QR Codes Where There Is No Signal

This is a great video all about the inappropriate use of QR codes.

There's one area where I think Scott Stratten is wrong - and that's on the issue of QR codes where there is no signal.

It's a common trope to bemoan QR codes on the tube, or on an aeroplane - but I believe it's not a very good argument.

Firstly, take a look at the posters on a typical tube train. All of them have phone numbers, SMS activities, or URLs on them - even though there's no way to use them Yet people don't laugh at them. Why? There's no way to place a phone call while on the tube, is there?

Secondly, most "underground" line have significant sections which are overground - offering plenty of opportunity to call, text, browse, or scan. And if you don't want to do it on the tube, you can always save it for later.

Which brings us on to the third point, caching. Every QR scanner I've come across has a "history" function which will let you see all the codes you've previously scanned.

So, it's perfectly possible to see a QR code on a tube train, scan it, and then open the URL when you reach civilisation. QR code scanners do not require an Internet connection to work.

4 thoughts on “QR Codes Where There Is No Signal

  1. says:

    Yes! I've been pointing this out to people who complain, and they usually come around to the logic. Unless they just don't like QR Code use, but that invalidates their argument 😉

  2. PaulS says:

    I'm not sure if it's that simple. I think its a question of expectations. I believe that most people don't expect a phone number or URL to work underground because that's what they've come to expect over time. Chances are, at some point, if they've seen a number/URL underground and, assuming that they've felt the urge to follow it up immediately, they've failed and "learnt" that i's a no no ("Of course. I'm underground. No signal"). At present QR codes are to new for many people for the learning process to have taken place so they get negative experience when they scan off-grid. I believe that people expect something to happen when then scan a code. A "Can't connect" doesn't cut the mustard.

    However, in many ways simply putting a URL in a code in such a situation is missing a trick. Much better to put a call to action around the code to manage expectations "Scan this code to link up later" and have a further call to action in the code content ("Remember to go to http://(shortURL) when you can)" or even an iCal event/todo (see http://code.google.com/p/zxing/wiki/BarcodeContents).

    It's a good idea to have a code (faster and more accurate than scribbling down a number/URL) as long as it is location adapted.

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