Attending an array of conferences, tweetups, and other social networking events has made me a professional business card collector. I always have the best intention of adding important business card contact info to my address book, but it's a task that's always on the bottom of my to-do list. This is a problem for me, because what is the point of giving out or receiving business cards, if they are most likely going straight into a desk drawer or a filing tray.
For me, contact info is only useful when I can search for it on my computer. I need to be able to easily find who I am looking for by simply browsing my address book for keywords – like the name of the conference I met them at, or the company they work for that I miraculously remember them telling me about. Most of the time I don't need someone's contact info right after I meet them, it is usually at a later date when there's a real and important reason to reconnect with them. The result, I have a desk full of business cards that do not help me whatsoever in reconnecting with people I've met and chatted with in person.
I posted a photo last month after the #140 Character Conference (pictured left) expressing how ridiculousness it is that all the business cards I received were about 5 seconds away from being tossed into my desk drawer, probably to never be looked at again. I later received a message from Laura Nelson at SHIFT Communications on behalf of The Neat Company offering to send me one of their scanners. The Neat Company scanners with accompanying software, reads text from business cards, receipts, and documents and imports the info directly into your computer. Of course I said heck yes send me one.
I had to choose between their NeatReceipts or NeatDesk scanners – the former being small in size and less expensive than the latter, which is much larger but can apparently scans items faster than the smaller, more mobile one. I decided on the NeatReceipts (mobile) scanner over the NeatDesk (faster) scanner, mainly because I have very limited desk space, but also because I though it would be useful to bring with me when I travel to conferences and events.
My thoughts after using the NeatReceipts scanner is that no matter which way you approach it, the process of entering contact info from business cards sucks. However, NeatReciept's is undoubtedly helpful at making the tedious process way more efficient and significantly less painful. The scanner's accompanying software imports scanned text to your computer and automatically organizes the information into a contact form. Even after scanning, there is usually some text info you have to manually enter, because the scanner can't decipher the text or doesn't know where it should go. Even despite the fact it is not a perfect machine, I am definitely going to continue to use it, because it scans and imports text not only from business cards but documents and receipts too, which I have already found really useful. However, my final recommendation would be to shell out the extra money and desk space for the faster NeatDesk scanner, because ultimately the point of these scanners are to help you save precious time when doing manually tedious, time-consuming tasks.
I liken the usefulness of these two products to that of a printer. Without a printer, manually copying large amounts of text from the screen to paper would be a huge time sink. In the same light, even though considering these scanner's are not perfect, they do make copying text from paper to your computer the easiest and most efficient method possible right now.
This makes me think, how long before it's a common and universal practice that we strictly share business cards digitally? There are some digital business card solutions out there right now like beamME and Drop Card, but it's challenging to adopt these services when most people still want you to simply hand them your business card. I wonder if the traditional business card will ever really become completely extinct?