Get Into's Private Beta

By  |  Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 9:22 am

Lunch.comTake one part Facebook, one part Yelp, and one part TripAdvisor. Stir in some Wikipedia, and add a dash of Twitter. You might end up with something a little like, which is debuting today at the Web 2.0 Expo show in San Francisco. It’s still in private beta, but the Lunch folks have offered to provide a limited number of invites to Technologizer readers. To get signed up, go to In the Sign Up box on the right, click on the Click here next to Have an invite code? Then enter Technologizer as the invite code and your e-mail address–you’ll get an e-mail explaining how to take it from there,

So what is Lunch, other than a site with a funny name? It’s hard to sum up concisely, but basically, it’s a social network whose key features are the ability to review anything–anything–and to find other people who Lunch thinks share your taste in stuff. At the moment, my Lunch feed is showing reviews of Twitter, Shih-Tzus (“the best dogs ever”), a karaoke microphone for iPods, Lost, and a particlar type of skirt.

You can also create “data points,” which are simple database entries for items of all sorts–just enough information to get Lunch started on a topic. And every data point has an accompanying wiki about the topic at hand. (In a world that has Wikipeda, Lunch’s wikis feel potentially redundant–actually, the first one I checked out, on San Francisco, appeared to be a slightly rewritten version of the first couple of paragraphs of Wikipedia’s San Francisco entry.)

Lunch gives every user a personal page that looks a bit like a Facebook page–but it’s centered mostly around the reviews that person has written:

Schtinky's Profile

And it also involves the concept of a “Similarity Network”–a list of folks who you share tastes with, based on preferences you’ve expressed for various items while using Lunch: Similarity Network

The site also has a feature called ExhiliRATE that lets you rate items in batches, the better to quickly build up data for it to match with the preferences of others:

Girl Scout Cookies

Lunch is one of the more ambitious and original attempts I’ve seen to launch a new social network: If it reaches a critical mass of dedicated users who express enough opinions on a wide enough range of items, it could be a cool way to find both opinions and kindred spirits. And I like the way that it encourages you to rate things and snippets of information on the fly as you use the site–it’s fun to use.

The site in its current form is very much a beta. For one thing, it feels cluttered with features and (sometimes cryptic) icons, and it’s not always clear what’s going on–I couldn’t tell if the similarity ratings in the screenshot above referred to me or to the person whose profile they appeared in). I also found more off-the-cuff opinions than the sort of trustworthy reviews that would make Lunch an essential resource.

I’m also still figuring out whether Lunch’s far-flung scope–there’s nothing it doesn’t cover–is a virtue (which it can be, if it becomes comprehensive) or a limitation (which it might be, if it’s so random that it doesn’t turn into a solid, focused source of information on any one particular topic).

Then again, Lunch is so new that it’s still getting started with content of any sort–it’s premature to judge how useful it might be once it leaves private beta and has some time to fill up with members and info. (I’ll bet even Wikipedia wasn’t all that impressive on the day it was announced to the public.)

In any event, it’s worth checking out–and if you give it a try, let us know what you think.


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6 Comments For This Post

  1. Andrew Mager Says:

    I don’t like it at all. Too complicated for the average user.

  2. smithee Says:

    Wow, a new web service is offering me the exclusive opportunity to put my time into creating their business! Where do I sign up for?

    Yet another incompatible social network trying to take advantage of gullible users.

    Where is the value for me?

  3. Samantha Says:

    I’ve actually joined and it is SUPER EASY, so I don’t get where you guys are getting the incompatibility/complication factor. I have had many an intelligent conversation on here with people I never would’ve met (which is completely different from websites that are open to 12-year-olds), been able to read some accurate and well-thought out reviews of things that I would love but, never heard of and be able to share my likes and reviews with others that have found them useful. So, I find it VERY valuable to me- I get much more out of it than my other social medias.

    I guess you don’t have any blogs or Facebook pages or Myspace or like to share any useful information with friends, smithee?

  4. smithee Says:

    Samantha said: “I guess you don’t have any blogs or Facebook pages or Myspace or like to share any useful information with friends?”

    I use WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, Picasaweb and many others.

    It’s inconvenient to use separate identities for each, but more to the point, I’m not happy that my social graph and my creative output like links, comments, reviews, photos, votes, etc. are mostly locked in to each platform and the data is not readily usable by me.

    I appreciate that these free sites are available but in the long run they don’t help us build up the value of our data, our network and our creativity. They are a bad investment of our time and effort, even small amounts.

  5. Mike Says:

    I actually see much more value in a site like this than most that are out there, provided it catches on. I had a lot of fun reading some incredibly well written reviews on some subjects I’m interested in and others that I wouldn’t have come across in a million years. One guy named Woopak_the_thrill must be a foremost expert on obscure movies.

  6. Samantha Says:

    Actually, smithee, good news is on the way for you! Lunch will have Facebook-connect and a way to connect to Twitter so that you can directly share your reviews from Lunch on both. I have a friend who works there and I had the same complaints that you did. I told her I already have way too many on my toolbar then, she answered with the upcoming “connects” and the LunchThis to repost reviews from Amazon and YouTube, so I checked it out. Glad I did…I completely feel ya, though and you raise good points!