From the Dept. of Things I Want: The Kid’s Menu of Wine Lists.

I went out to dinner last night with this girl. She was about my age. From upstate New York. We met via kickball, and I asked her out. Nothing too formal. Kickball romances typically aren’t, I’m told.

But we were on this patio, and it was a nice night, and she had gone through the post-work motions of getting all dressed up, and I suggested we get a bottle of wine. The waiter brought us the wine list.

It was, front to back, no fewer than 15 pages. It must’ve featured 200 wines. Maybe more.

We were lost.

Both of us like wine. Both of us wanted a red wine. And neither of us could figure out if any of the hundred-something red wines available were right for us.

We asked the waiter for help. He spent a full 60 seconds looking through the list before getting flustered and calling in some backup. To find a red wine that wouldn’t max out my credit card, we needed the assistance of the restaurant’s sommelier.

Shouldn’t there have been an easier way?

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What we really needed were fewer choices. We needed a list tailored to the needs of the wine-drinking 24-year-old on a semi-fixed income.

Here’s what a young wine drinker wants:

1. Red or white
2. For under $40

That’s the entire list of characteristics(1).

So that eliminates half the wines from last night’s menu. But don’t stop there. I don’t need six malbecs on the menu. I don’t need three pages of cabernet sauvignons.

I want the Kid’s Menu of Wine Lists.

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Wine Pairings

Here’s what I’m offering you, sommeliers of America: the chance to make a customer for life.

Because I don’t understand wine. I don’t appreciate its subtleties. I like wine, and I’ll happily pay $25 or $30 at a restaurant for nice bottle to share with a date. But when I’m at the liquor store, I buy wine based on how colorful the bottle is. I don’t remember names or tastes or blends.

I remember that I tried the wine with the penguin on the bottle.

But there’s an opportunity here. Because there are lots of young people like me who simply do not know how to order wine. We don’t drink it that often. But we like to seem cultured, and, ideally, there will come a time when I’m on a date and I’d like to be able to point to the menu and say, “Oh, yes! This one! I had this a few months back at _______! This is the one we want.” And she’ll be impressed, and I’ll be happy, and we’ll both end up drunk, and that’s all I can really ask for from a bottle of wine.

So give me limited choices. Offer two wine menus: the Full Menu, and the Limited Selection(2). Make it 10 wines. Make every bottle on the menu the same price — $30, $35, whatever. Otherwise, we’ll always choose the cheapest one. Eliminate that distraction.

Make the menu one page, and only one. Give us a full description of each wine. Offer tastings, if we’d like.

And at the end of the night, on the receipt, ask us if we’d like to leave our email addresses, so that you can shoot us details about what we’ve just enjoyed and where we can find it in our neighborhood. A coupon wouldn’t hurt, either.

Point is: Limit our options and make us fans of something new. We 20somethings are loyal. If we like something, we’ll stick with it. And we’ll come back to your restaurant and tell our friends about you, because we’ll have found a place that invited us to experience something new. We like feeling welcome, and we love it when people treat us seriously(3).

All we’re asking is for you to help us. We won’t be insulted by a limited wine menu. Hell, we’d probably order more wine if you presented it to us that way. The full menu can be intimidating.

Because I saw the 15-page-long wine menu last night. And on the back jacket cover, I saw the beer selection. There were four beers on it. I knew all their names.

That seemed like something that I could handle.

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You know what ended up happening last night? The sommelier came. He spent 45 seconds deliberating about his selection of red wines. He pointed to a wine on the menu. We ordered it.

It was, to be fair, delicious.

But today, I was relaying this story to my mother. And she asked me a simple question:

“So what wine did you end up getting?”

And I realized: I had absolutely no idea.

  1. And no screw off tops — it makes us feel like we’re buying a $5 bottle.
  2. Please don’t insult us and call it the Young Drinker’s Selection, or the Kid’s Wine List. We do like being treated like semi-competent humans.
  3. This isn’t necessarily breaking news, but you’d be surprised at how many adults treat 24-year-olds like we’re 12.

Twitter’s Truth Squad.

Here is what happens when I hear about news indirectly — basically, when breaking news gets to me secondhand:

1. I run to a computer.

2. I open up the nearest Twitter client.

3. I search for the news that I’ve just heard and try to find confirmation that it is either true or false.

In short, Twitter is my first source for news verification. It usually has details on an event long before traditional news outlets can get a full story up online.

