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Chow.com & Chowhound.com in NYTimes Today

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http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/16/din...

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  1. "Robert Sietsema, the restaurant critic for The Village Voice and a contributor to Gourmet, said he still finds the Chowhound boards helpful, but he said the quality of the discourse over the past few years has declined as more dabblers and dilettantes came onboard. “There’s less interest in the signature find,” he said. Instead of people scouring off-the-beaten-track neighborhoods, there are obvious questions, like “Where can I take my parents after a Broadway show?’’"

    Boy - is this the nail on the head or what? In the next paragraph Jim disputes this - but the response is mainly that the porportion is the same as it has always been. Perhaps that's true - but as the overall volume increases, the schlock is clearly overwhelming the finds.

    I'm definitely looking forward to Jim's reports from the road - he's going to make AB look like the poseur he is.

    11 Replies
    1. re: applehome

      "I'm definitely looking forward to Jim's reports from the road - he's going to make AB look like the poseur he is."

      I dunno about that, do you think the chowmobile is going to be more sexy than riding a motorcycle and eating fried cow brains? ;-)

      1. re: ChinoWayne

        I'll bet AB at least eats stinky tofu.

      2. re: applehome

        I think we should expect an onslaught of dabblers and dilettantes (of which I consider myself one). I imagine there are many reading that NYT article, and others the CNet PR folks are probably working hard to place, who will be discovering Chowhound for the first time. If we don't want the essence of Chowhound to get lost, we will have to work hard at preserving our culture... Chowhound is what we make of it.

        EDIT: this reminded me to go back to a recent reply of mine and type out the new mantra I've decided to adopt for when replying to one-off posts from visitors: "Wherever you decide to eat, please do come back to this forum and let us know where you went, what you ate, and what you thought. This community thrives on feedback from folks like you. Enjoy!"

        ~TDQ

        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          A very good mantra, TDQ! One we should all adopt!

          1. re: LindaWhit

            Thank you, Linda. It just occurs to me that when you give advice, you might as well set up the expectation with the requestor right in that moment that you hope they respond later with their feedback. Not everyone will, but I'm hoping at least some will. I know I personally have been guilty of not providing feedback later, either because my feedback was negative and I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings or because there was a long period of time that elapsed between my requesting info and when I actually got around to visiting the place... Still, no excuse, really.

            ~TDQ

        2. re: applehome

          Yeah, I'm looking forward to the Jim report too. I hope it goes well enough that they send him to different countries to do something similar.

          Chowhound is only what you put into it. If you write about food finds, recipe or restaurant, you'll attract other people like that. If you abandon the boards to the 'five perfect days' people that is what it will attract.

          1. re: rworange

            What's a "five perfect days" person?

            1. re: nanklee

              Vistor request ... visiting SF for the first time and looking for five perfect days ... we eat any kind of food ... what are the top restaruants in SF ... any price ... any ethnicity ... not touristy ...

              Maybe one out of 100 will report back about where they ate. Some of them I suspect just post and never read the replies because when asked for more information about what they like, they never respond.

              It is too bad because when the few do report back, often they will eat somewhere a local wouldn't think of trying.

              Queries get some surprising replies at times. However, if people, locals or visitors, post reports rather than queries, it encourages others to post and builds up the data trove on the site.

              1. re: rworange

                I agree that more followup posts would be useful and also make us feel our efforts in responding in the first place were not wasted.

                However, there are a number of reasons for not responding. The most prominent may be that the visitor was disappointed in a recommendation and didn't want to hurt the respondents feelings. I've always followed my mother's dictum "If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all." ("Har de har har," says rworange.) I might snipe at poseurs, or big targets like restaurants with undeserved reputations and a human wave of lemming-like boosters (et tu, Jook Sing?) but in general I like to accentuate the positive, especially in the case of obscure joints where the owners are at least trying hard.

                1. re: rworange

                  The most annoying are the people who ask for recommendations, get a bunch of thoughful replies, and report back either complaining or enthusing about the crappy or mediocre places they picked at random.

            2. re: applehome

              Sietsema's comments are quite a broad brush. While his comments may be true of the NYC boards, that is hardly an indictment of the entire Chowhound.com experience.

