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Jun 28, 2006 09:34 PM

Private Message System

I haven't seen this posted before - my apologies if it was and I missed it.

I would really like to see a private message system on the new CH site. The Invision message board software has such a system built in and I've found it really useful for communications that don't really belong on the boards due to site policy.

Historically CH has discouraged "chatty" posts since they dilute the food oriented content. Fair enough. They also have taken a firm stand against using the boards to organize events for the same reason. Again, fair enough. There are other boards that have different policies but I understand CH's reasons and respect them.

But human nature being what it is, people still want to arrange dinners and sometimes they have a comment on a specific post that doesn't fit within the guidelines. A PM system makes this easy and removes a lot of the temptation to post things on the boards that shouldn't be there.

Sure, you can post an email address on your profile page but that requires a certain potential loss of privacy. (Yes, I know that you can create a special email address for CH messages but that's a real pain. I've already got 4 email addresses and I really don't want another mailbox to check.)

A PM system wouldn't require you to publically post your email address but would allow you to privately communicate with any CH user. One other thing for those not familiar with PM systems - they also support blocking. If someone who hates your favorite restaurant starts sending you annoying PMs you have the ability to block all their future PMs.

I've had experience with these systems for 5 years and they work really well.

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  1. There was some discussion on one of the earlier long topics.

    My own hope is that there is no future plans for a PM system. I haven't had such a good experience and IMO it would ruin the spirit of Chowhound because ...

    - it is easier to chat off-line about food and not share with the community. I've done that in other food forums.

    - it encourages cliquiness. In one forum posters banded together to ostracize another poster. None of their posts were replied to.

    - it encourages paranoia. People tend to believe that the moderators are reading all their mail and taking revenge against them

    - it encourages spamming by disgruntled posters who will pm everyone about a gripe. Even though systems can disable an email to all posters some people are really, really persistent and will go person, by person, to 'share'.

    It would also seem to add another thing for the moderators to deal with and require server space to maintain. That's none of my business, but it would seem to me I'd rather have Chowhound resources elsewhere.

    With emailing to people who choose to put that on 'My Chow', some effort is required to do the above. Heck, I wind up posting on the board instead of emailing posters I write a lot because it is less of a hassle and keeps the chat to the food.

    ... and the community in general benefits with shared knowledge that would otherwise be kept between two people.

    1. I've seen them work just fine and the "block" feature eliminates the worst type of abuse. If anything it fosters a sense of community since it makes it easier to communicate about a range of subjects and organize dinners while keeping the boards focused on food talk.

      Besides, those that choose not to use such a system are free to opt out.

      Come on RW - you were also worried about the registration requirement for CH but people seem to be handling it with no problems.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Bob Martinez

        Not my decision anyway only my opinion. Like you said

        If anything it fosters a sense of community

        That can be good but it can also be exclusive

        Chowhound made the registration process as simple as it could be. No insane requirements to write papers about why you should be considered to participate on the forum. No surveys. No real name and address info. Only a real email address and a handle. It made it painless.

      2. I agree wholeheartedly. Often there will be a reason why someone wants to contact you directly on a matter irrelevant to the board at large. As far as the paranaoia/privacy matters go, just assume that PM's are NOT private (That OTHER food board -- the one I bailed out on long ago -- "explained" that PM stands for "Personal Message" not "Private Message.") You can alway exchange email addresses through PM's for truly private communications, if need be.

        Otherwise, how to coordinate chow events without cluttering up the boards?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Gary Soup

          Otherwise, how to coordinate chow events without cluttering up the boards?

          How did that happen for the past nine years in chowhound ... and in the same way it happens on the other board. Someone posts a single post announcing the event and gives an email address where to reply.

          Personal messaging won't change that unless you are suggesting that there should be no announcment and chow events should be by personal invitation.

          Hmmmm ... so I should have been paranoid in one of those other forums ... heck, they weren't reading my posts, bless them if they were reading my boring private messages ... almost makes it worse if they did and knew what was going on behind the scenes with some of that nastiness.

        2. I'm sure I'm not the only person who would turn it off.

          Anybody wants to contact me, there's a mailto link on my profile.

          1. If I want to be contacted, off the board, by anyone, then it is my option to post my email address, in my individual postings, or as others have pointed out, use one of the fields in the Profile section of the myChow page.

            I have seen posts and responses from moderators from time to time which point ou5 that the purpose of Chowhound is to share information openly with the entire community, that is my understanding of why Chowhound discourages those posts that say in essence "email me for details, etc." I can understand and live with that.

            Again, I know I have the option of making a personal email address known on these boards or not, just as any other Chowhound has the same free choice to make.

            Another consideration is by adding such a feature/function, how does that impact as a "business". There is cost and other overhead involved in developing the functionality, and in essence, maintaining a private mail system. Since Chowhound is available to me free, I am not disappointed in the least if management of Chowhound does not wish to invest time and resources in to such a function.

