The Eater 38 (Redux)

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The Eater 38 debuted on October 3, 2006, with entry No. 1, Balthazar. Soon after, entry No. 2, Nha Trang, joined it. The feature then sat fallow for the better part of two years despite near-monthly conversations between Ben Leventhal and me about jump-starting it. Finally, we did, and the feature grew into one of Eater’s most beloved. It’s a genuine pleasure every time someone says to me, “I used the Eater 38 when I went to [city] and we had the best meal because of it!”

Yesterday, I arrived at work to an email from Fred Wilson that he’d written an appreciation of the Eater 38 on his blog. I headed over there to give my two cents in the comments, but by the time I arrived — about 10:30am — the post had been live for about four hours and 125 comments had already piled up. Such is the way of the world at AVC.

The first batch of comments and responses were harshly negative. “Ouch, bad news — the Austin list is exactly the list that a clueless, foreigner would make about Austin,” commenter number one offered. Though many others critiqued Eater’s inclusions, other commenters raised fair points concerning things Eater can be clearer about, such as the fact that the 38 list isn’t ranked (in fact, it’s in no particular order).

(As an aside: mad love to the various Eater editors who waded into the fray to correct misconceptions about the 38s, including Eater’s editor-in-chief herself. For good measure, I added some deep background.)

Separate from what one might call The Philosophy of the 38, this comment addressed Eater’s user interface: “I am minimally interested in how good the restaurants are — but the site functionality (mobile+ lists+ maps) is pretty cool.” I appreciate the props, but tend to agree more with this commenter: “I too love Eater 38 but the new UX detracts from its usefulness.”

In the month-plus since Eater’s relaunch, we’ve come to the same conclusion. One initial issue — a map zoom that was just too tight — has already been resolved. Among other improvements, Vox Product is working on a far more robust List view, as well as smoother mobile swiping. I’m reliably informed that the next round of upgrades will be rolling out across all Eater maps next week. Stay tuned.

And now, a final lesson: if at any point in its lifespan you can get your product critiqued by the raucous crowd at AVC, you and your product will be the better for it.

Clueless Foreigner