Stuart Blog 2: December 2005

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Tracking wifi sites in Cleveland

Has anyone ever noticed the newspaper vending machine database that I have in my blog side bar? I'm afraid to click on it. I'm sure it stopped working months ago. It wasn't really easy to set up. It must have taken half an hour not including hours trying to find the necessary tools. Now with the explosion of google maps, creating a database of Cleveland Wifi locations should take about a minute.

Here's some data to get the ball rolling.

Here's a list of several tools many of which are appropriate to varying degress. Take a look. I went through the entire list and experimented with all of them. Tagzania was the first one that I tried and ultimately it was the easiest and most appropriate. Incorporating it into the CleveWiki Project will involve embeding the map on a CleveWiki page (as I did above) and providing a link to Tagzania. Embedding the map on Clevewiki isn't something that came be done by a peon wikier. The same as embedding events, it requires an iframe tag or a javascript tag. Both of these tags are prudently excluded from the wikiverse. An administrator will have create a special page for the map. Once that's done, people use the tagzania interface to add hotspot locations. The data will be automagically current at CleveWiki.

Of course, there's no reason to wait for CleveWiki admins to make the arrangements. Go straight to Tagzania and start adding hotspots now. Add them from the three lists linked above or, even better, add others that you know about. Your house, maybe? In order for them to show up on the map in this blog entry it's necessary that you tag your tagzania submissions with "cleveland" and "wifi".

tags: wifi, cleveland, clevewiki, map,googlemap

Friday, December 30, 2005

Local reviews II

Thinking about the CleveWiki project motivated me to articulate precisely what I'm looking for in a review aggregator.
  1. Open data. My data should be mine. I'll post it and you'll scrape it. That way several aggregators can have access to a combined and much larger pool of reviews. They'll compete for eyeballs based on how well they package the data.
  2. Open data. The data should come out as freely as it goes in. That way users, or some clever third party, can layer one aggregator's reviews on top of another. For instance movie reviews with restaurant reviews and then organize it all spatially on a map.
  3. Weighted rankings. I want to be able to see a list of restaurants rated highly by people who I feel have a record of discriminating taste that matches mine. This could be done automatically by a feature similar to Amazon's "Users who purchased this book..." technology or it could be done explicitly. Users could mark other users as trusted. However it's done, searches could be ordered by community rankings, trusted user rankings or personal rankings.
  4. Tags. I find tags useful. They are a great balance between flexibility and ease of use. No matter how well thought out a categorization scheme is, there are some users who will think differently and appreciate different categories.
When I system combines these simple things I think we'll see a wonderful complexity emerge. Imagine doing a search for local public theater events and then displaying the results on a map next to the locations of all the Italian or Puerto Rican restaurants in the neighborhood that have been highly rated by a trusted circle of reviewers.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

CleveWiki quickies

I mentioned in another post as a way to help keep track of the web presence of various Cleveland organizations. It may take some work to integrate into CleveWiki. In the mean time, there's plenty of valuable information there to be stolen.

Cleveland : I've got a somewhere between 400 and 500 web sites for galleries, libraries, theaters, dance troupes, singers, authors, etc... Feel free to copy this wholesale.

In particular, over 200 of those are restaurants, markets, bakeries, confectioners, etc... Whoever's in charge of the restaurant category may be interested in these.

Chef Moz should be a great resource for CleveWiki. It's data is available for free. It might also be a good way to contact more helpful volunteers. The Cleveland restaurant section is edited by Sadukie and ZiggyDaMoe.

ChefMoz is a part of the Open Directory Project. I'm not sure that ODP is still under active development but their outdated data is still a wonderful resource. There's a page for Ohio Colleges and Universities. There's a page for Cleveland news and media.

Plugged In Cleveland already has a restaurant database with over 2000 entries. They also have a well populated events database and classifieds and rental listings.

Here's one last item for the inspiration bank: the Chicago Learning Guide.


A concern about CleveWiki

Wow! is the best. (True dat!) is a well designed community portal. It looks inviting. The layout is intuitive. The information is well organized and accessable. It all seems very well thought out. I've only examined it for a short time but I've been impressed on occassion by attention to detail. It's all developed with a free and open source web framework called Django. For another example of a great site built with Django take a look at

NYWiki is really cool. It was hard to resist getting sucked in by very interesting article titles. But it doesn't have an events page. SeattleWiki has an events page. It's a (blank) flat text listing of events with no search or organization. A community portal is a very ambitious web project. Having the proper tools is a necessary prerequisite for success. Web frameworks like Django are built to make it easy to do exactly what CleveWiki is trying to do. When I look at and I see what I want to see in a community portal. The long term frustration of trying to bend and shape MediaWiki into the community portal that Cleveland deserves may make the short term frustration of taking a step back for perspective a very worthwhile price.

