We have partnered with the Love Food Hate Waste program to create an unorthodox way to raise awareness on food waste while you enjoy a great meal with friends. The Love Food Hate Waste program is managed by the Environment Protection Authority partnering with corporate, local government and not-for-profit organizations. This program educates us on how to reduce the environment impact, time and money by planning, cooking and storing our food in a more efficient way.

At Strangers for Dinner, we believe in social dining and that the best part of cooking is sharing it with people we love. Rain or shine, alone or with your partners – we gotta eat. Cooking for one (or two) can be tedious and difficult. We’ll find you people you’ll get along with, who lives in your neighborhood to come over for dinner. We think it’s a great way to curb loneliness and reduce food waste.

On top of that, like our bacon themed dinner party of the month, there will be creative themes to create a menu that revolves around a certain ingredient or a Mystery Box Challenge. Think of it as minimizing waste while we maximize the usage of the ingredient!

Join us in helping the environment and save the “good” food from going to waste. Host a dinner party to stop wasting food and find yourself dining with strangers who could turn best friends!

4 months in, 6 dinner parties hosted, 30 new friends made. Whilst we still have over 200+ people waiting for others to host dinner parties, it’s time to re-evaluate. Dinner parties can be expensive, a lot of work, and inviting strangers to our home is still dangerous. Whilst we thought we had it all figured out, the reality is that it’s been a challenge trying to encourage people to host. Despite creating dinner party theme of the month, reminding them about our own dinner party experience and even giving out incentives to host, the efforts are futile.

Rose tinted glasses aside, pushing the “build and they will come” mentality out of the way and even if Strangers for Dinner was built on a concept that we believe we could revive, we must acknowledge the numbers and the truth. The truth being hosting dinner parties require too much effort, time and even space. Another reality check is when we’ve had only 16.7% in response from email matches we’ve sent out in the past month. We have enough users to be matched all over Sydney, New York, San Francisco and Melbourne but the next step which was required to complete the matching process – ranking, proved to be a tedious task.

So we know that:

1) Hosting a dinner party is hard work and can be expensive. As intriguing as the idea of dining with strangers is, reality prevails. Life, work, fear, laziness gets in the way.

2) Our matching method caused high drop off rates. Let’s face it – sometimes, we just can’t be bothered to answer emails from a website we joined 3 months ago out of curiosity.

Putting 2 and 2 together, we know this is not going to work and it’s time to pivot. Plan B is already in motion and we aim to push it next month.

All is not lost, though. We had an idea, we tried it out, it didn’t work out & we fall. Now, we pick ourselves up, dust it off and start all over. The important thing is that we learn and we will attempt to come up with a solution that works. I have no doubt that we will run into many other problems, but the wheels will keep on turning.

Thank you for still being with us. We will be conducting surveys on Strangers for Dinner Version 1.0 and let us know what you really think about us. Help us help you make friends.

Although we are self-professed introverts, we are quite active in a few online communities. Sometimes we even brave the awkward small talks and attend meet-ups. It has yielded us many familiar faces we see every other month when we get together.

We thought, “wouldn’t it be nice to get to know these people better and we might turn out to be great friends!”.

That’s why we created our latest and most exciting feature of Strangers for Dinner – a public invitation interface.

Upon creating your dinner party, we will give you a link to the page of your dinner party which entails information such as the food you’re planning to cook, who you are and what to expect from your dinner. We make it easier for you to promote your dinner party in your own community, and it means you’re opening yourself up to meeting even more people. When they sign up to be considered to attend your dinner party, we will match you up with the ones you prefer.

The more links of your dinner party are out there, the better the match-ups for you. Create your dinner party now and get the word out!

This is the third and final post about how to make friends. What started out as a simple reply to the New York Times article on the difficulty of making friends as an adult has spawned an initial reply defining communication as the most important factor in making friends, and a second reply, defining a perceived-effort model of making friends. This post will attempt to marry both posts to show how introverts can easily make friends. At least in theory.

Despite the slightly unaccessible article, I hope to have by now, convinced you that friendships are made and maintained over perceived effort, and that communication is the key to making or showing effort. One then can ask, how does one show effort to begin with?

