Syracuse Wiki Survey

We're asking you for some help, Syracuse-area folks! Take a three-question survey about using and contributing to a local wiki.

You can take it on SurveyMonkey by clicking here or answer these questions in comments:

1. Would you use a Syracuse wiki as a resource?

2. Would you contribute to a Syracuse wiki? (If yes, occasionally or frequently?)

3. Would you prefer to use an existing wiki, or see a new one developed?

Please share, and ask your friends, family and readers to take the survey as well!

Facebook etiquette: Event invitations

Maybe my blood's up a bit because someone pushed hard for a meeting I didn't want to have and then canceled last minute, but I have to be honest, I'm really sick of getting Facebook invitations to events I'm obviously not coming to.

And by "obviously not coming to," I mean the event is 300 miles away, on short notice (a day or two), on a weekday, and is something you have invited me to half a dozen times in the past without me showing up.

In short, there's no reason for you to believe I have any interest in coming. Add to it that I've actually spent time in your presence only a few times in the past eight years, and every time it's because I'm close with your brother- and sister-in-law, and I have to wonder if I should consider cutting the cord.

No, seriously. I understand that I could just delete the event invitation from my email, but I wrote about this in June about a local social media conference: if you want to be a customer service-driven business, you may as well show some good customer service.

Because frankly, if you clutter up my inbox with stuff I didn't ask for and that I'm already not responding positively to, I'm not only unlikely to patronize your business, I'm unlikely to recommend it. And if I don't like the way you run your business, I'm unlikely to view you as one of my favorite people.

So here is how the etiquette on this works. Let's say you have over 500 Facebook friends and you have an event that's of a special interest. Don't blast all your friends. Reach out to the ones who are likely to come -- those who first are in your general location, and if you really want to target people, invite those who are already your customers or those who are likely to get something out of it.

If your event is a social gathering on a weekend, you might be able to stretch that radius to people who are within an overnight trip. This doesn't include your Facebook friends across the country or across an ocean.

If it's your wedding, well, that's different. If it's a funeral, same thing. But a specialized, very local workshop? Come on.

If you don't clutter people's inboxes, they're unlikely to clutter yours. And if you clutter other people's inboxes repeatedly, they may either reach out and ask you to stop, which, let's face it, is a conversation you don't want to have, if you're the defensive sort, or they may just unclutter themselves, cutting you off.

It's really just a matter of being polite. Get some online manners.

The Secret to Blogging Every Day, or How to Schedule Posts in WordPress

You may (or probably didn't, really) have noticed that the last weekday I didn't blog was Friday, May 7 (although to be fair to myself, I did blog on both Saturday the 8th and Sunday the 9th). Where do I find the time and energy? someone recently asked me. Well, it's easy, really. I don't actually blog every day.

The truth is, I set aside blocks of time to write posts and schedule them for the future. In fact, it rained last Friday and it was generally miserable out. So rather than drag myself across town (sorry Frank), I sat on the couch and wrote this post. And the one from yesterday about La Taqueria. And the one from Monday about places to bring colleagues and clients.

Pretty cool, huh?

And it's really easy to do. Go on, open a new browser tab and sign into WordPress. I'll walk you through it.

When you're done logging in, go to Posts -> Add New, just like you would if you were writing a post to publish right now.

You know what to do with the headline box and the entry field, I'm sure (otherwise your blog probably looks pretty empty).

Now, up in the right-hand corner, in that Publish box, there's a blue button that says "Publish." Usually you push that to make your post go live. This time, don't click it.

Instead, look at the line above that, where it says "Publish immediately." Click the "Edit" link. Change the date and time, and click OK.

Did you notice that the Publish button changed to Schedule?

Pretty cool, huh?

Update: OK, so Chris Brogan did almost the same post two weeks ago. I gave instructions. So there.

Dining Review: La Taqueria

I tried La Taqueria recently, and the short version of this review is, it's worth a few trips.

La Taq is a new restaurant, and a sister to Dolce Vita, which as some of you know has quite an eclectic menu. La Taq does the taco/burrito/nachos thing, but throws in some Dolce with it.

