Archive for ‘food’ category

Food for Thought

This is my favorite website. I visit it almost every day. It’s not responsive. It’s not optimized for iPhone. It looks blurry on a Retina display. It doesn’t use the latest HTML5/CSS3 framework. It doesn’t have a thoughtful vertical rhythm. The fonts are nothing special. It is neither skeumorphic nor flat. It doesn’t have its own favicon. It doesn’t have a native app or Twitter or Instagram. It doesn’t use AJAX or SCRUM or node.js or Sinatra. It doesn’t have an API or an RSS feed or VC funding. It hasn’t been featured on a prominent tech blog or won an award.

It tells me the soups of the day.

Freely distributed information that’s relevant to the person reading it. That’s web design.

An Event Apart Seattle

In just two weeks, I’ll be heading west to Seattle for An Event Apart. The event, as with any AEA show, will undoubtedly rock. It’s also on the brink of being sold out, so act now if you’d like to attend. You can also save an extra $100 off the registration by using the discount code AEACEDE.
And that reminds me. If one were looking for the best coffee in Seattle, where would one go? Let the debate begin, fine folks of the Pacific Northwest.

Build Society, February 2nd

Clear your schedules, Boston-area web geeks! An extra-special joint event with fellow North Shore pals, Build Guild and the Markup & Style Society (new site coming soon) are co-hosting a meetup here in Salem on February 2nd. Special guest Eric “Rock Horns” Meyer will be in town—and when Mr. Meyer is in town, you gather up the troops and celebrate with frosty beverages and good times. You just do.

As usual, my M&SS cohort Mr. Marcotte has written up a far better summary of the night’s events. As has Mr. Meyer.

Hope to see you here in the Witch City for what is sure to be a wonderful night of markup, style and guilding. If that makes sense.

Tipping Point

photo

At one of my favorite local coffee shops, I’ve noticed they have a creative take on generating tips. I’m sure this is used elsewhere as well, but it’s the first time I’ve come across it.

There are two baskets by the register, with a rotating sign above that asks a question. Today it was: “Should Obama pick Hillary as Vice President?” Throw your tip in the appropriate basket, and we get an instant, visible poll as a byproduct of giving your barista a little extra change. Some questions generate a more noticeable swing in basket preference (sorry, Hillary), while others are just fun throwaways.

A small reward for participation. I’m sure there’s a parallel here with social web interaction, but I’ll let Josh or someone else who’s hot on this topic decipher it.

Because coffee can be Foamee, too

Non beer drinkers and caffeine fans rejoice: Foamee now has support for coffee. Just follow @ioucoffee on Twitter and follow the same steps that 1600 beer aficionados have followed over the past few weeks.

Send someone an I.O.U. for coffee like so:

@ioucoffee @twitterscreenname for being an amazing human being.

Then keep track of those I.O.U.s (for beer and coffee!) on your people page (here’s mine). Send beer. Send coffee. Send good vibes to all the interweb’s citizens.

Happy Holidays from your friends at SimpleBits.

Pub Chatter

It’s been a few days since the keg was tapped and Foamee began serving the public. Things went as smooth as one could hope, and about 500 Twitterers have sent some 700 I.O.U.s. (35 of which have been redeemed). We were honored to have collected the Mashup of the Day Award on Monday (which begs the question: are there enough mashups being developed to warrant that? I suppose they’re are).

But more importantly, I’m glad that Foamee is being used for what I hoped it would: spreading some good vibes around the interwebs. You can (and should!) use Foamee to keep track actual, physical beers of course, but it can also simply be a way to send a little virtual good cheer that’s free and easy.

Here are a few of my favorites so far:

for helping jake and i make it to our first springsteen concert last night!

for telling me your story last night.

for being so cool on that project that we can’t talk about yet

for picking up tix for the Dropkicks

for helping me decide what to do with my guitars

for growing one heck of a goatee.

And while you’re at it, why not send a beer to your dog? Pets deserve some Foamee, too.

