A shameless plug for my business/hobby/affliction
Posted by Euroranger on September 10, 2009
How about we take a break today from me ranting about politics, the UN and rednecks and their football (although South Florida should stomp a righteous hole in Western Kentucky this weekend) and let me blather on about a project that is near and dear to my heart and that’s my quasi-business, eLuncher.
My About section mentions that I’ve been a developer of internet applications for over 11 years. Prior to my IT career I spent 10 years in the insurance gulag industry doing primarily workers’ compensation claims and even got into fraud investigation and eventually moved into management. However, anytime you work in an industry as soul-sucking as insurance (who knew I’d be too BIG for prOn…I know, amazing, right?), dealing with the absolute dregs of a cynical society as well as claimants and injured people and outright frauds…and you find yourself having to drink a six-pack of beer every night just to calm the almost undeniable urge to kill something everyday when you get home, well, it’s time to make a change. I found that I was working for and with people I wouldn’t ordinarily voluntarily associate with and the crushing depression of a job you hate, doing it for people you despise, with people you loathe in aid of people who half the time you wished death on for their lies and abuse…well…that just makes for an unsatisfactory life and I had to change it to something else and completely rid myself of that odious industry in favor of something that didn’t make eating a bullet look like a good idea. Indeed, very much as a snake sheds its skin, I needed a new start…as long as in that mental picture of a snake shedding it’s skin you’ve pictured it after the snake dragged its worn, broken carcass out of a pit of fetid sewage to escape the rapacious demons who used the poor snake for a sexual aid on each other. For 10 years. It felt a lot like that.
Now, despite my best efforts to leave all vestiges and reminders of that formerly awful life behind, I mention all this because eLuncher is a product of a single habit that managed to follow me from insurance into IT. That habit would be the tendency for me to have a good idea only to have some smaller brained simian-like superior of either questionable gender, personal hygiene habits or both either nix it or outright steal it for their own. The idea stealing happened once when I submitted an idea to simply link a work comp claims database with an underwriting database. A conservative estimate of the resultant savings from this earth-shattering idea (believe me, to the IQs involved at this company, this was a truly ground-shaking leap) would have been about $2M or so per year to which I was supposedly entitled to 10% per the company’s employee efficiency encouragement policy. When they came up with their policy I’m sure they thought people would submit ideas about paperclips or rationing toilet paper squares. Instead, if I may say so myself, I came up with a veritable homerun…which was presented to a manager and subsequently disappeared into a black corporate hole supposedly never to be heard from again. Indeed, I too had given up on the notion until one fine Saturday afternoon I got a call at home from a friend who worked weekend IT at the company and asked what I was doing at work as my desk computer showed as being very active on the network. As I lived a mere 2 blocks from my office I decided I should come in and shut my machine off (as I assumed I had simply forgotten to do so). Well, long story short, I caught my supervisor at my desk and discovered my original efficiency proposal on the printer…with her name on it and a review of my desk dated 2 days into the future and my termination announcement.
I left that job with a 6 month severance agreement and an excellent character referral from the manager. She got fired about 2 months later. The idea, as far as I know, was never implemented.
Another time saw me working for a small software firm in Florida that produced document management software. Now, as inept as I have demonstrated Dumbass to be with my present firm, the people that found themselves milling about aimlessly at this Florida software firm were infinitely worse. I could literally fill up months of blog entries merely recounting the outrages they committed. Anyway, I was the lead developer there and built pretty much from scratch the product they were supposed to be selling (they sold all of 5 copies in the 4+ years I was there). Our sales were so dismal that I started to think of other possible uses for the product. One of these ideas was to push the app out there as a free service and let people upload and host .mp3s, pictures, documents, videos and so on and let others view/use them and leave comments. I presented the idea to my boss, who was also the VP of Sales. His eagle-like vision and keen insight into emerging tech trends meant he applauded my little idea and presented me with Employee of the Year. Just kidding! I was nearly fired because I hadn’t gotten permission to create a version of the software that wasn’t restricted solely to .pdfs, and Word and Excel documents…and “how would you make any money from such a stupid idea”.
You probably know this idea better as something like YouTube…except this was…oh…3-4 years BEFORE YouTube. You know…THAT YouTube that sold to Google a mere 2 years after its inception for FIVE HUNDRED MILLION FREAKING DOLLARS. Yeah, a cool half billion. To say THAT episode stuck with me for awhile is like saying “water is wet”. God help me if I’m ever in a car and see that lying, sack of shit English sales scumbag in the middle of a crosswalk. We’ll settle things like men. Well, one man and one road pizza anyway.
