We live in an awesome and exciting world of digital organization and electronic communication. With my phone, I can be contacted through approximately eight different channels and never miss a single message. My entire office is paperless, which allows me to be extraordinarily mobile as well. The one activity, however, that seems to have resisted a nudge into the digital world is the age-old tradition of exchanging business cards.
Some of the more tech-savvy and anti-paper professionals devised their own system for scanning business cards and archiving them digitally. We’ve also seen a series of attempts to make the process faster, such as the invention of the vCard format, or iPhone apps like Bump that require all parties involved to be using the same technology.
Today I’m going to look at a LinkedIn companion app called CardMunch. CardMunch is designed to streamline the professional networking process and make quick work of archiving contact information for later use. Hit the jump to find out more!
Deceptive Simplicity: A Narrative
Because I get so emotionally charged about iPhone apps, discovering CardMunch was a bit of a journey for me. Allow me to guide you through the emotional roller coaster that I experienced when I first launched the app. At first, I was excited.
Snap a picture of the business card, and then throw it away before you lose it.
CardMunch first starts you off on the camera screen, where you are prompted to take a picture of a business card with your iPhone’s built in camera. Since I recently received the business card from Envato’s very own Scott Wills, AudioJungle site manager, I decided to use his business card to give this app a test.
The interface for CardMunch is, as the subtitle above suggests, deceptively simple. Upon snapping an image of the business card, the app gave me the option to append a note to the image, and then seemed to simply log the image in the app for me. I thought “What? Just a library of business card images? Well that’s cool … I guess.” I was let down.
Tack a note onto the image while you wait for it to process.
However, after some poking and prodding, trying to figure out if there was any more substance to this app, I discovered that upon tapping the image of the business card, I was shown a message informing me that the LinkedIn team was hard at work transcribing said image. I didn’t know what that meant, but before long, that image disappeared and was replaced by a name bar. It seemed as though CardMunch had dug through the LinkedIn databases and found Scott’s profile, all from a simple image of a business card. I was excited again.
If the person who gave you the business card isn’t on LinkedIn, CardMunch will do it’s best to scan the information on the card and create a contact for them based on that information.
As I poked around the profile information that CardMunch returned, my excitement faded briefly. I assumed that the app was simply cataloging my business cards and building a thorough, yet unintegrated address book based on LinkedIn profiles. It was cool, I thought, to be able to access this information based on a simple business card, but what was I going to do with it?
Voila! The card owners contact information is now on your phone, and linked to their LinkedIn profile if they have one.
Enter the final, and probably most valuable feature of the app: integration. I discovered that by tapping the Edit button in the upper right corner of the contact list, I was given a few options. Not only could I export all of this information to Apple’s own Contacts app, but I could also connect with Scott on LinkedIn straight from CardMunch. My excitement, needless to say, jumped back up to maximum capacity.
Connect with a user, or add the information to the Contacts app on your phone.
After discovering, assuming, and discovering some more, I was mentally exhausted in a sense. But once I’d come to terms with what the app did, I considered the implications. Personally, I aim to remain as paperless as possible, and the bane of such an existence is small pieces of paper (like business cards) that I have to keep track of. With CardMunch, I can snap a picture of a business card, let the hamster wheel at LinkedIn do all the work for me, and bury the physical card in a file where I never have to worry about losing it again.
There have been several attempts by various developers to streamline the professional networking process as it functions in real life (see: Bump), but the glory of CardMunch is that it doesn’t rely on your networking target to be using the same service. Most professionals are on LinkedIn these days, and with this app you can connect with that person online almost as instantly as in person.
After all of the emotional flip-flopping was all said and done, I found CardMunch to be well designed and extremely useful. At the very least, it will encourage me to do a better job of managing my LinkedIn connections.
As it’s considered one of the major social networks, I’m glad to see that LinkedIn is developing companion apps to it’s main one. I think that the major social networks and services have a lot to offer, and could benefit from a fragmented mobile market like LinkedIn appears to be doing.
Give CardMunch a spin at let us know what you think. Do you have another system for keeping your professional contacts organized? If so, we’d love to hear about that too!