              My experience from being a resident of the Southwest board in general, and in Phoenix in particular, is that you get a mixture of all types of inquiries and reviews. Just looking at the Southwest board right now at Phoenix metro entries, I see posts about a pita place in Tempe (college town), a local Italian place in north Phoenix, a request for authentic Mexican food in Mesa, a report on a "Lunch & Learn" session with Ming Tsai at a Phoenix resort, a review of a vegetarian Indian restaurant in Tempe, a discussion on Phoenix Ranch Market (a huge market with an amazing food court featuring homemade tortas, tacos and horchata), and several entries regarding some restaurants in Scottsdale (reviews, announcements, etc.).

              Hardly an overwhelming selection that answers the question of where to take the folks after the show.

              I doubt the boards covering other areas are much different.

            3. I agree with a lot of what's been said here, and here's another take on the whole thing:

              A basic tenet of communication theory says that changes in communication technology change not only our ability to communicate, but also how we interpret and understand the larger world that that communication technology exists within.

              So it is with Chowhound. The changes occurring at Chowhound have and will continue to change the way we use it.

              Chowhound is full of advocates for mediocrity. Chowhound abounds in contributors who seem more interested in talking about the large quantity of restaurants they have visited rather than the high quality of one particular restaurant they love. Chowhound brims with people who want to tell you what to eat rather than let you make up your own mind. Chowhound is stuffed with posters who endorse places to eat without giving a reason why (i.e., "I just loved Big Al's Lunchbox because it was great!" Uh, okay, could you give me a little more on that?). And Chowhound is changing in the ways Robert Sietsema observes.

              As a result, I've had to learn how to read Chowhound to filter out those less-than-helpful contributions. In the 1980s I had to learn how to watch music videos and make sense out of them after growing up with more traditional narrative forms. And I had to learn how to use a Mac/Windows interface after I first got used to using DOS prompts. And now we're all having to re-learn how to use Chowhound.

              I can't say that I always like the changes, but I assume that you have to adapt or suffer.

              5 Replies
              1. re: alanstotle

                Thanks for this response. I find that as an online community evolves, it goes through various incarnations. On the Boston board, we've got the same number of standard "where's the Best lobster in Boston" requests, but we've maintained the MVPs (most valuable posters)for now. Also the new thread structure lets me weed out topics I have absolutely no interest in, like "best ice cream". I probably miss some good posts there but I'll never know.... :-)

                1. re: alanstotle

                  "Chowhound abounds in contributors who seem more interested in talking about the large quantity of restaurants they have visited rather than the high quality of one particular restaurant they love."

                  Chowhound is big enough that I've never seen such a post.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    On the one hand, I have to disagree. In my original post I'm reacting to a tendency I see on some of the boards for contributors, especially in response to questions, to list _every_ restaurant in a category rather than to list what they feel are the _best_ or _better_ restaurants. (And for that matter, to even clearly express their criteria for _best_.) Chowhound is not supposed to be a restaurant directory so much as a discussion of deliciousness. Size can be a disadvantage.

                    On the other hand, I think I see your point: one of the beauties of Chowhound is its inclusiveness. Size can be an advantage, too. If someone wants to use Chowhound to list restaurants, there's room for that. If someone wants to use Chowhound to discuss only the best restaurants, there's room for that, too. If someone has lots of restaurant-eating experience and wants to share that, there's room for that, as well.

                    Perhaps I could amend the tone of my original post in this way: Instead of saying "Chowhound is so big that you _have_ to edit out the stuff you don't want," I could say "Chowhound is so big that you _get_ to edit out of the stuff you don't want."

                    1. re: alanstotle

                      Agree re: too many restaurant recs may not be the best rec. Much better to give one thoughtful recommendation.

                      BUT, the longer list requires the original requester do a bit of homework to figure out where to go, which can be a good thing. Chowhound isn't for the lazy; it's for those who love chow so much that they're willing to take the extra effort to find good chow.

                      Also it's often possible to hit three or four restaurants for a meal. So the extra recommendations may not be a bad thing. Just have to optimize - get the best dish from each place rather than settling for what's available at a single place.

                      1. re: limster

                        For me, when a poster is vague, I give them a lot of options. If I say Jack Stack's BBQ is the best in town, they're liable to say they weren't looking for BBQ recs, or whatever.

                2. CNET is all about on-line communities and advertising and less about data/information. That is their modus operandi and I've seen how it's changed one other site that they bought.

                  1. I will be interested to see where the site goes. I was a CHOW subscriber from Day One and stuck with them until the end hoping the magazine would come back to life. My last print issue arrived about 8 months ago and I was sorry to see that the examples used in today's NYT article were from old issues and not new ideas. Even though I consider myself an advanced cook and am slightly older than the target demographic, I got a lot of good ideas from the magazines.

