Eternally useful info
February 15, 2008 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Say you wanted to print a small chart of eternally and universally useful reference information on the back of your business card, so recipients would have a good incentive to carry it with them and refer to it often. What information would you choose?

(I search for things like "business card," "useful information," and "Schott's Miscellany" and turned up nothing; hope this hasn't been asked before.)

Note that I don't know if I'd ever actually put my business card to this purpose, but it'd be sort of a nice idea if it caught on, no?
posted by mthomps00 to Work & Money (38 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Rulers in various units along the edges springs to mind, although business cards are too small for most everyday measuring...
posted by sjl7678 at 12:36 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Can you specific type of business? Even if you're not seeking relevant information, might be helpful to know what to steer clear of.
posted by dreamphone at 12:39 PM on February 15, 2008

there is no such thing as "Universally useful reference information". Figure out who the vast majority of people likely to be carrying your card are. Then tailor your information set to that group.
posted by cosmicbandito at 12:40 PM on February 15, 2008

Best answer: - a perpetual calendar
- a tip calculator
- a subway map
posted by hooray at 12:40 PM on February 15, 2008

Periodic table
posted by kuujjuarapik at 12:41 PM on February 15, 2008

Best answer: a ruler, both inches and cm
posted by SheIsMighty at 12:43 PM on February 15, 2008

Best answer: If you were an engineer, I'd go with metric to standard conversions.
posted by electroboy at 12:44 PM on February 15, 2008

I might consider a perpetual yearly calendar; with leap years, there are only 14 possible calendars- you might be able to get all 14 of them plus a lookup table onto the back of a business card if you use teeny type.

What industry are you in? Maybe resistor color codes for an electrical engineer, dewey decimal for a librarian?
posted by jenkinsEar at 12:44 PM on February 15, 2008

I'm always needing to convert metric to imperial and vice versa, but unlike a reference chart, my cell phone will do the math for me.

I'd go with sjl's idea of a mini ruler, with inches along one long side and centimeters on the other one. I'd use it often enough to keep that business card in my wallet.
posted by happyturtle at 12:44 PM on February 15, 2008

Response by poster: OK, forgive the "universally." If you were handed a business card featuring a chart of information, what information do you imagine being most useful to you?
posted by mthomps00 at 12:47 PM on February 15, 2008

A mini-board game, say something from Cheapass Games?
posted by blahblahblah at 12:53 PM on February 15, 2008

Best answer: Maybe thumb through some of the templates at - Conversions? Dvorak keyboard layout? Morse code?
posted by puddleglum at 12:56 PM on February 15, 2008

A sudoku.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:01 PM on February 15, 2008

Get out of jail free card. I think people would keep it because it was funny.
posted by 45moore45 at 1:01 PM on February 15, 2008 [8 favorites]

I just witnessed several people standing in front of the dairy section at my local grocer, wondering how many cups were in a pint. They each called several people, and texted a few others.

So I think you should include this.
posted by SemiSophos at 1:03 PM on February 15, 2008

Forget universal, and focus on your industry: pick something related to what you actually do that you want contacts to associate you with.

For example, some web people love cheat sheets. I'm not sure how applicable this would be to your industry, but I bet there's something similar you could adapt.

You could even do a double-height one which is normally folded along the top edge so that is standard business-card size, but open up to have twice as much information on the inside (or even three times as much if you use the back of the card as well.)
posted by rjt at 1:07 PM on February 15, 2008

Check out pocket-ref for some great tables and rulers. In fact, I strongly suspect you wish you had a pocket-ref.

Think you need to link it up to your business somehow. If it were me, I would like something cool like what all the 10-codes that police use (10-4, 10-8...) or maybe the letter translations of signaling flags. I always liked that poster of the airport marshaling signals.
posted by shothotbot at 1:08 PM on February 15, 2008

Best answer: What about a list of ways to say "Thank you" in as many languages as you can fit?
posted by kristi at 1:28 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm gonna jump in to support the Pocket-Ref suggestion. Find a table or chart that's relevant not to your line of work, but relevant to what your customers/clients do.
posted by aramaic at 1:30 PM on February 15, 2008

Response by poster: Along the lines of the "Thank you" suggestion, I wonder if a list of common logical fallacies might come in handy?
posted by mthomps00 at 1:32 PM on February 15, 2008

Bail bondsman? 24 hour Locksmith?
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:37 PM on February 15, 2008

Response by poster: Actually, the line of business isn't all that important to me, and I'm not particularly trying to get anyone to remember me. I'm a journalist; I tend not to ever give my card to folks in my own line of work. I don't carry business cards all that frequently, in fact; they seem awfully analogue and I rarely use them myself. Generally, if I want to find someone, I Google that person or call their company. And if I want to remember someone to contact them later, I write down their e-mail address.