            Another consideration is that there seems to be quite a bit of paranoia rampant in discussions like this. Many people are reluctant to even register as users, because they are afraid of disclosing personal information. Well, if you are posting here, you have gone through the registration process and you aware that all you are asked for is a user name (that you can select, within some parameters) and a valid email address. I can handle that. I have about 8 different personal email adddresses that I use for varying purposes. Email addresses are free, and easily discarded and new ones easily acquired. So I am very comfortable giving Chowhound an email address so that they can to some degree validate that I am legit, and if they need to, have a mechanism to privately communicate with me, if they need to. Notice we are not seeing any more of those "XXX please phone home" messages on the boards, so the disclosure of an email address for every registered/posting user to Chowhound has some value. Most likely to the moderators, and to those of us wading through the boards.

            One final point, and this goes back to the paranoia issue. If Chowhound were to provide some sort of private messaging system, I am sure it would not sit very well with the paranoid among us, conjuring up "Big Brother" reading what we think are private communications.

            You want to communicate directly with someone, then post your email address and maybe someone will contact you directly. You want to arrange a chow get-to-gether, join or form a listserv group like the L.A. Chowhounds did with their Google group called SCARF.

            Let's just stick to echanging chow tips in an open, friendly, sharing manner on these boards.

            4 Replies
            1. re: ChinoWayne

              >If I want to be contacted, off the board, by anyone, then it is my option to post my email address, in my individual postings, or as others have pointed out, use one of the fields in the Profile section of the myChow page.<

              Many people, myself included, will never do this because they don't want their addresses harvested by spammers. And the comeback that spam filters work great these days just doesn't cut it; you've still got to waste time checking the junkmail file to make sure a valid message hasn't been sent there by mistake.

              Last year, I availed myself of another board's personal message system to contact serveral locals with whom I'd never corresponded about forming a wine-tasting group. I doubt many of the contactees would have posted their e-mail addresses, so if the PM system or some equivalent hadn't existed, the group would never have got off the ground. As it turned out, some contactees replied that they were interested, others replied that they weren't and still others chose not to reply at all. No skin off anybody's nose. But as a result of that initial contact, a dozen or so of us local foodies have met and, in some cases, become friends. The tastings are of benefit to us but also to the larger community, since we often report on the wines we've tasted. Through group orders of private imports, we're supporting local importers, some of them struggling to get off the ground. We trade food tips and news when we see each other and sometimes explore new places together, and again we share this new-found knowledge with others on the Web and even around town, since the group includes a food writer or two.

              I don't care if it's a personal message system or some way of sending e-mail messages through the website that doesn't reveal the recipient's address to the sender, but I firmly believe such a system makes a discussion group like this one a better place.

              1. re: carswell

                I think you may have missed on of my points, which is email addresses are throw away addresses and you can hold multiple addresses for multiple purposes. I use one specific email address that I have posted on Chowhound regularly for past year, interesting enough, it has not generated much spam, maybe 3 spams a month, if that many. I only use it for Chowhound, so if I need to, I can "throw it away" and replace it with another. I use an entirely different email address for my real personal business, that address I would not disclose on this board or any other board. So what I do for myself works very well.

                I have been contacted from time to time by other Chowhounds using the "public" address that I have published on the boards, I am not receiving any appreciable spam in that mail box, and I conduct my personal business on via an entirely different email address.

                I see no need for any kind of personal messaging system on Chowhound.

                1. re: ChinoWayne

                  No, I didn't miss your points. It's just that they've been addressed in this thread and elsewhere and I believe in keeping posts as short as possible. But, OK, how's this? I already have four e-mail accounts through three servers and am not in the slightest way inclined to add another for Chowhound-specific messages. What's more, to work anything like a PM or hidden-address e-mail system, your scheme would require thousands of Chowhounders to open special e-mail accounts -- a perfectly utopian scenario. Or this: I wish my experience with spammers was as benign as yours. Last winter I registered with a wine board not knowing that my until-then unspammed address would be publicly displayed; these days I'm receiving four or five spam messages a day, despite my rather vigorous filtering, and if the past is anything to go by, it will only get worse.

                  >So what I do for myself works very well.
                  And, of course, if it works for you, it will work for everyone. And if people don't know how to or can't be bothered to or have reasons for not wanting to follow your example, well, tough, eh?

                  BTW, you don't address any of my points like community building or the unobtrusiveness of a hidden-address e-mail system but especially this: there is currently no way for me to contact anyone on the Quebec board whose address I don't already have. On a website that strictly limits what one can talk about and how one can talk about it, that sucks.

                  1. re: carswell

                    For what I PAY to use Chowhound, I am perfectly satisfied that it does not offer the perq of a private messaging system. You don't seem to get my point, that if other posters wanted to receive email from you, there is nothing stopping them from posting their email address on their profile page.

                    I am grateful that the volunteers behind the scenes, and the Chowhounds out here in the public who have sustained this site with their work, postings, and voluntary monetary contributions have kept this site afloat all these years, and long enough for a savvy corporation to acquire the assets and build new, sustaining infrastructure. It has always been a privilege to read and post here, and I have always understood that I am not entitled to anything around here, but am fortunate due to the kindness of many other people. I can live by the rules of the house, no problem.

                    If I really could not abide by the status quo around here, working with and under the terms of the owners of this site, there would be nothing to stop me from finding another food discussion site that is more to my preference. Or to building my own website, which I have also done, there I get to make all the rules.

                    Now you have heard the last from me on this issue, I'm not trying to belabor my position or to engage you just for argument's sake. I am hoping you can appreciate what this site has to offer, as is, and we can both contribute to the chow discussion.