The New York Times is shutting down

Bad news though. Microbilling doesn’t work. It has been tried over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

You know that guy who is always nickle and diming you over every little part of a deal. You know how irritating that is? That is how people react to micro billing. I’ve tried it. The only way micro billing works is if the friction is so low that people don’t really even realize they are being billed, and that? Well, that’s probably criminal.

The New York Times is shutting down

Are Dinner Tickets the Future of Dining?

Brett Martin reviews the various paid reservation and ticketing services that are flooding the market (in a totally unsurprising redux of 2006). He offers a few choice anecdotes that are revealing about the state of the restaurant industry (in short: It’s a great time to be a foodie):

I recently received an e-mail from the remote Swedish restaurant Fäviken Magasinet, happily announcing that it would now be closed twenty weeks out of the year, the better that its chefs could immerse themselves in meditations on such themes as “The colour blue in nature,” “Lupin beans and the use of their proteins,” “Monastery life in Finland,” and “Traditional and modern methods for extended storage of eggs.” This is strange and kind of wonderful, but it’s not terribly…hospitable.

But the meat of the story:

Always, though, it comes down to that one indefensible diner behavior: the no-show. And the industry’s anger is real. “You don’t no-show to your accountant. You don’t no-show to your doctor. It’s only in this weird industry where there’s a total lack of ethics and accountability,” says Rosoff. “The problem of no-shows is no joke.”

But neither is it new. Nor does it appear, in the 200-some-odd-year history of the modern restaurant, to have ended the industry. “Overbooking and a bar to wait in!” said one chef-restaurateur, a ticket doubter, when I asked how he dealt with no-shows. “It’s worked for years. It’s ineffcient and it takes some intuition, but that’s part of the equation.”

Are Dinner Tickets the Future of Dining?

Really well done take on tickets & paid reservations from GQ. Brett Martin does push back on the notion that no-shows justify this kind of service. For some restaurants, I think overbooking makes total sense — but it requires scale. If you’ve got 20 seats, it is very dangerous to overbook: What happens if everyone shows up? Even if this happens only a couple of times every year, that’s a lot of very unhappy diners.

Epic offers a great steak — once you get seated

I was then recognized by one of the more veteran staffers and we were immediately shown to a prime table by the window. I like a good table as much as anyone else, but it still disappointed me that there was such an obvious two-tiered system. It’s a reality that regular customers and VIPs are going to get special treatment, but a good host can make even a less important or first-time customer feel special. It doesn’t cost any more money; it’s simply called hospitality.

Epic offers a great steak — once you get seated

This can be done better.

Food delivery ordering: Online is overtaking phone

While phone orders dominated delivery only five years ago, the balance between meal orders placed over the phone versus those placed online have nearly switched, with internet orders on track to surpass phone orders any minute now.

Online food delivery ordering is about to overtake phone ordering in the US

When diners are already using the phone to find menus and get phone numbers, it almost seems crazy not to order online; my guess is that if you remove pizza from the mix, online orders have been dominant for sometime now.

Human Curation Is Back

With search engines, we see a different kind of curator: algorithms. Indefatigable, capable of sifting through literally unimaginable amounts of data, algorithms have been proffered as an inexpensive, comprehensive, and impartial way to curate news, music, video — essentially everything.

Human Curation Is Back | Monday Note

Monday Note surprisingly contends that algorithms are a form of curation. Ben Thompson presents curation and algorithms as poles, with algorithms working when there is either an enormous quantity of data requiring little personalization, or a need for extreme personalization of a limited set of data — Google needs algorithms since they’re sifting big data for one answer, Facebook needs algorithms to personalize for every user: stratechery-Year-One-208-1024x768 Curation = trust when things get weird

Peter Cooper commented on HackerNews and hit on an interesting advantage of curation:

Curation is my entire business and this article only casually mentions what I think is the most important point about why human curation works so well: trust. And, in particular, trust when things get weird.

When there’s a clearly identified brand or person standing behind curation, it has a major effect on the audience and their response, versus a “blameless” automated job. Humans explicitly trust or distrust other humans, whereas trust in software or algorithms is either implicit or of dubious nature.

If I subscribe to a magazine, listen to a radio station, or attend a festival curated by a known figurehead, group of people, or a brand like “The New York Times”, that I trust, I know things that I experience that are out of my comfort zone were likely designed to be there. If a news recommendation algorithm throws up something weird (and they always do, alas), I have no idea if it was being smart or just making a mistake.

From Peter Cooper of Cooper Press

For what its worth, I think this why librarians might stick around for a while, at least for people who care deeply about what they read, and until we’ve got true AI, I think we’ll see algorithms working hand-in-hand with curation. That’s what we already see in Apple Music, GoodReads, and Pandora (but failing in the iOS App Store).