Some comments on commenting platforms

So I switched to Disqus a little while ago, not a big decision really with the amount of traffic and comments this blog has 😉

Disqus, what the heck is that? It’s really just a separate system for handling comments on your site. I had comments before and nothing wrong with the handling of them in WordPress so why make the switch? The truth is that I’m experimenting to learn more, basically what this whole blog is about for me but I find all of these commenting systems or platforms quite interesting.

The idea is simple, with better ways to leave comments and share these with a network of friends and other interested and engaged people you get more out of whatever content you’re consuming. Haha you say looking at this place and yes, as I said, not the finest example of engaging content or rich strings of comments and reactions.

Part from Disqus there are a number other services available like Echo, used by big players like Technorati, and Intense Debate, which has been acquired by the company behind WordPress. This is only three but in my research, which was quick and dirty, I found that these are the ones most people are talking about now.

A quick check in Quora (interesting place for questions and answers by the way, sometimes I find really good answers there) reinforced my presumption: Echo seems more focused on social mentions, reminds me of BackType also worth just mentioning, while Intense Debate seemed not as innovative as Disqus and focused primarily on WordPress (yes I know I use WordPress but I’m getting to some sort of point soon, I hope).

With the idea of getting more people more involved through their networks, Facebook’s improved commenting plugin seems like a good alternative. Since almost a tenth of the worlds population is on Facebook (yes, I know, that was some horrible use of statistics) you have some interesting networks to tap into there.

However, TechCrunch’s experiences showed that it might not be so great after all. Read their thoughts here and here. Basically it is a bit exclusive, but let’s hope this improves since Facebook at least state that you can “enable users to comment using other login providers“. The Next Web also put together a pros and cons article.

And there I was, back at Disqus, hoping it will produce some more interactivity and richness to your part of this blog. But more importantly, what do you think and what are your experiences from these commenting plugins or services?

Discovering Jacques Selosse

A bottle of Jacques Selosse Initial had been sitting in my fridge for too long and earlier this week we decided to pop it together with some foie gras. The champagne was amazing. Unlike any champagne I’ve ever tried before. Too bad the Selosse’s aren’t the most reasonably priced bubbles. But who cares when it’s excellent. Richard Juhlin writes about it in one of his champagne guides and it seems he too is in love with the wine. Both he and other’s talks about Anselme, the genius proprietor, and his training in Burgundy which makes the wine almost a Burgundy with bubbles. And man does that work! Next bottle I’m aiming for an older vintage, they’re suppose to excel.

The natural cuisine at Mathias Dahlgren Matbaren

So we finally got around to visiting Mathias Dahlgren at Grand HĂ´tel here in Stockholm. I’ve tried a few times to get a table at Matsalen, with two stars, set menues and a more formal setting, but we went for Matbaren, a more laid back but still awesome place. The top 50 web describes it as a twin restaurant concept. Nevertheless, if you’re in Stockholm – go there, it’s a must!

At Matbaren they offer a variety, all seasonal of course, of medium sized dishes. They’re larger than an appetizer but smaller than an regular entree. Basically divided into regional (Swedish) and globally inspired they also have vegetarian and a part with pastries and one with dairy products and cold cuts. The beverage section is very well matched and we got a lot of competent advise in our choices. Here’s what we had:

I started with a glass of cava, Agusti Torello Barrica -06, that went well with Artichoke & leek, served with watercress, truffles, onion rings and aged cheese. As a guy that use the quote “never trust a vegetarian” a lot, I was pleasantly surprised by this choice from the greens section. Lisa had Sashimi of salma salmon & reindeer, served with avocado, ginger and horseradish and complemented with a glass of Jacobus -09 a Riesling Trocken from Peter Jakob KĂźhn, Rheingau.

For the second dish we both found one we had to try – Swedish squid & shrimp in a spicy broth served with raw vegetables, lime, coriander and chili. We thought “Swedish squid, what the hell is that?” but it turned out to be just that, squid off the west coast of Sweden, and damn was that good! The squid itself was cold and perfect in texture and the broth incredibly well balanced for being a fresh and spicy one. Instead of wine we were recommended Ginger Beer from Williams Bros Brewing that simply rocked.

Now Lisa had to try the Artichoke & leeks that I’d had and I went for Seared flanksteak from Nebraska served with beetroot, horseradish ox marrow and watercress. The meat was full of flavor, perhaps it was just a tad tough, but all in all a great plate. To this I didn’t want the Californian wine recommended and chose Arlay Rouge -05 from Château d’Arlay, Jura, which turned out to be a great combination.