Introducing Foamee

I think I’ve just created something that will change the web as we know it. But I’ll write about that another day. Instead, I’m going to talk about a fun new thing I launched last night. Actually, it’s a couple of things.

I owe you a beer.

I say this quite a bit. For friends, family, people that deserve a pat on the back. I also often forget to make good on the promise. Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a way to keep track? And then also keep track of who owed you?

FoameeSo, I decided to build Foamee (hey, there were plenty of abandoned ‘e’s lying around). It’ll keep track of who you owe beers to and vice versa. But don’t worry, this is NASN (not another socical network). Like you, I’m tired of creating another login, another set of friends/contacts, another avatar and more tears. So instead, Foamee piggy-backs on an existing one. As I was tossing ideas around, I realized a lot of the functionality: short messages directed at another person, web/IM/mobile messaging, etc. already existed elsewhere — so why not make things simpler and utilize the indispensable Twitter as a primary interface for the app?

Using Twitter’s API, Foamee will harvest replies and direct messages to create a barnacle-esque utility (props to Josh Porter for coining that) on the already-popular messaging service. If you’re already on Twitter, using Fomee is as easy as following ioubeer, then using specific syntax to announce an I.O.U. Beer to the world. We’ll repost these virtual pats-on-the-back, and also create a people page for anyone that sends a beer. Your people page will show who you owe, and who owes you. The sender or receiver also has the option of “redeeming” an I.O.U. via a direct message to Foamee, completing the deal.

I realize this is a silly (but potentially useful) service. And I’m excited to see where it leads, if anywhere. What it does now is incredibly simple (and there’s a reason for that, partially explained below). It’s also a shameless brand vehicle. How so, you ask?

Foamee Goods

coaster detailRight out of the gate, there are two cool things to buy at the Foamee Store (because two weeks from now, when you’ve long forgotten about this little site, it’d be too late). T-shirts (of course) and I.O.U. Beer Coasters: a pack of six pulpboard coasters shipped in a drawstring cotton bag with a Foamee-branded Mini Sharpie. The coasters have a spot to write your name, perfect for handing out tactile I.O.U.s in person to deserving recipients. They work great in the mail as well. And they are awesome.

Special technical geek notes

Building this little app became a personal challenge. Could I handle the backend as well as the design? Could someone who primarily spends their time worrying about interface solutions roll up their sleeves and create a fully-functional product? And so the process of investigating APIs, databases and frameworks began. It reminded me of the old days, learning HTML (and later CSS) for the first time. Late night experimentation, utter frustration and then those “little victories” that make it all worth it.

Foamee runs on PHP, using the CakePHP framework, which turned out quite well. Cake uses the same model/view/controller setup found in Rails and other frameworks, has a good community and is dead simple to install and move around. I owe Jonathan Snook a beer for blogging about Cake (surely where I heard about it first). My code is likely terrible and other smart folks could probably bang out the same functionality in an afternoon, blindfolded and behind-the-back. But it works, and my familiarity with PHP coupled with my experience with Rails while working with the imitable Dan Benjamin on Cork’d and other projects (I owe him several beers as well) made baking with Cake tolerable for a noob like me.

Foamee is hosted by the fine folks at Media Temple, and I owe them a beer (or twelve) for that.

The motivator here was fun. Fun to build, fun to create for, and (hopefully) fun to use. I’m hoping fun continues to motivate around here — for Foamee and for whatever else cures the constant desire to create. Special thanks to Biz Stone at Twitter for helping tap the keg last night.

Webvisions 2006

I’ve returned from Portland, successfully capping off the little Summer Tour. It feels really good to be back, save for the immediate dive into a pile of work. I had a great time at Webvisions — my first time attending the conference (and the state of Oregon).

It was a fun event, and one that feels more intimate despite the full schedule over several tracks. I left feeling like I missed a lot in terms of the panels and presentations, but am looking forward to the podcasts.

My own presentation went well, I think. It was early on Day 2 (8:30am), but the turnout was excellent, and I felt _slightly_ more relaxed this time around. For those that attended, the Bulletproof Web Design slides are available (18MB PDF). They are slightly cryptic without the commentary, but possibly interesting if you’re feeling adventurous. Thanks to those that came out and listened.

