I met up with some good folks I used to work with for our quasi-monthly “fest.” We chose Minado, an all-you-can-eat sushi and buffet joint in Natick across the street from the shiny new mall that’s too cool to call itself a mall, the Natick Collection. I’m told it’s breathtaking.

Clockwise from lower left: edamame and spicy seaweed salad, tuna tataki, spicy tuna roll, red rice veggie roll, salmon skin roll, tuna roll with scallions, octopus, stuffed mushroom, crab noodle cake. This was my first plate.

The sushi at Minado isn’t really all that grand, but it is reliably ok and individual types can be really good. And there’s a full hot buffet as well. For $40 each, we enjoyed all we could eat plus a drink, tax and tip. I suppose for the same money, you could have a single truffle hamachi maki with a drink, tax and tip at Oishii Boston, but you’d still be pretty hungry. But anyway, I was there for the company.

The conversation turned, as it often does, to social media stuff, as the assembled crowd had for a brief moment in history all worked together in the same marketing team. We compared Facebook notes (L is pretty into it for work, R finds old summer camp buddies there, H and J seem to be staying on the sidelines) and then everybody turned to (on?) me and asked, what’s the deal with Twitter?

I’ve tried to explain Twitter before and I generally fall back on “you just have to try it.” Like the matrix, no one can be told what it is. But I think I’m getting better at my answer now that after many moons of twitter-skepticism, I’m a heavy user and mildly bullish on the whole twitterverse. Here’s my new take:

If you just join Twitter and just start tweeting what’s on your mind, you’ll get bored quick unless you’re extremely self-absorbed. But if you find a micro-community of like-minded, or at least interesting and interested, micro-bloggers, and follow them and get followed — you’ll find yourself in a conversation of sorts. People tweet what they’re doing right now, but that’s not as interesting as when somebody tweets a question or breaks some news or reports on an event in progress, and people comment, reply, opine, and commiserate. And that can be interesting.

It could still be a giant load of hooey, of course. Constant partial attention, too many channels for too little information, tweetspam, the works. So far one of my dining companions has tweeted up and followed me. I hope I haven’t led her too far astray. At least I didn’t try to turn her on to Plurk.

One more social media note before we get back to the food. During the discussion I reeled off a list of social networking, social bookmarking, and other random web 2.0 type sites that I’ve joined recently. The overwhelming response was, good grief, why? Why indeed would I sign up for Gather, for example, when I already have LinkedIn and Facebook? For me, the answer is simple – invest a little energy in signing up and exploring because you don’t know what’s going to get big next, and you don’t want your favorite handle poached. A small investment of time for future brand security. (Speaking of personal branding, let me tell you – and google – that DougH means Doug Haslam – get a hundred more like that and you’re golden)

Now, dessert!

Green tea ice cream, chocolate cake, green jell-o. Why jell-o? It makes me laugh. That ice-cube-sized portion is about all the jell-o I’ll eat in a sitting. I boycotted the crepe station for its lack of nutella, but I’m told it was quite nice.

We’d been talking good trash about how many kappa maki we could eat (I think L’s record at a prior outing was 42) but the downside of such great company and conversation is that we talked more than we ate and were more or less thrown out of the place at closing time.

This reminded me of a great lesson via the excellent Presentation Zen blog. (really, it’s excellent, I even bought the book) Hara Hachi Bu means “eat until 80% full” and is a maxim that keeps Okinawans trim and long-lived. Garr links this idea to presentations, and by extension to business meetings and conferences, which are as chronically overstuffed as typical Americans at buffets and in front of televisions. Maybe this restraint will eventually save us from the flood of wannabe social media sites all doing the same thing or the deluge of pointless Facebook apps. We can dream, right?

Update: as of this writing, I’m in a game of Facebook Scrabulous with three of my four dining companions. It’s R’s turn, what’s taking him so long??