Ordering Ahead with Order Ahead


True story: In March I moved into a new apartment and I have not cooked since.

Cooking is not fun. I’ll do it if I have to; I have some game in the kitchen and am capable of making good things to eat. But all of the logistics surrounding cooking are not interesting to me: grocery stores, markets, ingredients, Farmers Markets, cook books, cleanup, etc etc. Basically, I feel like my time can be better spent. Also, I have the rest of my life to cook, so I’m not really going to start until it is imperative.

How do I eat, you ask. Excellent question! I recently attended a dinner party and I offered my help in the preparations, then quickly rescinded and instead volunteered to help with take-out if the experimental situation went south. (We did not need that option; the host made an incredible meal)

But the point remains: I eat out. A lot. If I am not getting lunch delivered as part of an office perk, I’m in a restaurant. Sometimes I wrangle friends to dine with me, sometimes I do take out. But now? Now I can Order Ahead.

Many mobile apps can help me get food: Get It NowGrubHub, Seamless. All of them bring me the meal I’ve requested. But sometimes I’m in a rush and hungry and need to have something waiting for me when I get to my destination. (If you’ve had the misfortune of experiencing Hungry Leslie, I apologize.) Plus, I really hate standing in line. Order Ahead is ideal in this situation.

I downloaded Order Ahead several months ago with the intent to review but then forgot about it because the offerings in my neighborhood are not restaurants I enjoy. It wasn’t until I was standing in the unending lunch line at HRD that I was reminded of Order Ahead’s existence. Sure enough, most restaurants I frequent in SOMA are represented. I hope the Order Ahead team works to on-board a better representation in other areas of San Francisco. I’d use it much more frequently.

The in-app UI is very well executed. After one is signed up, credit card filed and logged in, finding a restaurant from which to order is simple. My first order was from the TechCrunch office and as Marlowe is a partner, I couldn’t resist one of their cheeseburgers.

Navigating the menu proved efficient as did placing the order. My card was on file so as soon as I ordered the bill was settled. I received confirmation in the app as well as an email. The app’s confirmation page provided significantly more detail than the email page including when it could be picked up and where in the restaurant. Simple! I like it.

When I got to Marlowe I stood awkwardly at the bar while the bartender found my order. She kind of shrugged and told me I could just go “since you paid already, right?” We both admitted to not really knowing what the protocol was for the transaction, but it worked out perfectly. The burger was delicious. The only complaint I had was that I forgot I eschewed french fries for salad. It still sits on my desk uneaten several hours later.

I’m looking forward to watching this service grow and trying new establishments as they are added. One in particular seems fascinating: ordering coffee from Philz (or in my case a Chai Latte). I wonder what the experience is like with a beverage order. I’ll report back upon trying. But until then if you’re in the San Francisco area and don’t like cooking, I highly recommend Order Ahead.



Much has been written about Highlight, the social discovery app which launched in February and was immediately anointed by the tech press as THE NEXT AMAZING THING at SxSW. I’ve used Highlight ever since it first debuted and I have to admit: I just don’t get it. So much so that I finally disabled the location setting the other day, which is one step away from deleting it off my phone entirely.

Sure, Highlight notifies me when some interesting people are around but then what? I mean, really. Then what? Send a weird tweet about it? The app’s tag line reads “A fun way to learn more about people nearby” but I haven’t noticed that happening at all out in the wild. Unless you count the time a date and I were leaving a party and someone yelled out that they saw him on Highlight just then. Meh. It just seems to turn us into voyeurs with no action, which makes me uncomfortable.

After TechCrunch crowed about how revolutionary this app is and Scoble echoed the sentiment, I saw an uptick in adopters and alerts but still no actual activity. That is until the morning I was standing in Embarcadero Station, minding my own business, and a random (male) friend of a (fairly douchey) Facebook friend messaged me: “Hi.” Creepy. This phenomenon is what Alexia foresaw as a barrier to full-time adoption by women, which will kill Highlight if their business model is supported by the theory that sex sells. After that experience it took me a while to re-enable my location settings; I was incredibly skittish.

