As someone who just loves food, eating, and cooking, I've often been struck by the parallels between eating and learning. Feeding the mind and feeding the body have lots in common. So I have used their similarities as the basis for many of the stories I tell onstage, because they help illustrate the Snowflake Effect of mass personalization.
While we've obviously had to pay attention to food as one of the basics of existence (food, clothing, shelter), interest in food seems to be escalating to whole new levels these days. I'm delighted, for example, at the veritable explosion of television and web-based shows that cover everything about food:
- The production of food sources, farming, fishing, gardening
- Cooking, baking, and meal preparation
- Finding great places to eat, delicious new recipes, new culinary talents, etc.
Heck, now there are entire television networks dedicated to food and drawing huge audiences of all ages! And just take a look at the magazine rack when you next visit a bookstore to see how many magazines are dedicated to these topics.
So I thought you'd be interested in some new sites about food that have popped up recently. Webware.com has a number of recent posts and commentary about food-related sites. Here are three that I think exemplify these food trends and what else we can learn from them.
This site is an interesting example of the trend away from "mega sites" to more specialized ones. More of the Snowflake Effect from my point of view. IM Cooked provides a place for people to share their knowledge, interests, and passions for cooking via video.
To get a feel for IM Cooked, you might want to take a few minutes to watch one of its currently top-rated videos "Man Makes Chicken with Pears" presented by the always quirky and fun Christopher Walken.
There are lots of videos available about cooking on the Internet, and even YouTube is an option for posting food-related videos, but the challenge with any general purpose site is how to find both content and the people who share your specific interests.
Another challenge is how to make these information sources more pro-active, so that you are constantly assisted in your quest to discover new ideas, ingredients, and recipes, and the people who share your passions. Or as I often like say, "Doing more finding than searching."
But having too many niche sites also gives us a new problem in this age of abundance—the challenges that come from so much choice. I think the solution is neither a matter of going for even larger mega sites nor moving towards more niche sites. Rather, we need to move toward creating better social and automated recommender systems and having more pattern recognition that helps us mine the exponentially exploding volume of "stuff" out there, so we can zero in on just the right individual people, files, content ,and ideas that match our unique situation at any moment in time.
This site puts the focus on the food rather than the technology, something that is "so yesterday" as my kids used to say to me, but it is also so relevant that BakeSpace doesn't use Ajax or other latest "gee whiz" technology. Instead, this site helps to connect people who share a common set of interests and enables them to pursue their passions better alone and with others. As Caroline McCarthy put it nicely in her review on Webware "after all, if it doesn't taste good, it doesn't matter how well it's arranged on the plate."
I also think the tag line for the BakeSpace site is very apropos: "Come for the food. Stay for the conversation." I'd be so much happier if we were putting more focus on conversations than community!
Over ten years ago, my daughter Lia, who was 13 at the time, hit upon a great technique to figure out what to cook up for dinner or some other meal. She would check out the contents we had on hand in the kitchen, decide what she felt like eating at the time, and then she would fire up a browser and enter these ingredients into a search engine. Her request would return a list of recipes that contained some or all of these ingredients. Inevitably, it helped her to discover a great recipe, which she'd print out, and then she would head back to the kitchen to whip it up. Worked great and it is something she still does now that she is living on her own.
GroupRecipes takes this same basic idea, but makes it even more personalized. For example, they have a StumbleUpon-like feature that is one of my favorites (you have tried StumbleUpon, right?!). StumbleUpon increases what I call the "serendipity factor". You enter a food you'd like to "stumble upon" and then GroupRecipes uses these to find matches and provide ratings of probability that you will like a given recipe. Think of it as the "page rank" (what makes Google searches work so well) for food.
By helping you discover not only other recipes, but other people who are more like you in this very specific context, GroupRecipes adds the social aspect and improved discovery of those things you like.
In this age of abundance, the problem is so much great food, so little time! So this ability to have some "decision support" is a huge help.
So as you can see there really are tremendous parallels between feeding our minds and our bodies. It's also worth noting that the upcoming Learning 2007 will feature chef Bobby Flay as one of the keynoters. Elliott Masie plans to interview Bobby on this same topic of the parallels between learning and cooking, and how both can benefit. I'll be there and will have more to report back to you at the end of October.
Hope this post helps to feed both your mind and your body. As you do so, I hope you will feed the rest of us with your comments and suggestions. (sorry, couldn't resist!)