## Signalling High-Effort Actions

Herein, we enter the murky world of signalling. There can be many ways of signalling a willingness to start a friendship. For introverts, even talking in a public setting is a daunting task. I used to go to a weekly networking event for entrepreneurs in Sydney, Silicon Beach. Over time though, I stopped going, because it was very daunting and a lot of effort (and at least a beer) was required to start a conversation [1].

While for introverts, talking to strangers in public may be a high-effort task, we live in a very extrovert-oriented society. Attempting to talk to people will signal something, but it’s not sending the signal that it’s high-effort, especially at places like networking events, where you’re expected to talk to strangers anyway. I very quickly came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t yield much benefits from hanging out with fellow entrepreneurs on Friday nights at Bar77, at least until I get my neuroticism fixed.

Hosting a dinner party however, signals high-effort. Granted, the actual effort put in to host a dinner party is also quite high, but there can be no mistake about the perceived effort of hosting a dinner party. Telling people you’re going to host a dinner party immediately entices questions about how difficult it is to host a dinner party (hint: it isn’t actually difficult to host a dinner party). From opening one’s home to strangers to preparing the dinner party, everything screams high-effort.

In short, by hosting a dinner party, you are signalling that you’re willing to put high efforts to do something, which in the case of using Strangers for Dinner, is to make friends over food.

## Communication

At the risk of sounding like a scumbag salesperson selling stuff, Strangers for Dinner was designed with communication in mind. From the get go, Strangers for Dinner encourages participants to communicate, semi-anonymously at first before a party. Here’s a screenshot [2] of how the events page look like for those of you who have yet to be matched and experience it:

And from our first dinner party, we noticed a lot of the communication went on on-site despite me giving out my mobile number fairly early on. I had expected communications to move off-site early on, but people stayed and chat and gave ideas on the events page. I think that was most refreshing — in that people contributed to the event, even if just in ideas. Our sample size hasn’t been large, having merely hosted 4 dinner parties over the last two months, but prospects look good, and from the statistics, people DO communicate.

It’s my belief that this pre-party communication actually eases actual party communication for introverts. After all, the ice is already broken. Sure, there would be some awkward moments in the beginning, but this is the age of Internet dating, where pre-meeting communication is normal.

Throwing a dinner party for strangers has another added benefit of being in the comfort of one’s own home (or wherever you feel comfortable — if for example you want to throw a barbeque). Amongst the early suggestion was to have more than 5 people being matched (the safety in numbers argument). However we feel that 5 matches is the perfect number, as the human being can only hold 7 +/-2 things in working memory [3]. It’s small enough a group to feel comfortable and not alienate yourself [4], and yet it’s large enough for your strangers to feel safe in.

Now, while Strangers for Dinner is attempting to solve the problem of introverts making new friends, we’re not the only solution out there. This entire premise of perceived effort and communication may be wrong. But I am interested in what works for you, my fellow introverts, so please do share them.

TL;DR If you want to make friends, I suggest doing a high perceived-effort activity, like throwing a dinner party for strangers (Strangers for Dinner helps!), and communicate with them.

1. [1] As my partner is wont to remind me, when I get nervous around people, I start interrogating/interviewing them, throwing volleys of questions at them, which of course isn’t conducive to making friends.
2. [2] Note: this is a screenshot of an internal beta test. Your messages are private, and will always remain private.
3. [3] Miller, George A. (1963), The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two, Psychological Review
4. [4] quick back-of-the-envelope calculation using graph theory says there should be a maximum of 3-ish cliques in a 5-vertex complete graph

Following from the previous post on why it’s hard to make friends where I listed communication as a major factor in making and keeping friends, I shall now explore what I consider to be the second major factor — perceived effort.

I shall start by describing a brief model. I had originally started out with more math in mind, but ended up feeling too sleepy to write much else (seriously, LaTeX on WordPress is a bitch, should have written in LyX and compiled it, but oh well), so forgive me for the slipshod work on the modeling.

A brief description is this: Being able to make friend someone depends on your efforts in communication as perceived by the other party.

## A Brief Model

Let us start by imagining a room full of people who do not yet know each other. Everyone has a set of actions they can perform in terms of making friends.

