Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Share your Build: QR Codes

Getting to 10,000 supporters on Cuusoo is not just about creating a great MOC.  You also have to work at promoting your MOC to get it out to the audience that will appreciate it.  It really helps when you have a popular IP related to your project but that is not going to work for everyone.

So that means you have to self promote, and with the con season upon us, it is important that you utilize those opportunities to their fullest.  That is why I am doing this write up on QR codes.  It is a bit rushed but I wanted to make sure as many people had access to it as possible leading in to BrickWorld.  Personally, I will be using them at Brick Fiesta

What are QR-codes?

This is a QR-code

It is simply the next step in the evolution of the traditional bar-code. The advantage a QR code has over bar codes though is that they hold a lot more data and they use visual anchors to allow you to scan them at a distance and at any orientation.

Their use has become popularized by the emergence of smart phone apps that can read them.  These apps can tell you whatever is stored in the QR code...but if it is a web address...well, most QR code scanner will  just take you there.  The above QR code will take you to my Corellian Defender 

What does this mean to me?
The point of this is that using QR codes you can more efficiently bring people to your Cuusoo project.  Wherever you display your MOC you can can put a QR code near it.  If people scan the QR code it will take them right to your project.

How do I make a QR-code?
Ah the Internet! It does everything.  There are some more direct ways to create QR codes but I am going to tell you my three step method as it is the one I use (simple enough reason).  There are some sites that do both steps for you at once but I like a bit more hands on approach to make sure everything is going according to plan.

  1. You need to get a tiny version of your project's URL.  You want to save as many characters as possible (more on this in the next part).  There are many options for this but I use TinyURL.com.

    Its dead simple, go to the site, put in the Cuusoo link (or any other link you want to use) into the input, then click on "Make TinyURL!  In a few moments the site will output your condensed url. 

    So http://lego.cuusoo.com/ideas/view/11084 becomes http://tinyurl.com/6wtnuwm

    Not a huge difference but it is actually kinda critical (again explained in the next part).  Your shortened URL should be less than 30 characters.  If it is not, because you are doing something other than a Cuusoo site, its not the end of the world, but it will force you into a higher QR code version.
  2. Go to a QR code generating site (you probably could have guessed that one).  I use the one at Raco Industries because it allows you a lot of control.

    • Paste your short url into the "Code" text box
    • Set QR code version to "V02"
    • Set QR code error correction level to "L" 
    • Click on "Generate Bar Code"

      Your new QR code should appear.
  3. Copy the QR code image and store using your preferred method.
Now What?
Now you print out your QR code and display it anywhere that is appropriate.  Right next to your Lego build is a good place to start.

So here is where physics catches up with us.  Your audience's smart phones need to see the QR code at a high enough resolution to scan in the data.  The larger the QR code is (physically), the further away it can be processed. Also, the simpler the QR code is, the further away it can be processed.  That is why we want the link to be small and to use the Version 2 QR code.  Version 2 is the "least dense" QR code option that can still store condensed link to a Cuusoo page.  If you use Version 3 or higher you can hold more data, but it uses finer imaging which will cut down on the range to the camera.

I realize I might be getting ahead of myself.  Most QR codes are made to be in magazines or what have you where the smartphone user can just put their phone right up to it and scan the code. At conventions however the audience is probably going to be a few feet (minimum) from your build.  So we need to print out a QR code that can be processed at a larger distance.

There is a general approximation that the width of a QR code should be 1/10 the distance that you want to process it at.  So, a 1 inch QR code can be processed at 10 inches.  This range varies with the version of the QR code, lighting of the room, stability of the phone, and phone and app of course.

I tried this myself a few times in a room of acceptable lighting and got the following ranges based on QR widths.  I used the "ShopSavvy" app to do the reading on an Iphone.  Here are my results.  

Width (inches) Distance (inches) With Arm (inches) Total Distance (approximate feet)
1 11 35 3
1.5 25 49 4
2 32 56 4.5
2.5 38 62 5
3 43 67 5.5

Excluding the 1 inch, I seem to be getting about 15.5 inches distance for every inch of QR code width.

So, how big to make your QR code? 

This is all advice at this point but: Don't let it overshadow your build of course and don't make it so big the Con officials, or your fellow builders get angry at you.  Also, you get to add about 2 feet (24 inches) for the user.  The distances are from the smart phone to the QR code but the user (most anyway) will be able to get the phone closer than they can get physically by the simple action of stretching out their arm.  This is likely going to give you much more that 24 inches but I will play it safe.  Therefore, based on my personal experience, a QR code between 2 and 2.5 inches will give you a usable range of about 4.5 to 5 feet which should work pretty well for most convention setups.

Also, don't forget to keep a copy of the QR code on hand so you can present it to people you are talking to at the con.  "Scan this" is much easier than telling them "just go to http://lego.cuusoo.com/ideas/view/11084"

Cheers and Good luck at the Cons.  

Unrelated Addendum: Call for Updated Projects

Do you have a project that you have recently updated with a lot of new features (or follow one that has)?  Cuusoo does not, as yet, have a very good system for helping you get the word out on your project updates, Updates that could get you supporters. 

If you would like my help getting that word out,  contact me about the project and what changes have recently improved it.  If I like what you are doing I will put it in the "second look" articles in my daily Cuusoo blog.

Cheers
Glenbricker