Ten years later, it works….

On this day ten years ago I was trying really hard to read the this QR Code chocolate from that Andy Ramsden, who back then was working at the University of Bath. I think the chocolate was from a QR Codes workshop that Andy was running as part of a JISC programme. Doing a Google search unearthed this paper that he presented at the ALT Conference that same year.

Back then I failed miserably to read the code, despite using lots of different QR Code readers….

So I took a photograph instead and then ate the chocolate.

Chocolate QR Code

I even mentioned this in a blog post a few years ago about QR Codes on Cadbury chocolate bars.

It took a while to scan in the code as the foil packing and colours used on the QR Code made it difficult to capture the code. It reminded me of the chocolate QR Codes that the University of Bath made for the QR Codes project we did a few years back.

I think the issue back then was the contrast between the dark and white chocolate.

Today I wondered a bit….

So I used the in-built QR code reader in my iPhone and checked if it could read the QR code. Years ago you needed a unique app to read QR codes, today the iPhone camera has that feature built in, as do many Android phones.

So could my iPhone read this ten year old QR code, it could…

QR Code reader

Yay!

Alas…. Though the QR Code works the website link it had encoded inside it is now dead and gone….

University of Bath 404

I wonder what it was all about?

Top Ten Blog Posts 2018

Over the last twelve months I have published 19 posts.

The post at number ten was from ten years ago, and contained a (now deleted) YouTube video on the new Skyfire browser for your Windows smartphone or PDA. Skyfire discontinued its Skyfire Web Browser in 2014.

The post at nine was now a rather dated post from ten years ago about how Scrabble’s owners were going to sue Scrabulous.

The eight most popular post was another ten year old post which was about when Apple was offering some free TV shows on iTunes.

The seventh post was from 2012 when my HP Photosmart printer died. My printer is dead! was a sorry tale about how replacing the ink cartridges on the HP B110a resulted it in destroying the print head.

The post at number six was Comic Book Fonts which was about the amazing comic book fonts from Comic Book Fonts.

The post at number five was wondering Where are my Comic Life Styles? I found them.

The fourth most popular post was about the free wifi (or lack of) on my holiday, Haven no wifi.

Polaroid Pogo printer

The post at three was about Dusting off the Pogo my old Polaroid Bluetooth pocket printer. Still going strong.

The second post was about when my iMac Fusion Drive Failed and had to have it replaced.

So the most popular post on the blog was my post about QR codes on chocolate bars, Cadbury QR Coding and Twirling was published in 2015 and was one of many posts I published on the use of QR codes back then.

Cadbury Twirl Bites QR Code

Tech Stuff: Top Ten Blog Posts of 2017

Over the last twelve months I have published 26 posts, many of these were about my return to fibre. So it is nice to see that the tenth most popular post on the blog this year was from nearly a year ago.  We will have fibre in “12 months”!  I said back then that according to BT Openreach we would have fibre within twelve months, I was slightly sceptical, but nine months after publishing that post I did get fibre.

new fibre cabinet 25

The ninth post was about when my iMac Fusion Drive Failed and had to have it replaced.

The post at number eight was another post about my fibre journey, Still checking… was when the cabinet was activated, but alas wasn’t accepting orders.

The seventh post was from 2012 when my HP Photosmart printer died. My printer is dead! was a sorry tale about how replacing the ink cartridges on the HP B110a resulted it in destroying the print head.

The post at six was about  Dusting off the Pogo my old Polaroid Bluetooth pocket printer. Still going strong.

Polaroid Pogo printer

The fifth post was how I don’t like BT FON which was originally published in 2011.

The post at number four was wondering Where are my Comic Life Styles? I found them.

The third most popular post was about the free wifi (or lack of) on my holiday, Haven no wifi

The post at number two was Comic Book Fonts which was about the amazing comic book fonts from Comic Book Fonts.

So the most popular post on the blog was my post about QR codes on chocolate bars,  Cadbury QR Coding and Twirling was published in 2015 and was one of many posts I published on the use of QR codes back then.

Cadbury Twirl Bites QR Code

Tech Stuff – Top Ten Blog Posts of 2015

Not too many posts on the tech blog this year,  surprised though that the post  Google Glass is Dead, or is it… didn’t make the top ten!

Looking at fonts especially those designed for comic strips was the tenth most popular posting in 2015. Written in 2010 it was about the excellent Comic Book Fonts available. Read the post Comic Book Fonts.

Thinking about the Apple TV back in 2012 was the ninth most popular post on the blog. Apple TV Thoughts was quite a long post on my reflection on the Apple device.

apple_tv-q410-angled-lg

The eighth post is from 2008 when Apple added free episodes to the iTunes Store. The high ranking for this post is probably down the blog post title: Free iTunes TV Shows (on UK iTunes Store).

