Friday, July 27, 2007

Supper Solutions - Great Grad Student Deal

One of the Alpha Testers is Supper Solutions - a local "meal assembly kitchen." For those of you not familiar with the concept (i wasn't), I think it is a fantastic idea for grad students (among other people), so i decided to try out two of their meals for myself and write about it here.

One of the biggest benefits is cost. For about $3.40 per meal, folks can drop by their kitchen and self-prepare 12 good healthy meals in about 1.5 - 2 hours that they can then bring home and freeze until it's time to eat. Each meal serves 2-3 people, so that's 36 meal servings. They also have an option where they will pre-prepare the meals for you ahead of time for pickup. This would bring the price up to about $4.16 per meal. If there is sufficient interest, Kirsten, the owner is considering offering delivery drop-off at INFO or Eigenmann for folks who don't have transportation.

To try this out fully, Esther and i recently visited Supper Solutions and prepared 2 meals for ourselves. We decided to try the Mexican Calzones and the Spicy Patong Pork. (this month's menu is online here)

Once at the Supper Solutions kitchen, the entire process of making the 2 meals, putting them in bags and affixing cooking instruction labels took about 10 minutes. The meal preparation stations were spotless and extremely well-organized, so it was extremely easy to do - even for those of us who are culinarily disadvantaged. While at Supper Solutions, we ran into our next door neighbor and one of Esther's co-workers who both raved about Supper Solutions. One, a local advertising professional, was visiting for the 3rd time, while the other, a doctor, is a long-time customer.

Once home, we decided to first try the Mexican Calzones for dinner. The directions are included right on the packaging (see first photo to the right). We popped it on a pan and into the toaster oven for 20 minutes, and they came out perfectly good. They were quite large and filling. Each one was pretty much a complete meal.

Two evenings later, we made the Spicy Patong Pork. Again the instructions were on the bag, and it was quite easy to make. After about 10 minutes preparation (briefly sauteeing the pork, adding the sauce and microwaving the pre-cooked rice), we had a complete meal of pork and brown rice. It was very very good (see last photo to the right).

If you are a busy grad student, do yourself a favor and look into this. It's great food, very economical, healthy, and will help to keep food expenses predictable each month. Besides, by buying from Supper Solutions, you'll be supporting a small local business who, as an early and enthusiastic support of BigTreeTop, is serious about co-creating value with their customers, not just padding their bottom line :)

Full disclosure: As an Alpha Tester of, i have an emotional bias toward Supper Solutions, but not a financial one (they are not paying customers). Additionally, i should reveal that i am now chemically dependent on the Mexican Calzones, which are really good..

Here's their contact info:
Supper Solutions
2616 Walnut
Bloomington, IN 47401


In Walnut Station, Corner of S.Walnut and Country Club Road Next to Dominos Pizza

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"Want" vs. "Should" Decisions - When People Choose the Broccoli over the Baby Ruth

This is a replica of another blog post at, which is more business-oriented, but i think the concept has rather large HCI/d implications, so i'm posting it here as well.

Most people, when making decisions, have to choose between "want" and "should" decisions. But what makes a person choose one over the other?

A recent Harvard Business School Article Understanding the 'Want' vs. 'Should' Decision (link to Harvard Business School's website) helps to answer this. Based on a number of studies of purchasing and voting behavior, as well as some older work in Construal Level Theory, explained nicely in the paper Temporal Construal (link to pdf paper by Trope and Liberman). The studies show that the further away the implementation of a decision is (future or past), the more people will favor a ‘should’ decision over a ‘want’ one.

As a simple example, if someone asks me to decide on and eat immediately either Broccoli or a Baby Ruth candy bar, i am more likely to choose the candy bar, since it's what i want right now. If, on the other hand, a person asks me to decide right now what i will eat at a later time (or if they ask me later what i should have eaten previously), i am more likely to choose the broccoli. What this suggests is that the further away from the present the consequences of my decision are, the more likely i am to choose what i should do.

In the article, the authors state this this "should/want" factor is the reason that most grocery stores place their produce section directly at the front entrance, while the candy bars and trashy magazines appear at the cash registers - to ensure that when walking through the "should" section (healthy produce) shoppers are furthest from the point of consumption (which will probably happen at home, long after they leave the store), and simultaneously to ensure that when entering the "want" section (candy bars), shoppers are the closest to the point of consumption (which most likely will occur in the store or soon after leaving it).

This is an important consideration for HCI/d folks

1) If you are designing a "should" application (something that is more good for the user but less instantly-gratifying), or one that provides the user with "should" features, the further in advance a person makes the decision, the more likely they may be to choose your "should" service over a "want".

2) If you are providing a "want" service, you will need to ensure that your users make the decision as close as possible to the time of consumption - by offering quick setup of their account, express checkout, immediate delivery, etc.

3) It seems to me that offering both "wants" and "shoulds" as a complimentary mix might be a good idea for any design.

4) Since, according to the Trope/Liberman paper, Construal is also related not just to temporal distance, but also spatial, i wonder what this means for distributed communities (i.e., if i am chatting online with a person and can see that they are on the other side of the world, is my experience different than if i know that they are in the same town)

I'll be exploring this further, both in my academic research, and as part of, where we present our users simultaneous "want" and "should" options - that we may want to present differently to maximize their use.

Here is a quote from Trope and Liberman's paper:

"CLT (Construal Level Theory) suggests that temporal distance affects preferences and judgments by changing the way individuals mentally represent future events. The greater the temporal distance from future events, the more likely are the events to be represented in terms of a few abstract and core features (highlevel construals) rather than in terms of more concrete and superficial features (low-level construals). Therefore, temporal distance changes judgments and decisions because in the distant future, compared with the near future, judgments and decisions are more likely to reflect the evaluative and informational implications of high-level construals than those of low-level construals."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

American Revolution Decided by Rock-Paper-Scissors

On July 4th my wife and I were watching a documentary on the American Revolution when i began to laugh out loud. Now there aren't many funny things about the revolution, but now there is one. It seems that the name of the French general who really turned the tide of the war was Comte de Rochambeau. Rochambeau is another name (Reaux, Sham, Beaux) for the game Rock Paper Scissors, which, for those of you who are uninitiated, is perhaps the most common way in America for settling simple disputes between two people.

I now have a permanent and vivid image in my mind of a flamboyant French general approaching the British lines, banging his right fist in his left open palm, deciding the fate of America.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

New Blog for a While

For the next few months, i'll be blogging primarily through another blog at The content will orbit loosely around a few of my current areas of inquiry and endeavor:

1) How organizations (and even more specifically small businesses - since that is the current focus of can deeply involve the constituents of those organizations in substantive participation as a part of more sustainable strategic, operational and marketing practices.

2) The ways that computers can augment and/or enable these practices

3) The ways that consumers (for current lack of a better term) can contribute to local and national economic sustainability by deeper involvement in small businesses

4) How the academy and business can and need to form alliances that benefit the world

5) How strategy is sexy