I bet you've all been on pins and needles to know what happened when the chamber unleased the provocatively-named MingleStick on Tuesday. I got one and trying it out was the most exciting thing I did that entire minute, honest. I can see where this is going, however, and soon we'll all be mingling like maniacs. I don't believe it will completely replace the business card, but soon we'll all be toting electronic/digital/techno gizmos like the MingleStick or something similar to get our discounts at the grocery store, gas pump, you name it. Maybe it'll be the new library card or driver's license, too, in the future. Who knows? Too bad we can't ask Madam Marie.
Anyway, here's what I wrote for The Bristol Press (http://www.bristolpress.com/) for Wednesday's paper:
The MingleStick hit Bristol Tuesday amid much fanfare and some skepticism.
Introduced by the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, the small handheld device – which later plugs into a computer USB port – is for collecting and trading contact information.
Proponents say the MingleSticks, which use infrared technology to transfer data from one to another, will eliminate the need for business cards.
“You simply meet, click and connect,” said Eric Shadd, a self-described MingleStick evangelist for Mingle 360, the company that sells the device.
Chamber President Mike Nicastro, who wants to develop the MingleStick as a loyalty program similar to the chamber card, said his organization is only the third chamber nationally – and the only one in New England – to get the MingleStick.
“We’re excited to launch this,” said Nicastro, urging members to use it as much as possible and bring it to future chamber events.
The chamber handed out MingleSticks to everyone attending the annual economic forecast luncheon, and many there took advantage of the situation to try it out, using the device to collect contact information from each other.
Shadd spoke briefly at the event. He said the device does not store any information, so losing it does not put a user at risk. The information is stored in the company’s database, Shadd said, and is kept private.
“We don’t sell your information, ever,” said Shadd. Users can download their own contact information, he said, or just access it online, similar to a LinkedIn account.
Some people embraced the idea.
“With this, I don’t have to worry about misplacing a business card,” said Susan Warner, who works in marketing and sales for the Lauretano Sign Group. She said she liked the fact that the MingleStick information includes a photograph along with the contact information like name, company, phone number and email address because she can remember faces better than names.
But some weren’t so sure and others didn’t know what to make of it.
“It’s quite different,” said Bud Funk, owner of Fourslide Spring and Stamping.
“It seems very unnatural,” said attorney Karen Gallagher, who arrived at the chamber event with a pocketful of business cards that went unused.
Though everyone at the chamber event could get a MingleStick, they’re not common, at least not yet.
“The question is, how many other people will have them,” Gallagher said.
Accountant John Letizia was blasé about the potential for his MingleStick.
“The problem is, I know most of the people I mingled with,” said Letizia, scanning the room. Letizia said the device is like so much new technology in that it reduces interpersonal contact.
“I miss that part of communication,” Letizia said.
Ed Pelkey opted to leave the luncheon without a MingleStick. He said he has enough trouble keeping his computer operating.
“I’m with the Stone Age,” Pelkey said, joking, “They wouldn’t let me.”
Getting basic information might take on a whole new meaning using a MingleStick instead of asking a new contact for a business card. It could be awkward.
“Now you gotta ask ‘em if they have a MingleStick,” said Funk.
“That opens up a world of possibilities,” observed Steve Collins, a Bristol Press reporter.