A few years ago my HP printer died when I replaced the inks. The seventh most read post is about my dead printer. My printer is dead!.

HP PhotoSmart B110a

I haven’t done a podcast choice for a while now, but the sixth most popular post on the blog was the second in the series, Podcast Choice #02 – Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4. Quite a popular post as people seem to keep wanting to have my copies of the shows I have downloaded over the years through iTunes.

Comic Life is one of my favourite apps on the Mac, but once I lost my styles and that is at number five. Where are my Comic Life Styles?

Wifi makes an appearance at number four, with my experiences at a Haven Holiday Camp. Haven no wifi.

More Wifi this time with my experiences with BT Wifi networks resulted in the third most read post, called I don’t like BT FON.

In November 2014, we finally got free wifi on First Great Western trains, and my post about this, Finally, free FGW wifi on the train was the second most popular blog post in 2015.

Cadbury Twirl Bites QR Code

I use to post a lot of posts on QR Codes and the most popular post the year was this one from January 2015 about the ones you found on Cadbury chocolate bars. Cadbury QR Coding and Twirling.

Happy New Year and all the best for 2016.

Cadbury QR Coding and Twirling




I have in previous blog posts looked at QR Code implementation and how some companies implementations of QR Codes have worked or not quite worked.

Sitting down after munching some Cadbury Twirl Bites I noticed a QR Code on the back of pack and I had my phone with me, so I thought, well why not scan it.

Cadbury Twirl Bites QR Code

Using Qrafter on the iPhone I scanned in the code. It took a while to scan in the code as the foil packing and colours used on the QR Code made it difficult to capture the code. It reminded me of the chocolate QR Codes that the University of Bath made for the QR Codes project we did a few years back. Generally QR Codes work best when they are black on white.

Once I finally managed to scan the code I was surprised initially that I wasn’t given the choice to open the URL that was encoded into the code.

Qrafter Screenshot

I had to copy it and paste it into Safari manually. The reason was that the URL though correct, Qrafter didn’t recognise it was it started with landing. rather than www.

landing.cadburydairymilk.co.uk/qr/twirlbites/100

This is partly an issue with Qrafter not recognising a non-traditional URL and partly Cadbury for not putting http:// into the URL before encoding as a QR Code.

So

http://landing.cadburydairymilk.co.uk/qr/twirlbites/100

would have worked.

Having put the URL into Safari you are then faced with a mobile site for Cadbury.

https://technologystuff.co.uk/?cat=150

Swiping as directed results in a video of a chicken crossing a road.

a chicken crossing a road.

No I don’t really get it either, no idea what the connection is with chocolate!

Back of a lorry

As you start to look, you do start to find QR Codes in all manner of places. As well as junk mail, advertising, newspapers and chocolate bar wrappers, I recently found a QR Code on the back of a lorry!

Driving up the M5 I found myself behind a big lorry with a huge QR Code on the back. Taking the advice on the lorry to “scan with care” and using my iPhone in a windscreen mount, I was able to take a photograph and also use the Optiscan App to scan the code. When I later stopped at the services I checked the URL and found the QR Code belonged to a waste management company and the URL sent you to a mobile version of their website.

An interesting use of a QR Code, but was it any better than a URL or a short URL? To be honest yes, would be much easier for a passenger to scan in the code then trying to note down a complicated URL. This was in my opinion a pretty good use of a QR Code, but I did worry about people like me trying to scan them in, whilst driving.

Take a break

I get a fair bit of junk mail at work, but one of the most bizarre I got recently was a KitKat!

Underneath the KitKat though was a QR Code. Well you know me I just had to scan it…

Though whoever used it hadn’t realised that the border or padding around a QR Code is an integral part of the pattern and it helps the scanning software to identify the code amongst the rest of the page.

As a result it took me a little longer for Optiscan on my iPhone 4 to recognise the code.

The code sent me to a YouTube video which was a good idea.

As I eat the KitKat I can watch a video about the company on my phone.

Overall, apart from the graphic designer losing the integral border on the code, this was a good way of using a QR Code on a piece of marketing material.

Homebase QR Code

This is another one of those mainstream uses of QR Codes that really fails to deliver for the consumer.

Regular readers of the blog will know that I have been noting where I have seen QR Codes in the mainstream, in other words in the places regular people will see and use them.

This particular QR Code was found on a flyer from Homebase which was delivered through the door with the post.

As you can see, there are instructions telling you that you need to scan it in with your smartphone.

The first issue is that have you seen the size of that QR Code? I have enlarged the picture so if you want to scan it in yourself you will be able to.

