Dear Chowhound team:
Thank you for your hard work updating the site. While change is always difficult, I am sure we will all look back in a year, and see the benefits. As a product manager type person, I particularly like that you launched with a minimal feature set... but room to grow. I hope you are looking at the various requests and talking to your customers. I am sure many are (overly) eager to help.
A couple of features on my wishlist (in priority order):
1) Information about the last post, on the boards' frontpage. I want to know who started the thread, but I also want to know who last posted and when.
2) Some type of email feed that says "send me updates to threads I have subscribed to". And yes, I want to automatically be subscribed to threads I have posted in.
3) A way to subscribe to threads without posting in them. The reason - I may want to bookmark a post that was particularly useful.
4) Polls! Allow posters to have polls within a thread. So there would still be responses, but polls as well. I.e. The topic could be "what is your favorite dim sum place in Boston and why?" Posters could vote and/or post why they voted the way they did.
That is just the list off the top of my head. Good luck.
re: 3 - I believe you can subscribe to a thread by clicking on "bookmark it" (next to the [ADD YOUR OWN] button on the first post of the thread.
re: 4 - One of the most attractive things about these boards for me is that rather than striving for consensus or a final decision, the board allows for the (mostly friendly) co-existence of disparate opinions. Thus, the discussions encourage hounds to decide for themselves what is "good" or "bad" or "best" and more importantly, to try things for themselves, rather than go with the "most popular." That kind of thinking take more effort and time, but imho, it's important to chowhounding. It's in our self interest to enourage more people to chowhound rather than just pick "the best" because they will then come back and offer their detailed opinions of what good and bad and give a us a new perspective (and preferably new chow tips), rather than just toe the party line.
The absence of polls are encourages (forces?) hounds to read through the whole thread, rather than just settle for a percentage of votes at the end. It takes tons more time, and is very unefficient, but it fosters "critical thinking." In contrast, I fear that offering up percentage number at the end of the day may become misleading as the overall quality of the restaurant; it will obscure important details, for example, about the one amazing dish in a sea of horrible dishes that the kitchen turns out. These might be exceptions, but some of my favourite places are exceptions.
I agree with limster, polls are too restrictive. best to have aggregate of impressions. new better now working search function helps in building that aggregate.
Limster, I guess I should have flushed out my rationale more clearly. You have been on these boards longer, so I value any additional historical perspective... but in my three years participating on the Boston board I have seen the quality go downhill. And I know other knowledgeable folks feel the same way. I think the board has been diluted by the constant questions, "NYC hound in town for just one night" or "best dim sum in Boston" type requests from non-regulars. I actually don't mind these questions, but I don't enjoy responding to them. My feeling is that while you and I prefer reading about the experiences of fellow eaters... there are others who just want a quick answer.
I don't want polls to become a major part of the site, but based on my experience on other websites... people do not use polls as an excuse not to write out opinions. If anything it usually provokes more spirited discussion because it asks people to make a real choice.
In short, I think real "hounds" will continue to use the boards in the same way. Polls could help eliminate the noise for people who aren't viewing the world the same way we do.
Thanks for responding!
Nomadfromcincy, agree entirely -- polls would make the boards easier to use for those who aren't out to chowhound, and who want quick simple answers. And my personal opinion is that chowhound should not provide quick simple answers. Not because we hate these people and want them to go away, but because we want to make them more like us. (Although if you're not psyched about these types of posts, making it easier to get these quick answers will ensure that we'll get more of these posts in the long run.)
We have a treasure trove, but folks should be willing/eager to dig because we all want different kinds of gems, and the only way to tailor recommendations for oneself is to do the homework. By getting them to go through stuff more critically, to read the detailed opinions that hounds will provide and to actually decide for themselves, we give them an opportunity to become more houndish and to hopefully encourage them to be more daring, to try places that they otherwise wouldn't. I do that sometimes by suggesting alternatives in response to the more "tourist" posts.
So it's not about how we want to change the existing hounds (polls or not won't affect them), but how we want to make the "tourists" (no pejorative intended, just lacking a more succinct term) more houndish. As you mentioned, hounds will use the boards in the same way, but it's in our self interest to make those who aren't more houndish.
At the same time, you'l be surprised how frequently hounds (some of whom have been regulars way longer than I have) will ask about where to eat (their names just don't look familiar because they're not regulars on the Boston board), because they know that the boards are great place to get savvy advice.
And to be honest, those "visiting for a weekend where to eat posts" are not a bad way to get updates. I frequently recommend places that I like, but haven't been to in a while, to see how others respond or how the original posters like it.
I do want to emphasize that it is not a "us vs. them" situation. The boards are a great resource and they should be a friendly place for all kinds of people to ask questions or learn about cool chow. My hope is that we'll convince people to go from consumers of chow info (questioners) to producers of info (answerers), that way we'll all benefit.