Noonhat — Toss Your Social Salad
For all of human history, great conversations, meetings, and celebrations have happened over food. Your daily lunch is probably not often historic, but while wedged into our working lives, lunch done right is a small slice of greater humanity. It can be refreshing and even inspiring to step out of your routine.
Try Noonhat “to take lunch to the next level,” as creator Brian Dorsey has said. The site matches you randomly with people for lunch, on a day and within an area you and they have pre-selected. This is not a dating service; you are encouraged to go to lunch with more than one other person. With its randomness, Noonhat is purely about tossing the social salad. It is what Dorsey calls “an anti-niche technology.”
To Seattle Net Tuesday and all those interested in non-profit technology, Noonhat represents what one person is capable of:
(1) in his or her spare time,
(2) using free, open source tools, and
(3) with a bit of help from the Seattle community.
Dorsey spends $15 per month on hosting, and Noonhat has no other cost except his time. Noonhat is free to its users. Brian Dorsey works full time as a software developer, but not on Noonhat! He spent what he calls “50 software guy hours” to build Noonhat from its beginning to being featured in mainstream media and industry leading conferences, including Seattle’s KING 5 TV News and Gnomedex 2007.
Clearly there are great possibilities for building with free, existing software, and the opportunities for starting something new in Seattle are promising, too. Dorsey’s other essential message for starting a new venture was: be willing to do things before you’re entirely ready. His Noonhat home page went public before there was automation for matching people to lunches. Even though he had to manually perform matches in the early going, by opening the site early on, he proved the concept. Ultimately the Noonhat process was improved through a trial by fire that forced Dorsey to be practical.
Especially let a practical, timely opportunity lead you into taking the next step when the time is right, even if that is before you feel ready. Brian Dorsey and Noonhat were voted from a small Ignite Seattle event into presenting a few days later at Gnomedex, an internationally attended social technology conference. Within that one week, visits to the Noonhat site went from dozens per day to more than 1,000 per day. Dorsey took advantage of the Gnomedex spotlight to launch Noonhat nationally — not that he was ready for that, either!
Dorsey also mentioned that in the span of its first few days of mainstream exposure, large companies had approached him regarding use of Noonhat internally by their employees. Take one opportunity, and look for others to open. Not only KING 5 TV News and other network news, but the Seattle Times, the Seattle P-I, and other print media gave Noonhat increasing attention. If Noonhat had waited to launch until everything was perfect, or if it had missed its opportunity to shine, who can say the spotlight would have come again?
Noonhat is a liberating way to meet new people. To paraphrase Dorsey’s words: in a time of increasing professional specialization, narrowing and shrinking social networks, and pick-your-perspective media sources, this is social networking turned inside out and with no strings attached. If you’d hesitate to meet someone new alone, just bring a friend or two along to guarantee a good time, but with a twist.
Of Noonhat, I say: may it live long, and prosper.
In other words, give it a try at Noonhat.com. Pick your location, date, and cheers!