There's a lot of enthusiasm for CleveWiki. I'm very enthusiastic about the project myself. CleveWiki has a lot of very valuable momentum. That's why I think that in the short term CleveWiki should continue exactly as is. I think it's important to begin thinking about this issue but I also think it's important that time is taken to allow for indepth analysis and discussion. In the mean time, CleveWiki's wonderful volunteers will be creating great content for use in whatever system is eventually chosen.

Django just happens to be the first web framework that I saw. It looks very impressive but I plan to try and find out what other options may be available.



Local reviews

Another obvious component for a community portal will be a merchant database. I've been very determined to keep track of local restaurants online. Spatial organization and tagging were more important to me than rankings and reviews or other features so I moved from one mapping site to the next. I finally settled on something called Tagzania. Before Tagzania, I tried mygmaps, gmaptrack and I'm sure several that I'm forgetting. After I started using Tagzania, I tried CommunityWalk, JotSpot Tracker and Ning's Restaurant Reviews with Maps. I stuck with Tagzania mostly because it does what I need but partially because I felt locked in by the effort I'd already sunk into it. I currently have nearly 120 Cleveland area food businesses catalogued on Tagzania. (I do think about some things that don't fit in my mouth, by the way.)

But this isn't a reasonable long term solution for the problem of sharing restaurant reviews. For such a database to be really useful, reviews and rankings are necessary.

Kritx, Judy's Book, Yelp, DinnerBuzz, Zipingo and Lopico are all trying to aggregate user contributed reviews as the core of their business model. This is, of course, in addition, to Amazon's yellowpages and Yahoo's yellowpages which allow users to add reviews. These are just the ones that I found in a two minute search. I'm sure there are many more. And the best is yet to come. It is widely anticipated that Google is going to rollout search portals for cars, reviews, events, real estate, etc... Oodle is a newcomer to the so-called "vertical search space". Good luck to them avoiding being crushed between Google, Yahoo! and Amazon.

There were 12 user contributed reviews posted on Judy's book for the Cleveland area just today. I was very surprised to see that. Unfortunately, Judy's Book doesn't seem to accept the open philosophy that's required in CleveWiki but it does show that users are enthusiastic about sharing their information.

Kritx, Yelp and Dinnerbuzz all seem to "get" the open philosophy. One big advantage of Kritx is that it will collect your review from wherever you keep it. It relies on microformats. Users post reviews in their own web spaces in a format that a computer can uderstand but at the same time is easy for human's to generate and to read.

Kritx appears to be in a very early stage of development. Yelp and Dinnerbuzz both seem to be more developed. Yelp has the advantage of covering all categories of merchants in addition to restaurants. Yelp also appears to have ambitious plans for future growth. Dinnerbuzz frees your data up in an RSS feed and it's stored in the hReview microformat. Yelp also offers RSS feeds.

My recommendation would be a mix of kritx and dinnerbuzz. Working with kritx will be great for users who want complete control over their reviews. They can post reviews on their own blogs and they'll be perfectly prepared for web 3.0 when vertical search engines suck and aggregate all of their content. In the mean time, others can use Dinnerbuzz without worrying about a web space to store their reviews.

It's a lot more work than just setting up a wiki page called ClevelandRestaurants and letting everyone loose. That's okay with me because I don't really have the expertise to do that work anyway. But I hope that someone will decide that the work is really worth it to create a richer more useful experience at CleveWiki.


Some tools for the CleveWiki

One of the first components of the portal will be an events system. I recommend There's an API so events can be entered programmatically. There are RSS feeds and iCal feeds so events can be extracted and manipulated conveniently. has first-mover momentum and now that they're under the Yahoo! umbrella I think that we can count on them to be available and actively developed for the foreseeable future. Zvents doesn't really seem to be aware of Cleveland but they have a lot of nice features. Eventful has the advantage of being pre-populated with a large database of bigger events. There's no reason the CleveWiki couldn't use a combination of these services.