                    1. Mutt, as I said in my post above, I am a self-professed dabbler and dilettante.

                      Just as I advise those who are annoyed by the rank and file newcomers, I would advise you to just scroll on past the posts that annoy you and focus on modeling the kind of behavior and attitude you'd prefer to see the standard on this forum. As I said before, Chowhound is what we make of it. The longstanding posters are frustrated with the newbies; the newbies are intimidated by the crabby old-timers. Why not just focus on the chow and forget the politics? I have learned so much from the long-standing posters here and I can only think of a rare occasion when someone has been unkind to me. And I like chow at the Dairy Queen dagnabit!

                      ~TDQ

                      1. I tend to think that the model of "scouring off-the-beaten-track neighborhoods" for the greatest culinary finds isn't really that viable in much of the country. New York, sure. Chicago, yup. LA, maybe. The rest of the country, probably not.

                        I live in D.C. Yes, there's top notch Korean and Vietnamese food to be found in Northern Virginia and a bunch of good Ethiopian places in Adams Morgan. But big as they are, the District, Fairfax, and Montogmery counties COMBINED are only a tad bigger than Brooklyn alone. There's only so much scouring to be done.

                        The opportunities for scouring aren't as good around here. Heterodox as it may be to say, furthermore, a lot of the culianary innovation in the D.C. area is driven by well financed highly professional operators. In the last few years, we've seen the creation of a really innovative Indian place in Rasika and a fancy place that actually has a sense of fun--2941. One is part of a corporate chain and the other rather deep-pocketed investors. Both are big and well financed but, I'd argue that they're also, in their own way, real finds.

                        Some cities well worth a Chowhound's time (Las Vegas) have restaraunt scenes driven almost entirely by big time name operators. I use chowhound a lot when a travel: I've found great food in Ft. Smith, Ark., Philadelphia, Oslo, and Tokyo.
                        And, yup, I do find great chowish D.C. places on the boards. But it's not reasonable to expect that I'll find one every day.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: dr3rdeye

                          "I tend to think that the model of "scouring off-the-beaten-track neighborhoods" for the greatest culinary finds isn't really that viable in much of the country. New York, sure. Chicago, yup. LA, maybe"

                          Hello! I lived in NYC for four years, Chicago for 6 and now LA for the last five and frankly LA beats the snoot out of those other towns for exactly that: off the beaten track neighborhood finds. There are plenty of fantastic places all over these cities, and in many others, but the idea that LA might not have those kinds of finds is ludicrous! (and probably just the result of inexperience trying to eat there)

                          1. re: mr mouther

                            You're probably right. I've lived in Chicago and visit New York all the time but get to LA not more than once every few years. I stand corrected.

                        2. I recently posted, then deleted a review of a new Korean place. I thought it was a tasty and fairly unique find, and I thought I detailed it well. Zero replies in well over 24 hours.

                          Couldn't help concluding that a) I might have been seen as a spammer or "dilettante" because I don't post much, b) my post sucked, or 3) both! *sniff*

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: nanklee

                            Replies aren't really much of a measure of the value of a review - reviews themselves often don't get replies. They're still really useful to the board, though, and lots of people read them.

                            Did you delete it just because it had no replies?

                            1. re: Jacquilynne

                              Yeah. My local board is quite active, so I equated no response to no interest, poor writing, or both. I told Dairy Queen (below) that I'll give it another shot. Thanks for your reply :D

                              Edit: Someone re-posted my review!

                              1. re: nanklee

                                wow, I hope you post again - no response probably means that no one else knew the place or had had a chance to get there yet - most of times people dont add a response unless they have info to add.
                                I guess this is a reminder that there is a real place for "sounds great, I'll check it out" in our posting repetoire.

                                1. re: nanklee

                                  I think the evidence is in this thread that you are welcome here. :)

                                  ~TDQ

                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    I know... I got goosebumps! ;-)

                                    I love reviews, but I don't always reply back, unless I have something significant to add, and I always report back if I try it.

                                  2. re: nanklee

                                    We reposted it when we read why you'd wanted it deleted. We thought it was a great post, and certainly wouldn't have deleted it if you hadn't asked us to.

                                    Other hounds who are interested can read nanklee's review here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                    1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                      It is a great post! And I learned something as a result (even though that Board is not my home Board *sniff*), because I, dabbler and dilettante that I am, had to go search on "mandoo" on the General Topics Board to find out what it meant.