Since then, Highlight has felt like a populated ghost town that sends alerts willy nilly. I don’t understand why I’d want to use up precious iPhone battery power on an app that simply doesn’t provide a service. I appreciate that some, perhaps more visionary, tech bloggers see it evolving into assisting recruiting services, a business card replacement or a way to get a date, but it just doesn’t hold water for me. Who knows. Maybe Highlight will prove me wrong.

But until then, don’t get me started on that logo.



Pair. The social network for couples. The app that started a rather large chain reaction in my life. Pair is a GroupMe/Path hybrid that I’m not sure needed inventing but since it is exists (like Everest), and CrunchFund invested in it, I opted to give it a whirl.

Even though I began playing with Pair after taking this gentleman’s brilliant and sad suggestion, I did actually get the opportunity to try the app out with a real person. Of the opposite sex. Of the dating persuasion. (I guess outing myself as single on Twitter has its benefits.) However, after using Pair daily for a few weeks, my feelings on it are mixed.

While it is certainly a creative app that fills a void left by Path and Facebook, it still touches the cynical part of me that stubbornly resists the annoyingly cheesy part of a romantic relationship. The first time my Pair partner pressed the “Thinking of You” button, I groaned audibly. Luckily, he wasn’t around to hear it. (Yet at the same time, I swooned a tiny bit. See how I’m a conflicted hopeless romantic? Please don’t tell him.)

Being able to share pictures, or Moments, together is a lot of fun and also disruptive to my wireless carrier who is trying to get me to heavy up my SMS plan. (I’m a huge advocate of documenting my daily adventures in photo format and texting them out.) Moments are an area where I think Pair can improve: from that section of the app, it would be great to be able to scroll through each picture instead of tapping each one individually to open and close.

I really enjoy the drawing feature but perhaps that is because my Pair partner thinks that I can, in fact, draw. I initially thought he was mocking me. See why?

In my use of the app, it has stability issues that need to be shored up. While it doesn’t regularly crash, it does randomly send old Moments back into the stream or hold them back entirely to send later. This has caused confusion with my Pair partner more than once. Also, neither one of us has been able to successfully record a video and send it through the app. Email wins out there.

No review of Pair would be complete without mentioning the Thumb Kiss. I couldn’t figure it out and to be honest, am still not sure how to initiate one, but it is really cute/corny. A Twitter follower had good suggestion for this feature: adding tactile feedback so it is a little more obvious when the Thumb Kiss occurs. (I’m not sure if I’ve ever written a more ridiculous sentence than I did just then.)

Hamish from PandoDaily had some other great growth suggestions for the Pair team like linked bank accounts and synched calendars. These, along with some more functional tightening, make a lot of sense as they roll out future versions. Although in my burgeoning relationship we really only require the app for flirting. And flirting on Pair is ultimately a lot of fun.




As has been mentioned this week, I downloaded the freshly launched app Snapguide. And I do love it. To echo many sentiments, this app is absolutely beautiful and incredibly timely. And easy to use! I summed up my thoughts for Alexia like this:

“It is Instagram-level useful, Path-level beautiful and Pinterest-level addictive.”

Two of those apps have reached the mainstream audience as evidenced by my Facebook friends’ timelines. They are certainly not a group of early adopters but they are enthusiastic once they are introduced to, and find use for, a new product. I believe that Snapguide has the potential to grow in this fashion.

As Michael said, everyone has something that they’re good at. I struggled to find the courage to post mine as I’m typically a consumer rather than producer of content. I was put off on my first choice (hint, hint) in favor of something that I thought was a little more challenging, more useful and less girly (although that is debatable): Installing a Frame Cluster. [Cue FYNCT.]

The app is incredibly intuitive as it guides you through creating your How To. Choose from text only, video or photos as you create your guide. It allows ease in rearranging the order of the steps and just looks all around pretty while you’re using it. Say what you want about me, but aesthetics are important. Snapguide did crash on me once or twice, but that is to be expected and didn’t really turn me off.

Back when I first downloaded Snapguide, I posted a link to it on my Facebook profile with a recommendation that my friends download and try it out. Two did (horrible, horrible ROI), but hey, a Pinterest wasn’t exactly built overnight.

I had a lot of fun creating my guide and I’ll definitely contribute another one. Who knows, maybe the next guide I’ll make will be on sock puppets!