Craigslist offers RSS feeds. I think they permit use of the RSS feeds for non-profit purposes. is a great way to keep track of the web presence of different. I have several hundred web pages catalogued: museums, galleries, theaters and, of course, resaurants.

Rock Hall
Originally uploaded by Edge of Dementia.

Originally uploaded by sky_sailor.

Library Detail 2
Originally uploaded by Brian in Cleveland.

Originally uploaded by stu_spivack.

Flickr already has hundreds of great pictures of Cleveland. Flickr is an easy way to store and organize pictures and integrating them into CleveWiki from flickr would be simple. When you're using flickr for location specific pictures then the next natural thing to think of is geotagging. Geobloggers is taking a rest but you can get an idea of what I'm talking about at flyr.

Using existing resources on the web is crucial to the success of CleveWiki. It doesn't force users to duplicate their efforts to provide content. It generates rich content by letting users go about their regular web ways.


Cleveland Wiki

I've been seeing more Cleveland events pop up on recently. I hope the Cleveland Wiki people take advantage of existing resources rather than compete with them. The difficulty in creating a community portal isn't technological. It's social. The crucial element is to get a critical mass of participants. I'm concerned that if this new effort isn't undertaken intelligently, it's most significant effect will be to suck critical attention from other fragile, nascent online community loci. Hopefully, the CleveWiki project will move in exactly the opposite direction. The opportunity exists to leverage the existence of a wide variety of new and exciting tools to create something that could be very useful for the city.

I don't think that the goal of the CleveWiki should be to become the source of all Cleveland content. It's most valuable purpose could be as an aggregator. I don't want to add all of my event data to Upcoming and then have to add it again to CleveWiki. Then add all of my restaurant reviews to DinnerBuzz and then have to add it again to CleveWiki. I want to be come to CleveWiki and search for public theater productions. When I've chosen my entertainment for the evening, I want to see it on a map presented alongside all nearby and highly rated Italian restaurants.

Fully implementing my ideal portal probably isn't possible right now. But the tools to do it are currently being built. The design philosophy of the CleveWiki project should be to be prepared. The critical component of this philosophy will be openess. Allow users to create restaurant reviews on their own websites and suck them in to CleveWiki. Allow users to post their event data where they want it - at Upcoming, on their own blog, etc... Then suck it in and mash it up with the restaurant reviews and present it all on a pretty map.

Here are some example "almost there" implementations:
Yahoo! demo, Alkemis Local, Mashupcoming, Microsoft Local Live and MashMap.

The CleveWiki does have a carefully planned and precisely articulated philosophy, right? I think that before they move ahead they should. Openess and cooperation should be the project's foundation. Once this has been established, they should make an exhaustive search of what's already being done to organize Cleveland related information. Find all of the people working independently and organize them. Consider all the different tools and choose the ones that will help these people the most. Rushing ahead without doing that is more than a waste. I fear that it may be very harmful.

Unfortunately, it's far beyond my technical abilities to suggest large steps towards my ideal community portal but I think I can offer several useful suggestions. I've decided to break that up into two additional posts: one devoted to a merchant database and another devoted to an events database and several other miscellaneous items.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A study guide for my last post

As a companion to my cheese rant, I offer these links as context:
The New Yorker: The Talk of the Town:BLACKBERRY PICKING (James Surowiecki)
Last month, though, it became clear that a patent-infringement case
could force the BlackBerry’s manufacturers, a Canadian company called
Research in Motion, to kill the service in the United States by the end
of the year. Then the BlackBerry will become the quintessential symbol
of something else: a patent system that is out of control.
"The Creative Remix" is a fascinating one hour radio programming devoted to the issues of intellectual property and remixing in music, literature and the visual arts.

Hopefully, I'll dig up some more links soon

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Warp with a side of woof

All minds quote. Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. There is no thread that is not a twist of these two strands. -Emerson
Warp and woof. I love those words. But it's not the imagery that makes this quote powerful. It's the message. No one owns ideas because no one's innovation is theirs alone and seperate from the entirity of the overarching human dialogue. Mozart was a genuis but he was reacting to his context and building on all of the generations that had come before him. The founding fathers understood this, too:
He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. Jefferson
They gave exclusive rights to inventors not because the inventors had any "natural right" to their idea but for the "benefit of society." Innovators take risks to turn ideas into technology that may be of benefit to society. In recognition of this risk, society grants them temporary exclusive rights.

