Exploring PIN Culture

We're kicking off social week on Talk Mobile, and alongside that we'll have some discussions about the particular aspects of BlackBerry Messenger. Today, we're digging into PIN numbers and how that frames the BBM proposition. 

By Simon Sage on 1 Jul 2013 06:13 pm EDT

If you look anywhere on BlackBerry’s Facebook page, or even our own CrackBerry BBM channel, you’ll quickly notice that avid BlackBerry users are still sharing PINs like nobody’s business. In a lot of ways, this is an anachronism; PIN numbers uniquely identify BlackBerry devices, and in BlackBerry Messenger’s early days, it was the only way to create a messaging connection with someone. Now you can send BBM invites over e-mail, and port your BBM contacts to new devices. With functions like that in place, PIN numbers are largely inconsequential, and yet people are still using them. Why?

Part of it is legacy. People that have been using BlackBerry Messenger for a long time will keep swapping and broadcasting PINs as they always have out of sheer habit. There’s more to it than that, though. One of the nice things about BBM is the amount of control it affords over who gets in touch with you.

On the one hand, getting someone on your BBM list is very personal, since it provides instant access to you at any time. On the other, you aren’t giving away a phone number or an e-mail address, so BBM creates this nice buffer zone. On other instant messaging services, you can do a user search through multiple criteria to find someone, but not so with BBM - PIN numbers still have value because you can only get one if someone explicitly gives it to you. It can be given with a high degree amount of confidence because it makes people accessible, but still keeps them at arm’s length.

BBM at BlackBerry Live 2013

This, I think, is what creates a much tighter-knit community than many other social networks. On Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, most relationships condense naturally with a token amount of participation from users. There isn't always a lot of mutual investment when connecting on those networks. Conversely, on BlackBerry Messenger connections are made with concerted purpose thanks in no small part to PIN-swapping. There are still some of the usual social networking mechanisms in BBM like status updates, sharing what music you're listening to, group messaging, and profile pictures, but the PIN element really makes BlackBerry Messenger unique. 

Of course, the system isn’t flawless. For one, dealing with a string of cryptic letters and numbers isn’t quite as friendly as a username (though QR code scanning and NFC sure do help). Then there’s always the issue of others sharing your PIN without permission. Sure, you can always block or ignore unwanted requests, but it can still be an awkward position to deal with. 

Swapping PINs is something of a curiosity in the grand scheme of social networking, but it’s still very much alive. Seeing as BBM Channels are using the PIN system as well, it’s clearly a facet of the culture that isn’t going to disappear any time soon. How do you guys feel about the PIN-based set-up in BlackBerry Messenger? Is there a specific time it's worked to your advantage? Are there times you wish BBM would have a more traditional feature set? Do you spend a lot of time advertising your personal or channel PIN? Do you connect with others that do? 

Reader comments

Exploring PIN Culture


Until some stupid "social" app that generate random pin which happens to be yours and you get bombarded with bbm invites from random people

Corky Notes for bb10 developer

Good points!
For myself, my BBM contacts are people I actually know well but with more and more people openly posting their PIN's that could change.
I'm still on 10.1, never had a leak installed. Are there THAT many people who've installed leaked OS's to have channels?
I find the concept of BBM channels very interesting & think, that in itself would be a great topic for CB to cover on its own. How does it work? How do you create one? etc etc.... Post some pics of channels and how people interact with them. Just a thought.

Hey, fmb8!
You can have a BBM Channel too if you go to www.blackberry.com/beta and sign up. It's really easy to get going and BBM Channels is great so far. I've found some great channels so far and even set up my own personal channel - C0001FA2B.

fmb8, you don't need a leaked OS to have channels, you can get it on legacy devices and OS 10.0 and 10.1 if you're a member of the BlackBerry Beta Zone. Check out this post for more info http://crackberry.com/bbm-channels-now-available-download-beta-zone
I've signed up and installed Channels and I definitely see a future there if it continues to change, grow and improve.
edit: and as I typed up my post someone else said the same thing :) Either way, sign up there and enjoy!

To ORIGINQuest & VeniceBB, thank you for the info, I was totally unaware!! I will certainly check out the beta zone to get updated & explore BBM channels. Looking forward to digging into it as it has such potential!
Thanks again !!

Every time I have posted my pin I have ultimately regretted it. I barely use BBM, so hopefully that changes when it goes cross platform.

BlackBerry Z10 | Verizon |

Pin is a big part of BBM for me. I give out my Pin at BlackBerry events meet a lot of people plus ill post it here and there and I talk to some great people around the globe. How ever if someone is a pain in the butt I can simply just click delete.

Posted via CB10

I share my PIN with friends and family only, I have to have met someone in person to swap PINs, QR scan:sorted!

Knowledge is power... Posted via CB10

I used to like the whole pin posting way a few years back. I've become a lot more cautious of it. Now, I only give my PIN to people I know or at least have met.