They have a daily (rotating) Dolce-inspired burrito – the first day I went, it was Bombay chicken (shredded chicken with a curry sauce). Rather than that, I tried a three-taco plate, giving the carnitas, steak and chicken a try, as well as the soft and hard tacos, and whatever sauces they happened to have on hand that day.

I was a little nonchalant about what I wanted where, making the woman putting the tacos together a little nervous ("which sauce with which meat?" "eh, whichever order you happen to pick up the sauces is fine."), but as I told her, the first time somewhere, you go to get an idea of what they have, try as much as you can, and then go back the second time and actually get what you'd like.

And now I know when I go back (because I will), there's some darn good stuff on the menu.

It's reasonably priced, the food is fresh and delicious, and they're open good hours. Hopefully they're not cursed by being in that location (it's on South Clinton Street just below Walton) – Slices and a late-night Mediterranean place were both short-lived there.

Let me know what you think if you've been!

5 Places to Bring Colleagues and Clients in the Syracuse Area

After my post last week about coffee shops to work at in the Syracuse area, Jill asked if I'd write a post about places to bring colleagues and clients:

So here we are.

1. Freedom of Espresso, Franklin Square. OK, this was on my coffee shop list, too, but that makes sense, right? I sort of use it as an office sometimes, and this Freedom store is convenient to downtown, but outside of the bustle. And did I mention there's a hot dog cart across the street at lunch time? Well, when the weather supports it, anyway.

2. Alto Cinco. Alto Cinco, for you non-Spanish speakers out there, translates literally to "high five." If you need another reason to bring a client or colleague, try it yourself first. The atmosphere is cozy (they've avoided expansion though they could easily fill a room three times that size), the food is really good, and if you need a wine recommendation, they're right there for you. Bonus: It's across the street from Recess so you can grab some joe or hot chocolate on your way out. No wifi at the restaurant, but it's a good spot for a meeting anyway.

3. Edward Thomas Cigar. OK, this is kind of a boys' club. As in I'm not really sure they'd know how to react if a woman walked in (any volunteers?). But Edward Thomas's new digs are pretty sweet. Most of the space is now members-only; really a ploy to let people bring in some booze. There's a non-member smoking lounge with a big TV. There's no alcohol allowed and the wifi is weak back there. The rest of the place, however, has a strong wifi signal and members can bring a cocktail and a guest or two. The space includes a large room with a dozen flat panel TVs and leather recliners; computer carrels; a conference room; a poker room; and a more open room with one of those coffee tables with a top that lifts toward you.

4. Al's Wine & Whiskey. Al's made my bars to work from post last week. Pull up one of the couches, or take over the pool table in the back room. If you tip your bartender, s/he might even surrender the back room remote control.

5. Burnet Park. Again, no wifi, but Burnet Park has a zoo, a golf course, a pool, a skating rink, a basketball court and softball fields, in addition to some open space. And if you feel the need for food and drink, both Nibsy's and Coleman's are within a few blocks.

5 bars to work from in Syracuse

Yesterday we did my favorite coffee shops to work from in the area. Well, it's Friday and you're ready to get your weekend on, so where can you get a good brew while finishing up for the week?

1. The Blue Tusk. OK, so the Tusk is over-priced, has consistently mediocre food and a staff that could care a little more. They have a great beer list, and a back room with two little counters that have electrical outlets and wifi from about six different places. There's almost never anybody back there, and even the bar staff will forget you're back there if you stick around long enough. Just don't get locked in!

2. Al's Wine & Whiskey. You kind of have to sneak around at Al's to snag some electricity, but the food is excellent, as are the happy hour specials. They keep a rotating selection of 20 bottles of wine available for $20 each, and if you don't finish it, they'll give you the rest in a to-go bag (for realz). They also have decent beers and a fair whiskey and fine spirits selection, as far as the local scene goes (check 'em out). The place is comfy, and they managed to get entirely rid of the cigar smell from when they allowed that kind of thing. Just watch out for your mouse – they kept the holes in the counter where the ashtrays were!

