Friday, September 7, 2012

Using Barcodes at Scientific Conferences

You may have noticed that some people are incorporating mobile barcodes (QR (quick response) codes) into their presentations and posters. Instead of handing out flyers or reprints that people invariably lose (or throw away) on the way home, you can insert a custom barcode on a corner of your poster, which when scanned with a smartphone, will direct the user to your website or other URL where they can access the information of interest (your profile, a reprint, a detailed method, a pdf of your poster or presentation).

This option not only saves a few trees, it leads people to other information about you and your work. The image inserted into this post is a barcode I generated at one of the websites that provides the service for free.  When scanned with a barcode scanner, this takes someone directly to this blog.

You can also download a barcode reader for your smartphone.  Then you're all set to provide a direct link on your poster to additional information about you or your work and to access similar information provided by others via barcodes on their posters. On your professional website (you have one, right?), you simply set up a page that contains the relevant information and use the page URL to generate the unique barcode.

You can also use barcodes on your business card or your CV to direct people to your website. Another use for barcodes at conferences is to direct job hunters to a website with detailed information about applying.  Instead of posting a flyer listing a long URL that people may not copy correctly, add a barcode that they can scan with their phone.  Just generate a unique code for the webpage advertising the job, fellowship, or other item of interest and add it to the flyer.

Not everyone has a smartphone, however.  To help these people out, you can use a shortened URL instead of a barcode.  Note the text just below the barcode in the above image.  This is a shortened URL that is automatically generated along with the barcode.  If you copy and paste that text into your search engine address line, it takes you to my blog.  You can also generate a short URL at sites such as Google url shortener.  Here is a short URL for my last post:  This shortened version of the original URL ( is much easier for someone to copy and to tweet.

Have any of you readers used barcodes yet?  If so, how have you used them?

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