A Visit to Maraboo, Restaurants as Tribes in the Digital Age

Uncategorized April 30th, 2009

3486004640_0982dd6589Its a rare occasion that I go out of a restaurant (and I go to many) with an absolute feeling of “WOW!”… This Monday was one of these occasions.

On the past couple of week we’ve been working on a new, food related venture (more details on that in the very near future).  Apparently, we raised enough twitter noise to get noticed, and thanks to Maya we’ve been contacted by Channel 10 and invited to visit Maraboo as part of the promotions for the season finale of the Israeli version of Icon Chef featuring the Maraboo team vs. the Hudson Brasseri – you should tune in on Channel10 this Thursday (April 30, 2009) at 21:00.

At the restaurant we met the owners, Haim Amshalom and Chef Yoav Bar
who showed us around the place and introduced us to each and every dish we got. We had a great time…

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* On the left Haim Amshalom and on the right Chef Yoav Bar

The fact that were at Maraboo as bloggers, that Maraboo has its own group on Facebook and that its owner is on Twitter made me think about the opportunities the web has to offer restaurants.

The Web is About Openness… Can Restaurants be Open?

The Web is about openness, its about empowering online communities and individuals to create, remix, share and make things themselves.
Restaurants are essentially small communities, or tribes of people with a common interest (in our case – food) a leader (the Chef) and a platform to communicate (the restaurant). They can use the web as a platform to develop a personal relationship with its customers and the facility itself (the restaurant) as a social hub.

Restaurants, like any other business, can use Twitter or a Facebook group etc. to keep in touch with their diners but what’s more interesting is that they can actually use it to become a platform, or a hub, for its tribe members (diners) to interact and their common interests (food).

The Menu as a Wiki. Ok, the Chef builds the menu and we wouldn’t want to change that… that’s the whole point of the restaurant. But what if he could collaborate or include the diners into that process?

Maybe people think the Calamari dish is lacking? or maybe they just hate Calamari…  wouldn’t you want to know?

It can put recipes online and invite diners to make suggestions. Some users might go through the trouble of preparing the dish at home. They might make all sort of adaptations and report back, discuss them online with their fellow diners (For example, a lot of people tried to make the same wings sauce as Dixie’s famous sauce and they were discussing it online). Maybe some of these adaptations are actually worth putting in the menu?

In fact, what if browsing a restaurant’s menu was more like browsing Amazon?
You could see which dishes people like more, what they think of it. You could see what your friends like (or not) or filter dishes by “spec” (like calories intake?).

Restaurants can become the stars. The popularity of kitchen-based reality shows is soaring (heck, we’re here as a promotion for such a show) because there’s a public interests in restaurants, in chefs, in food making.
Chefs could blog about their taste, inspirations, trends they see, cooking practices and tutorials and become local stars (take Gary Vaynerchuk’s for example)

Restaurant as a community meeting place. People in online communities like to meet. Just see all the Tweetup events where communities of people who know each other from talking on Twitter gather to talk offline. As its community members all share a passion for food, a restaurant can organize bakeups- where people could learn about cooking\cook. Maybe even have a community member as Chef for a night…

Final Thoughts and.. Food Photos!

As Seth Godin puts it, managing a tribe is a whole different concept than the old way of just managing a brand using traditional PR:

Tribe management is a whole different way of looking at the world.

It starts with permission, the understanding that the real asset most organizations can build isn’t an amorphous brand but is in fact the privilege of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them.

It adds to that the fact that what people really want is the ability to connect to each other, not to companies. So the permission is used to build a tribe, to build people who want to hear from the company because it helps them connect, it helps them find each other, it gives them a story to tell and something to talk about.

Anyway, I can’t end this post without some photos of some of the amazing dishes we had at Maraboo:

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And finally, the entire dinning team :)

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Weekend Inspirations – Big Data Visualizations, Innovative Man-Machine Interactions

Uncategorized April 25th, 2009

A bunch of interesting/inspiring topics for the weekend…

Designing “Big Data”

Jeff Veen from Small Batch Inc. gave a 20-minutes talk at the Web2.0 Expo at San Francisco.
During the talk he focuses on some classic examples for information visualization (John Snow pump, Minard‘s map, the tube map, and so on), the challenge of making data more accessible and understandable vs. just “decorating” it and the emerging challenge in Web 2.0 to empower users to find and create their own stories using the data.

And on the same topic of dealing with “big data”, check out the AlloSphere. A system developed by scientists and artists at the University of California for exploring huge sets of data as a visual and audible 3D world:

Cool New Computer Interaction Technology

I saw this amazing UI concept watching the TED podcast:

The concept as computers as tiny blocks that can react to each other is just amazing and the possibilities here, especially in education, are endless…

Kiva Robots Invade the Warehouse

If a bunch of tiny computers interacting can change personal computing here’s what it can do in the enterprise – optimize warehouses supply chain:

The servers work in real-time, receiving orders, immediately dispatching robots to bring the required pods to the worker fulfilling the order, and then returning the pods to their storage locations. The robots receive their orders wirelessly, while using cameras to read navigational barcode stickers on the warehouse floor.