3. Empire Brewing. Empire probably gets the two biggest thumbs up for food and drink. But the basement location means poor reception for some cell phones, and there's not much electricity. I'd take the last remaining hour of your laptop battery here and plan to spend a few hours "finishing up."

4. The Limerick. Terrible website aside, the Limerick is much bigger and much cleaner than you remember it. And those two cute little side counters across from the bar? They have lamps on them and electrical outlets below them. I get pretty strong wifi signals there from several different sources, and the place doesn't get crowded until 8ish. You'll also be the only working there (unless I'm there, too).

5. Syracuse Suds Factory. For the last time, no, the Suds Factory does not make soap. They make delicious beer (though, to be honest, not as delicious as Empire). It's got a great hardwood-and-exposed-brick atmosphere, and they're happy to share their wireless password if you show that you're buying while you're working. There's unfortunately only one outlet in the entire place and it's nowhere near the bar. Order some food, though; it's consistently awesome.

photo credit: Mike McCune

5 coffee shops to work from in the Syracuse area

Over at Outspoken the other day, Lisa Barone wrote about some etiquette for working at coffee shops. Basically, it's how to grab some focus while not being a jackass to other customers, and, more importantly, to the business you're patronizing.

You should read that post, then come back; I'll tell you my favorite coffee shops to work from in the Syracuse area.

1. Recess Coffee. Recess is tucked in the Westcott neighborhood and is open late. There's free on-street parking within a block, although during the school year it can get tough to find parking since the students who rent in the area are stuck parking on the street. They roast their own coffee, and it's clear they're coffee drinkers, because the coffee's really good. They also have creative hot chocolates that bring a lot of people back. They don't have a ton of electricity, so bring a fully charged laptop. And bring headphones; the music can sometimes get a little loud.

2. Freedom of Espresso, Franklin Square. For me, this is the most comfortable of the Freedom stores to work from (and one of two to make my top five spots in town). It's comfortable, has electricity all the way along one wall, and, with the exception of the fact that without fail someone will make or take a really loud phone call during the day, it's the quietest cafe in town. The wifi is stable, parking is plentiful, and if you need a little inspiration, there's a statue of Benjamin Franklin across the street and the CreekWalk about 50 steps in the other direction. There's also a hot dog cart at lunchtime. Word.

3. Funk 'n' Waffles. Funk has the strongest coffee in town, and really good food. Seriously, where else in town can you get fried chicken & waffles? They have overstuffed chairs, plenty of electricity, very stable wifi...the only thing that makes me shy away from going there is the parking. It's on the SU hill, so you're either going to pay a fortune for parking or walk a mile. It's great for consolidating trips up there, though.

4. Cafe Kubal. Kubal is another place that roasts its own coffee and clearly is run by coffee lovers. They also make brilliant sandwiches. It's open before 8 a.m., which makes it a winner for me, since I like to get going early. There's plenty of free parking, too. Unfortunately, it's tiny, the machines can get loud, and it can get crowded. The electricity per capita is really good, if you can get a seat.

5. Freedom of Espresso, Fayetteville. The only real problem with this Freedom store is the wifi is iffy. They have plenty of large leather chairs, and a long counter space in front of the window that is meant to be workspace – it has electricity for every seat, and a space between the counter and the wall for cables. Plenty of free parking next to the store and in the back.

Tomorrow, it being Friday, we'll get your happy hour on with my favorite bars to work from.

photo credit: Ballistik Coffee Boy

Book Review: Tell-All by Chuck Palahniuk

Chuck's back.

I've been a big fan of Chuck Palahniuk since reading Choke a few years ago. I swallowed the rest of his novels and one of his nonfiction collections pretty quickly, and have been faithfully waiting for each novel since.

His new novel, Tell-All is a return to what got me hooked – a somewhat ridiculous but still semi-plausible story line with an ending that makes the reader say, "Wait, did that just happen? Let me read those last 20 pages again."

