Poken: review quickie

I’ve been meaning to write a quick review of my experience with Poken at LIFT conference. Poken is a small toy/gadet/figurine/whatever that has some near field connectivity (something like an active RFID) in it. The point is that when you meet somebody who also has a Poken you high-five your two figurines together (high-four actually, it missed a limb as it’s not human), and then you’re best friend forever on all your social networks at once. We got a sort of strippeddown Pokens for free as part of our LIFT badges, which I found to be a really awesome idea (a PCB in your badge has this nerdy appeal). Not sure I’d try if I had a pacemaker.. The idea is lovely and the thing is cute.


For a 5 year old kid. I found it very nice to test it, and it’s an awesome idea to give it for free at a conference. Great marketing guys. But, after discussing with their awesome product manager – who managed to sell me two of those – I kind of felt “shit, why the hell did I buy that thing?”.


MAJOR TURN OFF NO. 1: Pokens would be awesome and would really work only if everybody in the world would have one – which I doubt. As he told me, they sold 50k units but hey, who the hell would really would buy that (it’s 10 chf =~ 6 euros)?

MINOR TURN OFF NO 2: It just doesn’t look serious. I mean what would I think of a formally dressed VC that pops out a three eyed alien with a blinking led instead of his usual business card? I would be like “Dude, no. I don’t really feel like going to your place and see your electric trains collection and your lego city, but thanks for asking though”. The idea is great for conferences (at least much better than shockfish’s spotme), where you could leverage the social net of the conference and befriend all the people you meet automatically (@lift crew: why didn’t you leverage lift’s social net, and use the pokens to befriend people directly?? That would have been so cool!! the kind of things that we did at picnic rfid hacker’s camp).

MAJOR TURN OFF NO. 3: This was the worse for me: when I gave him my biz card, he back offed just as a vampire that was presented some garlic, and said “no no get away with that, our goal is to eliminate business cards from this world for every”. I realized that this idea is plainly horrible conspiracy. I am a business card design fetish and I think I’d be so sad if natural human interactions (business or not) were to be replaced with a generic digital high-5. I don’t want paper business cards to ever disappear. First because it’s something physical, tangible that conveys someone’s personality. Just like someone’s clothing, it gives you essential details about someone, how much do they care for details. But it’s also a gift, it’s something you cherish, you deserved his card. By seeing a business card, I remember much better about the person who gave it me, what we discussed about, eventually what I wrote about that person on it. A clean, well-designed business card, is just like an elegant suit, it shows that people have spend time to chose it. See, I’m really a fetish for business card, so maybe this turnoff is quite personal.

MAJOR TURN OFF NO. 4: The website, just, simply, plainly sucks. I mean the toy works great and seems reliable, but their website is of a much lower quality than I’d expect from a Web 2.0 startup, and that’s a total turn off for me. It’s sad that they did such an excellent hardware, but neglected to do a really flashy, great, nice, appealing web site! It looks like a modified version of my first website in 1995, just with less animated GIFs. In terms of usability it’s really bad. Guys, please hire a decent designer, because I really don’t feel like using this website, and most people who see it won’t use it again.

Then it’s kind of befriending any people you speak to more than 5 seconds (hey let’s pokenize dude, see u soon, k thx bye). When connecting with someone on a social net becomes so easy, then I think it will just bring a bigger mess in your social net, where half of the people you just met drunk at a party and asked them for a fire to light your cig.

Oh, 1 mil $ question: you still have to friend the people on each network manually, as it doesn’t seem to automatically friend me when I met the peopl, or am I just plain stupid? If you still need to invite all of them to friend them on each network manually, then well it’s just a shortcut to search for people’s profile on each site, which makes me doubt the value proposition of poken.

For the good things, it’s a Swiss startup, which is awesome. Second you got a 1 GB memo stick with it… (so the business model of poken is to sell memory sticks, right?). For the rest, well, I wouldn’t buy that for me (okay, I did already, but I’m selling it, so mail me if you want a 3-eyed alien or a panda…)

I have absolutely nothing personal against the poken crew, I really wish them all good, and I encourage more people to do the same, dream big and build companies in this hot field. I just hope they’ll think about these point and adapt their product to something more useful and valuable, not just a cheap toy that you get bored after playing with it for more than 5 minutes.

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