$Let \ C \ = \ \{Person_1, \ Person_2 \ ... \ Person_n\} \\ \\ Let \ A_c \ = \ \{Action_1, \ Action_2 \ ... \ Action_k\} \ \forall \ c \in \ C$

Everyone expends effort (we denote effort as f) in performing communication actions. For some people, initiating a chat with a stranger is easy. Not so for others (I am personally terrified of talking to strangers).

$Let \ AE_c \ = \ \{ Effort_1, \ Effort_2 \ ... \ Effort_k \} \ \forall \ c \in \ C; \ \ effort \in \mathbb{R}_+ \\ \\ f_c: {\bf A_c} \ \rightarrow {\bf AE_c} \ \forall \ c \in C;$

In this simplified model, everyone has in their minds, a perceived-effort function. This perceived-effort function is a device that summarily describes how effort in communication is perceived by the person, and can be directly mapped onto a utility function that is monotonic and quasi-concave (that is to say we assume the person is not batshit crazy).

$f_p : \mathbb{R}^n_+ \ \rightarrow \ \mathbb{R} \ \ \forall \ \ {\bf f} \ \in \ \mathbb{R}^n_+ \\ \\ g: f_p({\bf f}) \ \rightarrow \ u({\cdot})$

For example, person B initiates chat with person A and person C. Person A may think that it’s extremely sweet of person B to initiate chat, and it is considered a good level of effort. Person C however, doesn’t think that person B has put in enough effort by merely initiating a chat.

Now, let’s define a friendship as a relationship between two people. These two people take turns to play the roles of effort-maker and effort receiver in a repeated game (with high signalling and cumulative utility) until such that both parties consider each other friends (this axiom can be loosened in later works).

This leads us to a concept of a criterion to consider the opposite party as a friend. Let’s call this criterion the Minimum-Effort Criterion and define it as the minimum perceived cumulative effort of a effort-maker as perceived by the effort-receiver in order for the effort-receiver to consider the effort-maker a friend. In simple terms, person A only considers person B to be a friend if person A perceives person B to have made the minimum level of effort over a period of time. Continue reading “A Perceived Effort Model of Making Friends” »

Many people are abuzz over the New York Times article by Alex Williams — “Why Is It Hard To Make Friends Over 30?“. A friend of ours in the same business space, Grub With Us, wrote a blog post that I think you should read.

You might be wondering why I am referring you to another service that performs similar functions to Strangers for Dinner. Well, because making friends is hard work. Really hard work. And Grub With Us, like Strangers for Dinner, was invented as a tool to help you make friends. One can’t go wrong with too many tools.

But let us look beyond tools in the case of making friends. Sure, tools are cool, but what exactly helps people make friends? There are some 60 million results for the exact phrase “how to make friends” on Google. Personally I have spent many years figuring out this friendship thing.

For many years I wondered what was wrong with me (trust me, there was plenty). I never seemed to be able to make friends. The few friends that I have were very very good and close friends. Other than that, I have no friends, whatsoever. Everyone else seemed to be making friends left right and center. When university came around, I partook in some social activities like going to clubs and pubs, but those activities never actually yielded me any friends, merely acquaintances. I never particularly enjoyed the atmosphere or the company of the people. Even in group projects I never felt like I was part of the team, even though I joined in the conversations. Of course, then came The Power of Introverts. When I had first heard it, it was like “THAT IS ME!”. Susan Cain had described me to a tee, but that’s a different story for another day.

## Communication is Key

The New York Times article mentioned a few factors that help in making friends: proximity, repeated interactions, and an environment where one can let one’s guards down. While I largely agree with their points, I think Alex had forgotten to mention a key element that I feel is the most important in making friends: COMMUNICATION. In fact, let’s frame the concept of friendship in terms of communication and analyze those three factors.

### Proximity

In the past, making friends with people across the country was difficult. Telephones exist, so do the concept of pen-pals. But they were cumbersome and a lot of effort needed to be expended to make communication work. Then came the Internet and a culture where being glued in front of the monitor. Proximity was pretty much solved. Instant messengers gave the instantaneous feedback of conversations, making communication across large distances effortless.

### Repeated Interactions

I will maintain that interactions needn’t be physical. Merely talking to one another counts too as an interaction. However, I would be first to admit that physical interactions involving multiple senses rather than just intellectual stimulation would be more advantageous to making friends. That said, repeated interactions have also been made relatively effortless by the Internet. There is much to be said about the psychological factors of having to see a person’s face when talking to them, and physical contact (in fact it’s a known fact that pick up artists use kino escalation methods to well, escalate the situation).

