Monday, March 4, 2013

Tampa: Culinary Conundrum, One In A Series

Todd Sturtz' New Book
We got a gent here who wrote a book all about the Tampa, Florida food scene. Yes, you read that correctly, Tampa AND food scene all in the same sentence. Now, mind you, I admire someone, anyone who has enough passion to actually write a book on any subject and especially when the challenge is great to make that book relevant based on the subject matter. He and Jeff Houck have taken on a Mt. Everest challenge.

  That being said, he posted it on as a spot and at Datz Deli, he must work there or something and when I commented on the post that writing a book about Tampa's food scene it was like writing about say, Kentucky Wildcats Football. Great league, just suspect whether the team in that league is great.

Jeff Houck, Tampa Food Writer
I typically will not buy a book like this....more on the recipe side of the ledger if I buy a food book but hope his tome does well. His professionalism is a bit suspect however in that the comment I made was met with anger and a death wish for one and then defensiveness of "YOU are worthless, so my work is good" meme. Sad that he would allow himself to go overboard like that. Wonder what he would do if someone told him the book stunk. I have since apologized for any offense taken and asked where the book is available. And aw Leslie, no invite to mingle with the beautiful peeps in South Tampa at Datz? I drank a bottle of San Pellegrino over that snub and cried into my cheesecloth.

 So I decided to investigate and find out where Tampa REALLY stood in the world of great cuisine and foodie reverance. Since I was born on the Gulf Coast and grew up eating great seafood and in my life have lived in some great cities for eating I am more than qualified to make such judgments I feel, but to make sure I am digging in to see for sure. My favorite eating city is still by far, New Orleans and I have lived there along with Atlanta, NYC area, Chicago, Dallas, Destin and visited many other cities, islands and a few countries as well...Italy, Germany, Austria, Vietnam, Monaco, Canada, Mexico.

Columbia Restaurant, Ybor City
(From their website)
One thing I notice here in the Foodspotting universe is mostly subjectivity, which of course is going to be the main ingredient in any "review" but I see a lot of "connection" to the place as the reason for liking it or loving it. That is great to some extent but does not cure the ills of a place like Tampa, in my subjective opinion. One example I will use is The Columbia Restaurant, Ybor location, for this one. If you are from out of town and come in to eat here, I believe you are much more inclined to love or like it due to it's beautiful building, entertainment value, history and maybe one or two items on the menu. Now, if you are local and have been there a few times as I have, the veneer starts to fade and the real issues with the place come to light, rather quickly. Do I avoid it all together? No, I hit the bar for a couple of cocktails and an app or salad but not for an entire evening meal. Why? Last trip I was there for the full boat it was a business dinner for clients and out of town guests. The service was abysmal and the server actually told ME not to order paella, instead recommending a shrimp dish that was not even Red Lobster worthy and I am sure was warmed up in the microwave. And that night at least, the Sangria was literally red colored water. I do not know if we were chosen as the sucker table of the evening but that was the last straw for me.

This will be a series so stay tuned. Next up is an investigation into some of the top ranked lists around the world and USA on food and eating. Let's see where Tampa shines....or does not.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Alexa on Foodspotting

Not Alexa, one of the founders and current owners but, an Amazon company who tracks internet data and publishes it on websites around the globe. Let's take a look at some of the current information available for Some of it may surprise you.

Chooky Work Spot
The first and most obvious thing I wanted to know is....WHO visits Foodspotting the most, WHAT is their make-up? Interestingly enough, based on other websites the audience for over indexes on females who are in the age range 25-34, have no children, are college educated and browse this site from work. So in actuality it appears that they may contributing to lost work productivity as the ladies tune in from their desks. Two site members I thought of immediately were Chooky, who may be over 35 and Leslie, a Tampa local prone to potty mouth and some delusions of grandeur but posting some good shots nonetheless. Foodspotting, can you say March Madness syndrome?

Chooky, an Aussie, posts all the time from work and has hundreds of "work" related shots like Vegemite on toast in her portfolio. Always look forward to another shot of a cup of coffee or a piece of toast.

They under index on all other age groups and also men based on internet averages. The rankings on a global basis and in the US were a bit surprising to me. While the numbers fluctuate on any given day or week I believe, they are ranked #25,545 worldwide and #13,953 in the USA. They also have almost 3500 sites that link to them. I do not really know how to assess whether these are good numbers or bad numbers but at anytime there seem to be around 220,000 site members at Foodspotting and again, do not know how active they are but assume the 80/20 rule or somewhere thereabouts.

