a salad bar analogy

*thoughts on how placement of fruits/vegetables can encourage more interesting plates/dishes while connecting it to my gap year project idea.

Imagine you are at a salad bar. Say sweet tomato or something. There are so many yummy delicious food enticing you to put them on your plate.

some salad bar items looking super delicious and fresh (graphic done by me)

The salad bar represents the world. Each item in the salad bar represents an opportunity: whether that lies in a new contact for your network, a job opportunity, a business venture to try out, a fun activity to do. They are the elements that make our information driven world so rich and fulfilling.

Traditionally, like items are placed with like items. This allows us to find what we need fast.

For example, all of the leafy greens hang out together. All of the protein hang out together. All of the crusty croutons hang out together.

And that makes sense right? We, as human beings, make sense of the world around us by categorizing things. We want to understand what things are and in order to do that: we label and quantify, we write and research.


To put this in the context of how we access information/data/opportunities in this world, we turn to specific catalog-type website when we search for something.

Looking for a good book? Turn to good reads where you can review, make virtual shelves and engage in community interaction.

Looking for a great restaurant? Turn to yelp where you can find hot and new bars, restaurants, tea rooms and just about any type of business in the service industry?

Looking for an event to go to? Turn to eventbrite where you can attend community oriented events, tech conferences or just fun meet ups.

This is just like the salad bar. Like items are grouped with like items, we can now easily find them.


However, innovation happens as the cross intersection of unlikely pairs. It happens when you make unusual combinations of cheese and ranch. It happens when you’re faced with such sporadic and spontaneous decision making, that you kinda just go with the gut.

While the aforementioned websites are excellent resources of information, we often turn to the people around us for more personalized recommendations. The impact of those interactions often only lay behind the few individuals behind it. I’m looking to unlock that potential.

This is part of the reason why Twitter co founder, Biz Stone, launched Jelly, a human powered search engine. Although Jelly did not ultimately succeed, the core idea behind it exhilarates me.

I helped build a new form of communication that amplified humanity’s ability to spread ideas, self-organize, and do amazing things. Jelly is an extension of that same thinking — amplifying humanity with software.
It takes seconds to enter a question into a search engine. Web search prides itself in providing hundreds of millions of potentially relevant documents in fractions of a second. Then you spend your time researching those results to come up with something that satisfies. Getting to a real answer may take a few seconds, it may take several minutes — that time adds up.
People who can help because they’ve been there, they have the experience, they have the opinion, and most importantly, they have the answers you need — and you can follow up with them too.

So returning back to the salad bar analogy. What am I proposing?

I propose we don’t just put all the mushrooms together, all the eggs together and all the seeds together.

I propose we put items together in a way that inspires people to make unlikely combos. Heck ya mix the blue cheese and Thai chili peppers. Try new things. By curating these themed combos, you unlock salad potential and inspire consumers to make much more exciting salad.


Now, out of the nonsensical salad bar analogy, and inwards to what I actually want to create.

In salad terms, I want to create a platform in which people can rearrange their own salad bar of information to inspire the world into action.

In laymen’s terms, I want to create a platform in which people can curate themed lists that helps inspire their community into action.


I’ve been describing this project as catalact — a database project that catalyzes action. When asked to summarize in one sentence, it’s an “online yellow pages that is community moderated”. The closest alternative right now is probably craigslist, however that is for much more temporal listings. I’m looking to create a permanent space on the internet where users can share their lists.

[insert my business plan published on issuu]

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