The “Vote For Lunch” Market Roundup

When I created eatlunch.at, I had little knowledge of existing “vote for lunch” applications that had already been made. In fact, the question “Where shall we have lunch?” is the universal third stage of civilization, and many have attempted to create a solution to that problem. Many have been brought to my attention, although I clearly think mine is the best. 🙂 Here are a couple for your perusal:

Dave Regan’s lunch.cgi – it’s written as a perl cgi, so we can basically dismiss it entirely. 😉 It looks like it does single-party management, with categorization, list of eateries by last access (a point of argument on eatlunch.at), and automated emails. This one actually does a final email that’s supposed to be authoritative at 11:00 am (more on that later) – Found as the #1 result for ‘vote for lunch’ on google.

Dave Renteria’s Wheel ‘O’ Yum – disclosed to me on the makingstuff list, the wheel o’ yum is an actual desktop application that basically picks a random place to go to eat. Apparently the original version decides where you go to lunch, and that’s final; but, due to embarrassing situations, Wheel ‘O’ Yum Supreme now emails you a decision. Hmm… DrLunch.com – a similar web application written in JSP, that gives out helpful stack traces when you try to register. No idea what is inside, but it certainly sounds interesting. It actually makes a choice itself as well. Apparently, Photo Matt found this on a AdWord for this google search: “What are we having for lunch?” Nice. I tried the query, but no longer see the AdWord. Too bad.

In one of the more freaky google AdWord displays for “eat lunch”, BeMyBuddy.co.uk somehow promises to “Find people online to have lunch
with, throughout the UK.” I don’t know about you, but that sounds kind of odd, especially when combined with the pastel kiddy color scheme.

So, it seems like there are several differentiating factors in play here.

  1. Whether the application chooses a place for you, or allows you to vote
  2. Whether there is a “final result” that must be obliged.
  3. Sends email
  4. Desktop or web application
  5. Downloadable Program or a service
  6. Maintained, or, ‘et by the hogs’

Let’s look at the lunchtime voting matrix.

  eatlunch.at lunch.cgi Wheel ‘o’ Yum Wheel ‘o’ Yum Supreme Dr Lunch BeMyBuddy
App Chooses / You Vote Vote Vote Pick Pick Calculate Too Scary
Final Result? No Yes Yes No Yes Too Scary
Sends Email? When first vote cast Reminder & Final No Final ??? Too Scary
Desktop / Web Web App Web App Desktop Desktop Web App Too Scary
Download / Service Service Program Program Program Service Too Scary
Maintained / et by the hogs Maintained (by me!) et (?) et Maintained et Too Scary to et

One of the most controversial factors in play is the “final decision” factor. For me, this was a design decision. I designed eatlunch this way because the final decision of where to go to eat is still a social one. The primary problem that we face as lunchtime adventurers is extracting daily preferences from each person. There are often those that profess “anywhere is okay,” but renege by rejecting suggestion after suggestion.

Making a final decision within an application not only leads to failure of the application, but also a sense that the application is useless anyway. A good lunchtime voting application should give you important data about your decision, and provide a way for you to express your preferences without committing a great deal of time or effort, and without blocking the way to last-minute lunch audibles.

With that said, there are plenty of improvements on the way for eatlunch.at that will make it easier for others to use and understand. Among those are: vast improvements for the spot directory, “opt-out” from the day feature, rss feed for your party, better explanation of the site, improved ‘hints’, better tag management features, spot detail pages (!), and more! But it’s still pretty fun to use as-is.

Well kids, that’s it for today’s market roundup. Remember, if you have a hard time deciding where to eat lunch at, try eatlunch.at.

10 thoughts on “The “Vote For Lunch” Market Roundup

  1. Instead of a final decision, how about sending out an e-mail roundup of the top three choices, with the list of who is going to each? Of course, this requires knowing approximately when people actually go to lunch and knowing their timezone… That complicates the app, so it might not be worth it.

  2. That’s definitely one of the implementation factors in play when you want to send out scheduled email. People like to go eat lunch on a variety of schedules, and also live in many different time zones. The key problem is that it complicates the app. A post-and-poll system like RSS feeds of your party makes much more sense to me.

  3. Hehe, good to see that neither your sense of humor nor your humor of sense has been dulled by a life of coding.

    On the serious side, there are some folksonomic tags I’ve seen in eatlunch.at that, upon consideration, cause some semantic headaches–vis “close” and “far”. How do you keep these from being useless, given a widespread (multi-timezone, even) userbase? Fighting back the temptation to suggest user-location-overhead-cruft. Do you just let your emergent community figure out on its own that such relativities are useless?

    p.s. another: Lunch Picker

  4. Good observation, Nick. In an ideal world, users would grasp that pretty quickly and be able to adjust their tagging accordingly. One practical ability would be reporting a zip code where the restaurants are. That way, eventually some zip code mappings could be done. Or, we could go Andy’s way of creating Metros which geographically segregate the data objects. I’ll spend some time this weekend enhancing the tagging functionality, and also creating info pages for each spot.

    It would suck to have to redesign the whole thing entirely, but it might be necessary to gain better acceptance. I’m not completely sure that’s what’s needed though.

  5. It still surprises me to this day that a crappy program I wrote while learning Visual Basic in college in the mid 90s is still being used, and talked about, to this day.

    Thanks for the link!

  6. There is already a free commercial site that has been out for years that does everything you guys have talked about and more. Recent rumors is several corporations including Google, Mark Cuban and Yahoo have been looking into buying it. Apparently it has some unique patents on the process and technology. So watch what you guys copy for your lunch sites.

    http://www.LunchVoter.com

  7. Hey, don’t give up on Dr.Lunch…

    Our lazy “sysadmin” may forget to put up our mail server every now and then, but you shouldn’t get any more error messages at this point…

    And if you do, you’ll be shocked at how quickly we respond to your concerns if you send us an email…

    You’d be even more shocked if you knew how lazy we are in all other aspects of our life…

    Plus, unlike many other sites, Dr.Lunch let you, the user, add your own sites…

    And, really, what could be better than that?

  8. Check out http://www.whats4l.com for fresh take on the lunch voting situation. whats4l.com has voting, Google Maps integration, ride arrangement, order tallys and a comment area. There is also a “text message bomb” feature that simultaneously hits everyones cell phone via text message.

  9. Similarly, before reading your blog, my brother-in-law and I endeavored to create yet another solution. Some of the bonus features we have added are debt management (because someone always forgets their wallet in our office) and order consolidation (because we hate to see Jimmy John’s drive out here 5 times a day).

    http://www.mealcrew.com?getluky

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