Photo: Daniel Blumberg
One of the biggest hits at South By Southwest was New York City startup Hashable. According to CEO Michael Yanonditte, “downloads and sign-ups are up more than 1000% on a daily basis.” I don’t doubt Yavonditte’s figures, but I found a different story in my personal networking.
I logged very few Hashes, but collected several dozen business cards. I was curious to test Hashable’s popularity, so I did not push it on anyone.
If someone asked to Hash me (is that the appropriate syntax?), we Hashed (sounds hot). However, in my four days of non-stop networking, I only got Hashed a handful of times and the majority of those Hashings (sounds like a British breakfast) were at Hashable’s VIP party itself. (No, I was not on the list, but got in anyway!)
Here’s my take on which form of introduction comes out on top. In my next post, I will suggest ways for Hashable to improve.
HINT: I predict Hashable will complement new “smart” business cards, not replace them.
First off, for those unfamiliar with Hashable. Here’s how the New York City startup defines itself:
“Hashable is the ultimate networking app. Exchange business cards, make easy intros and ‘check-in’ with people to track meetings and calls.”
One easy way to share your info with someone is by sending a Tweet that includes your new friend’s Twitter handle and “#justmet.” However, making connections public is NOT required. (Hashable: you need to work harder to clear up this misconception.)
Here are the rules: Six rounds. Five points available per round. I want a clean fight. No hitting below the belt, unless you are reaching for a phone or business card.
Round 1: Ease of Use
Winner: Business Cards, 3 to 2.
Business cards require absolutely no learning curve. Hashable does. However, business cards also require a storage device (Filofax) or you must copy the info from the card to your computer. Hashable does this legwork for you.
Round 2: Security
Winner: Hashable, 3 to 2.
This was a close round. In the future, I expect Hashable and its brethren will take this round 4 to 1 or even 5 to 0. We are already pretty comfortable storing our data in the cloud (email, photos, documents, etc..), but after you #justmet someone, don’t you want to have something tangible to hold onto? Hashable requires a lot of trust, which I expect it will earn as it time goes by. Still data failure and theft are a risk that will never go away.
At the same time, ever lose a business card? Of course. The only difference is that if you do, at least it’s your own damn fault (unless you get mugged).
Round 3: Beauty
Winner: Business Cards 5 to 0
Here’s another category where Hashable can catch up and potentially surpass business cards. Business cards – the good ones – are works of art. Have a look at the cards I picked up last week at South By Southwest (above). On Hashable all of these connections will look pretty much the same, but here they are calling out: “Read Me! Call me! Look at my pretty fonts and graphics!”
Now could we create beautiful digital business cards, too? Absolutely. I’m encouraged by sites like About.me that offer great photography, clean design, and a limited number of useful links for each member’s profile. The tricky part is getting beauty, individuality, AND standardization (so you know where to find contact info, etc…) at the same time.
Round 4: Shareability
Winner: Hashable 5 to 0
Just as MP3’s are easier to share than CD’s, digital connections are light years easier to share than a piece of cardboard.
Round 5: How am I Doing? Charting Progress
Business Cards win 4 to 1
There is nothing quite like a fat stack of business cards to prove that you are a networking king or queen. You can hold the cards in your hand and feel their power. At South By Southwest, I was thrilled to watch my stack of business cards get shorter and my collection of other people’s cards get taller.
Hashable has tried to create a similar feeling with the points, or “HashCred,” you earn from your #justmet’s and #coffee’s. These points are tallied on a leaderboard of the best networkers.
Unfortunately, I find this to be Hashable’s weakest feature. I am not interested in climbing a publicly available networking leaderboard. Nor, do I wish to be reduced to 10 HashCred points that help someone I #justmet move from 10th to 9th place. It makes me feel cheap. I understand that game mechanics may help Hashable grow, but not everything needs to be a competition, a la FourSquare.
Round 6: The Ask
Winner: Business Cards win 3 to 2
This is changing already, but for now I would much rather ask for someone’s business card than Hash them. Exchanging business cards is quick and easy. Hashing is still a bit cumbersome.
Imagine you are at a loud party. You shout into your new friend’s ear:
“Can I have your card!?”
Easy. Now imagine you are Hashing. First, take your phone of your pocket. Then:
“What’s your Twitter handle!?”
You get the idea.
The reason Hashable gets the two points here, is that sometimes you meet someone and you have forgotten to bring cards with you or run out.
Business Cards Round Hashable
Ease of Use
Beauty – – Shareability
Business Cards Win! Final Score 17 to 13
Not a bad performance by Hashable, considering it is David to Business Card’s Goliath. I expect the tide will turn soon enough. And remember, this is only how I score the bout. If, for instance, you don’t care about beauty and remove that round, then Hashable wins 13 to 12. Alternatively, if you don’t care about shareability, then Business Cards win 17 to 8.
My next post will offer a path for Hashable to knock out – or more likely subsume – business cards.
In the meantime, I would love your comments. Want to cry foul on how I judged a round? Go ahead… kill the ref!