Rankings Around The World
More fun facts include the site download time of 1.61 seconds and says that 54% of all websites are faster loaders which seems to make sense based on the content rich environment for FS. The current highest rank is in the Phillipines where it is ranked #2907. Almost 30% of site traffic emanates from the USA followed by, wait for it.....India with 8.1%. On another note, Australia is at 2.5%, a number I thought would have been higher.

Currently, site visitors visit 4.4 pages and stay on the site about 3:31 minutes, a number I found to be low but I suppose based on my usage it is low.

There is also an interesting add on at the bottom of the page on called Wayback Machine and it allows you to see how the site has evolved over time. Pretty cool.

I was also surprised to find another site called which was actually ranked much higher than Foodspotting overall. #17,960 globally, #4157 in the US and has over 7000 sites linking to it. The potential for growth is there for Foodspotting but they need to address site "user friendliness" as the old interface was preferred over the current one and also step up efforts in member response and even enforcement of their TOS, something sorely lacking at this time.

Stay tuned as we discuss the Tampa Cuisine scene in the next installment and show you a new book out there by a local Tampa Foodie, Todd Sturtz!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Foodspotting: Spot Or No Spot? You Make The Call...

Update: this is also posted on the FS site if you scroll to bottom of page and click Support and FAQ. Chime in with your ideas since we as members can make the site better and more of what we want to see.

Grobi Is Another FS Power user
In this week's article we will review the newest set of guidleines set up by FS and that i have been given permission to post here by Alexa.

FS continues to remove my spots about 100 at a time while no action taken on others clearly in the same vein or "worse" and flagged more than once. In fact, web images I have flagged and sent in links to their origins online have remained despite efforts to help police the site for clear inappropriate images.

Here is the latest communcation from FS:
  Admin response

 An idea you follow has been updated:
 70 votes
under review
Should Foodspotting have a Leaderboard or Points System? What are better alternatives for encouraging quality over quantity?
under review
 Just a quick update that we’ve implemented some fraud prevention mechanics to address the multiple accounts issue and are still working on exploring leaderboard alternatives per the post above. Would still love your feedback on the proposed solutions.

As far as Gulf Coast Guy’s valid question of, “What belongs on Foodspotting?” — I want to remind you all of Foodspotting’s goal:

Finding and sharing GREAT dishes.

While we realized that people inevitably would end up sharing occasional dishes from home or items from grocery stores or dishes that weren’t really great (and created accommodations for these behaviors — private venues and the default “Home” venue, tried vs loved, hiding, etc. — because it’s more sustainable than policing every photo), we’d also like to encourage our top users especially, since you’re role models for others, to please consider not just what is technically allowed or not allowed, but the principles here.

 Perhaps ask yourself a few questions before posting:

1. Was this a great dish?
2. If not, is there something interesting about it that makes it worth sharing?
3. Would other users consider this great or interesting?
4. Would a reasonable user flag it?
5. Would a reasonable person perceive me to be pursuing quality or quantity?

If not, why are you posting? Is it just about the leaderboard? Is it because everyone else is doing it? Is it worth it?

 I realize this doesn’t solve the problem but hopefully contributes a little food for thought to the conversation.

Alexa Andrzejewski Cofounder, Foodspotting

I applaud the efforts here of the FS team to communicate and hope putting it here helps get the word out to more people on the site. I would say MOST of the spots I see fall into number 3 and relates directly to the follow up at the bottom of the leader board . And in the next phase of the site we are being asked if the leaderboard goes or stays and in my opinion it GOES. It is the cause of most of the whining on the site and also leads to members trying to skirt the true goal of the site to inflate numbers. I am willingly admitting that I have been part of some of this behavior, although I try not to whine and just do my thing. As I have said before, it is a fun hobby for me and my life and self worth do not depend on this site. I do like the idea of some different areas for "recognition" with a change up often enough where a lot of members se their efforts in the spotlight, applauded and feel their contributions are noticed. It is human nature to want that at some level. I think one of the most frustrating things that I see or have seen IS others skirting the spirit of the site and nothing being done about it so........human nature is to emulate it. Now when you have 7400....oops, 7369 due to more removals....on the site you get more attention. And as J.Roncelli will tell you, we LOVE attention. ;o)
One Of J. Roncelli's Many Shill Fans
More to come folks on Foodspotting and it's evolution moving forward with the Open Table acquisition. Feel free to chime in here with your thoughts! The site folks are welcome to join in and clear up any confusion and address whining instead of allowing it on a member's page.

