Deliciously clever dessert marketing


I went to a restau­rant re­cent­ly, one that could be placed com­fort­ably in the same genre as Cheesecake Factory. Nice at­mos­phere, food’s great. But what stood out most to me was the way they mar­ket­ed desserts.

What would you think the top rea­son is that peo­ple don’t or­der dessert? I’d guess that the first or sec­ond (the oth­er be­ing health/weight con­cerns) is that their en­trée leaves them too full to eat more. How do you sell a dessert to some­one who’s too stuffed to eat one? Get them to or­der it be­fore they’re stuffed.

Our serv­er ini­tial­ly men­tioned, then re­mind­ed us on al­most every ap­pear­ance she made at our ta­ble, that all of their desserts are de­li­cious, made-to-order and take up to 30 min­utes to pre­pare, so my din­ing com­pan­ion and I should get our dessert or­der in ear­ly if we don’t want to wait.

This might not give a non-critical thinker pause, but — you know — I tend to no­tice when someone’s reach­ing for my wal­let. I al­so un­der­stand that restau­rants tend to run at pret­ty slim prof­it mar­gins, and how im­por­tant at­tach rates of desserts, drinks and ap­pe­tiz­ers are to their business.

They re­al­ly want you to have that slice of cheese­cake, even if they’re prob­a­bly go­ing to be box­ing it up to-go. Clever, huh?

Steve Jobs on unintended uses of tools

A choice quote from an all-around in­ter­est­ing interview:

The point is that tools are al­ways go­ing to be used for cer­tain things we don’t find per­son­al­ly pleas­ing. And it’s ul­ti­mate­ly the wis­dom of peo­ple, not the tools them­selves, that is go­ing to de­ter­mine whether or not these things are used in pos­i­tive, pro­duc­tive ways.

–Steve Jobs, 1985

Google+, the best clone ever

First, a word of dis­clo­sure: I worked for Multiply for near­ly four years. This means I know what I’m talk­ing about. I al­so no longer have any fi­nan­cial in­ter­est in their suc­cess. This means I’m prob­a­bly not that bi­ased. Oh, and I on­ly wrote this be­cause I felt like it. This means no­body asked me to.

I had the good for­tune of re­ceiv­ing an ear­ly in­vite to join Google’s vaunt­ed, Facebook-killing, world-saving, next-generation-social-network Google+. There’s a lot of shiny new­ness to be ex­cit­ed about; Google seems to have brought a few new in­ter­est­ing ideas to the ta­ble vis-à-vis shar­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing. They al­so seem poised to in­tro­duce the mass­es to a few good ideas for privacy.

In terms of pri­va­cy op­tions, Google+ lets you:

  1. …sep­a­rate your con­tacts in­to dis­tinct “friends,” “fam­i­ly,” etc. buckets
  2. …share con­tent pri­vate­ly with each of these groups
  3. …fil­ter your view when con­sum­ing con­tent post­ed by each of these groups
  4. …use this ‘ex­tend­ed net­work’ con­cept to share be­yond your di­rect con­tacts, but still less than the en­tire world

They’re al­so rather old ideas.

I joined Multiply in late 2005 as a mar­ket­ing copywriter/company blog writer/customer ser­vice person/wearer-of-other-hats, and by that point, Multiply had al­ready fig­ured out a so­lu­tion to the prob­lem of shar­ing con­tent pri­vate­ly among all the groups of peo­ple you know. In fact, by then they had been at it for about two years. See the fea­tures list­ed above? They were all at the core of the product.

Not im­pressed? It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber what the so­cial net­work­ing land­scape looked like back then:

  • People had al­ready fig­ured out that Friendster was kind of garbage.
  • People hadn’t yet fig­ured out that MySpace was com­plete garbage. It was huge­ly pop­u­lar by mid-2000s stan­dards, but many times small­er than the Facebook of today.
  • Facebook (okay, “”) was open to users at a bunch of col­leges, but out­side of that, wasn’t re­al­ly a big deal.
  • Twitter (“twt­tr”) didn’t exist.

Oh yeah, and here’s what pri­va­cy looked like:

  • Friendster: Who the fuck remembers?
  • MySpace: Gave you the op­tion of mak­ing your pro­file en­tire­ly pub­lic to the world or en­tire­ly pri­vate to your con­tacts… all of your contacts.
  • Facebook: Your pro­file was avail­able to all of your con­tacts, and every­one else in your “net­work” (which at the time meant every­one who went to your col­lege). You couldn’t make any­thing public.
  • Seriously, you guys… Twitter didn’t exist.

