Stuart Blog 2: Shared restaurant database

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Shared restaurant database

This a way for us to easily create and share a Food and Wine Forum restaurant database. In fact, there's nothing really to set up. And in order for you to participate all you have to do is register at a cool web site that you can use for a million other things. It will just take a few minutes and then once you've done that it will just take a few seconds to add a restaurant to the database. And the database will have a lot of cool features. You can look at a list of restaurants on the Cleveland Food & Wine Forum radar. Or you can get a list of mexican restaurants. Or you can get a list of restaurants for a specific user. Or a list of restaurants given a four-star rating. And you can easily mix and match all of these criteria: all fish restaurants that stuarts has rated four-star. The system could easily be extended to cover recipes for those of us who cook or wine for those of us who drink.

The core of my scheme is You'll need to register at to participate. is a new way to bookmark websites. lets you use tags to help organize the websites that you visit and want to remember. It sounds mundane but people have taken to it with religious zeal. That's partially because it does wonderful, amazing things for keeping track of web sites but also because people are imagining new things that it can do beyond simply keeping track of web sites. For instance, I'm soon going to start using it in place of my wishlist. The thing is, not only will I duplicate the functionality of wishlists, will instantly add wonderful, tag-magic functionality.

You have to use your imagination to really care about and tags. Or maybe you also really need to care about library and information science. Whatever. We care about restaurants and will help us keep track of restaurants that we're interested in and share them with our friends.

After you've registered, you can start bookmarking restaurants. Obviously you can't bookmark the restaurant literaly. Just bookmark the best stand-in that you can find. I'll illustrate the use of the database with some examples.

I'll start by adding El Tango Taqueria. I search for the restaurant on the restaurant database and I bookmark the results page with I tag it with clefoodforumrestaurant. If you're happy here then that's it. It can be that simple. It is now available for all of the other participants to see. This address is for the list of all of the restaurants in the database: . The address for a list of all of my contributions is: .

The full power of the database is available when you take a minute to add more tags. For this restaurant I added the tags: lakewood, westside, ****, mexican and latin. "****" is a rating. The tags ****, ***x, **xx, *xxx should have obvious meanings. I use xxxx to signify that I've never been to the restaurant. "lakewood", "westside", "latin" and "mexican" should also have obvious meanings. Use as many tags as you can think of. Some day you'll be willing to travel anywhere on the west side and some other day you'll think that lakewood is too far. Some day you'll be happy with any Latin American cuisine and some day you'll specifically want mexican.

Here's a list of my mexican, four-star restuarants:**** . Here's a list of everyone's mexican, four-star restaurants:**** .

Honestly, the strength of the system is much more related to the bookmark than to the site that you're bookmarking. You could bookmark completely random web pages and this would still work pretty well. But I think there can be an advantage to carefully selecting the page that you're going to bookmark. Bookmarking entries in the database has some advantages. The page has helpful information like hours, phone number, address, etc... Also the database is likely to have any restaurant the you would hope to add. One drawback of using the page is that uses the title of the page to populate the "description" field for the bookmark and the title of the results page is worthless. Please remember to change the "description" field to something helpful manually if you're using this method.

Obviously, another option for the web page choice would be the official web page of the restaurant. For instance, Moxie, fire and Lola all have web pages. I just added a Lolita to the database. I used the tag "comingsoon" and I bookmarked Chef Symon's post to the forum. Perhaps the best would be to link to an entry in your personal web space. You could create an entry in your blog and bookmark that page. That way you could share extended comments or pictures. Your blog entry could also include a link to the restaurant's website or a link to a review in the Free Times. Blogging is beyond the scope of this explanation but I would like to mention that there are many free and easy to use choices. All you have to do is register. In fact, if you'e unwilling even to register at a free site there are websites that will let you put up small snippets of free, permanent content without even bothering to register.

Here's one bonus. makes rss feeds available. If you have a personal web space you could take advantage of this to share the database or your portion of the database or whatever slice of your portion of the database with all of the visitors to your web site. It would look something like what you see on the right side of this page. The list only contains two restaurants right now so it might get lost in a jumble. The left sidebar also contains a list of movies and a list of books. On an unrelated note, if someone wants to fix my blog template so that this page looks slightly less horrible then that would be great. And if you don't have a personal webspace, rss is still the easiest way to keep track of the database.

This is my new system for keeping track of restaurants that I want to visit. I think if some of you joined in we could quickly compile something very useful and very interesting.

If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments to this entry.

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