It's been a long time coming for me. I was disappointed that Rant turned into a cheap sci-fi joke at the end; I thought Snuff was a total throw-away book that probably sounded good after a bottle or two of wine; and Pygmy's redemption-of-the-villain ending was way too shiny happy for me.

This is supposed to be from the guy whose every review called him funny and subversive – I guess that's what happens when your first novel is Fight Club.

And so.

Katherine Kenton is an Elizabeth Taylor type. Hollywood actress, famous leading lady, lots of husbands (or "was-bands") in her wake. The novel is narrated as a tell-all by Hazie Coogan, the ugly girl who was a better actress than her Miss Kathy when they were younger, but she could never compete for parts with those good looks. So Hazie becomes the assistant. She's a maid. She dresses and coaches Ms. Kenton. She's there when all the husbands die, and when young strapping Webster Carlton Westward III comes into Kathy's life. And she's there to bury Katherine Kenton when the time comes and publish her best-seller, because anybody who's ever lived in a star's shadow has everything but the last chapter written and ready to go to the printer.

Tell-All brings back the we-thought-she-was-beautiful character types I loved in Invisible Monsters, which really needs to be made into a movie, if anyone's got backing money to commit, since it seems to start off then falter every few years.

Anyway, read this book. It's summer, it's the perfect time for some fun fiction, and this definitely fits the bill.

Next up for me, I'm going back to getting serious with John Jantsch's The Referral Engine.

3 Favorites from Finger Lakes Wine Festival

We spent the weekend at the Watkins Glen raceway for Finger Lakes Wine Festival. The takeaways are that next year, we're going to camp down the road at the state park and hit the festival at the less crowded times: mid-afternoon Saturday and during the day Sunday. But from a guy who likes very dry reds and has recently grown a fondness for Spanish reds, here are a few favorites I wasn't expecting.

Catherine Valley Dry Riesling (2008). Catherine Valley is on the east side of Seneca Lake. They have a list of sweet and semi-sweet wines that includes their signature, The Lost Irishman, a blush. But their dry Riesling is fruity, full-bodied, and it finishes clean. It comes in at $16 a bottle – I typically don't go above a $12 price point (in fact, most of my favorites are in the $6-$8 range), but this was exceptional.

Pazdar Winery Chocolata AmorTM. We encountered Pazdar at the Launch of the Lakes party Friday night (basically a giant toga party with a few wineries). They had brought a limited selection to the launch party, but since that selection included wines with names like Dragon's Revenge and Naughty Virgin, we had to try them. They promised they would have three chocolate wines at the tasting on Saturday, so we sought them out. The Chocolata AmorTM is a rich, dark chocolate flavor. It's semi-sweet, not overwhelming. It's like making a rich hot chocolate and bringing it down to room temperature. I can't say enough about this wine, although we didn't buy any – it comes in at $22 for a 375 ml (that's a half-bottle). Might make a nice Mothers Day gift next year.

Earle Estate Meadery Pear Mead. We came across Earle Estates on a return to the tasting tents after lunch on Saturday. The crowd had thinned out and we had time to talk to the people pouring and really try their interesting selection. I tend to not like wines made from fruits other than grapes (I can handle the occasional peach or raspberry wine for dessert, but even then, it's just one glass and then I'm good for a while). I tried the contemporary and the traditional mead, and was ready to walk away with two bottles of contemporary and one of traditional (the latter for drinking around the fire that night). The lady pouring said they'd received lots of compliments on the apricot, so I tried it, and immediately dumped the glass &ndash it was overwhelming. Same with the blackberry I tried after. So she recommended the pear; it turns out it's a pear tease with that nice honey finish mead has. I traded one of the contemporary for a pear mead at $13.

What are some of your favorites?

Get engaged!

Well, civically. You don't have to be in the under 40 set to join the 40 Below Civic Engagement Task Force in a social networking event tonight at 5:30 p.m. at World Martini Bar, 134 E Genesee Street, in Hanover Square (map).

Check out the Facebook event page. There's no need to RSVP. Just show up, bring people, meet people, you get the idea. No fee for the event, just whatever you opt to purchase.