Okay, so we’ve es­tab­lished that pri­va­cy wasn’t much of a con­sid­er­a­tion in ser­vices of the day. But maybe it is today…?

All the Google+ pri­va­cy fea­tures you love — here’s how Multiply did ’em:

1. …sep­a­rate your con­tacts in­to dis­tinct “friends,” “fam­i­ly,” etc. buckets

Google+ to­day gives you the op­tion of putting your friends and fam­i­ly in­to neat lit­tle buck­ets (they call them “cir­cles”). Multiply made you do it. When adding a new con­tact or invit­ing some­one to join you on Multiply, you’d have to pick a “re­al world” re­la­tion­ship type. There were dozens to choose from (friend, cousin, neigh­bor, boyfriend, work su­per­vi­sor, etc.). There was al­so “on­line bud­dy,” which was for con­nec­tions to peo­ple you didn’t know very well. Online bud­dies would be kept slight­ly at a dis­tance, kind of like “ac­quain­tances” on Google+.

2. …al­lows you to share con­tent pri­vate­ly with each of these groups

Having these re­la­tion­ship types on record let you share every­thing in friend/family/professional buck­ets like Google+ does now with cir­cles (oh, but mi­nus the pro­fes­sion­als). You could share pri­vate­ly with one or more of these groups, giv­ing you es­sen­tial­ly dif­fer­ent net­works un­der a sin­gle ac­count. It bog­gles my mind that even to­day, some peo­ple have mul­ti­ple Facebook ac­counts just for the sake of keep­ing their worlds separate.

3. …fil­ters your view of con­tent post­ed by these dif­fer­ent groups

You’d most­ly be con­sum­ing con­tent on Multiply through a tool that went through a few names (“Message Board,” “Explore Page”) but ul­ti­mate­ly be­came known — some­what un­for­tu­nate­ly — as the “Inbox.” What was this like? Think of the Facebook “News Feed,” on­ly a few times bet­ter… and a few years ear­li­er. On Multiply you could use the Inbox to view the lat­est posts and con­tent from your con­tacts. On MySpace and Facebook, you’d be bounc­ing from pro­file to pro­file to see what was new with your friends — great for page view met­rics, crap­py for user ex­pe­ri­ence. :-) The Inbox al­so let you eas­i­ly fil­ter your view to in­clude con­tent and up­dates from many of your con­tacts’ con­tacts, and op­tion­al­ly (and to a less­er de­gree), your con­tacts’ con­tacts’ con­tacts. How far ‘out’ in­to your net­work you could see de­pend­ed on the re­la­tion­ship types you and your con­tacts had chosen.

4. …use this ‘ex­tend­ed net­work’ con­cept to share be­yond your di­rect con­tacts, but still less than the en­tire world

With this in­for­ma­tion, Multiply would pro­vide con­text when ex­plor­ing your net­work. Enforced re­la­tion­ship types made it clear to your con­tacts just who the oth­er peo­ple you knew were, which pro­vid­ed ex­tra con­text for so­cial in­ter­ac­tions on Multiply. Wouldn’t it be nice if when you’re about to meet a new per­son in re­al life, some­one would tap you on the shoul­der and whis­per in your ear “that’s Alice, your friend Bob’s sis­ter.” You’re damned right it would. You’d see this in­for­ma­tion all over Multiply, whether con­sum­ing ex­tend­ed net­work posts in your Inbox or read­ing the com­ments on a friend’s post. Google+ can’t do this, be­cause it doesn’t know who these peo­ple are, and Friend/Family/Acquaintances/Following is some­thing Google+ con­sid­ers a pri­vate dis­tinc­tion… which on the oth­er hand makes some sense, due to some com­plex­i­ties of in­ter­per­son­al relationships.

My point is…

But when you hear some­one ask why it took un­til 2011 to de­vel­op a sys­tem that al­lows you to share in a some­what sane sense, kind­ly en­light­en them. I was there, I heard the world cry out for a bet­ter mouse­trap, and I watched the world not beat a path to Multiply’s door. If there were a prize for be­ing first, it’d be a plastic-gold turd tro­phy in­scribed “LOL.”

