“Left to our base instincts, we’d all probably spend that scheduled time, like most of our time, in front of a screen. But by forcing ourselves to meet up and talk, even if there’s no particular label or mission statement to it, we get vital exposure to the kinds of benefits that salespeople, network-savvy executives, and other people we usually try to avoid are seeking out. I’ve picked up paying work, traded contacts, sparked story ideas, and solved tech problems at those get-togethers. And I get much-needed practice at hearing others out, arguing my beliefs, and plain old face-to-face socializing.”—
Some people have said that Menu and Hours is “reinventing the wheel” because apps like Urbanspoon already do what Menu and Hours is going to do and they do it for free. I, respectfully, disagree.
Menu and Hours is going to give you the contact info, the location, the hours and the menu of restaurants in an elegant package that is focused on delivering the best user experience possible. That’s it. It’s not going to give you ads or reviews from people you don’t know. It’s not going to show you photos taken with cellphones and it’s not going to make you click and scroll and zoom just to find out when a place is open and what they have for you to eat.
As I was explaining the app to someone over latkes last night I came up with a real world example that I think perfectly illustrates why I want to see Menu and Hours out in the world. Using an existing app (in this case Urbanspoon) let’s find out if a particular restaurant is open at 5:30 and if they have a vegetarian main course on their dinner menu. Volare was the restaurant we picked at random to use for this test case.
Well, now I’ve seen a credit card ad and know that 20% of 183 Urbanspoon users don’t like Volare but I still don’t know either of the things I’m trying to find out.
I’m confused as to how someplace can be a sports bar, romantic and kid friendly all at the same time. I couldn’t fit it all in this screenshot but the hours section shows that Volare is open for dinner but has no indication of what time the restaurant actually opens and closes.
Another click to get to the menu and it’s actually just reframing the Volare website which isn’t terribly mobile browser friendly. I can’t read this at all and my eyesight isn’t that poor.
After zooming in to make the text large enough to read it doesn’t fit onto the screen so I’m scrolling left to right to read each line of text. So yes, in the end, you can find out if there is a vegetarian main course option on Volare’s menu using the Urbanspoon app.
You can’t find out the specific hours though (at least not anywhere that I see). I find this to be a frustrating experience. If I’m going to have to click, scroll and zoom and still not get all the information I want then this app doesn’t fill the need I have. What need is that? A tool to easily, quickly and efficiently get the information I actually want about restaurants.
The Menu and Hours experience will be streamlined and you’ll know exactly what information you can count on the app to have for each restaurant. The sole purpose of Menu and Hours is to save you time and frustration when you’re looking for information about restaurants. It’s cool if you don’t think that’s something worth paying for but I sure do hope we get to build this for the people who do find a better, more efficient experience to be something worth dropping a few dollars on.
I admit to a little frustration at folks who diss Menu and Hours because “such and such already does that.” Yeah it might sort of do that in a way that makes for a really poor user experience, in my opinion. If it works brilliantly for you that’s great but that doesn’t mean something different can’t work better for other people.
“A failure is a project that doesn’t work, an initiative that teaches you something at the same time the outcome doesn’t move you directly closer to your goal. A mistake is either a failure repeated, doing something for the second time when you should have known better, or a misguided attempt (because of carelessness, selfishness or hubris) that hindsight reminds you is worth avoiding. We need a lot more failures, I think.”—Seth Godin on The difference between a failure and a mistake (via misterjt)
“But this, today’s new Twitter, is something else. It’s an attempt at a best way to do Twitter that is as consistent as possible across multiple platforms, ranging from the iPhone to Android to the mobile and desktop web. I don’t want an iPhone app that’s constrained by the restrictions of a mobile web app. The whole reason I prefer native apps is that I like experiences that far exceed what can be done in a web app. This is a native app that looks and feels like it was designed and polished according to the norms of web apps, not other native iPhone apps.”—
When I started planning Menu and Hours I debated web app versus native app. I really do thing an app designed specifically for platforms provides a better user experience than universal web apps at this time.