Anyway, somewhere along the line someone coined the phrase "intellectual property" and now everything is bent out of shape. Everyone thinks that every idea they have is completely independent of their interaction with society and is theirs in the same way as their hats. That's impossible. It's just not how human minds work. But that is how I came to be in a restaurant in Woodmere explaining to a friendly police officer that the owner of a restaurant named Taza had stolen my camera.
"And Taza said let there be coagulated milk protein. And there was coagulated milk protein. And Taza saw the protein, and that it was good. And Taza seperated the protein from the baked dough. And Taza called the protein Cheese and the dough Pita. And evening and morning were the first day."
Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from anybody....

Considering the exclusive right to invention as given not of natural right, but for the benefit of society, I know well the difficulty of drawing a line between the things which are worth to the public the embarrassment of an exclusive patent, and those which are not. Jefferson
Society has decided that the pharmaceutical industry could not survive without "the embarrasment of an exclusive patent." That's reasonable. Pharmaceutical reseach is expensive and risky. By the same logic, society has never extended similar protection to chef's and their recipes. It's a well settled matter of law that recipes are not subject to the protections of our intellectual property regime. I think that's pretty reasonable, too.

They don't take risks the same way that inventors do. This isn't a subtle judgment. It's an obviously true fact: chefs don't need the protections of our intellectual property regime. How do I know? Because I just came home from having one of the best meals in my recent memory. Because I've eaten only a couple meals at home in the past two months. Because I've sampled food traditions carried here from across the entire globe and all of this was possible in an environment without these extra restrictions. (Of course, it's not just tinpot chefs pushing consumers around. From the pharmaceutical industry to the music and film industries, this is a huge and growing problem that isn't getting nearly the attention it's due. Maybe, I should have chosen something other than cheese to get quite this lathered up over?)

I was taking pictures. The proprietor came over and demanded that I stop. He was accusing me of stealing his ideas. He made it clear that I either stopped or that we would have to leave. Not only was his position insulting, but his demeanor was aggressive and bullying. His attitude made the decision easy. Unfortunately, that didn't satisfy him. He demanded that I erase the pictures that I had taken. When I protested he grabbed my camera and passed it to a coworker. When the police officer came, he immediately instructed the staff to get my camera. After they dawdled, he asked more assertively.

Imagine any other "creative worker" trying to enforce that kind of policy. Imagine if a fashion designer insisted that you get his permission to take photographs of his work. Now imagine two dozen guests at your Thanksgiving feast craning their necks, desperately trying to read the lable on their shirts lest they have to undress so that they can find contact information for their shirt's designer. I'm sure the designer would be happy to extend his permission to photograph your great-grandmother... for a small monetary consideration. Now imagine the fashion designer telling the police officer that he worked very had on these designs. (This is the legal principle of the first sale doctrine.)

(Obviously, these two situations are slightly different. The restaurant is a "quasi-public" space and the owner can refuse service and demand that I leave. On the other hand, there's no reasonable expectation of privacy for the staff or the patrons and certainly not for the food. Even in the face of this difference, I think my parable is instructive. Also the chef's behavior seems more reasonable because it's almost possible to think that the chef could successfully manage to protect his "trade secrets" this way. Of course, this security is an illusion.)

Enough public policy. How about some hard nosed business? What's the best case scenario for a restauranteur who imposes this silly policy? An overwhelming majority of his customers don't even notice. Then every once in a while he insults the very type of customer who would otherwise have been his biggest asset. This is, after all, a customer so interested in the food that he takes pictures of it. Then one day, a real industrial spy comes by but the proprietor doesn't even notice because, honestly, what kind of dumb ass industrial spy actually brings a regular camera? The spy gets all the information that he could ever have wanted and opens up what eventually becomes a very successful restaurant in another part of town. The original proprietor doesn't ever figure it out because most of the information that the industrial spy really needed was already available at the public library.

The worst case scenario is that the police end up coming and telling you fetch the camera you stole.

Millions of people watch Emeril and Rachael Ray but the food service industry has just as much to fear from the Food Network as the the home construction industry has to fear from Bob Villa and Norm Abrams. Restaurants don't make money off recipes. They couldn't because the same recipes, or better, are freely available anyway. Some make money by offering simple food conveniently. Others make money by getting to the restaurant at four in the morning to simmer stocks, bake fresh breads and argue with the fishmonger because the last delivery was almost imperceptibly better than the current delivery. And some succeed by setting their food in an environment of the finest art, the softest chairs, dazzling furnishings and elegant serviceware none of which you'll have to clean.