Stay tuned..........

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Foodspotting: What IS a Foodspot?

The latest robust discussion on the the Foodspotting site now is centered around what actually constitutes a "qualifying" spot on the site. Is it JUST restaurant dishes only? Does the cocktail or beer you have with it come under the guidelines? How about the bread basket? Water service? Menu?

Web Images Seem To Be Acceptable

Can homemade dishes, meals and other items be a valued part of the universe of spots? How about a slice of bread at work with Vegemite smeared on it? 50 of them? Grocery store food items whether they prepared in deli, bakery or eat in cafes, fresh meat, produce and seafood or items on the shelf?

Farmers markets? Roadside food stands? Food carts? Lifted web images? Google images? As you can see, the list can be much longer and it seems many of the Foodspotting members have a very different view of this and for multiple reasons. Some make sense, some are based on a member who has some deep seated control issues, some make no sense and of course there are others in between. You may be scratching your head on web images and google images but they are out there and actually some of them on the page of one of the most vocal members, who has since "taken his ball and gone home" while posting lifted web images from a blog to his profile. Talk about your control freak. And another question here is raised as you find out about the husband/wife teams. This will be saved for another article on the blog so stay tuned.

Two of the current vocal site members who are complaining could have their own spots put under the microscope as well. Is a beer photo a proper FS post? If so, why? It ain't food.  Are 20 something shots of the same Asian side dish at the same place appropriate? Just asking. How many skinny flat whites and long blacks need to be duped not by one but by two people with the same shots basically? Just asking. To me it is fine but when you enter into subjective land you can see anyone can complain about anything that does not necessarily jive with their interpretation. And when others see those spots go up and remain then it is assumed that they can also spot the same.

Is It A Reuben?
(No longer on FS site)

Same shot: Or Is It A CB and Pastrami?
(No longer on FS Site)

Quite a conundrum for Foodspotting to deal with eh? Now, to be fair, as part of my 7400 spots there are a mix of all of the above and I would posit, even more. Food is food to me and to be spotted as part of my hobby on the site. As you can imagine, being one of the top spotters creates the opportunity for others to question, complain, whine, cajole and some to get downright nasty about what THEY see as the proper Foodspotting content. And in reality, all of my spots have been an emulation of what i have or had seen on the site so......mea culpa. One other thing I will add is that I have a sense of humor too and every now and then will "spot" a satirical post just to have some fun or poke some. BTW, the suggestion has been made to potentially tab the different types of food spots.

The site has at any time over 200,000 members but have not seen lately any numbers on who and how many are the most active but would think the 80/20 rule probably applies here, or something like that ratio.

Example Of Those I Follow
I currently follow over 600 and am followed by over 650 members. This is a feature to allow you to keep tabs on and see those who you choose to and not others on the site. Great feature and should be used instead of complaining about the content they upload.

In recent weeks, Alexa has reached out to have some conversations about the site, some of the members and some admonitions for me as a top spotter, all of which have been ingested and taken to heart as someone who wants the site to do well and be here for the long run. One of the frustations is that due to being a top spotter you get more notice and those who might not be as prolific seem to slide for the same "infractions" you might be guilty of in the eyes of the site owners. Flags sent in for those seem to go unheeded, unread and cause some head scratching. Lately, two of those are......water at restaurants and packaged goods. I have ceased to spot those for the most part...unless the water is branded or in some way unique and the packaged item unique, new or something worthy of making it seen. Yet, untold numbers of these are posted regularly and nothing done to address them.

Dans Food Pix On Foodspotting
As far as members and their styles go, this is one reason I LOVE the site...many different personalities, many different countries with foods diverse and sometimes downright weird, funny, thoughtful, professional and beautiful people and pages. As far as some who I the hominess of a Robert J. Paul, an everyday Joe having some fun with the hobby, Tom Doran, an accomplished professional who travels a lot and posts pretty much ONLY gorgeous restaurant food around the globe and has high quality images, Dan's Food Pix, who has a high number of images and I emulated somewhat in my approach with a mix of everything on his pages. He also has his own site for the images as well. In future posts I will highlight some of these folks and many others as well since they ARE Foodspotting. Without them all, the site does not exist.

