Remember the sob tale of how I had no guts to talk to that lady in the bus? If only I had met Yinghan sooner…
Even though I saw so many new faces at BlogOut, his stood out the most. Yinghan was seated at our “Citizen Journalism” table where I had everyone first introduce themselves. The minute he presented himself and what he did, the entire group became glued to what he had to say. Yinghan had given up a comfy investment career to pursue his dream of making people happy. How? As inspired by the movie Hitch, he wanted to bring couples together. Bring in a new twist to an old idea and shazam… Hitchoo was born (oooh!).
While he had explained in theory on how his service worked back at BlogOut, I was intrigued by how it would work in real life. Coincidentally, he contacted me today and asked if I wanted to do dinner. Since I was spending my day at the downtown museums recording videos for my blog (last day of International Museum Day 2007!), I offered to meet him at City Hall at 7pm.
At the basement of Raffles City, we chatted as we dined at Ding Tai Fang, then moved onto Ben & Jerry’s for dessert. Life seemed serendipitous around him as the cute girl serving us was exceptionally cheery and extremely helpful, especially to two confused souls trying to pick our flavors for the evening. Under normal circumstance, I’d have thought to myself, she’s cute, paid, and walked off thinking how a loser will always be a loser. Under Yinghan’s Hitchoo-powered circumstance, he whipped out his wallet, took out the familiar brown card and in a genuine manner, told her “you made my day” as he gave her the card.
She was flattered.
I watched from a distance, not wanting to make it seem like I was in it as a joke. I felt like I was in a movie, in a perfect scene, where whipping out my camera would have ruined it entirely. Just my luck, my wearable Archos cam was sent to France for repairs (charging unit busted). Regardless of that, I was pretty amazed. The girl didn’t seem to think that he was trying to be weird with her, which was the point. The brown card he gave seemed to be the missing link someone like me would need. I had asked Yinghan earlier why someone would be motivated to give a hitchoo card instead of a regular name card, to which he responded with two rationales: privacy and mystique (not mutually exclusive).
First of all, privacy is very important in the dating game. Giving a regular name card entails giving away where you work and your contact information. While guys might not think twice about this, the loss of privacy would be more challenging if a girl were interested in a guy. Note that the hitchoo cards contain very brief information, simply the Hitchoo URL, username and passkey, which is a unique code for each and every person you meet. It also expires after a while to protect your identity in case the card gets passed around (e.g. graffiti-ed on toilet walls). After logging in with the card’s details, the card receiver can then look up the profile which the giver has shared, and can then choose to contact him or her if they were interested. In relation to this, I also thought of another reason, that is sometimes your profession might put you in a particular stereotype which may be unattractive at first glance. Perhaps this allows users to sort of glance a few pages of a book first, instead of solely relying on the cover. As an added bonus, Yinghan indicated how he has plans for Hitchoo to check registered users with local agencies as a safeguard to their members (e.g. using Singaporean I/C to check married status, criminal records, etc).
Second of all, the mystique he referred to was something I call “game-like”. Understanding user motivations and the significance of self-discovery, the chances of getting attention returned to the card giver would likely be higher if some non-invasive form of investigation were involved. For instance, a regular name card might contain your name and cellphone number. For someone to learn more about you, a certain level of commitment would need to be staked. He or she would likely have to call or email you, which might be a risk not worth taking since the receiving party would have to inadvertently trade their contact information, without giving a chance to know the interested party first. Using the Hitchoo system, entering the username and passkey would feel like your given exclusive access to this person’s life. I think it would be as interesting as redeeming a mystery prize, where the unique passkey entices you to complete the puzzle. This totally leaks elements of performance art and of ARG, or Alternate Reality Games, as introduced to me by Christy Dena at AoIR ’06.
I’ve actually captured a video of Yinghan explaining “how Hitchoo works” from BlogOut, but I’ll share this in about two weeks. I’m planning to shoot and edit in some “behind the scenes” action from his office, where he’ll introduce his talented team members. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, hitchoo.com has started to allow registrations where you’ll receive eight cards to begin with. Apparently, these Hitchoo cards are expensive to produce.
Update: Drat! For some reason, commenting was closed. Thanks to MrBig, I’ve reopened the floodgates. Tell me what you think of Hitchoo, especially you’re so single.