Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Old Tech - still very cool

I was down at the provincial small business office the other day, registering my company name. 

It's a very old school process. You fill out a form by hand. You give it to the staff behind the desk, who take your money and give you the "goldenrod" copy. (What's goldenrod?) And then it disappears into the bureaucratic ether. 

But, before they took the document, the very nice woman behind the desk suggested that I ensure that my name was not already registered. I told her that I'd done a Google search and that it looked OK. She suggested that I also check the official registry, on microfiche.

The microfiche machine was tucked into a corner a few feet away. The last time I'd seen one was in college. I was a little intimidated, but it was remarkably easy. You found the piece of plastic that matched the letters you wanted, inserted it into the machine, and moved the lever around to find your section.

Was this an efficient way to search? No, of course not. It would have been so much faster if they'd had it online, where they could have a database that updated in real-time. It could have been a ten second process, rather than five minutes. 

But it was fun. It was fun to see all of the thousands of names possible, all on these few tiny pieces of plastic. It was fun because it gave a sense of tangibility to the process. And it was fun because I got to navigate this giant old machine to find things on my own.

So, I learned a little something about interaction here. Sometimes building a little inefficiency into an customer engagement can be a good thing. Make it unique, make it engaging, and even though it might not be the most economical way, it might still be far superior. 

p.s. The people at the small business office are great. And, ironically, the name was approved within a day and the form e-mailed to me in a PDF.

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