July 09, 2004

Corex Cardscan: An Accucard Review

I get to meet lots of incredible people and I like connecting people to each other. As many of you who are in my contact database may have noticed, I have recently started exporting my contact databases into the Accucard service from Corex in order to consolidate two databases and keep all that contact info up to date. This was a difficult decision. I started writing this post when I began using the service three months ago and it's been growing by leaps and bounds ever since. I'm still not sure if this service is just brilliant or a complete menace to everyone else.

How I made the decision to use the Corex Accucard service:
1. My business card collection was starting to add up.
2. I used to have a corex scanner, so I bought myself a new one.
3. I discovered about 100 cards of people I had lost contact with and wanted to reestablish a connection.
4. Old email addresses - see #6 in things I don't like.
5. When you own a Corex card scanner, the accucard service is currently free (I may be getting what I'm paying for, although I would gladly pay a bit extra to get a better product)

Things I like about Accucard:

1. Ease of use
- Integration with the Corex cardscan scanner = no more stacks of cards!
- Data entry with the card scanner is brutally easy.
- Great address book client software
- Online back-up & access (more on this)
2. Limited contact annoyance
- Ability to update someone's information based on a single update initiated by someone else
- One update from my contact may result in updating multiple contact databases besides or including mine.
3. The ability to rekindle lost contacts when someone fills in an old email address while updating via another user.
4. The ability to maintain a HUGE database of contacts without making the entire database public. I have profiles on Linked-in and Ryze, but I can't figure the value of making all of that public. Besides, on these sites all connections are equal, something not true in the real world.
5. An online back-up of my database that I can synchronize between my work and personal computers as well as my PDA.

What I don't like:

1. Loss of control for the database owner
- No ability to customize the message that goes to everyone in my contact database
- No ability to control, influence, or even see how often or when a contact is sent a request update. The default is once a quarter: which is probably too often for most of my contacts and just enough to be annoying for everyone else. Six months or once a year is plenty for most people.
- When I read the overview of the service, it appeared I could choose to exclude some of my contacts from the Accucard service. This does not appear to be the case. At the very least, this is not an intuitive option and strikes of slimly marketing types forcing me to feed everyone into their system.

2. All or nothing control for contacts
- If I send a contact a request for information they have three choices:
a. Verify the data
b. Reject the update and request to be taken off the list.
c. Ignore the request.
This becomes a problem when there are certain people who I want to have my cell phone, personal email address, and mailing address, but most people just need my work phone and email. I know this is a difficult functionality request, but giving people very granular control over who gets what kind of contact data would help this service a lot. Maybe this functionality could be limited to just one or two fields - cell phone & home phone?

3. The service fails poorly.
- I have now had four instances where highly educated and computer savvy people couldn't update their information through the update email - and those are the ones who actually said something. The most recent spat occurred when the service was brought down for "maintenance" (at 9 AM EDT on Monday???? - and then for the entire week of June 7th) When the service isn't working it needs to do a better job of informing contacts that they have done nothing wrong, it's Corex's fault, and please drop by again later.

4. No ability to include a link to the update service in the signature of my email.
- Note: in order for this to work I would have to accept someone else's contact info. (Similar to Linked-in perhaps?)

5. Privacy issues
- Accucard now has my contact database on file - which means I have given the contact data for my friends, co-workers, and colleagues to a public resource without their permission - Accucard has a good privacy policy, but they also seem to have a partnership with Eliyon - something I have only recently discovered - are their data flows between these two entities? I don't know. Would data flows between these two constitute a violation of the Corex privacy policy? Not if they have their act together. Some class-action lawyer type should look into that and see if they are breaching their contract.
- On the flip side 95% of the data is business contact data, not personal contact data. As I mentioned above, there needs to be a way to logically separate personal and business data.

6. I received an update request from Accucard on behalf of a prospective client. The update also asked for my old email addresses that were no longer in service. After entering a dead email address, the service showed me an image of one of my old cards and asked if it was mine. The service showed my card, but not who was in possession of the card. I said yes, but then realized what if I didn't want that person to have my updated info? It turns out you can control who gets your updated info, but this was not clear at the point I had to make the decision.

7. Slow application response - most of the time the Accucard service is decently responsive, but occasionally it slows to a grinding halt. Somewhere in the application is a great idea and a kludgy execution. Judging by the way other companies deal with large database driven sites and applications, there must be a better way of building this application. The design reminds me of the piece of junk site the Bank of Boston and then Fleet used to have for their online banking services back in '99. In fact now that I write this, I think the Bank of Boston site was designed by the Sapient - has its offices in Kendall Square, right down the street from the Corex.

Other products I considered:
I have gotten Plaxo updates from people and felt they were a bit annoying. Good Contacts was interesting, but didn't leverage the centralized directory that makes Accucard less intrusive from a SPAM perspective and slightly scarier from a privacy perspective.

Does Corex have their act together?

Corex has spammed me with two three customer surveys over the last 4 months. Each surveys focused exclusively on the functionality of the scanner and what kind of a person I am. (How often do I go to trade shows, what types of publications do I read?) Neither survey asked anything about Accucard. This leads me to believe that Corex is addicted to it's hardware business and the Accucard service is not a priority.

The Bottom Line:
Despite its wrinkles, I believe the Accucard service provides a valuable directory service that I will continue to use. While many may point at the centralized database and cry privacy foul, 95% of the data is business contact data and I don't think that's all that terrible, although I have removed a few of my more paranoid friends. Corex needs to spin the service off as a separate business unit that can focus on innovating the application rather than flounder around trying to masquerade as anything other than a nice benefit to buying a $200 scanner.

Posted by Abner on July 9, 2004 11:03 AM
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