The Design Panel (the actual title, which I love) went well, too, in lieu of myself being a bit drained after the morning’s session. There was a great turnout, many of whom brought interesting questions. For instance, after talking about the importance of good copy (a rareity) as interface design, one attendee pimped her own copywriting business (multiple times). Now normally this would be bad practice — but she managed to pull it off humorously. Bryan Veloso did a bang-up job as moderator (excellent meeting him for the first time) and Mike and Keith were spot on.

As with any post-conference rambling, you’ll often hear that the social aspect is just as (or more) important than the program. Very true for Webvisions as well, where it was fun to meet many folks that I hadn’t met before. And it being a smaller conference, that gave way for more time to chat in-depth on things.

Non-Webvisions highlights of visiting Portland included:

* The amazing Japanese Garden (with a free bonus view of the city and Mt. Hood). I was really blown away by it, and the location way up in a rolling hill above the city gave more of a hint at Oregon’s landscape.
* Stumptown Coffee. I had the best mocha I’ve ever tasted here, complete with marked foam.
* The Doug Fir Lounge. Like a pancake house that was turned ultra-hip and cool by the use of giant fir logs, fur-lined walls and crystal moose heads.
* Greek Cuisina. This is where the wrap-up party was, and I’ll let the photographic (and probably videographic) evidence speak for itself. Crazy place.
More photos of Portland (and mostly the Japanese Garden) are over at my Flickr stream. Thanks to Brad Smith and Nick Finck for the invite — they and the rest of the team put on a great show.

Cork’d Update #2

I’m going to try not to post general Cork’d news here, instead saving it for the Cork’d Blog, but we’ve just rolled out some new features that are too big and exciting not to talk about. I’m looking forward to sharing more design-specific stuff here at SimpleBits, but I’m not looking to bore those that aren’t interested in wine (and/or wine web sites).

We’re (Still) Listening

Member feedback has been enormously valuable since we popped Cork’d (now just 2 weeks ago). We’ve been listening to what you guys want to see implemented, evaluating what makes sense, and acting on it. So far, every new feature we’ve added has been a direct response to member feedback. Dan B. has been working feverishly on turning “it would be really cool if…” into reality. And that’s been really fun. A true wine community has been born.

There’s a real difference between being a hired hand on a project for a specific amount of time and someone who has ownership as well as passion for what they’re working on (ownership and passion can be exclusive as well, but combined, they pack quite a punch). The short-term, part-time attention of a freelance designer or developer can often lead to clunky, duct-taped solutions after the contract is over and the site is actually being used by real people. Cork’d has been the complete opposite situation, where we’ve been able to launch a product that would be considered “done” under most circumstances and then react to member feedback using the same attention to detail that went into the initial construction.

Now, on to the brand-new features that we’ve just rolled out to help make Cork’d even better.

Browsing and Advanced Search

Many members requested an easier way to browse wine on Cork’d. Now you can find wine by category, varietal, region, winery, year, price and more. If you want to look under the hood to see all the great wines being added and reviewed on Cork’d, here’s the place to start.

Speaking of finding wine, there’s now a brand new advanced search that allows searching a term in addition to refining by any of the categories mentioned above, and sorting the results as well.

Buddy Messaging

messages tabAnother frequent request was the ability for members to communicate with each other. Now they can with the new buddy messaging, built right into the site. Send messages to your buddies or other Cork’d members. Tell them you love them. Tell them often.

Bottle Quantities

Own more than one bottle of the same wine? Then you’ll probably want to denote and keep track of that in your Wine Cellar (a list of wines that you own). Now you can add and edit quantities for wines both in your Wine Cellar and Shopping List (a list of wines you want to buy). Managing your wine collection just got a whole lot easier.

Etc.

As with our first update, there was also more than a handful of other tweaks and improvements, like showing more information in wine lists, suggesting related wines on wine review pages and more.

