I-90 Closed for Blue Angels

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ July 31, 2008 : 4:13 pm

I had an appointment earlier today in Fremont to interview Seattle Tilth, one of the local charity groups that chefseattle.com is sponsoring when we suddenly hit a wall of traffic on 520 east of the 405. I grimaced as I realized that I-90 would be closed part of today due to the Blue Angels doing their runs.

Luckily, after the interview in Fremont (along with a tasty review of Paseo’s, a popular Caribbean restaurant), I managed to grab a quick video from my camera of a Blue Angel screaming over us on 520. The volume in the video (be warned) actually does the sound justice, but you can probably imagine (or already know) what it sounds like in person. The speed at which the plane darts off is impressive too, to say the least!

Houston, We Have Visitors

Categories: news — Tags: , — Posted by: Grant @ July 28, 2008 : 11:52 am

I suppose most people would be really happy to have a lot of visitors to their website, but we were all pretty surprised when I pulled our website statistics and saw this!

chefseattle.com Web Statistics for July

It looks like our site is getting pretty popular now, with close to 15,000 unique visitors a month right now (July shows less traffic than June since the month isn’t over yet). We checked deeper into our stats and it looked like a full 1,000 people wanted to sign up for our site too! As the business guy for Coffee.net, I’m thrilled that we have so many people interested in signing up. As the web developer for the site, I am petrified at what this means for our user sign-ups and server load.

The graph is pretty clear that we’ve grown quite fast in the time we’ve been online. Currently, we’re in the middle of our second marketing phase, so the expectation is that even MORE traffic is going to come our way in the next 2-3 months. In the meantime, it’s obvious that we need to open up the user logins (damn the QA and testing period) or provide some sort of alternative like a forum for people to start sharing their inner foodie.

If you have comments or suggestions, we are more than happy to listen to them!

Pew News IQ Test

Categories: news — Tags: , , — Posted by: Grant @ July 18, 2008 : 4:35 pm

Pew IQ Test Results

While I generally am not a fan of internet quizzes, I thought this Pew news quiz was worthy of a blog post. The idea is to test your general knowledge about current political IQ, though I would say that the facts being tested are more “nouns” than ideas (e.g., When did the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor vs Why did the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor?). I had issues with the question of which talk show host is supporting Barack Obama, as that’s ranks on the political pole of importance next to who wears lapel pins. Oh please.

Of course, the real news isn’t about my score, but the score of the average test taker coming in at a dismal 50%. My optimistic theory is that Americans are so busy working and taking care of daily business that most of them simply don’t have time to pay attention to the finer details of the political arena. This is why we’re able to get at least half of the questions right, but may not know exactly who the Senate majority leader is, simply because that position is so removed from our own daily lives. Of course, the flip side of that coin is that we’re busy, but only because we’re watching American Idol and watching YouTube instead of the reading the New York Times or the Economist.

Breaking down quiz results by age, the results show that there is a strong correlation between poor performance by younger test takers (30%) and better results by older test takers (60%). Given that the older generation are the ones still reading newspapers and the younger generation is online, there may be some truth to the idea that we will simply consume our information from the medium that is most familiar.

That or we can blame rock and roll, video games and pretend it’s not our problem.

July – Major Site Updates

Categories: news — Tags: , , — Posted by: Grant @ July 15, 2008 : 7:42 pm

Wow, we’ve just uploaded our next batch of updates! There are now over 100 new restaurants listed on Coffee.net, bringing the total to over 200 Seattle restaurants now. A few restaurants are lacking images and we’re working hard on fixing those issues, but we will have those fixes up pretty soon.

Another milestone that we’re happy to report is that Coffee.net now has a readership of over 10,000 visitors a month! It’s been a little over half a year since we officially opened our doors, so we’re happy to be receiving this amount of traffic already. Please let your friends know about the site and keep those comments and suggestions coming!