As Lisa saved herself for the desserts I had to try another savory dish – a Salad of salted cod served with fennel, capers, lemon and olive oil. This was my favorite course of them all, a bit like gravlax but with cod and no sugar. Simply clean and well matched flavors. The wine came from outside their list but sharing the cellar with Grand HĂ´tel has its perks I guess; Huber -09, GrĂźner Veltliner, Traisental D.A.C.

Now – desserts. I had Baked wild chocolade from Bolivia served with sour cream, toffĂŠe ice cream and nuts. Almost like a chocolate fondant and a really nice dessert plate for a guy not that crazy about sweets. Lisa had an even better dessert: Bitter lemon cream served with meringue, honey, olive oil and vanilla. Next time I’m having that one! To this we had Moscato d’Asti Bricco Quaglia -09 from La Spinetta, Piemonte and Vin doux Naturel Vendange -08 from Domaine Pouderoux, Maury.

We finished off with some espressos, curiously enough from Nespresso, and an avec. Lisa got Cidre De Glace, Ice Cider -06, from Domaine Leduc-Piedimonte in Canada. This ice cider is made in the same fashion as eiswein and are only made in like one or two places in the world. I got Grappa Sauvignon Blanc, Nonino -04.

The evening was in short amazing and I’ll be back soon. With a couple of dishes and a glass or two it doesn’t have to cost you more than the average restaurant. Thank you Mathias and crew.

Pine mouth drives me nuts

Ever heard of pine nuts leaving a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth? I did a couple of months ago but didn’t think much of it. That was until a a glass of juice almost had me convinced I was being poisoned. It has now lasted several days and the worst part is that it seems like it can stay like this for weeks.

For a food loving guy like me, this really blows. Have I mentioned I do enjoy wine as well, apparently that will be one of the most revolting experiences with pine mouth. Crap-damn-it!

Moving past my disgust, pine mouth is quite an interesting phenomenon. Everyone seems puzzled with what’s behind it. Some has suggested rancid nuts and scientists have tested for led and chemicals, fortunately without results. Lately, though, it seems like it has something to do with what type of tree the nuts are taken from. Since most samples that have caused pine mouth are from China, many seems to be switching to other suppliers. You see, the harvests haven’t yielded enough so it seems ‘regular’ pine nuts is getting mixed with other types. As it is hard to distinguish between the different types I am too boycotting Chinese pine nuts from now on.

If you’re interested in reading more about this there’s a really good blog by a grad student specialising in food perceptions – The Great Pine Nut Mystery. Among other things she lists different types and if they’ll give you pine mouth. Swedish food journalist Lisa FĂśrare Winbladh has also written about this after experiencing it, in Swedish though. Or you can just Google it and you’ll see that it seems to be trending.

Photo by Paul Goyette.

Gowalla gets an awesome update

So I just posted my views on the Gowalla vs. Foursquare battle. Functionality-wise Foursquare had some neat tricks I missed in Gowalla but the latter had me hooked with it’s sleeker look and better Swedish user base. Today Gowalla updated it’s iPhone App and it feels like a big step in the right direction.

First of all, they offer integration with not only Foursquare but Facebook Places as well! Thank you! You can see check-ins from friends that use one of the other services. Plus that now I don’t have to check in using two apps all the time (well I guess I miss quite a bit of all the things I liked about Foursquare but hey I’m lazy as everyone else). When you check in, in addition to sharing this with Facebook and Twitter as before you can now also choose to share it on Foursquare and Tumblr.

Integration in Gowalla 3Share check-ins with Gowalla 3

Secondly, you can now bookmark places. Makes it a little bit easier to find those favorites you check in to regularly. Have a look at the layout of a place below.

A place in Gowalla 3Leave notes at a Place in Gowalla 3

On the right hand side you see another new feature – Notes. Similar to the Foursquare Tips but in the end not the same thing. Check in to a place, click on ‘leave note’ and then choose which friend to share it to. Hmm, what if I want to leave a general note or tip to all my friends or even others checking in later. On the Gowalla blog they say you can leave a note for yourself but havn’t figured that one out yet.

As I said, a lot of goodies for an already Gowalla-favoring guy. Still, notes can be improved to be public or private (now they only seem private).

Gowalla and Foursquare in Sweden

So I’ve been using Gowalla and Foursquare a little while now – to experiment and evaluate, and I’m still doing just that. It feels, however, that I have managed to get a basic sense of the two location-based services (LBS). Internationally, which I interpret as in the US, Foursquare is kicking Gowalla’s butt, at least number-wise. Foursquare have as of today 4 million users while Gowalla boasts a mere 600,000. Looking at just Sweden, I’m not sure which one is the biggest. I will therefore make a very subjective assessment of the two services from a user perspective.

