Categories - COMM439
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Time to grow your own foodfeatured

“Food is the best when made with fresh and in-season vegetables and crops”, this is something I hear my grandmother say all the time. She went through the cultural revolution in China during the late 60s and was a part of the “Down to the Countryside movement” where she farmed and ate her own harvest. Read more


To online comment section, I vote yesfeatured

I hereby argue against the motion “Online comment section does more harm than good” Firstly, I believe that the online comment section engages the readers and enhances two-way communication that develops a community. We have moved passed the Mass age when information is only monological – one direction- to dialogical communication – two way communication Read more


Summer 2014 was when I found out about MyFab5, a mobile application (now also has website) that allows users to rank their best 5 restaurants or eateries for each category of food. They have focused on using Instagram to develop their community by having Community Leaders to select and re-posting best food pictures people took at restaurants that allow others to easily search for food on Instagram through using their location specific hashtag. For example, an Ann Arbor user would post a picture with the hashtag #BestFoodAnnArbor, whereas a Boston user would post a picture with the hashtag #BestFoodBoston.

I started following @Kellycatcooks when she became one of the three MyFab5 Community Leaders to be updated on the Ann Arbor food scene. I was really happy to get the opportunity to interview her  (although only via email since Thanksgiving is such a busy time of the year for everybody) and learn about how she used Instagram to develop a community.

Our conversation went like this: 

Me: What is your full name?

Kelly: Kelly Armstrong

Me: Where is your hometown:

Kelly: Metro Detroit

Me: How long have you posted on Instagram?

Kelly: Close to 2 years 

Me: What are your passions?

Kelly: Food, Coffee, Health, Cooking and Dining out

Me: How were you selected as a Community Leader?

Kelly: I believe it was because I posted my restaurant meals in the Ann Arbor area, and gave good descriptions of my photos of the meals, so they started featuring my posts

Me: What did you do when you were the Community Leader?

Kelly: I chose photos that people submitted of food they ate in restaurants in the Ann Arbor area, and posted them for @bestfoodannarbor, which is MyFab5’s account for this area. I’d describe the dish and where they ate, and invite people to comment.

Me: How did you use Instagram to develop the community for local food enthusiasts?

Kelly: By posting my meals at home and out in restaurants, I hope to attract people with similar interests in food to be inspired. It also helps me to work on my photography skills and keeps me motivated to eat well knowing people will see it.

Me: Why do you follow a paleo diet?

Kelly: I found out I was very gluten intolerant with celiac disease about 5 years ago and gave up gluten, which help a lot. Then I discovered the paleo diet and cut way back on the grains and felt even better.  I’m always refining my diet based on what I learn and how I feel.

What I loved most about Kelly’s pictures was that her meals almost never repeats and she come up so many variations to substitute the carbs out for the same amount of satisfaction.


Unfortunately, I was not able to go home and ask these questions to my grandmother, I know that she would have loved to tell me these stories. However, I was really happy that Ray was willing to share some of his childhood memories and personal stories over really delicious Thanksgiving dinner that his wife has prepared. Ray is a MBA student who I have developed a deeper friendship with over the semester while working on a project together.

Whole interview

Best Answers


Health concerned people and fitness enthusiasts depend on food labels to inform them on how much calories, sugar, fibre and other nutrients they consume in a serving. They keep track and plan their food through these labels. I read labels primarily to gauge the sugar content because sugar is so addictive. (Check out how much sugar Americans consume with this Infographic.) Food labels have been really helpful but they have their limitations. How do we know which watermelon is sweeter at a grocery store? What about a fancy dinner at your favorite restaurant that doesn’t have a label on them?

Well, let me introduce SCiO.

SCiO on a iPhone - Image found at Tech Mafia

SCiO on a iPhone – Image found at Tech Mafia

SCiO is a pocket device that claims to be the user’s sixth sense. It launched in April 2014 with the help of about 13,000 backs on Kickstarter.  This is a molecular sensor that uses a spectrometer to collect data from item with a simple scan. The information collected is then sent to the SCiO Cloud where a report is generated in real-time and sent to your smartphone, with the chemical makeup of the item. SCiO is able to tell users not only the nutrition facts about foods – calories, sugar, fibre etc. but also, the quality of the food. Like the sweetness, ripeness or spoilage of a fruit, salad dressing and other various foods. SCiO will even be able to tell you how pure the cooking oil is. With a simple scan, the average person can easily limit the amount of processed or chemically engineered food they consume. I also think that this device tremendously increase the accountability of food manufacturing and processing companies when they claim that their food is “100% non-GMO” or statements like that.

The application of SCiO also extended to non food areas such as medicine, gardening, research and education. Users can know the content of a pill that they are taking, or scan to see the water level of their basil, conduct health and dietary related research and even just giving a SCiO to their child to scan around and find out what is the chemical makeup of things around them.

I really liked this innovation because it is a really cool crowdsourcing project. Not only we can tell exactly what we put into our bodies but the active scanning of the users help SCiO create a massive database that contributes to food, research, medicine, and education purposes. In addition, SCiO is providing mobile application development platforms for mobile developers to leverage this rise of mobile communication and the buzz of innovate apps to be more engaging with the smartphone users and encourage other developments based on this massive database through a simple scan.

Watch the SCiO campaign at Kickstarter:



Thinking about food and people brings me happiness, they remind me of big family dinners, and happy memories of sharing good food with friends. And I found the perfect interactive infographic on #FoodMood.

FoodMood is an interactive visualization project about food and emotions. It collected and analyzed geo-located twitter feeds from people tweeting about their food to understand what emotions were associated with some foods eaten by people around the world over time. National GDPs and obesity levels for the individual countries were also included to explore relationships between different national GDP levels with food consumption habits as well as obesity levels.

Visual tools used in this project to present ideas include:

  • Emojis
    • In legend bar – for different emotions
    • In menu bar –  option to click on to view page differently
  • Hashtag – in the title to refer to Twitter
  • Icons – represent obesity levels and national GDP
  • Colors – that represent the different levels of happiness associated
  • Areas of boxes – they capture the number of tweets about a certain food; the bigger the box just means more people tweeted about this particular food.
  • Floating boxes – more info about a country or a food when you move around on the screen.
Fettuccine made the Chinese the most happy.

Fettuccine made the Chinese the most happy. This was in the sorted by happiest food mode, size of box is the same


Their difference with traditional journalism: 

  • Customizable – users can select the countries they wanted to compare from as many as 1 to all.
  • Using areas of boxes to represent size instead of bars or pie segments, allowing more food options to be represented
  • Included timeline – showing changes over time.

Traditional journalism just doesn’t have the ability show so many dimensions in one single graph or chart or even represent in words as easily to understand.

It was effective mainly due to the different sized and colored boxes allowing clear comparison between foods and countries and its customizability. However, I was annoyed when the map wasn’t very fast and responsive to country selections I made, which is a setback for user engagement. Also, when too many countries are selected to be compared, the page becomes crowded and it is less clear to identify the countries as well as the food.

Two countries in view

Two countries in view

And 18 countries in view

And 18 countries in view


How digital changed a coffee shopfeatured

Interview with Jim This is a short version of the full interview highlighting how digital and social media has changed the way people behave in Comet Coffee as well as how their marketing has changed. It was a pleasure to use this opportunity to speak in detail with Jim. The full version of the interview Read more