Do you Poken?

First review of the Poken USB ‘business’ card.

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 brief review as feedback.

Two Pokens
Two pokens

The hardware

A token is a small RFID tag and reader with a USB plug designed as small creatures with a big hand. 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. The playful character of the Pokens may make it less 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 normal, 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 to a 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 added 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 reprehensible. 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 wrong. This alone makes Poken a no go for me.

I linked 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:

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 into Address Book, which is where I want my contacts in the end.