### A Safe Environment

I’m currently sitting in a bath tub (best spot for meditation), writing this blog post while chatting to my Pressyo colleagues over HipChat, two of which are not even in the same country as I am currently. I cannot be more relaxed than I am now. Once again, the Internet has made a fairly difficult process effortless. Where once we’d have to meet over a barbecue and game of touch footy (contact sport actually increases camaraderie which drops one’s mental guards), we now can do it in the comfort of our own homes.

## Making Friends is Still A Difficult Task

Viewing friendship in the context of a communications framework, it can be easy to see that the three factors Alex had written about merely act as catalysts in making friends. We live in a modern age now, and the Internet makes these things possible. The effort required to stay in contact despite those three factors have been dropped considerably.

But yet in an increasingly connected world, we are increasingly being disconnected from one another.

There are many reasons for this. One is the aforementioned introversion. There are also other obstacles with communications. Cliques are difficult to break in. Magic the Gathering is a game oft-thought to be played by introverts. I’ve been playing Magic on and off for about 10 years. And yet when I moved to Sydney and joined my local game shop, I didn’t quite fit in either. Everyone there already knew everyone. Despite fulfilling all the three categories above, the clique factor of a LGS makes it difficult to make new friends.

And yet, that is in my opinion not the biggest factor of why making friends is difficult. In my opinion, making friends is difficult because of the perceived effort required to make and maintain a friendship.

George Akerlof, Michael Spence and the awesomely brilliant Joseph Stiglitz had in fact laid the groundwork for a theory of friendship. You see, it’s now relatively effortless to keep in contact with one another thanks to the Internet. And so I think we put a higher premium on real-life contact. In short, real-life contact signals a greater effort in making and maintaining friendships.

In the coming posts, I shall talk more about perceived effort in making friends and how Strangers for Dinner is actually aiding that.

TL;DR If you really want to make friends, show some effort and host a dinner party. I am serious. You don’t even have to use Strangers for Dinner

Hello, my name is Mei and I am perpetually on “diet”.

I love food but food goes straight to my hips. For as long as I can remember, I have always been trying to lose some weight. Back in high school, I would bring low-carb snacks (home made sausages & diced cucumber) and share them with my best friend. In college, we’d have fruit detox week every once in a while. While working, we’d motivate each other to stay healthy and not to succumb to stress eating. Having said that, we’ve had our share of fun times stuffing our faces with fried chicken after a big night of dancing, or sharing a huge plate of German pork knuckles while downing pints of Paulaner. We were always on the prowl for good food – heck, we even participated in a food hunt (think food-oriented Amazing Race!)

2 years ago, I moved to Sydney and left my girls behind. While I really want to get out there and meet more people, I am anxious that people might judge me for my eating habits (or whatever diet that I am currently experimenting with i.e. keto, paleo, south beach). I am afraid that I won’t be able to resist the temptation of that last slice chocolate cake. So instead, I stay home with my grilled chicken (yum!) in front of my laptop, exchanging tips and staying good with my fellow online friends on Reddit.

In this day and age where we share recipes, take photos of our food, offer support via the Internet, I believe that the next step should be inviting strangers to dinner. Imagine extending that online support to an offline one. Show each other the best way to stay on track, share food instead of tweeting about them, eat in the comfort of knowing that they understand and revel in nourishing your body , by eating right and your mind, by making friends! With this, we believe that Strangers for Dinner is performing a support group function. Much like Alcholics Anonymous, welcome to Dieters Anonymous. (p/s: there are 4 paleo-friendly dinner parties happening this month across the globe!)

Sure, it is not fun to meet someone who is exactly like ourselves but it is often comforting to have some things in common and Strangers for Dinner strive to deliver that. Instead of keeping your eyes peeled on the computer, why not try hosting a dinner party and you could be sharing food with a like-minded new friend who lives just down the road?

We take your privacy and security very very seriously. Yesterday Egor Homakov published an article on his blog, highlighting one of the most common vulnerabilities in most OAuth2 implementations. The long story short is anyone with malicious intent can access your Strangers for Dinner account with a tiny vulnerability.

