Creating QR Codes
September 27, 2021 4:16 PM   Subscribe

I work in residential design and I want an easy way to share a link to the "latest and greatest" version of documents for all the tradespeople who work on a project. I heard of an idea to do a QR code which would be an easy thing to print up, plaster around the job site and/or put on the documents as well.

The code will link to a dropbox folder which will expire sharing after project completion. What's the best way to generate this code and feel like it is reliable? I see there are free QR code generators out there but what am I not thinking through with this plan? Have you ever used QR codes this way?
posted by amanda to Technology (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Certainly you can encode a URL into a QR code easily enough. And you're correct that you can set an expiration for shared links on dropbox so if you combine the two this should work pretty easily.

I'd just chuck the result into a word document and throw a title on it such as "SCAN HERE FOR [THING]".

I might also include instructions on how to scan QR codes on the off chance that someone still hasn't run into this.

Also also, many construction sites have banned smart phones as a safety/distraction issue, so you'll want to double check that your site doesn't have any such restrictions, otherwise the QR code idea might be dead in the water.

In case you have people who can't afford/don't want to own smart phones you could also consider adding a short URL on a tear off strip across the bottom of the poster so people can take it away and look it up at their home/office/whatever later. There are plenty of URL shortening services that you could use to make a short link that would point at your Dropbox URL, and would fit in the small space a tear-off strip provides.
posted by tiamat at 4:38 PM on September 27, 2021 [7 favorites]

The QR code part of this is easy. QR codes are a standard. Any compliant generator should work. You can convince yourself of this by generating a QR code and trying it with multiple apps on multiple phones. I printed QR business cards 14 years ago, and they still work (though the website they linked to is long gone).

The facilities team at the small company where I work used exactly the technique you are describing to share site COVID policies with construction workers (we had some work done on our facility that involved many different subcontractors entering the building).

My bigger concern would be "do the people you are working with use their mobile devices to read these sorts of documents already?" How will they know that they should update their copy? What if they do what I'd likely do and save locally/print a hard copy to mark up? In the case of my employer, visitors/contractors just had to load a Sharepoint site once and click a form confirming they'd read and agreed. Your use-case sounds like they'll be referring to the same documents over and over again, which may be harder to incentivize people to do.
posted by Alterscape at 4:39 PM on September 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

You might want to use a link-shortening service that allows you to modify the destination of the link or delete it after the fact so that you don't have to rely entirely on the dropbox link expiring. Also, in theory, the site running the QR code generator can see the link you generated, if you need it to be private. Some QR Code generators work entirely offline and should protect your privacy better (as it's generated completely on your computer and not saved anywhere else), if that's a concern. Otherwise, pretty much any QR Code generator should work fine, if they generate a compliant QR code (which you can verify by scanning).
posted by Aleyn at 4:42 PM on September 27, 2021

I'd assume no tradespeople will bother to use this system unless their job depends on it.

I also assume there's something I'm missing because you seem to think they'll use it. But as far as "what haven't I thought of" — perhaps good to think of what you do or why you care if nobody ever scans a QR code you physically post, ever.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:31 PM on September 27, 2021 [9 favorites]

My site uses the hell out of QR codes. Not only from the general but also a lot of documentation comes with a qrcode that links to additional information on the web somewhere. I mean ya half the time the page is lost to bit rot or redirects but the 50% of the time it works it's great. Some default Android photo apps don't translate them so I always recommend to people having trouble to install and use Lens.
posted by Mitheral at 5:59 PM on September 27, 2021

Rather than a QR code for each link that expires, I would use one level of indirection so that the QR code links to a web page that has the correct Dropbox link, and you update the web page when the Dropbox link changes. That way you only need to scan the QR code once, and the QR code never changes. You can bookmark the page the QR code takes you to, and that will always have the latest link.
posted by SNACKeR at 7:22 PM on September 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

If you're handy with the command line install qrencode and run this command:
qrencode -s 60 -l H -o "output.png" ""
I would follow other's directions to use some level of redirection (in case you mess up the dropbox URL or something you can fix it by changing the redirect). If you've got access to a web server you can add a line to your .htaccess file to do your redirection:
Redirect 302 /querty
When your project is over I would redirect the QR to a generic 'Project Finished' page.
posted by gregr at 7:07 AM on September 28, 2021

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