“The metaphor I use is a train. They opened a Chabad house—who’dve thought Bel Air, Maryland, would have a Chabad house! I’ve discussed this with one of them. I’m in the caboose. He’s somewhere near the engine. But we’re on the Jewish train. His hope is that the people in my car will move up and go to his. My hope is: come on the train. If you have ten cars on a train and get rid of the tenth car, then the ninth car becomes the last car. If they’re not on the Jewish train, then they’re not going to move up the cars. We need every single car. I have decided my place is the last car on the train.”—
Brenner runs, with a partner, EcoGlatt, a kosher meat company established in March that sells pasture-raised heritage breeds of cattle by mail order and through a local organic delivery service. Saunders does the slaughtering. Like others in the Jewish food movement, Brenner and Saunders had come in recent years to distrust kosher meat conglomerates whose treatment of both factory workers and animals they see as inhumane. For them, the 2008 federal raid on Agriprocessors, the country’s largest kosher meat producer in Postville, Iowa, cemented their ambivalence and made them decide they wanted to consume meat that was both kosher and ethically produced. Since nothing like that was available at that time, they became vegetarians.
About a year later, in the spring of 2009, Saunders and Brenner ate meat again—a goat named Hansel that they raised and slaughtered on the eve of Passover with other members of the tiny Jewish community in Pueblo. We “really developed a sense of the sacrificial consciousness that went into bringing an animal that you know,” said Brenner. “It wasn’t just that we’re taking an animal to butcher it. We understood the identification that people had with their animals at the Temple.”
Yes. This is, in my opinion, how kosher meat should be raised and slaughtered. Factory farmed meat falls far, far short of the spirit of kashrut and of the standards of ethical behavior towards animals that Jewish tradition teaches us.
December 2011: “Gingrich then wins sustained applause for saying that as president he would move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”
December 1999: “George W. Bush, the front runner in the race for the Republican presidential candidacy, has declared that he will move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem the day he is inaugurated as U.S. president. Bush was speaking at a large gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington.”
Were you a big Gowalla fan? Did you like Dodgeball? Did you think Trunk.ly (gasp!) was better than Pinboard? Did you make a lot of contributions to Nextstop? Do you miss Aardvark and EtherPad? Did “I Want Sandy” change your life?
These projects are all very different, but the dynamic is the same. Someone builds a cool, free product, it gets popular, and that popularity attracts a buyer. The new owner shuts the product down and the founders issue a glowing press release about how excited they are about synergies going forward. They are never heard from again.
Whether or not this is done in good faith, in practice this kind of ‘exit event’ is a pump-and-dump scheme. The very popularity that attracts a buyer also makes the project financially unsustainable. The owners cash out, the acquirer gets some good engineers, and the users get screwed.
This post, by our occasional contributor Becky Lang, for local marketing firm Zeus Jones spotlights a great way for local independent businesses to use social media to distinguish themselves from their big-brand competitors.
The other day, for obvious reasons, I ended up on the Facebook page of a local donut shop. I didn’t know much about the place, and I wanted to see what they were all about. 20 minutes later, I’m still there, analyzing their hours of business and looking at pictures of salted dulce de leche donuts. Yes I clicked “like.”
Since I used to be a local arts and entertainment editor, I have followed a lot of local businesses on social media, and I’ve often been inspired by their simple efforts to connect with customers when working with our own clients. I’ve noticed some key differences in the way businesses of different scale approach social media.
Here are common practices I’ve noticed with small businesses on social media:
-Announcing what is happening in the store today (i.e. “Today we’ve got vegan rosemary croissants and fresh red velvet cake.”)
-Announcing their hours or, for food trucks, location.
-Profiling their employees or customers in interesting ways.
It’s a combination of generally useful information and a peek into the culture of their company. The result is a transparent, human feel that’s often creative and fun.
Compare this with the common social media efforts of many large brands:
-Housing and expanding on their current TV campaign.
-Constant efforts to create shareable “memes.”
-Big Brother-style monitoring for any mention of the brand and direct addressing of complaints from a voiceless individual.
Many of these efforts add another channel for their larger campaign messaging, which often ends up feeling expensive and elaborate. Instead of working with Facebook, they work against it to turn it into a micro website to talk at customers, rather than with them.
It makes sense when you think about it. Small local businesses are good at social media because they need to be. They can’t afford large, expensive campaigns, or even fully functional websites – so Facebook and Twitter play an integral part in communicating with their customers. When you start from a place of necessity, it’s easier to create something functional.
“There’s a fourth option: Start a company, build a great product, sell your product to your customers, generate revenue, keep overhead low, grow slowly and carefully, take in more money than you spend, generate a profit, and decide your own fate on your own schedule.”—Link: The startup choice: Get big or get bought - (37signals)