Upon reading that article, we have decided to audit our code. Indeed we have found our code to be vulnerable under some circumstances. Egor has also kindly provided a solution: which is to use the state variable in the OAuth2 call to verify a session before logging a user in. We have implemented that solution within an hour of Egor publishing his article. Because of the hotfix Strangers for Dinner was unstable for the majority of yesterday. Those bugs have too been ironed out. You can now safely and securely login to Strangers for Dinner again.

We have also checked our logs for any sign of malicious activity, and have found that nobody’s accounts were compromised.

We will continue to update you about any security issues you need to be aware of.

I stumbled upon this article about the waning of the dinner party culture on Fraser Coast Chronicle and I agree that the dinner party culture needs to be revived. The very reason Strangers for Dinner exists is to help us find friends in real life.

Since the dawn of mankind, getting together for a meal has played an important part in defining humanity and bringing a sense of belonging. Social dining helps with mental stimulation as we banter and share ideas over food. Many business deals have been struck, contracts signed, problem solved at food related events. We just prefer to do it that way and as Steve Dublanica aptly put in the book Waiter Rant:

“When people are stuffing their faces, they often let their guard down. Eating is a primal activity that triggers an array of emotional responses.”

We’re on a mission to revive the dinner party culture, and whilst we can rave on about the benefits of social dining, there are many issues to consider when running a dinner party. One such consideration is mentioned in the article on the Fraser Coast Chronicle: cost.

Costs are a barrier to hosting more dinner parties. While we already have our twist where we dine with strangers (thank you Internet), we would like to make it easier for everyone to host dinner parties more often by getting the hosts to specify the amount of money they need each guest to contribute to cover costs. We’re currently considering including a feature to help alleviate costs for hosts — omething simple, like the gesture of bringing a wine to the party, or maybe help foot the bill at $10 per head. There are many thoughts going through our heads right now, and we will be testing those ideas one by one. One of the tests we’ll be doing is the bacon challenge: In the month of July, we are offering$50 to 5 hosts who host a bacon-themed dinner party. Start planning your dinner party now.

Ever since the Selfish Gene was published 36 years ago, the concept of a meme — or as Richard Dawkins puts it, a mind virus — has itself become a meme and entered cultural significance. The latest meme to hit my social circles was the Mojito cake. It all started when Emma got knocked out from Masterchef Australia by Ben’s mojito and raspberry cake, the missus and I’ve been wanting to make one. Almost immediately the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon took over. I started seeing mojito cakes everywhere. It started the night after the elminiation challenge. A friend posted a picture of the mojito cake she made on facebook. A few days later, I stumbled onto a Reddit thread about a mojito cake. The final straw came last night, where two other friends from completely social circles posted their mojito cakes on facebook. And so today I made a mojito cake.

I first checked out everyone’s recipes. All of them were derived from Lorraine Pascale’s recipe. There were some variations, and here are the different versions: the mojito cake recipe from swallow or spit; from lovefood; from Snippets of Suri; and of course if you prefer video, from Lorraine Pascale herself (you need to be in Australia to watch that video. Stupid DRM).

After some research, I decided that I didn’t like Lorraine Pascale’s recipe — not enough cocktail involved. So I decided to make my own. The first idea was to get rid of the génoise. Partly because it was very skill intensive to make a cake with only mechanical leavening, but also because I believe that the airiness of the cake can be made superior with chemical leavening. More on that later. I ended up with a bastard cake between a sponge cake and a chiffon cake and a génoise cake. Another idea I wanted to have was the fizz and the icy coldness of a freshly made mojito to be the main centerpiece of the cake — in short I wanted the cake to feel like drinking a mojito, except it’s solid, instead of just another mojito flavoured cake.

## The Ingredients

This is the ingredients list:

• 6 eggs
• 150 grams butter
• 200 grams sugar
• 130 grams cornflour
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon sodium bicarbonate
• 1 tablespoon gelatine
• 250 grams icing sugar
• 5 shots (or more) white rum
• 200 mililitres soda water (keep as cold as possible)
• 3 limes
• Dessicated coconut, toasted
• Popping candy
Strangers for Dinner helps you make new friends over dinner.     Make new friends now