The problem is that the URL they are using is too big and the resulting QR Code is as a result very complicated.

http://www.homebase.co.uk/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/HomebaseStaticPage
SecondLevel?langId=110&storeId=10151&includeName=HBCreate
TheLook/createthelook_collections.html&int_cmp=hp_main_beinspired

They should have used a shorter URL so that the QR Code was less complicated. I know from experience that some phones, notably the iPhone 3G and 3GS with low resolution cameras have trouble reading and resolving very complicated QR Codes. Using a short URL would have resulted in a less complicated QR Code and so less potential errors when reading and resolving them when using a phone with a low resolution camera. I should say though that the iPhone 4 with the Optiscan App read and resolved the code just fine.

So once you have read the code where does the it take you?

Well to the standard Homebase website.

This is not a mobile version of the site, no, just the full standard version, which to be honest doesn’t really work on the small screen on a phone.

I did check by opening the page in Safari to see if there was a mobile version, no there was not.

So does this use of a QR Code work?

Well the code does what it says, it takes you to the full range on their website, however the QR Code is too complicated for what it needs to do and the website really should be optimised for a mobile device.

Wagamama QR Code

This is another one of those mainstream uses of QR Codes that fails to deliver for the consumer.

Regular readers of the blog will know that I have been noting where I have seen QR Codes in the mainstream, in other words in the places regular people will see and use them.

This particular QR Code was in the noodle restaurant chain of Wagamama. It was a link to make a group booking.

As with many mainstream companies the link goes to their full website and not a mobile optimised version. You have to work out which link to click…

Then you need to fill out a form.

Which is quite long and complicated and not that easy to fill in using a mobile device…

It would appear that Wagamama like a lot of companies using QR Codes are failing to realise that people who scan in QR Codes are scanning them in from their smartphones and as a result the web page they are directed to needs to be optimised for the mobile browser. Though Mobile Safari is pretty good at rendering full size websites and the browsing experience isn’t that bad, a mobile version of the full website is normally a much better experience.

A good example of how it can work better is the QR Code used on a BBC cooking programme, though the QR Code wasn’t on screen for very long!

What the Wagamama experience shows is once more that QR Codes are been used because they are “cool” and “trendy” or they are responding to advice from a “consultant” of some kind. It would appear that actual process from start to finish and when I say finish I mean going pass that initial URL that the QR Code sends you to and then trying to book, enter or whatever you are suppose to do hasn’t actually been tested or carried out by “normal” people. What might be even more worrying is that testing had actually been done and the process was considered to be “normal” and “okay” as the users hadn’t experienced anything different!

What I actually think this means that though the mobile web is here and is been used by lots of people, there are still many companies who don’t actually realise that!

QR Codes on the Train


Travelling back from London I found on the back of the seat reservation cards on the First Great Western train I was a QR Code competition (or draw).

I didn’t actually notice them until I was getting off the train, the main reason they’re on the back and I was sitting at one of those rare table seats so didn’t have the back of the reservation card facing me.

You’re not really suppose to remove them I guess, so you’ll probably spend time trying to scan it in from your seat with the person sitting in front of you wondering what on earth is going on!

So quite a nice idea really by FGW, scan in the QR code and enter the competition, but alas the execution failed really!

Rather than use a QR code to create a text message it was only an URL which then sent you to a standard web page (not mobile optimised) which you then needed to fill in all the details.

It’s obviously not really a competition, more a draw to gather in personal information to send you loads of marketing materials. I don’t have much of a problem with that as you don’t have to enter and that’s all competitions are really, a way of gathering data.

However I couldn’t really see the benefit of using a QR code here, the point of a QR Code is to reduce or replace the need to enter text using a mobile device. However in this case the text you needed to enter (even the bare minimum) on the web form was way more than if you decided not to enter via QR Code and use the SMS entry details. It also assumes that you have 3G access on the train (no wifi with FGW) and that is most certainly not always the case.

This really was a pointless exercise in many respects and really missing an opportunity to take advantage of what QR codes can offer. To prove a point, this is one I created which will allow you to send an SMS just by scanning the code.

You won’t need to add any more information (in theory you need to add your e-mail address) and FGW will then get your entry and your mobile number; so they can then start sending you marketing SMS text messages.

As for the competition and the prize? Well if you do enter and win, you win an Amazon Kindle. Nice I guess as it is a great device… however when will you know you’ve won?

So the 8th August 2012, nearly a year away, by which time there will be new and different devices available.

As you will realise if you read this blog on a regular basis that we are seeing more and more QR codes in the mainstream, both media and corporates are using them, in the main for marketing purposes. However the execution of them is in many ways poor and done without thinking about the end user trying to scan and use them.