I really prefer the look and feel of Gowalla compared to Foursquare. Have a peek at the “front page” of the two apps below. Foursquare has a map icon but Gowalla does the feed a bit sleeker.

Foursquare frontGowalla front

Checking into places, what’s it’s all about, is also a bit different. Of course the basics are the same, where are you and what are you doing there. In Foursquare you can choose to share this with your friends or not. In Gowalla your friends get the update but you can choose to also send this update to Twitter and Facebook (if you’ve connected them). This is nifty if you sometimes, some places, what to give a shout out (or brag) to your tweeps or FB friends.

Foursquare check-inGowalla check-in

Since it’s all about places, places is a big part of the functionality. Here Foursquare beats Gowalla in my opinion. As you can see below, in Gowalla there’s often duplicates and I find myself always looking for the right spot with the most check-ins. Foursquare is more precise and usually have one correct spot, often with an address as well.

Gowalla duplicates

Looking at what businesses are doing, it’s like with the user base and thus number of friends you’ll have, depending on where you’re at. In the states more and more business are joining forces with the location based social gaming. In Sweden Ica had a Gowalla campaign with a store opening and H&M are now saying that you can unlock discounts on Foursquare. Below you see H&M’s coupon or what you can call it, next to it is what I think can be an even more fun way of engaging your fans. Svenska Spel (the Swedish state-owned gambling company) has launched a trip on Gowalla. Check in on at least three hockey arenas and answer a question to get a couple of tickets for a match, a nice and fun way to reward your fans – Sweden’s hockey nuts.

Foursquare dealGowalla Sponsored Trip

I mentioned the Trips in Gowalla and that’s one thing that I believe can bring me value from LBS. I like exploring and trips can help me discover new spots and… well trips. The hockey trip is one example but there’s a lot more, both commercial and non-commercial. You can even create your own trips and show your friends new discoveries that way.

Foursquare has an even better take on this with their Tips. On every spot you can tip your friends or other visitors on whatever you like – that special order not on the menu, or a favorite dish, best corner, well you know I’m all about eating out but you get the picture. Another neat thing is that when you check in near a place where a friend of yours has left a tip it gets displayed – like “Mr. Smith says the coffee around the corner is awesome”. You can of course list all tips nearby as well. As you can see, they also have a to-do list, nice but nothing I’m using very much at the moment.

Gowalla tripsFoursquare tips

Wrapping up I still prefer Gowalla. If they were to add the Tips-function from Foursquare and cleaned up their spots – then I’m all in. Nevertheless, in the end it all comes down to where your friends are. If one service is the shiznit but no friends are there, what’s it good for? For me, Gowalla is where it’s all at. Seems like Sweden is a Gowalla country after all, or what’s your experience?

The Jante Law’s effect on Customer Service in Sweden

– Don’t think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than us.

That is, according to Wikipedia.org, the essence of the Jante Law – a set of rules or a sentiment that every Scandinavian is familiar with. Most of the time it gets referenced in a humorous way, sort of in the same way we love the caricatures of our beloved neighbors within Scandinavia. But in the same way that it’s funny, it also hits a nerve because we recognize ourselves in it.

The Swedish middle way has in my opinion furthered the presence of the Jante Law. I don’t have the energy to go into that particular debate, let’s take it in a separate post someday, because now I just want to throw up on how this sense of conformity has severely crippled Swedes sense of good service. You see I have a theory that this ‘law’ affects Swedish organizations’ quality of customer service.

I’m pretty fucking tired of having to do business with people who don’t seem to want my business. I’m sick and tired of having a sales person/client service rep/waiter/what-have-you sigh themselves through my humble wish of spending my overly taxed income at their venue. It’s like I’m bothering them at work. Their job is to effing facilitate our effing little transaction.

And don’t get me wrong people. I don’t look down on any job demanding to be pampered as if I was royalty. Somehow it feels like the average Swede worries that others will do so thus having the attitude of “don’t think your better than me just because we’re on different sides of the counter”. Every job I’ve had that included elements of customer service gets so much better when you take pride in what you do, like any old job. And there you have it – pride is at odds with the Jante Law.

So called real jobs of manufacturing stuff and making stuff grown out of the ground have been spared of this anti-pride campaign thanks to Luther and his goodie-two-shoes doctrine of get yourself up in the morning and pull your bit. Now it’s time to incorporate good service into this part of the Swedish mentality.

Because customer service is not only important in a more service intense economy, good or rather great customer service is key to all businesses. Several well-known bloggers and pundits have underlined the importance of customer service as a cornerstone for good PR, marketing and business excellence. Zappos is a good example of this.

So, aren’t you sick of bad service too? Any suggestions on how to fix it or do we need to await the invisible hand or new generations?

Image by Here’s Kate.