Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Poken evaluation from a "temetics" perspective

(The goal of this post is not to kill the Poken. It is to make it evolve.)

Hello guys :) This time, I wanna analyze a second product made by a foreign IT company that wanna spread in Tokyo, the Poken http://www.bunkersofa.com/blogs/pokenemoji.gif.

First all, there is an ambiguity about the Poken. If you look at the English Wikipedia description, it says " technology that allows the exchange of online social networking data". In the Japanese article, it says "デジタル名刺", meaning literally digital business card.

So the natural question is the following: Is the Poken a digital business card?
Digital? Obviously yes, because it is an electronic device.
Business card? In order to answer this question, you need a simple definition of what we call "a business card".

Definition from a bunkersofist http://www.bunkersofa.com/blogs/bunkersofismemoji.gif perspective:

"A business card is a device that stores information related to the identity of a person with an immediate visual verification of the information that has been stored".

(I think most people will agree on that.)

Two types of information:

Primary information

1- name and surname
2- occupation
3- company name
4- logo of the company
5- email address
6- phone number

Secondary information

7- twitter username
8- other SNS usernames such as Facebook or Linkedin.

"Immediate visual verification"
means that you can check immediately, on-site, with your own eyes, the information that has been exchanged. As you know, the human brain is specialized in visual information processing and your short-term memory is not so large. So you wanna associate quickly the face you're facing to the personal information that has been provided by the business card. Right?

Let's see now if the Poken satisfies the Definition.

In terms of immediate information exchange, the Poken only enables you to exchange the following type of information:

a- basic photonic information: the green led --> this photonic information is completely irrelevant for the information exchange; this green light has to remain in the inside, not in the outside; it is an electronic protocol level.

b- frictional information: when your Poken makes contact with another one --> this is irrelevant too since we cannot feel the hand of the person anyway ....this is even not a hand... with 4 fingers!

So nothing among the primary and secondary types of information can be exchanged by the Poken with an immediate visual verification.

Later, when you get home, it s true that you can exchange 1,2,...7 and 8- with an immediate visual verification. But the action is delayed, compared to the moment when you met the person.

And does it record well the information? Is it easy to use? I won't detail that part but I have my own opinion: the web site is buggy and it's not aesthetic at all.

So the Poken is a "buggy electronic business card" that you exchange later....Sounds contradictory. In fact, the Poken totally misses the immediate aspect required by a business card and consequently the Poken is everything but a business card.

All right. It is a buggy electronic device .......but for what

Honestly, I think it's a device that might enable people to start talking to each other when they meet for the first time. It's a pretext to meet new women if you are a male or new men if you are a female. Not bad. But, in that case, it' s not business-oriented. It's sex-oriented.
"Good evening. Do you Poken?" with a glass of beer in one hand, the Poken in the other...and your brain thinking about sex. :)

But is the design cool? I don't think so either. The design is really poor. The "made in china" black packaging makes it even a cheap rubbish.
Is it cheap? No....it's s rather very expensive. At least 2000 JPY ! (By the way, I sold it for 300 JPY on Facebook after buying it for 2000 JPY and using it for 3 days.)

However, does it mean they cannot improve it? Of course not.

A suggestion: why not releasing a display-equipped Poken which can display primary and secondary information within a very aesthetic LCD screen? In that case, the immediate aspect will be satisfied.

I think users can tolerate a high price if the device itself is beautiful. But in that case, it would have to be very beautiful, almost like luxury to compete with potential applications on the iPhone or Android that are likely to be released soon, assuming they are equipped with RFID (ex: Suica card ) or Infra-red chips as the Japanese handsets are.

I had a look at http://mashable.com/2009/05/09/iphone-business-card-apps/ but none of the applications seem to be reliable.

The idea behind Bump technologies seems really cool: detection of the simultaneity of the bumping action of two iPhones, plus the location related information to disambiguate. But is it really reliable? I gave it a try a couple months ago.

Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Overall it wasn't that reliable. Therefore, currently, I don't know any iPhone applications that fulfil perfectly the role of a business card.

Finally, before drawing a conclusion on the Poken, I would like, briefly, to evaluate it, from a "temetics" perspective. "Temetics" is the study of temes. A teme is a technological meme. An iPhone, a pet bottle, a Poken, a car, a washing machine, a pen, all are temes...And as special memes, temes are replicators. They compete with each other to get control over your brain and body.

- fecundity: I suspect that the Poken is almost only known among IT guys, especially among foreign IT guys. I mean seriously, the design is not adapted to the Japanese market, at all. The design is even worse than the design of a free accessory attached to a 150 JPY pet bottle .

- heredity : At first glance, it seems to be pretty high: you have only one way of using it; you push a button to light it up. But the thing is that sometimes it doesn't work correctly. So people usually push several times. In fact, there is no systematic way of making it work. Therefore the heredity is also low, unfortunately.

- longevity: I think the Poken's gonna last as long there is enough cash to run the marketing campaign. So, low again, unless they have a lot of venture capital supporting them, which is very unlikely.

Therefore, I think that the current Poken is a very weak replicator that wants to compete with the traditional business card. I think its survival likelihood is pretty low, especially in Japan.

Again, the current Poken is a very weak teme that's gonna die very soon, if it doesn't evolve, which is very likely, unfortunately, because of the total lack of flexibility of the team, from what I saw and heard... No joke, no offense either.


  1. Yes, I don't think we will be hearing much about Poken this time next year. The current buzz is limited to a few foreign new-media types who (and I say this with no disrespect) may or may not be resellers. It's still virtually unknown in the Japanese speaking community.

    Poken is cool idea. I like it a lot, but at the same time I also think it can be done better.

  2. I stumbled upon this video "http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61jYzrR5MN4"

    This is the Google Talk, given by the CEO of Poken, Stephane Doutriaux.

    It s really interesting.

    I realized that Poken is not a technology company, at all. It is a marketing and distribution company!

    You can buy a bunch of Pokens and try to sell them.There is no official distributors...
    That s why you can see those so-called social evangelists trying to sell them all the time...in those IT related parties.

    That's fine. But how can you sell things if it s close to cheap rubbish? No offense.

    Please do not let down the concept of digital business card like that, Poken guys!

  3. Poken is a typical example of a techno-meme (teme?) , that is a meme created artificially by humans.

    It is amazing how memetics (or should I say temetics) in general can help us predict whether a given teme will spread or not.

    This analysis illustrates that, between other points, that we are living in a teme world and that technologists should really take some course in memetics ^^

    Rick, how is doing your reading of the "Meme Machine" by Susan Blackmore?

    Have a look at that article too, of the same author:

    In that article, though, the definition of teme is rather ambiguous:

    I quote:
    "The reason was that there seemed no way of distinguishing between "natural" human memes, such as spoken words, habits, fashions, art and religions, and what we might call "artificial" memes, such as websites and high-tech goods. So on the grounds that a false distinction is worse than none I stuck to the term "meme"."

    Now compare that to:

    "There is a new kind of information: electronically processed binary information rather than memes. There is also a new kind of copying machinery: computers and servers rather than brains. But are all three critical stages carried out by that machinery?"

    The question is: in the case of the teme, what is exactly the replicating machine?