Thursday, August 11, 2011

QR Codes - Good or Bad?


It's funny how things reach a critical mass and suddenly they are everywhere.

You know what QR codes are even if you don't know their name. (The QR means "quick response". )  Six months ago I don't think I had seen one.  Now they are everywhere.   Everywhere...in ads, on product tags in stores such as Home Depot, and even in books.

They have actually been around for a while - since the 1990's.  I understand they originated in Japan.

So what are they?

You will see this square black and white thing with black squares and white spaces.  If you have the app on your phone, you snap a picture and...well, you are supposed to get video, or extra information, or whatever, on your phone.  It's optional right now ("additional content")  but I can see a time where t won't be optional.

And if you can't afford to access these codes, you will be marginalized.

I never knew what QR codes were called, until I read portions of a book called "I live in the future and here's how it works" by Nick Bilton.  It's fascinating:  to someone in her late 50's, both scary and exciting.

What I don't like about QR codes is that they may force me and others to get a smart phone.  I don't want to get a smart phone, as seductive as they can be.   I don't want to be tied down.  I want to be in control.

I like to live a somewhat simple lifestyle.   I don't want to be locked into a cell phone contract, be it one year or two year.  Nice prepayment penalties, right?  So instead, I use something called Trac Fone, which allows you to have month to month service, and doesn't require a contract.  Also, its phones are simple.  They basically make phone calls.  The newer ones have keyboards so you can text. (I don't text:  horrors! Well, my son thinks so.)

I will make this clear:  I don't think the Internet is frying our brains.  I welcome other forms of getting information besides the frozen print page. (Nick Bilton writes quite a bit about this).  But:   I want to be able to control my access to information.

And if I have to tie myself down to a contract (noting I do not have a contract for my Internet service-I can quit without a penalty - try that with a smart phone contract!) just to use QR codes:  well, no thank you.

But:  not so fast.  Recently I read a magazine article about something called Safety Tats.   If you have children, you may want to check this out.

So....I remind myself that technology is like fire.  Fire is neutral, neither good nor bad.  It's how you choose to use it:  cooking food (good), arson (bad).

So let's not be afraid "just because".

But I still don't think I will get a smart phone soon.

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