I’m not say­ing that every­one should go join Multiply. Odds are, no­body you know us­es it anyway.

So, con­grats on the splashy be­ta, Google, but re­mem­ber: peo­ple say they want pri­va­cy, but just want to be where their friends are. Good luck com­bin­ing the two.

goatse mobile

I had a strange mo­ment of serendip­i­ty ear­li­er this evening.

I was read­ing some RSS feeds and I saw there was a new post to the Flickr tag “first­goatse.” (If the term goatse is new to you, I’m not sure what to say ex­cept: don’t blame me when you look it up… now. The above link is safe to view, by the way.)

I felt like I hadn’t seen a ‘first­goatse’ in a while, so I checked it out. The pho­to it­self was un­re­mark­able, but I was view­ing it on my Nexus S phone and hap­pened to glance away from the screen, at the phone it­self. Something clicked in my head, and I thought of a way to breathe new life in­to the age-old pas­time of show­ing your friends dis­gust­ing im­ages and cap­tur­ing their hor­ri­fied re­ac­tion for shar­ing on the Internet.

HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS WE ALL HAVE SMARTPHONES WITH FRONT-FACING CAMERAS!! (It must be the fu­ture!) These tiny pock­et de­vices are cor­nu­copias of giv­ing: lulz for us, lulz for the Internet, and hor­rif­ic, can-ever-forget mem­o­ries for our friends!

Basically, what the best app ever would do is dis­play a hor­rif­ic im­age of your choice… self-supplied of course, in case your poi­son is more tub­girl, or what­ev­er kids these days show oth­er kids these days. It would al­so cap­ture the re­ac­tion of the per­son hold­ing the phone via the front-facing cam­era, at the very mo­ment of exposure.

A se­ries of pho­tos lead­ing up to the mo­ment would work nice­ly too. Heck, what about cap­tur­ing a video of the en­tire re­ac­tion? For all I know, kids these days are show­ing each oth­er the video equiv­a­lent of that guy bend­ing over and… ugh. For bonus points, it might even com­bine the orig­i­nal and re­ac­tion videos in­to one, side-by-side, not that any­one would want to ever view that.

I’m ready to be­lieve that a mo­bile app like this al­ready ex­ists. It clear­ly, how­ev­er, can’t ex­ist for iPhone, be­cause Apple doesn’t al­low that brand of awe­some, and I can’t be both­ered to check the Android Market (aside from, okay, my quick search for “goatse,” which turned up noth­ing), but this is clear­ly the kind of app that the wold to­day could use.

Well, there’s a Mac app, but who can fit that in their pocket?

Hey world — some­body make this!

IT work for no fun and no profit

Hey non-heartless geeks, how do you avoid be­com­ing some ran­dom person’s com­put­er guy1?

I was just blind­sided by my friend’s aunt and be­fore I knew it, I was show­ing her how to use her laptop’s right-click but­ton to delete un­want­ed desk­top short­cuts in Windows XP. Then, she want­ed to know how to delete a book­mark from her Internet Explorer bar.

She scared me on the last one, though; through her bro­ken English, she seemed to be de­scrib­ing an un­want­ed brows­er tool­bar, and warn­ing sirens went off in my head as I start­ed think­ing I was go­ing to be asked to re­move one of those. Then, as she cursed Internet Explorer while it took near­ly a full minute to load, I had to fight the urge to make a quick ex­it through the win­dow — closed and locked, of course — be­fore I could be asked about re­mov­ing spy­ware or de­frag­ment­ing. I al­most sug­gest­ed she just buy a whole new com­put­er, be­fore re­al­iz­ing that I could just as eas­i­ly be con­script­ed in­to help­ing with that.

Ugh. It turned out to be sim­ple stuff in the end… but this is how it al­ways starts.

Before I know it, I’m go­ing to be fix­ing her router, be­fore trou­bleshoot­ing her DSL prob­lems, be­fore be­ing roped in­to ad­vis­ing her on which of the pro­grams that she in­stalled on her com­put­er she no longer needs and can be re­moved to free up space on her hard dri­ve.2

Proof that there is no god: I look the part.
This is bug #2. Let’s fix this.

  1. Did that term sound sex­ist? I meant on­ly to re­fer to Nick Burns, my tech sup­port hero.
  2. This is ac­tu­al­ly a true sto­ry.