But I'm frequently given business cards, and it often seems a shame not to give something back. I think I'd prefer to give back some kind of document the recipient might find useful for more than merely contacting me. That's the spirit of this question, and that's why I'm asking what information you personally would find most useful in a handy pocket format.
posted by mthomps00 at 1:48 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Currency converter
tip percentages
rental car 1-800 numbers
time zones
number to the us embassy of the associated country
lost credit card phone numbers
posted by CreativeJuices at 1:51 PM on February 15, 2008

Best answer: The NATO phonetic alphabet.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:10 PM on February 15, 2008

How to come off looking great in an article or when interviewed, including how to avoid being misquoted or quoted out of context by journalists. Use your eternally useful info and experience.
posted by Mapes at 2:11 PM on February 15, 2008 [4 favorites]

A friend of mine gives out a list of phone numbers, which (purportedly) includes the numbers for President Bush, President Putin, and other luminaries. His own is on the bottom of the list. He did not include, but I would, the Pope, the Dalai Lama, Bill Gates, Nelson Mandela, etc.

It's not particularly useful, but enough of a conversation piece to get carried around by people. How you get the numbers is a separate challenge.
posted by beagle at 2:15 PM on February 15, 2008

Best answer: And, to answer your question what would I personally find most useful on such a card: ASCI character codes. I am forever Googling to find a list online when I want to type an oddball character. No need to include standard keyboard characters, just all the accented letters, etc.
posted by beagle at 2:19 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A reproduction of the Pioneer Plaque. That way the recipient can always find his way home!
posted by Wet Spot at 2:22 PM on February 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I love the Pioneer Plaque idea, despite its being totally non-useful to the average person. The history makes it kind of the ultimate reference regardless.
posted by mthomps00 at 3:05 PM on February 15, 2008

Since I travel alot, I personally would find the following items useful: tip sheet, foreign currency converter (though I travel to a lot of different countries so that'd be hard to do), the phone numbers for all the major airlines I use, metric converter, how to say popular phrases in different languages, etc.

As an aside, I personally use my own business card and keep several with me while I'm on the road. On the blank side, I create a foreign currency converter (US dollars to local currency and local currency to US dollars) and shrink it on the copy machine so it fits onto my business card. Then I tape it together. I make at least 5 of these up for each country I'm traveling to (one for my pocket, one for my wallet, one for travel gear, and 2 extras). So whenever I can't figure out how much something is in the local currency, I can whip it out of my pocket and check. It's my favorite travel tip!
posted by HeyAllie at 3:05 PM on February 15, 2008

I was just handed a bookshop's business card that had a clear panel in the center that was a sheet of magnifying plastic. Of course, the bookshop in question serves a community where the average age is 70+, but still: brilliant!
posted by Scram at 3:06 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: CPR instructions?
I've seen tipping tables (if your meal costs $30, 15% would be 4.50 and 20% would be 6.00, etc.)
Standard/Metric conversions
Emergency numbers for your area (other than 911), like poison control and animal rescue?
zombie survival guide? (Well, I'd enjoy that)
posted by misha at 4:47 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Phone numbers for the best take-out food in the area.
posted by maloon at 6:08 PM on February 15, 2008

Best answer: Seconding CPR instructions and poison control.
posted by salvia at 6:23 PM on February 15, 2008

Phone number for taxi cabs in your city.
posted by spilon at 6:44 PM on February 15, 2008

We once gave out biz-card sized cards with the phrase "here's a tip, donate blood" (I work for a blood bank) on one side, and a tip table on the other. People loved them. My boyfriend uses his all the time.

FWIW, I made the tip table in Excel and then took a screen shot.
posted by radioamy at 9:13 PM on February 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The only business card I keep in my wallet is one from some little shop in Chinatown, but on the back it gives a summary of all 12 Chinese horoscope/zodiac animals and the years to which they apply. Rather eclectic, but it has come in handy many a time!
posted by Jade Dragon at 1:10 AM on February 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

tip calculator
posted by boreddusty at 8:24 AM on February 18, 2008

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