So, what does this have to do with eLuncher? A few years back I worked at a place in Roswell, Georgia, and everyday starting around 10:30 or so, someone would roll through the office asking “what do you want to do for lunch today”? There were 3,4 maybe 5 people who’d all pick up and head out someplace for lunch. Well, all those people were all so polite that none of them (myself included) would make a decision. Conversations would sound like: “what do you wanna do for lunch today…I dunno what do you wanna do…I don’t know, I picked last time, it’s your turn to pick…oh, I don’t know, what do you feel like?” and so on ad nauseum until someone finally, likely nearing starvation, would blurt out a place and off we’d all go. It was painful and eventually I got sick enough of it to one day declare “dammit, I’m going to build an app, throw the names of our favorite 10 places in it and have the app pick one randomly everyday and THAT’s where we’ll go, no questions asked”. A sensible decision making machine that didn’t have polite manners or feelings to hurt or be concerned with. A veritable breakthrough in human lunchtime evolution, right? Of course it was.
Which is why it didn’t get built.
The problem this time wasn’t an evil supervisor or a criminally inept vice president. No, the part of “dastardly idea destroyer” was played by none other than me. Or more accurately, insurmountable inertia caused by my titanic capacity for sloth and general laziness. In other words, I couldn’t be bothered. And here the story would have ended except for the timely appearance of my old nemesis: the stolen idea.
By now I had moved on to a better position and was happily and blissfully working my day away one day when I got the fateful IM from a former co-worker/colleague gleefully informing me that someone had made a widget that selected a random restaurant from a list. All of a sudden I was overwhelmed with the notion that yet again, someone was about to profit from an idea I had (but was too lazy to do myself…or was prevented from doing…which plays better to my selective memory). I checked out this widget and discovered it was…well…a real piece of crap. It was a desktop gizmo, for a Mac (which meant it was guaranteed to not be seen by anyone with good taste or who wasn’t a nerd) and it was something I would have been ashamed to put my name on. However, this near miss with Fate convinced me that, by God, THIS time if I’m going to be a complete failure, it’ll be because I ACTIVELY tried and failed and not just sat there and let it hunt me down and give me a wedgie whilst relieving itself on the broken corpse of my formally youthful idealistic dreams. Yeah, when you get past 40, dreams and wishes are for fairies.
Anyway, two years and many evenings-and-weekends-that-I-could-have-been-gaming-online later and I have built and launched eLuncher…and I’m actually proud of what it does and how it works. To describe all it does would take even more of your precious time than I’ve already tricked you into wasting reading to this point but, in short:
- It allows a user to sign up for free, create a search area and set up automated alerts for specials and coupons for participating restaurants in that area
- You get notifications by email and can get the actual deal or special by email, instant text message on your cellphone or by a Twitter direct message
- You can get a random local restaurant pick known as the LunchBot Pick of the Day (so you don’t get into awkward decision conversations with way-too-polite co-workers) by email, Twitter or on your home page via RSS feed
- Rate and leave a review of places you’ve been
- If you’re a restaurant owner, you get to list your restaurant for free and be seen by lots of local potential customers and get periodically chosen as the random Pick of the Day
- For a few dollars per month, you can add pictures, a brief write-up of your place, your menu, your hours, access to Twitter automation, use of the coupon/daily special module and other fun stuff
The idea is like a Frankenstein and I cannot help but adding new ideas and features to it as I think of them. For instance, these days, I’m recoding the site so that it looks and works well on handhelds (like the iPhone, Blackberry and Palm Pre). I’m still in the midst of building a Facebook app and I’m always adding new features for it to tie in with Twitter.
The site garners more and more visits each week and it’s enjoyed a steady stream of both user and restaurant signups. If I had any money whatsover to invest in advertising or marketing this thing, I suspect it could becomes a full time job…maybe even pay me back someday. And I had this dream BEFORE I turned 40…so it got grandfathered in…so I’m definitely NOT a fairie.
So, a shameless plug for my business/hobby today. No invective, no long strings of hatred-filled profanity. I DID have a potential Dumbass post but it’s still in flight. It’s like the whistle of a dropping bomb today. I’ll wait til it fully lands tomorrow and see how much destruction it causes before I report on it. Anyway, visit the site, sign up and tell your friends. It’s free, you won’t be bugged by endless emails (unless you want them) and we don’t resell or dispense any information we collect. Who knows, one day when it makes a little money, perhaps I’ll send my first 1,000 members a “I was there early and saw it all go down” t-shirt. This would be a commemorative for a happy occasion…unlike those identically worded t-shirts they sell in Tijuana at the mule shows that only serve to remind you to take your penicillin each morning for a few months afterward.
My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.