Have a great weekend!

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Developing a Robust Data Driven UI Using WPF – An Overdue Summary (and full source code)

.NET, Programming, WPF April 15th, 2009

I wrote the stocky application more than a year ago as a research project aimed at proving that using WPF we can separate presentation metadata (XAML) from program logic. The goal was to provide the Duet team at SAP with a document reference sample for using M-V-VM to achieve this separation.

I started documenting the proof-of-concept in a series of posts but unfortunately after leaving SAP my interests (and work) shifted away from WPF and I didn’t find the time to finish the series.

I’ve received numerous requests to release the source code but I couldn’t do so because it was part of a larger infrastructure code I wrote at SAP which basically ads a lot of noise to the sample (an d probably ads legal issues for me sharing it).
Anyway, I took some time off this afternoon to re-write the sample independently so that I could share it:

It can be found on my SkyDrive

This, I guess is the long overdue ending for the series:

  • Introduction – introduces the concept of M-V-VM and the reasoning behind it.
  • The DataModel – describes how to write the Model part of our application.
  • Stock DataModel Sample – provides a conrete implementation of a Stock model and its view.. 

However, If you’re interested in M-V-VM in WPF, there are numerous topics worth mentioning that I didn’t get to cover and are definitely worth checking out:

Unit Testing

As I said in the introduction post, one of the most important benefits of seperating the logic code from the presentation (XAML) is that its straightforward to unit test. In fact, my next post following the Stock DataModel Sample was going to be about unit testing – specifically, how to test the DataModel its provider which, because of the use of threading, is a bit tricky.

This post is actually 99% done in the comments of the unit test code that’s in DefaultStockQuoteProviderTest.cs in the  provided source code. So do yourself a favor and go over the code. It’s not long and very well documented…

Using Lambda Expression for DataBinding

Data-binding is pretty much at the heart of the M-V-VM concept and it makes us write Value Converters which is pretty tedious and annoying.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could replace writing lots of IValueConverter classes like this:

<TextBlock Foreground="{Binding Change, Converter={StaticResource StockForegroundConverter}}" … />

[ValueConversion(typeof(double), typeof(Brush))]
public class StockChangeToBrushConverter : IValueConverter
{
    public object Convert(object value, Type targetType, object parameter, CultureInfo culture)
    {
        double change = (double)value;
        if (change == 0) return Brushes.Black;
        return (change < 0) ? Brushes.DarkRed : Brushes.Green;
    }

    public object ConvertBack(object value, Type targetType, object parameter, CultureInfo culture)
    {
        return double.NaN;
    }
}

To just the following XAML statement that embeds the conversion logic:

<TextBlock Foreground="{Binding Change,

Converter={ change=> if (change == 0) return Brushes.Black; return (change < 0) ? Brushes.DarkRed : Brushes.Green; }}" … />

M. Orçun Topdağı wrote an excellent series on using Lambda Expressions for data-binding in WPF to achieve just that:

Reference Applications and Guidance

I haven’t seen a lot of sample WPF LOB reference applications out there but here are some interesting links for further learning:

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Microsoft Can Clone Twitter?!

Technology April 5th, 2009

In a response to Microsoft watcher Todd Bishop’s post saying  Microsoft should buy Twitter, Mary Jo-Foley wrote Microsoft Shouldn’t Buy Twitter saying:

…But I’d argue Microsoft could simply do a Twitter clone — the same way that it has built its own Facebook-notification-like news stream into Windows Live — and reap similar results. In fact, the Softies are hinting they’ve already been experimenting with adding Twitter-like functionality to its business software (possibly via SharePoint). I’d bet the Xbox and maybe the Pink/Danger mobile teams have been looking at doing their own Twitter-like services too.

Seriously?! Microsoft could simply clone Twitter?!

Sure, Microsoft certainly has some brilliant tech folks that can surely implement or clone anything. It also has the resources to do that.
And yet, its mostly following the pack with its online offering pretty stagnant. Last time it tried anything like that was Live Home with its Facebook\FriendFeed like functionality and that’s pretty much dead
It can certainly clone Twitter, probably even do a better job at it than the original, but will anyone bother using it?

Twitter has a fast growing, huge and vibrant community. Its also a well known brand name that’s getting a huge amount of media attention right now.
It survived its own fail whales, upgrade owls and all sorts of other nasty service downtimes simply because no one else can beat that…
You can clone technology but you can’t clone a community and brand strength…

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