This week I was at a conference. And at this conference, I received an interactive name-tag. This interactive name-tag was to be the bane of my existence for the next three days. First of all, the name-tag was interactive. Let’s be clear: I can barely stand interacting with people at conferences. Now I have to interact with name-tags, too?

The name-tag had my agenda in it. Handy, you might think. This would be extremely handy if it, say, could be accessed at whim. Unfortunately, the interface was so slow as to be infuriating. It took several seconds for the accelerometer to turn the thing on, then another 30-40 seconds to get the buttons to respond. Plus the thing was the size of a TV remote control, clunky and uncomfortable on a lanyard around the neck, which is how it had to be worn, as I was so helpfully reminded once when I took it off to stuff it in my pocket.

The name-tag’s main function was to mine user interests for spamming direct marketing purposes. So I’d go to a session and have to get the name-tag to recognize that I was in the room (which worked about 40% of the time) so I could receive a survey (that I couldn’t fill out because the interface barely worked) so I could receive points in hopes of being entered into a drawing to win an iPhone.

Not even I want an iPhone that much.

Is this the future? No jet-packs, just interactive name-tags that track us like we are under house arrest and then thank us for beta-testing a lame gadget with a recycling bin full of promotional materials? Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a BlackBerry at these things. Figure out how to get the agenda onto my BlackBerry, if and only if I want it, and maybe that would add value. Otherwise, leave me alone. My company paid you lots and lots of money already.

Needless to say, I didn’t enjoy the conference, and the name-tag had a lot to do with it. I turned it in at the end and got a $5 Starbucks card. Talk about adding insult to injury.

At least I got to hear Ray Kurzweil speak.

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