Suffix

Published by Simon Schoeters

Do you Poken?

A few days ago we played with the Poken I got from Jelle. It's still in beta so I thought it would be good to write a short review as feedback. Please note: they are still improving the website so my review today may be old news tomorrow.

The hardware

Two Pokens

A token is a small RFID tag and reader with an USB plug designed as small creatures with a big hand (see photo). All the electronic stuff is in the big white hand. The creature itself is just some decoration that protects the plug.

The Pokens are small and look silly, which is perfect for their target audience in my opinion. The playful character of the Pokens may make it more appealing for girls as well which may be a good idea for something geeky as an ‘RFID tag’.

The LED in the hand turns green when the Pokens exchange information. If you press the button in the hand twice a small red LED will blink showing that ‘ghost’ mode is enabled. This means the Poken will act like normally but it will not share your details (but you will get theirs).

When you connect the Poken to your computer you still need to open it and click the website link to upload the data (on a Mac that is). There is an autorun.inf file on the drive so I suppose it does this automatically on Windows, why not on Mac?

Update: we created LazyPoken, a small application for Mac OS X that does exactly that. It starts your Poken when you connect it with you Mac.

The software

The hardware is probably the most visible part but there seems to be more work on the software part. The Poken system is a social community site: you add ‘friends’ and share profiles. Poken tries to be that little extra by adding your friends to other services as well (Twitter and Facebook to name two). They seem to add new services quickly when their Pokens get some buzz in a certain region.

Each Poken has a unique number. When you hold your Poken to another one the numbers are exchanged. Once home you connect your Poken to your computer and accept or deny the collected profiles. From that point on it's nothing more than a social network site. You'll see the new information when someone updates his information without having to poke him again (pun intended).

On the website you can add a bunch of services. Poken needs to know your accounts on these services to be able to add your Poken friends to these networks. It asks your account and password information for each of these services which feels very, very wrong. Dear Poken, there are other ways of doing this (have a look at OAuth)! I do not trust you with all my passwords. I don't mind how secure your servers may be, it's just wrong. This alone makes Poken a no go for me.

I binded my Twitter account to my Poken profile (yes, I gave you my password, shiver) and tried to add a friend. This friend was not added to my Twitter followers list. Does this run in the background and was I too fast or are there still some implementation problems?

Then there are some minor annoyances I expect will be solved when they get out of beta:

  • The website design needs some work: it's not easy to navigate.
  • The difference between the big and small cards is not clear. Is the big one your complete profile and the other the discreet one?
  • I couldn't find the difference between the ‘discreet’ and ‘ghost’ modes.
  • Even though my friend filled in his website URL in his profile it does not show up in my list.
  • The Flickr logo is missing from the profile cards.
  • Apparently the battery only lasts 6 months, come on, really? Why not charge it via USB?

Can I add a feature request as well? As Chantal already proposed on your support channel it would be nice to have an ‘export to vCard’ function. This would make it easy to import my friends in Address Book, which is where I want my contacts in the end.