had its downsides, one of which was needing cityware nodes to log when devices were in the same place.

To earn a permanent place in my pocket, the Poken would have to deliver more, even if I never see another Poken. For a start, I’m just astounded that the Poken I have doesn’t even provide some simple USB drive storage. Or, to focus a bit more on the core purpose of a Poken, why not build it in to a business card holder? (Or a Moo card holder if you’re Andy!) Or even go the cityware route and log bluetooth device ids as well as other Poken contacts.

I still have my Poken with me but I don’t see them taking off in the wild for a long time, if at all. On the other hand, they are ideal for specific events and defined groups of people, such as employees for example, where I think there’s a lot of potential. A high-four is certainly far more natural than messing around trying to find some well hidden feature of your phone, especially if you know you aren’t going to be met with a blank look for suggesting high-fouring in the first place!

There’s more talk about Poken on Dogear Nation

* I didn’t actually get home this late, but half way through writing this post TalkTalk decided not to bother providing an internet connection for the second night in a row. It’s not going to take too much more of that before I disconnect from TalkTalk permanently.

Updated: …with a photo from IOD. (17 June 2009)

Update: More thoughts on Poken on Barry Leiba’s blog. (26 June 2009)

Update: Looks like a Poken might be trying to creep back in my pocket; the new Poken Pulse finally includes a 2GB USB drive! (2 October 2009)

Update: Interesting list of different ways to establish online connections from real world encounters, including the Poken. (8 July 2010)


Looking for a new phone company

18 months of TalkTalk hell is almost over, so I’m looking for a new phone company. I have also been completely underwhelmed by Vodafone recently, so a package that includes, home phone, broadband and mobile phone could be the answer.

Of course, I don’t doubt that most companies are just as useless, so who to choose…

Not Pipex it would seem!

And, even if I did think about going back to BT, they don’t seem to want me back, with a comedy, “Installation fee just £124.99” (this is obviously a new use of the word ‘just’ indicating a complete rip off). Unfortunately that kind of limits the choice somewhat, as many other providers require a BT line. One option I’m beginning to give serious thought to is Virgin Media (they must have improved since the NTL days by now surely?!) but I have reservations: their pricing seems a tad chaotic (their junk mail seems to include a reasonable offer, but it doesn’t appear on the web site it tells you to go to!) and if I pay for 4Mb broadband from them I would be extremely upset not to get the whole 4Mb, all the time. None of this ADSL/’up to’ nonsense. Sure, it might not be possible to supply higher speeds, so charge me less (not difficult really)!!!

Maybe Orange could be the answer– that would take care of the mobile part of the equation without going near O2 or Vodafone, which is a plus. At first glance they don’t seem to require a BT line either…

You also need:
a home phone line (excluding Kingston Communications and cable)

I suspect that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so I’m still looking. Any suggestions for who to try, and who to avoid, would be very very handy!!

Plug and Play

Thanks to Dale, I’ve found something to keep Damn Small Linux company on my USB key (there is a lot of space left after all!) – like Dale, I have an interest in mobile computing (unlike Dale, I have less gadgets, so PortableApps sounds great to me) and I’ve posted a couple of times before on the subject. At the risk of this weblog turning in to Dave, here’s a repeat:

It sounds like, between them, Scott McNealy and Dan Gillmor have got the right idea about access to my data. Hopefully not actually my data though! Scott wants it on the network, Dan wants it with him, and I just want it.

For years, I’ve quite liked the idea that I could have some sort of rfid tag with me (on my key-ring, in my watch, or somewhere I don’t have to worry about it) that would just log me on to my PC (and phone!) when I’m nearby, locking it again when I move away. It would be even better if it worked with any computer, giving me access to the same desktop where-ever I go. Scott seems to agree, although what’s with having to get out a “smart card” to plug it in? Sounds more like a “daft card” to me.

More recently, with the amount of data I can carry around with me (I suspect I’m actually behind the times here with a meagre 1Gb split between a tiny USB key and an MP3 player!) I’ve been leaning towards Dan’s point of view although, again, fumbling around to find something to plug in is just annoying. This is the 21st century! (Isn’t it?!)

The solution should be simple; I have a nice large lump of storage with me, that can wirelessly connect with any computing device (my desktop, thinkpad, PDA, phone, public kiosk, etc. etc.) giving me access to the same data everywhere. The data is also on the network too, luckily for Scott by the sound of it, so the two copies can be synchronised automatically, allowing me to work when I can’t, or don’t want to (it might be slow, insecure or expensive), connect to a network but providing access when I don’t have my storage with me (I could have left it somewhere deliberately or, not for the first time, lost it!). Even better if my storage is on some existing format expansion card so that I can physically plug it in to a) save having to carry around yet another gadget (just plug it in to a phone/PDA) and b) get faster access to the data if the wireless link is too slow.

(Originally posted 29 June 2005)

SoulPad looks pretty interesting too.

Highway robbery

I almost went for “Hightech robbery” but actually, it’s not that hightech at all. Just send a premium rate reverse charge SMS text message to someone who didn’t ask for it and collect. Who on earth thought they would be a good idea?! Especially when they arrive without any chance to accept or reject them before the money is taken. Even worse, there’s no way to stop it keep happening: Vodafone won’t let me block any future reverse charge messages to my account. So every time it happens you have to look up the number on the ICSTIS site (try 80122 or 81404 for example) to attempt to get a refund.


Your mobile account is being treated like a debit account for ‘services’ (not that I even got a ring tone for the money) without any of the protection of a bank account. I’ve wasted the entire evening writing to Vodafone, the two companies who stole money, ICSTIS, and my MP. I’ll also be writting to OFCOM and possibly the Information Commissioner’s Office. Wonder who will reply first… I don’t think Vodafone have ever replied to me in writing, I’m not holding my breath for Tanla Mobile Ltd or Zamano Ltd, and I suspect ICSTIS, OFCOM and the Information Commissioner’s Office are going to be completely disinterested. MPs are usually pretty good though, and I did actually vote for this one; maybe I should have mentioned that in my letter!!