Let’s kill the business card and have an iPhone pow-wow

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Let’s kill the business card, the paper one that is.

Why do we need it anyways? It does that hideous bent corner thing when you take out of your wallet (excuse us “Mr. That’s-why-I-get-my-cards-lamented”, you are an exception), the VP of Financial Genius gets tossed next to the Hatha yoga instructor and besides, that font you chose, with painstaking care, is ugly anyways.

Like Ernst-Jan Pfauth, editor in chief of NextWeb.org, I feel impelled to stop the “ruthless hitmen” and their budding online appetites to belittle and ultimately, kill the paper business card and switch to rmbrME’s bzCard or some other gadget.

Little surprise, most visitors, many with entrepreneurial backgrounds, on the original TechCrunch post by Jason Kincaid weren’t too fond of the whole “death warrant” idea.

“You guys need to get out of the [Silicon] [V]alley more. The business card, and your other page view bloating proclamation about voicemail, is not going away any time soon. You do realize that most business people only use their phone for voice calls and e-mail? Most business people don’t even belong to a “social network.””

– Alex Valentine

“Most successful people I know simply don’t own a computer, sure as hell not a cell phone. There is no substitute for a business card in the real world.”

– Anderson

“They’re clumsy? What is that supposed to mean? They’re pieces of paper.They’re easy to lose? When did pants stop sporting pockets? Useless? Do the words fall off if the card is shaken or something? And seriously? Trying to throw in the “it’s the green thing to do” line? Come on. That line is wearing thin.”

– David H.

Now, from a sustainability in business perspective, the bzCard (or other eCard, vCard, etc.) can save paper, save trees and contribute to cuts in greenhouse emissions, right?

Not quite. Besides the fact that business cards have a lighter environmental footprint than ever thanks to individuals like Naomi Pearson featured in Triple Pundit (with Net Impact and Green Audit for Environmental Graphic Designers), companies like Green Printer and many other players, there is a valuable human exchange that doesn’t fit into the wireless network equation that happens when my hand touches yours, for a brief second, to give you my card. This is no fluff, this is how and why you remember some people at the end of that clean tech venture networking-palooza and why, others, you just don’t.

The point is, our business cards get (and are) loaded with meaning that would be a shame and detriment to take out of our business culture.

Computers crash, memories fail, back-ups are inevitable and your iPhone may not recall your accountant’s email when you are out in the wifi-free bush pursuing the “Green Man” challenge. Now, I am not saying that there is no need for things like eCards or bzCards, but that they cannot unilaterally replace the paper card. In fact, as entrepreneurs, our little ‘paper connectors’ become a craved luxuries in our electronic worlds.

What is more, that bzCard logic leads to the misleading impression that everyone else belongs to that 0.2% population that owns a portable (or otherwise) device equipped to store your online contacts.

As Pfauth brought up in NextWeb.org on the unsustainable digital divide:

“Really? Kill the business card? That would be really inconvenient for someone who works with consumers who can’t afford an iPhone or any other fancy smartphone, or who aren’t as immersed in this world of tech like we all are.”

A cautionary note here: I am noticing that that these supercool online business card galleries are somehow making it OK for aesthetics to trump functionality when it comes to paper business cards, which, in real-life, they ought not to. The business card, argues Anne Stewart in “What happened to the classic business card”, still needs to fit in our wallet or datebook without making it lumpy or a hassle.

“Business card printing isn’t what it used to be,” begins Stewart. “We’re not simply trying to communicate basic information anymore. We’re trying to get noticed, to shake ourselves out of our unshakeable apathy. Today, the business card is, it seems, required to entice, titillate, and often, provide a uniquely interactive experience.”

So, finally, my suggestion, Silicon Valley gentlemen?

Worry less about the ‘clumsiness’ or ‘looseness’ of these valuable paper connectors and check out some of the ways your powerful industry (and network) can further challenge itself to become an environmental leader. Debra Littlejohn Shinder of TechRepulic, for instance, writes a fantastic and very applicable article on “10 tips for implementing green IT”.

It is a small step, but I am sure you can fit it into your iPhone calendar, gentlemen.

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