Seriously, Why Yelp Sucks

Categories: news — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ July 3, 2008 : 1:10 pm

Ok, the title of this blog post is a little misleading because I actually *do* like Yelp (mostly). It’s a cool idea with awesome site design and tools (unlike the unslightly Citysearch), but has some sketchy ability to reign in its own users.

We’ll go straight to Exhibit A. This is from an Elite (cream of the crop) Yelp member from the Seattle area, who has created a list of top restaurants in the Woodinville area (close to our neck of the woods). The top 10 restaurants this person lists are:

1. Denice’s Place
2. Mongolian Grill
3. Garlic Jim’s
4. Samurai Sam’s Teriyaki Grill
5. Ezell’s Famous Chicken
6. McDonald’s
7. Maltby Espresso
8. Subway
9. Theno’s Dairy
10. Crystal Creek Cafe

If you’ve been in Woodinville, you know there’s also Purple Cafe and Wine Bar (our full review is coming in with our next update), yet it’s mysteriously gone from the top 10 list. However, if you scroll all the way to the bottom, you’ll see it listed at #25, one spot below Old Country Buffet and one spot above KFC. That is pure absurdity. Here’s what the review actually said:

“We tried to eat at this cafe and we were told that there was a 45-60 minute wait. So…. if you ever manage to get there when the wait’s not too long, maybe the food will be good.”

The reviewer left a one star (the lowest rating), based solely on the fact they had to wait an hour to find a seat at a fine dining restaurant. This raises the hair on my neck, let alone the manager of the restaurant who is likely fuming at the mouth at the absurdity of this review.

As food critics, we understand quite well that different people have varied taste in foods (apples to oranges, what makes you happy makes you happy, etc). That said, to be a discerning diner of fine gourmet, it’s mind blowing to possibly list McDonald’s as anywhere above Purple (or for that matter, half the list, even though it’s filled with fast food already). Even when comparing similarly styled cuisine, such as McDonalds vs Red Robin, the contest is a scathing no-brainer.

This is the problem with sites like Yelp, because they provide the sandbox for which to play, but they have no way of realistically monitoring the quality of the users. Sure, they can throw out the trouble makers and spammers, but otherwise are handcuffed against taking action against users who obviously have no business reviewing food. Yelp is close to a purist’s democracy of food, which means anybody and everybody can have their time in the sun. To this extent, we have seen a small but vocal contingent of reviewers that use sites like Yelp for their own personal soapbox and often, raging bullhorn. Yelp will tell you that bad apples come with the territory, but tell that to the restaurant owners who get slammed by these self-absorbed crusaders. (In case you are curious, Coffee.net has our own system of checks and balances for these type of things currently in testing.)

Again, this isn’t meant to hark on Yelp (that was a bad pun), but to point that it’s broken in a way that is fixable. Both Yelp and Citysearch fail to understand the foodie by having no way to separate the various restaurant factors like service and food apart. Not all diners believe that eating out is a form of mind and body experience to satiate the soul. In fact, I would say true foodies will gladly make a matyr out of their ego in the quest for good eats. This is why we’ve implemented restaurants ratings based on your priorities: high service and ambiance for a good date; high food and value for down and dirty grubbing. If Yelp used this system, it would break their huge “star” brand, but it would also separate the service nit-picks from the would-be food connoisseurs.

Of course, it’s in our own interest as a competitor to Yelp, to see them go burning down in flames, but we’re not like that and know it’s not going to happen. Competition makes products better and as long as Yelp is around, we’ll have motivation to improve Coffee.net for all our wonderful Seattlelites.

Hoopless in Seattle

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: steveg @ : 12:15 pm

It’s D-Day plus one. The city of Seattle settled their lawsuit with the Sonics ownership group only a few minutes from Judge Pechman’s decision on the case.