Another Beauty Shot From Tom Doran
I invite others to comment here and although the comments are moderated, meaning I have to review them, I welcome all points if view and discussion, just keep it proifessional and topical. Also looking for ideas for other subjects down the pike. I know I will be sharing some of the ways the site works, some bugs I have seen and more in the future. One tip for you.......before you begin to complain about other users, check your own inventory and see if it might contain some of the "offending" spots or invite scrutiny( you know the old log and cinder parable) AND see if the one you complain about is one of your followers and staunch supporters. I'm jus' sayin'.

Keep on eating and keep on snapping!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Foodspotting: One In A Series

I have been participating in a new hobby for about two years or so now I guess. It is a foodie site called Foodspotting and is a place for posting food and related pictures called spots.

They have just announced that they will join Open Table, an outfit I have used for years now to reserve tables at restaurants. Seems OT bought them for $10 million so Alexa and team must be pretty pleased.

The transition will happen over the next little while it seems and it will be interesting to see how things play out going forward. They seem to have been all consumed with this merger or buyout and had little time to pay much attention to the FS site itself although there have been a few instances of back and forth communication with them and top users such as myself.

As with any open site like this, the array of characters runs the gamut and as always, you have those who are envious of others, have serious control issues or think the site should be run ONLY as they see fit. Then of course you have some delightful folks as well, a whole lot of them. And then you have the ones somewhere in between.

I currently have more spots I believe than anyone on the site and they also track rep points for different things for each spot you upload to your account on the site. I just went over 7300 last night on a visit to Kobe Steakhouse in Orlando. Some others are close. There are certainly some very high quality accounts on the site as well as people take in camera's to their dining places. In fact some of the top "ranked" in terms of rep points do not have even close to the number of images but they have blogs and other areas of outreach that allow them bigger followings and therefore rep points.

In the coming weeks and days I will highlight some of the fun on FS, some of the colorful people and some of the inside stories behind the scenes from a Foodspotting Top Spotter. Check back in FS nmembers and you may see yourself in lights here on my humble little blog. And you may even like what you see......and some may not.

Monday, January 21, 2013

My Stay Along 30A

I was able to get away for a few days recently and stay out farther along 30A in the Rosemary Beach, Seacrest Beach area and what a relaxing time it was for me.

Daily walks, networking and a few dozen good raw oysters were some of the highlights of my getaway.

The Scene On The Main 30A Just East Of Alys Beach
The scenery and personality of the area differs depending on which little slice of it you are visiting at the time. Rosemary Beach is like a little European Village on the coast, Alys Beach is still sparse but appears to be headed in the image of a Greek or Italian Isle with white being the main color. Farther down or is it up? 30A you have the one who started it all, Seaside and it's Truman Show beach town feel. On both sides of it you have some other little burgs aptly named something like Watercolor, Seagrove, Santa Rosa Beach, Grayton Beach and so and so on.

Village Of Seacrest Beach Where I Stayed

Not much was happening in Seacrest Beach and much to my dismay the Mexican restaurant I had wanted to try was closed and the other high end place, Bentley's seemed to be open and completely dead to the public. I walked in one night to grab a beer before heading out and stood for a few minutes in the place with no one appearing from the back so I left, never to return this trip. Maybe in season. They have a Sports Bar of sorts off to the side called Maddogs which is where I was going.

The Beach Altered In My Photo Editor
There was a Sundries place I happened into on day one to introduce myself, find out what they had and see what their hours were and I hit them a few times on the trip for beer, milk, coffee and some various and sundry items. Thank goodness they were open.

Seacrest Beach is pretty expansive home wise and has a nice huge pool somewhere near the center of the little town. I did not use it much as it was cooler but did come sit by the pool and relax a few times on the visit.

Seacrest Beach Pool
I was almost alone for the most part, especially on the weekend I was there. I think I walked over 35 miles on my trip and got to see much of the area and will follow up on some more posts here on the blog. Seacrest was a great home port so to speak as it aollwed me to go back and forth to other spots easily.

I have made a mental note to try them out again as soon as possible.

Life's Beach Baby! Soak it in!