When I was eating at one of the best restaurants in Las Vegas, the staff wheeled the bread cart over so that I could take a better picture. They were curious about my photography but no one seemed worried that I was going to run Joel Robuchon out of business with my personal renditions of foods so complex I can't even spell them for you. Then when I came back home, one of the best chefs in Cleveland very generously gave me two recipes to help with my Thanksgiving preparations. Look out Moxie! I've got my sights set on you. Smart restauranteurs do this as part of treating their customers with respect and friendly chefs do it to share the joy of cooking.

I've always been tickled by the fact that McDonald's has a hamburger university. I'd love to take a look at the thousand page instruction manual that they have for their managers and franchiese but which is guarded like the President's nuclear codes from others. My point here isn't that restauranteurs should hold cooking classes for their competitors. I only hope that people would give more thought to when it's important to hide or share information and that we all understand that things are frequently better when we share. Also, I think we can all agree that yelling and grabbing are right out, no?

So the labneh was pretty good, but the pita was disappointing. The zatar spiced oil and the kalamata olives weren't worth eating at all. I have some pretty pictures of the jibneh. (That's the grilled cheese.) It really looked very good. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to eat it. Fortunately, it's a traditional dish served at hundreds of restaurants in countries across the world so I'll probably find it somewhere soon.

Tagged: food, restaurant, dining, cooking, intellectualproperty

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Dine and Dish 5

I was delighted to see Dine and Dish back for episode five but I was a little skeptical about the theme. Don't get me wrong. I like the entire spectrum of Asian food but Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, Filipino, Thai and Vietnamese food all in the same month? That's a lot of eating and I'm not sure how many fellow food bloggers will be up to it. However, never one to back away from a challenge I plan to give it my best shot.

I don't even have time to describe it all so for now I'll just concentrate on a recent Chinese food adventure. C&Y created a big splash in Cleveland when it debuted. It challenged the other authentic Chinese restaurants in Cleveland to strive for a higher standard. Their Chinese New Year celebration was one of the best meals I've had in a long time. And it exposed Northeast Ohioans to a lot of items they'd never seen before. After some mysterious and extended downtime, C&Y is back and Cleveland is eager to know if it will live up to its own reputation.

In two visits since they reopened, my favorite dish so far has been the chicken noodle soup. Flavorful broth, tender chicken and tasty noodles:
chicken noodle soup

A lot of the original interest in C&Y was generated by their soup dumplings:
soup dumpling

I also tried some of the dim sum items. Fried tofu with chicken, bbq pork dumplings and steamed pork dumplings:
tofu chicken thing pork dumpling bbq pork bun

Desserts at Chinese restaurants get an undeserved bad reputation. I like them. Especially after one-too-many too clever by half, yet mysteriously bland Western desserts. This is nicely eggy and mildly sweet:
egg tart

The attention that non-Chinese language speakers get at C&Y is far superior to that at Cleveland's other authentic Chinese restaurants. The staff was generally able to explain what I was eating and even offered suggestions. The menu on my previous visit was completely determined by the proprietor: beans, kidney and pork chops among other things.

After consuming dessert number one I realized that I'd promised to bring home something for my father. So I stopped at a Chinese bakery for his lunch and my dessert number two. And desserts numbers three, four, and five through ten. Superior bakery offers many savory items and I bought my father a chicken puff pastry and a curry beef bun. What's pictured here are only the desserts that I ate on the way home.

Cream puff:
cream puff

Winter melon paste cookie (someone kindly noted in my flickr photostream that these are called wife pastry?):
? cookie

Almond cookie:
almond cookie

Melon cake:
melon cake

and Fillipino rice cake:
filipino rice cake

The bread for the buns is all the same and various toppings or fillings are inserted or applied. The bun is chewy and delicious. It's a bread instead of a traditional Western style cake. Taro bun:taro bun

The delicious (very) butter cream bun:
cream bun

And the mocha cream bun:
mocha bun.

But my favorite was the simplest. A little (or a lot of )butter and some sugar. The sugar butter bun:
sugar butter bun

Anyway, thanks for visiting. I'm looking forward to reading all of your entries. And I'm definitely looking forward to Dine and Dish 6. Here's hoping that we don't have to wait as long for it as we did for episode five.

Finally, thanks to Sarah. It's a wonderful idea and I appreciate all the hard work you must put into it.