Right now, Clay Bennett is probably singing the lyrics to a famous John Denver song. “All my bags are packed. I’m ready to go.? Bennett stated in his press conference that the relocation will commence immediately with the Sonics players being the first to move to OK City. In the most appropriate fashion, thunder and lightning dominate the sky as if God himself is not pleased by the outcome of the Sonics leaving the city.

Mayor Nickels, Nick Licatta, and Frank Chopp are also singing, but it’s the lyrics to another song. “MONEY! MONEY! MONEY! MON-NEH!,? as the city got $45 million out of the deal with Bennett’s group. Another $30 million is expected to be received in 2013, if the state legislature approves $75 million in funding by next year and the city fails to bring in another team.

After hearing about this, I’ve only got one thing to say.

You have got to be f***ing kidding me.

During the opening statement of the city’s Paul Lawrence stated that the value of the Sonics in Seattle could not be quantified, there’s no price tag you could put on it.

Not according to Mayor Nickels. $45 million sounded pretty good to him. Now the city walks back with its tail between its legs and its wallet jammed packed with money.

In a press conference at 5pm yesterday, Mayor Nickels stated that he is confident that this is the best opportunity for keeping the NBA is Seattle. That’s just doesn’t make sense at all to me. To keep the NBA in Seattle, we have to let it leave. Now I know of that elegant old statement “If you truly love something, let it go, if it comes back it’s yours,? but that just doesn’t apply in this case. Don’t believe me, just give Kansas City a call. It’s been a long time since the Kings packed up their bags and headed up to Sac-town and they still don’t have an NBA team. New Orleans just recently got a team after the Jazz left in 1979. 1979!!

Only way a team is going to get here is if a team goes up for sale or the league creates another expansion team. Stern has already been stated on the record as saying that “the league is not looking towards expanding domestically.? So essentially, we need to have the blind faith of someone like Kevin Costner in the Field of Dreams. “Build it and they will come.? That’s a lot of good faith for the tax payers, the politicians, and the fans. And as we’ve seen recently in the NBA, the word “good faith? does not go a long way around these parts or Oklahoma City.

The NBA and David Stern as a commissioner is a pathetic joke as well. Several months ago they said that a renovated arena could not work as a viable venue for an NBA franchise. No less than 5 minutes after the settlement is reached, the plans are perfectly fine for an NBA team. It just shows you that the league and commissioner don’t really care about the fans, the history and the emotional attachment. 41 years ago, a burgeoning basketball league asked the city to make an emotional investment. We did. Now that same league is abandoning us making our investment amount to nothing but pain and anguish.

The whole situation reminds me of a sunflower plant that was given to an acquaintance of my by his ex-girlfriend. After a long period of neglect, it turned extremely brown and just died. He tried to revive it, putting it out on the deck and watering it, but we all knew it was already too late. Much like the Sonics situation, the people who could have done the most to save the team, stepped in way too late to keep the team here. All of this could have been prevented if people like Howard Schultz, Governor Gregoire, and Mayor Nickels, had a little bit more patience and the vision to see what would happen. Now all the politicians are on the hot seat, especially Gregoire who’s up for re-election. With such a close win in her last campaign, there’s enough Sonics’ fans to make her chances doubtful. Awake a sleeping giant and it will crush you.

The only bright spot in this so-called victory for the city. (In my opinion, it’s more like a Pyrrhic victory) The city gets to retain all the memorabilia, name, records, and trophies from the Supersonics. Of course, OK City will have duplicates made that will be hanging in the Ford Center. Bennett referred to them as “assets we want to have.? And therein lies the problem, he’s a businessman who never cared one bit about the fans up here. He talks of a poisoned well, but he’s the person who tainted it in the first place.

We can get another team, but it’s never going to be the same. You can shatter a glass bottle, try to glue the pieces together, but it’ll never be the same bottle. The mayor talks of keeping hope alive for another NBA team, but in reality it’s really hopeless, or how the PI eloquently dubbed it “Hoopless.?

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