TECH TALK: Thinking A New Food Portal: Recipe Web

A year or so ago, Lee Orchard had an interesting set of posts [1 2 3] relating to recipes and blogs. This is what Lee started off with: The real strength in a recipe web would come from cooking bloggers. Supply them with tools to generate RecipeML, post them on a blog server, and index them in an RSS feed. Then, geeks get to work building the recipe aggregators.”

This elicited the following response from Troy Hakala, one of the creators of Recipezaar:

Creating RecipeML for recipes is a difficult task. Sure, its fairly easy to write a few recipes in RecipeML if youre technically adept, but to do thousands becomes impossible and for the average recipe producer (grandmothers, chefs, etc) it just wont happen.

We (Recipezaar) wrote a natural language recipe parser to make this possible and its a difficult jobRecipes are far more complicated than you might think, believe it or notHaving recipes distributed across web sites is less powerful than a centralized repository of freely-available recipes.

A centralized repository provides a place for regular users to post their recipes and get them seen by the most number of people. And a centralized repository provides an easy way to search for recipes, browse for recipes, review & rate recipes, discuss recipes, etcLike auctions, recipes are best stored centrally where everyone has access to them.

Lee added:

For one thing, bloggers could ping RecipeZaar when they post new recipes, and that site could become the Feedster of recipes. Bloggers could also provide RSS indexes of their recipe postings, possibly for use by future aggregators — although, I think some major work needs to be done on the behavior of aggregators before we go too far down that road.

So, what would probably be a great start is to come up with some MovableType plugin which helps support recipe post authoring. Ideally, this would produce both HTML and RecipeML (or better) content, for both human and machine consumption.

RecipeZaar uses a parser in its recipe submission forms to ease the process as much as possible. And, its been successful, since they can point to over 70,000 recipes submitted to their site by users.

One solution for this, if the people behind RecipeZaar like the idea, is to borrow their parser via web service for use in my hypothetical MovableType plugin. This could also be used for any number of other blogging tools.

A key point made by Lee, in the context of content: Im excited to see more varieties of micro-content shared between the people of the web, but the thing I see least talked about is how this stuff will be authored. I read about data formats and all that, but in terms of user interface, we havent progressed much past the HTML textarea. Also, I often see handwaving and assumptions that the content is really pretty simple — but as Troy Hakala would tell you, not even something as simple as a recipe is a slam dunk in terms of digestion by a machine. There needs to be some happy medium between a natural human expression of information, and the rigorous structuring required by a machine, mediated by good user interface.

Tomorrow: Business Model

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.