I look at it kind of the same way I do my personal phone number. I don't like my PIN to be given out without permission to do so.

Once BBM goes cross-platform...that will be interesting to see.

Posted via CB10

Pins are swapped with only close family and friends. I have a few coworkers and groups for work, but that is it. Channels are helping with opening up the broader scope social scene on bbm.

Posted via CB10

I keep my pin# close... for those who are interested in my life, and my interest in theirs... you are right.. it's my last buffer... there are so many other ways to find someone..

Posted via CB10

Tbh this isn't something I'm familiar with.

I like the sound of BBM, but I'm the only person out of 50 FB friends that have a blackberry.

I did join a channel once, regretted it! Phone goes crazy with random garbage that I have no interest in. Yea yea, choose the right channel you're all saying, but unfortunately it does not filter morons!

I'm sure il use it once in a while when it comes for cross platform, as I have many friends that had a berry, but they went to iphone. and surprisingly many of them say they miss BBM.

But tbh this phone (Q10) isn't for chatting to random people across the globe about redundant jargon. It's my work horse. Will I put my battery at risk and join in and converse about the weather... no!

Posted via CB10

This is where channels comes into play. You can join a channel which can be much like a group. Have conversations about posted topics related to that channel but not have your berry go nuts as the messages are not pushed to your device but rather viewable upon opening that post. It's a passive approach rather than groups where it's more of an active approach.

posted via CB10

What about pin to pin messages in BB10 ? Are they encrypted? Ultimately, what is the difference between a bbm msg and pin2pin msg?

Posted via CB10

Pin2pin you can't block the person... so if you advertise your pin number... random people can pin2pin you without your permission, that's why most people block it on instructional videos and so on. BBM pin, you can delete, ignore, or just refuse the invite. Hope that answers your question...

Posted via CB10

I break mine down I to two categories; friends and geeks. Friends I have 26 on BBM. Geeks ( random people from around the world) I keep it to around 10.
Then there are the post BlackBerry users who have switched to another platform and are all waiting for BBM on Android or iOS... that is about 15+. I miss the ease convenience and connectivity. The addition of BBM Channels there is no end to what's a valid in the future with BBM. If the BBM id could be set as a persons name or be customized is some way, thad be coowl.

Posted via CB10 / Z10

II treat my pin like a phone number and never post it any where. I dont want randomers phoning me and I don't want randomers bbming me.

The PIN system is ridiculous as it changes with every device.
Best to use a username.
I don't understand why they stuck with it for channels. Check my blog it's #6fd3154F on wordpress.com. Simply ridiculous.

Note to BB: Dark theme and OLED screen combo = disaster outside

Everything's tied in to your BlackBerry ID now. So when you change devices, you log in with your BlackBerry ID and stuff like your BBM contacts and groups move with you to the new device.

I only have a handful of BBM contacts and most of them are the guys I go to Vegas with a few times a year. When BBM goes cross-platform, some of our group that had moved over to the iPhone or an Android device will be back in the folds as well as potentially other friends.

When it comes to BBM I only add people close to me, I don't advertise my PIN and I really like the fact that it gives me more control over who I want to add.
As for BBM Channels, I actually do try to actively promote the PINs. Especially because it's still in beta and the only way to learn to fully use it and to get it going is to have people visit your Channel. Only by being able to actively use all the options will we be able to find its shortcomings and give feedback on the program page of Beta Zone. And of course it's much more fun if you get some interaction going.

I like to meet new people using my PIN, but haven't been on "PIN trains" or BCing it as of late. I found a few legit people that way, but been too lazy to hustle new contacts.

Back when I had my Curve 8530 I got about 1000 contacts in a day BCing my pin, but because the name I use is androgynous, had mostly dudes hitting me up for selfies and UK teens calling me a pedo when they found out I'm a male.

Even through all that, I made contacts in far away places that I still chat with today. Actually, seeing this post makes me want to do it again. Lulz.

Posted via CB10

I personally love the PIN swap style, think it's great. Meeting new people is no problem, just give them your PIN and continue the conversation from there, now if you want to move to a calling them you can, basically no longer need their number.
Just the fact that they see all your updates and people usually have personal views they post that may offend others, but I'm not really a status update checker, maybe once in awhile...
But the pin setup is great, if your out and about, a club, quick tap, or maybe for some of the older blackberry user, a quick lesson on where to locate the PIN and new ways to share it and there you are... Bob's your uncle!

Posted via CB10

Maybe I should stop sharing my PIN cuz i recently had 2 people (quers/gays) sexually harass me with inappropriate pics .

Posted via CB10

I have devices that dedicated for personal (close friends)/business and the other one for #TeamBlackBerry (public) purposes, I advertise that PIN so that those that needs help can BBMe. However, If I found anybody misused it..like mass broadcasting, I'll delete/block that PIN.

