The Craziest Special in NYC So Far

Today was my first day out in NYC talking to bars. The awkwardness of talking to strangers has completely worn off and Justin and I had a good time chatting up local merchants and doing the initial leg work on Tabbie NYC. The stereotypically grouchy and mean new yorkers were actually really nice. Turns out the #1 rule of Tabbie still applies, even in NYC: if a person manages/owns/works at a bar, he/she can only be so much of an ass.

While on the streets (does this sound thug? I wanted it to) we walked into a place called Kabin on 2nd ave between 5 and 6th st. The bartender was under the bar cleaning when she told us the specials so when she said “Our happy hour is buy 1 get 1 of anything”, I immediately felt a wave of skepticism akin to the meme below.

http://i.qkme.me/35bp94.jpg

Buy 1 get 1 of anything in the bar? I had to have misheard what she said. “Come again?”, I managed to say . She repeated herself. “Wow”, I said, yet I was really thinking “GTFO, STFU, NGAPLZ, etc”. I think I may have found my bar in East Village.

Bad UI vol. 1: Swype Keyboard

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Being a busy and “important” *ahem* startup founder, I use my smartphone a lot.  I’m a reformed crackberry addict, and I think it’s safe to say that I practically live on my phone.  After my faithful Blackberry 8900 died, I replaced it with a beautiful Samsung Galaxy S2 for At&t.  The phone and I are still in our honeymoon stage even after 6 months into our relationship.  However, I have one major gripe: the Swype keyboard.  Whether you’re a large company with an established product, or a startup making something new, User Interface design and usability issues are incredibly important- and frequently ignored.  The Swype keyboard is an excellent example of what NOT to do when designing a UI.

Swype was developed to make texting faster and easier on a touchscreen.  If you’re not familiar with it, the idea is that the user “simply” traces a spelling pattern over the keyboard, from which Swype determines which word you are trying to type and fills it in for you.  It was intended to be a solution to the issues caused by a touchscreen keyboard, but unfortunately Swype causes more problems than it solves, and generally delivers a terrible UI experience.  I commend them for attempting to improve touchscreen typing- everyone can agree that much is lost compared to using a physical keyboard- but sadly they failed to execute the concept properly and the end result is more frustrating to use than the original keyboard.

I can’t speak for other devices, or even other versions of Swype, but it is terrible on my phone.  For starters, the word-guessing algorithm depends heavily on the initial letter.  If I trace the correct pattern but miss my desired first letter, Swype often guesses the wrong word; if the system sees me spell “tacket,” I would expect “racket” to be more likely than “tackle.”  Additionally, short words like “an” and “am” have a terribly close pattern, so I need to make sure to end clearly on an “n” and not an “m.”  Proper nouns?  Don’t bother unless you have put the word in your phone’s dictionary.  Colloquialisms?  Same deal.  However, as annoying as these issues are, the biggest problem with Swype is the physical layout of the keyboard itself.

Look at the photo above: the keyboard on the left is the Swype keyboard, and the one on the right is the standard Android gingerbread keyboard.  Look at the space bar on the Swype keyboard.  See the problem?  The space bar on a physical keyboard is 5 times wider than a standard letter key.  You would hope that when mapping a keyboard to a phone screen, the relative size of the keys would mirror an actual keyboard.  The standard gingerbread keyboard doesn’t miss the mark too badly; the space bar is 3 times the width of a standard letter.  The Swype keyboard, in contrast, features a space bar that is only 1.75 the width of a normal key.  Worse yet, they’ve reduced the gap between the space bar and the period key.  This means that most of the time, when texting quickly, I end up pressing the period key instead of the space bar.

Amazing to think that something so simple has ruined my entire user experience!  Even if the other flaws remained, they could simply add more of a margin around the space bar, and it would greatly improve usability.  Alas, after trying Swype exclusively for 5 months, I switched to the standard keyboard and have never looked back.

A Tale of Two Brews

Dogfish Head Red and White Beer

There are some days when building Tabbie involves sitting in a dark, dungeon-like room in front of a computer, wondering when real friends were replaced by online friends.  Ok it’s never that bad but the most fun part of Tabbie is getting out and talking to the local bars and clubs.  It adds to our database, gets our brand out there, and proves the value of something like Tabbie. At the time of this post, Will and I have visited at least 50 bars in person (woohoo).  If we had a drink at each of those bars, we’d be 1.) broke and 2.) constantly intoxicated.  However, some days the quality of bars that we visit requires us to indulge in a drink or two. Yesterday was one of those days.

Will and I were in Falls Church, Va visiting Dogfish Head Alehouse.  If you haven’t been and you consider yourself a beer guy (or gal), you’re doing yourself a disservice.  While there, I indulged in a wonderful Belgian White called “Red and White.”  It is 10% ABV and, at $10.50 for a 12oz pour, is not what I usually go for.  The bartender told me that this beer is aged in a pinot noir barrel and is enriched with the the tiny little stars that come off of Mario when he he has starpower.  I bought it and it was GREAT!  It has a sweet, flavorful bite at the front of the tongue but finishes smooth.  All was good.  However, I realized that it was Tuesday, which meant that we could go Mad Fox Brewing Company for one of their more awesome drink specials- fill up a growler (.53 gallons) of freshly-tapped beer for just $8.  We got a growler of their “Diabolik Belgian Strong Ale.”  It tastes a bit like Samuel Adams Imperial White and is a bit heavy-handed for my tastes, though Will really liked it.  Still, I have to wonder- when is paying $10.50 for 12oz of one Belgian beer better than paying $8 for a growler of another?  The answer is… never.  Never ever ever.

– Cesar

Introducing the Tabbie Blog/Don’t Advertise Here

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This is the newly minted Tabbie blog.  Yes, we went there.  Why?  Well because it turns out you learn about the local nightlife scene by talking with merchants and hanging out in bars as a full-time job.  Tabbie boasts a bunch of information about great places to grab a drink, and here on the Tabbie blog you can get actually our thoughts on those places.  It also turns out that you learn a thing or two about starting a business by, you know, actually starting a business.  That means that occasionally our thoughts on our experiences launching and building Tabbie will appear on the blog.  I’ve always loved when I see that a mature company has kept a blog form the early days because it shows me that even the most incredible brands and businesses were at some point based out of a basement or a Starbucks.

In addition to introducing the blog, I want to take part of this first post to stress one point: NO ONE PAYS TO HAVE THEIR BAR OR CLUB REVIEWED ON THE TABBIE BLOG!  Yes, we all like bottle service, car service, and model service (does this exist?).  I like getting a free drink here and there from merchants who are thankful we took the time to talk to them about Tabbie.  However, I will say that the Tabbie blog is not a paid service.  If we go to a spot that we think is interesting, we’ll write about it.  If we attend an event that was either overly hyped or surprisingly enjoyable, we’ll write about it.  If you see it on the Tabbie blog, it is here because the Tabbie team thought it was worth sharing.  No sponsored posts.

If you have thoughts or want me to review your “model service” startup, comment below.

– Cesar