A sustained “thank you” to all the members for continued feedback and suggestions. You’re helping us make Cork’d better and we think that’s pretty cool (plus, we like making Cork’d better). Stay tuned here for more nuts-and-bolts thoughts on the design of the site, and be sure to subscribe to the Cork’d Blog RSS feed for future updates and other cool news.

Introducing Cork’d

I like wine. I’ve even touted it’s ability to act as a design enhancer. The problem with wine (for me, and for many) is knowing what’s good. There are infinite choices out there. It’s overwhelming. Oftentimes, I lean on the suggestions from friends — people that probably know more about wine than I do.

When I finally find a wine that I like, it’s always impossible to remember it for the next trip to the store. Some people keep a journal, writing down what they thought about the wine in a notebook. But wouldn’t it be great if you could do this online? And wouldn’t it be also great if we could share those lists with our friends through a simple, free interface? And while we’re at it, wouldn’t it be the bomb.com if this same interface allowed you to review the wine, tag it, and set up lists for wines that you want to buy or that you own in your cellar?

Cork'dIntroducing Cork’d. A brand-spanking new site devoted to reviewing and sharing wine created by Dan Benjamin and myself. We’ve been working on this for quite some time. Just the two of us. Call us the Bartles & Jaymes of the wine web world (wait, no, don’t do that).

What is Cork’d?

Cork'd screenshotThe basic gist of Cork’d is this: after painlessly creating a free account, you’re able to keep track of wines you’ve tried in your Wine Jounal. You can rate, review and tag wines (more on that below), and these “tasting notes” end up attatched as comments to each wine in our database. You can also build a Shopping List of wines you’d like to buy (think of this like you would a Netflix queue), and a Wine Cellar for wines that you own. Keeping track of what your friends are tasting is as easy as adding them as a Drinking Buddy. You can also recommend wines to your buddies after you’ve rated and reviewed a bottle.

We have a partnership set up through wine.com, where a selection of their bottles have seeded the Cork’d database with about 1200 wines (which will grow as members add their own bottles), each with a link to buy that wine right away. But we can also see other cross-promotional opportunities by getting involved in the meat-space wine community. There are endless ideas flowing about connecting with wineries and vineyards, other wine blogs and podcasts. We’re really looking forward to watching it all grow.

Tasting Tags

The idea of tagging a wine may sound absurd — but when we started to realize the benefits, it became a must-have. We call them tasting tags, and by applying keywords like “oak, pepper, vanilla, berry” to a wine, we’re then making it easy to find similar wines based on those flavors. If you like oaky wines, for instance, then it should be easy to find them.

Why and How

What’s funny about Cork’d when looking at it for the first time, is that it’s pulling in many of the current technologies that have been brewing out there, and applies them to… wine. And why not? This is something Dan B. and I built quite simply because we wanted to use it. We’d been trading favorite bottles, realizing there would be an incredible benefit to keep track of things through a web interface, building a community around it, and making it easy to subscribe to buddies and wine lists. It had to be.

It’ll also be interesting to continue to talk about what we learned by building a web application with a team of 2. Working with Dan B. is a natural fit, as our areas of expertise overlap only slightly (design/ui/development), and where they do overlap actually made things run all the smoother. I was continually amazed by the way Dan approached building the app in Ruby on Rails, the speed, the structure, the way he thinks about a problem for a while, then takes all of about 3 minutes to write the working code — he’s a developer who designs in code. And I’m sure he’ll have much to write about regarding the process, including his already-published thoughts on the launch over at Hivelogic (far more thorough than mine).

This was a giant learning experience for me in terms of dipping my toes in Rails, becoming more familiar with Subversion (more on this later), and in using these tools as a collaborative and iterative way of building a web application. It’s a gratifying way for a designer to work on a large project, chipping away at things in real time, using real data — it’s a bit like sculpting. An evolution.

Go Forth and Uncork

I’m excited to share much more about the site over the coming weeks and months, and we’ll be rolling out some additional features and tweaks. But until then, if you dig wine (or want to start digging wine), then head on over and, um … uncorkCork’d.