04:46 AM

Lunch.com - A Platform For Critical Thinkers . . . And A Spiritual Mission


J.R Johnson is looking very SoCal when I meet him at my favorite meeting spot Apollo Cafe. Well dressed and well groomed, tanned and relaxed.

Mr Johnson is the founder of Lunch., based in El Segundo, Ca. It's a site that gathers like-minded people contributing reviews and recommendations on books, music, movies, etc.

It's a description that might seem to be a familiar one and it is, there are many such places online. But there's an underlying mission with Lunch. that seeks to avoid the morass of online negativity and hate and to encourage the growth of communities where people think before they type. And also, to reveal the common ground between us all.

Here are some notes from this morning's meeting:

- I was one of the founders of VirtualTourist and OneTime, which we sold to TripAdvisor in June 2008 (SFChronicle reported it as an $85m deal.)

- Lunch. is only a few months old with about 5,000 users. I wanted to take the lessons from VirtualTourist and apply them to create a site where like minded people can find each other and find content relevant to them.

- We have a similarity engine that shows you how similar you are to others. This is a great way to discover new content. We also have a great research capability that helps you find relevant content. Instead of looking through 1,000 reviews of a restaurant or a book, we can help you find that one review that is unique to you.

- There is a humanitarian aspect to Lunch.com. I've seen people give back to the community by posting thoughtful content. And that's what I want to encourage people to do, to think critically. There is too much negativity and hate hidden behind anonymous postings. We do allow people to be anonymous but our community doesn't tolerate trolls.

- I believe that the more you can show people how similar they are to each other, show them the common ground between them, no matter how small, that this can be a way to deal with a lot of conflict in the world. That's the bigger picture.

- We are trying to develop some "on-ramps," games and lists etc, that will lead people to towards becoming more critical thinkers. And that's a win for the world.

- Yes, people can publish thoughtful pieces on their own blogs, but we can bring a like-minded audience to their content. It's grown more difficult to build an audience through blogs because of all the noise out there.

- We're in El Segundo, where there are lot of smart and talented people but it does sometimes feel as if we are on an island, compared with Silicon Valley. But it does allow us to think and not be constantly bombarded with distractions such as which new techniques we should be using for development.

- I chose "lunch" because it's my favorite one-syllable word. It's a positive word. No one says "shit, I have to go to lunch."