I had a chance to play with a fun new social application today called Dinnerbuzz. The premise is simple: It’s a social network for people to find new places to eat – and to mark off the ones that they’ve already visited. I signed up and started testing it out. There’s only a handful of users from around the country on the site, and none from my city, Rochester, NY. So, coupled with the efforts of my girlfriend Julia we set about entering a number of new places into the database.
Adding a new restaurant to the database isn’t ‘that bad’. There’s a simple form, you provide the name of the restaurant, it’s relative location (you can even be vague, which is nice), tags, and a description. All of this is powered by the Yahoo Local API, making sure that all restaurants entered are correctly identified and labeled. If a restaurant is not in the API is has to be approved by an admin, which seems kind of silly for a user-submitted web site.
Now, it’s time for some complaints: The tags are certainly interesting, in this context, but I’m not really sure if they work for restaurants. Some tags are immediate ‘chinese’, ‘italian’, ‘pizza’, etc. But how should you tag price ranges, food quality, or experience – it becomes incredibly confusing from person-to-person and daunting to manage within a single account. Should you say ‘expensive’ or ‘$20’ – if you say ‘nice’ are you referring to the food or the service? I’ve found myself using the tag ‘moderate’ – but does it mean moderate price or moderate quality? Who knows! This may be one application to which tagging, of this kind, is not ideally suited.
I should warn you, however, that there are still a couple bugs in the system, and the GUI isn’t completely flushed out yet. For example, there’s no way to delete an entry once you’ve submitted it. (Update: This feature has since been added. Thanks Justin!) I went through and provided ratings for every restaurant that I had been to, including national chain franchises. In retrospect, I’d like to delete the national chain entries, as they’re so commonplace that another review seems redundant. I’m going to try and limit myself to local restaurants and local chains. Also, whenever tags are listed, they’re listed as ‘Recent Tags’, which is rather useless (In my opinion) and should be a delicious-like ‘Popular Tags’.
Additionally, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of ‘friends’ or ‘contacts’ feature – I would definitely like to be able to see where my friends are eating and what they think of those places – the results of which I would use in the future.
I think there’s a lot of potential for this service, there’s RSS everywhere which is nice because I’ve been looking for some way to pull my latest dining experiences into a feed – and this may be it. Considering that the service is still in its, relative, infancy I’m looking forward to seeing other users join and provide their input. It would be very cool to see other services tied in too, such as Flickr, Upcoming.org, and 43Places. So, on that note – here’s my profile, now go and contribute!