But consider what happened to me Saturday night. I see this Facebook update from a friend, a Springsteen fan. It says, “RIP Big Man.”

And I immediately log onto Twitter to search for news about Clarence Clemons.

Except — that’s exactly the wrong place to go for something like this. Twitter is where death hoaxes go to really get rolling. On Twitter, someone impersonating @CNN has announced Morgan Freeman’s death. On Twitter, we’ve seen Adam Sandler and Charlie Sheen and even Mick Jagger die, only to find out hours later that they’re actually still alive.

Death hoaxes aren’t even the worst of it. Sometimes, we’ve got news hoaxes going around. Like the one from real Washington Post columnist Mike Wise. Or a new hoax from a guy who claimed to be a college basketball recruiting expert with inside information. Turned out he wasn’t. Didn’t stop his fake news from getting real attention, though.

What I know is this: we need a way to verify these news-related tweets. Twitter took a big step forward when it introduced verified accounts. But it needs to go a leap beyond that, I believe.

So here’s an open call to the Twitter team: Want to make your corner of the Internet one that actually prides itself on accuracy? Want to make your product the thing that people actually trust?

Start verifying tweets.

Not Twitterers (or tweeple, or tweeps). Go verify individual tweets.

And you’re not going to like how I think we should do it:

With humans.

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Hear me out. I’m talking about Twitter, one of the biggest and most powerful news reporting tools on the planet, employing a team of real, actual humans. Humans who make phone calls. Humans who verify information independently, and don’t just Google something to find out if it could be true.

In the past, we called such humans “reporters.” I’d be okay with using that phrasing again.

It’d work like this. Twitter would bring its own team of reporters in house. They’d monitor activity on Twitter. They’d see what’s trending and what’s bubbling just below the surface. And when something big breaks — say, an #RIPBobSaget hashtag — the reporting team would break into action. They’d make calls. They’d independently verify Mr. Saget’s status. If it turns out Mr. Saget was, in fact, not killed in an awful wakeboarding incident in the Swiss Alps, the Twitter team would move to quell the rumor by:

A. Posting a breaking news update at the top of the Twitter page devoted to the hashtag.

B. Creating a push notification specifically targeted to those using the hashtag — or discussing Bob Saget — to inform them of the truth.

That’s the starting place.

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But what if Twitter went further? What if Twitter created a specific channel for breaking news, where it could publish breaking news tweets in real time? Think the Google News homepage mixed with the instant refresh technology of TweetDeck, with all news curated by the Twitter reporters. Wouldn’t that be a must-bookmark?

Think of it this way: Why wouldn’t Twitter HQ want to better utilize Twitter as the breaking news service it already is? Give us headlines. Give us the news ticker, Twitter style. Give us a verified account with trusted, we-actually-made-a-call-and-know-this-to-be-true news. Call it @TruthSquad. Call it @VerifiedNews.(1)

And don’t say it wouldn’t pay for itself. When an earthquake hits Los Angeles, and Twitter’s in-real-time news page is posting links and Twitpics, you don’t think the New York Post would pay $10,000 to get their quake story posted at the top of the Twitter breaking news page? You don’t think they’d like the extra million hits they’d get just from Twitter referrals?(2)

Now, do note: there is no way to verify off-the-record or on-deep-background information passed along from some reporters. If @ESPN says, “Sources tell @ESPN that Michael Jordan will be coming out retirement to play for the Miami Heat,” the Twitter team isn’t going to be able to confirm that. They don’t have ESPN’s sources. But they can confirm certain news.

An official Twitter team of reporters can stop hoaxes. They can get truthful information out to consumers.

They can make Twitter the place for trusted, breaking news.

Traditional media can’t necessarily serve this role as the gatekeeper for real-time truth. Tell me again why can’t Twitter do it itself?

  1. Just don’t try to combine Truth + Twitter, because you’ll end up with something like @truthitter. Not a flattering name.
  2. Speaking of which: Celebrities would also be a great source of income for Twitter. When you crash your car, your insurance company pays to fix the damage. If someone starts a Bob Saget is Dead rumor, why can’t Saget get social media insurance to recoup the damages to his brand name? Pay Twitter a little, and Twitter insures that when false information gets out there, they’ll get the real information into the hands of users who care about celeb news.