PIN makes BBM and BlackBerry itself unique. We're all hoping for the triumphal comeback of BBM after going cross platform. So, pin will be very useful again. WhatsApp has one characteristic that really annoys me: you can't control who is on your contacts list. That's terrible because may have someone you just need to keep the phone number, but you never chat with. But, there is a chance of that people start chat with you. That's why I deleted WhatsApp a few weeks ago.

Posted via CB10

That's exactly why I don't really like WhatsApp myself. I keep it on because most of my family members and friends don't have a BlackBerry. Once BBM goes cross platform I'm gonna try my hardest to get them switched over to BBM. Hopefully I can delete WhatsApp then as well.

Same here. I don't like WhatsApp, but I only keep it to talk to my friends who don't have a BlackBerry. Cross platform BBM cannot come soon enough.

Since PIN is tied to device how will cross platform work for BBM. Will we just use the i users phone # for BBM and our PIN or will they use our # as well?

Posted via CB10

You know, in many Arab countries, people pay premiums for "nice" PIN numbers. Those with only digits or triple characters are highly sought after

Posted via CB10

I like PIN's as a way to connect. Smaller than an email address, yet more personal. The email address I receive from someone may or may not be set-up on a phone/device. But if someone (friend or business contact) shares their PIN, then I definitely have their direct method of contact.

I put my PIN on my business cards (with the flying BB logo as the icon).

Only share my pin with close friends and music contacts such as singers. Dj's. Producers etc. Sometimes a cute girl may get my pin if she is a BlackBerry user. Lol sometimes.

Posted via CB10

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My wife and I have been with BB for the last 5 years. We've had the Curve, Pearl, Storm, Torch and now the Z10. Not to mention our Playbooks. However, I'll admit that we've never really gotten into the BB pin culture, even though we've tried. Maybe it's because we don't know to many people with BB phones. Text messages have always been the way of communication for us. We've recently picked it back up due to the BBM video calling on our Z10's since that seems to be the only way to make that work.

This is just my experience with it. Maybe we joined the culture a little too late.

I wish I could connect with more people easily if I choose to. Because apple has the upper hand it's hard to meet people I actually know who have blackberry. I like that bbm will soon be cross-platform compatible, but there needs to be a lot of marketing involved so people actually download the app from their app markets. It needs attention, and it needs it fast.

Posted via CB10

I can't wait to get rid of whatsapp. It is terrible when your boss can automatically see your messages and when people you might be trying to avoid can see if you are online or not. (it has caused so much drama between friends - oh why are you online when your ex is online too but you weren't talking to me etc.)

Chatting through bbm still feel the best to me :)

Posted via CB10

Hi CrackBerry I would like to suggest an option for the blackberry messenger I really love the blackberry messenger its unique and it's one of the best messengers I have I think it should have one more feature right now the feature should something similar to whatsapp it should detect people using the number who are saved in our contact & also have blackberry messenger and their numbers saved in our contact list which will automatically detect that this contact is available can I add him to blackberry messenger because we are already having that particular person's contact with us so it does not make a difference even if we and them or not if it's automatically done can be really great but in the same time we shouldn't leave the blackberry pin this option should be available for people who I would like to add only on blackberry messenger so it actually does 2 things we can have our privacy because it gives us the option of whom to give the pin and whom to give the number. Thank you.

Cant get rid of pins thats what makes BBM awesome.Would be interesting to make the numbers shorter to actual 4 numbers like a card pin.Yeah i can dig 4 number BB pin.I still got plenty contacts especially overseas.The multiplatform and channels will just boost my contact list even more so.

I have my PIN posted on my website, business card, email sig, and all my instant messenger statuses (Skype, gtalk, yahoo messenger, ici, etc) along with the QR code. I use pin-to-pin messaging independently of BBM as much as I use bbm.

Sent from my iPuh-lease-as-IF

Use personal pin with close contacts who have BlackBerry. Channel pin is different as it is for broader audience. I am loving channels.

ChannelX C000D3759 We review channels

We'll all be sending out PINs again like the good old days when BBM gets to other platforms :D

Posted via CB10

Hey all.

Maybe I'm taking a more nonchalant approach to this..but I really don't mind if people want to add me as a contact (unless of course it's for spamming purposes or just some crazed person who likes to broadcast messages...then they get deleted right away).

To me, a Pin is just that. It's just a pin... a way to get in contact, and it does not give away any personal info about me. An email is a bit more personal, and a phone number is much more personal.

I like the BBM pin.
Who wants to give out the cell # or email , NOT ME.
I only have people that I want to chat with.
By giving out your cell # it could be passed around or given to everyone, with PIN # you could always delete someone and block him.

There are a lot of people looking for friends to chat and also more. As with any 'social' app or communication media, it can go the wrong way. We need to be extra careful and also respectful at all times...

the pin system is good, but like for me am the only one having a bb i kind of feel alone. even that it is now cross platform. where i live very few people know what a blackberry is let alone bbm