                                      :)

                                      ~TDQ

                                      1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                        Thanks, everyone, for the group hug :D

                                        1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                          I did read the post but didn't reply as I know I won't be eating there. But I know I drooled on my keyboard as I read it.

                                    2. re: nanklee

                                      Nan, as I've said before, when you're on the leading edge of chow, sometimes it's a lonely route. I've actually been to the place you posted about but haven't had a chance to post a reply to you yet and just sast down at my computer now to do so. I thought it was ultra cool that you beat me to the punch to talk about this little gem.

                                      I hope that you can somehow consider it a badge of honor when one of your posts about a good place does NOT get a slew of replies. It's a sign that you're onto something new and unique. My own feeling about this is that if I can't come up with places that no one has talked about before then I'm not trying hard enough and should have my chowhound credentials revoked. In the weeks and months ahead as more 'hounds happen on your post, try the spot, eat better because of it, and are inspired to try to find similar treasure to share here, that's the reward.

                                      So, please keep posting Nan. I, for one, am especially interested in what you have to say about soon dubu row on El Camino.

                                      M

                                    3. My response to the "dabblers and dilletantes" comment is that most people do start out dabbling, particularly where food's concerned, since it takes quite some time to develop both cooking skills and the ability to discern the nuances of texture, flavor and ingredients that separate good food from run-of-the-mill food. I think one of the best things about Chowhound is that it's inclusive enough to satisfy those who are just beginning to hone their skills and also those of us who've been enjoying food at a more discerning level for a while.

                                      As far as the interest in the "signature find" is concerned, it seems to me that a signature find is something foodies look for, whereas Chowhounds just want good food.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: jillp

                                        Yeah, like the perfect balance between meat, grease and cheese is not an In-N-Out cheeseburger, or Double-Double, but a Three-by-Three. (And I'll take my fries "regular", not well done.) ;-)

                                        1. re: ChinoWayne

                                          *sigh* What's a three-by-three? I wish you old-timers wouldn't speak in code. ;-)

                                          ~TDQ

                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            http://imageserver4.textamerica.com/u...

                                            1. re: bbqboy

                                              HA! Thank you. No one told me about the secret menu at In-N-Out!

                                              http://www.in-n-out.com/secretmenu.asp

                                              ~TDQ

                                              1. re: bbqboy

                                                And the only reason why I didn't say Four-by-Four, is because even that is too much to fit in my mouth. (I have enough problems keeping the front of my shirt clean eating just a single patty cheeseburger.)

                                        2. Nanklee, welcome.

                                          I just clicked on your profile and it seems to me that you've made several posts that have NOT been deleted. It's not an official chowhound policy as far as I have ever heard to delete the posts of even the freshest of dilettantes. In fact, if you've had a post deleted (or moved) for reasons you're unclear on and therefore still scratching your head over, then really, you're one of the in-crowd. I think we've all been moderated at one time or another. Sometimes it hurts my feelings, but I just try not to take it personally.

                                          As far as not getting any replies, Melanie Wong made the point the other day (and I'm paraphrasing because I don't remember her exact words) that sometimes it's lonely on the leading edge. Don't expect everyone--or even anyone-- is going to reply to your posts. We have to keep the posts very chowish on this forum and if there's nothing chowish to say, well then, there's really nothing to say.

                                          As far as why your post was deleted, who knows why. You can search on site talk or user help for "why was my post deleted" and see the official chowhound response. If you can't see any way you violated the terms of use, just shrug your shoulders, keep chowing, and keep posting.

                                          EDIT: here's the link to that comment of Melanie's

                                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                          ~TDQ

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            Hi DQ. Actually... I asked for the deletion, because I thought I was doing something wrong! Thank you so much for the link to the "no reports" thread. It's helpful and encouraging. I'll revisit the cafe and write again.

                                            1. re: nanklee

                                              Sometimes a post is so clear and complete, nothing more needs said. If you "sniff, sniff" and delete it, no one gets to take advantage of it. Or even comment.

                                              1. re: nanklee

                                                I added the initial post to my saved links for when I get down to that area. Also, I didn't know what mandoo or kalguksu are so I learned something from it.

                                                I didn't respond because I don't know much about Korean food so I didn't have anything to add to the discussion.

                                                Usually if I see someone who is new with a great post like that I post a response with a follow-up question, but my knowledge of Asian food is so minimal that I just don't have anything to add to the discussion.

                                                I would have been disappointed the next time I was in that area, looked for the post and found it deleted.

                                                Some of my posts may not get a response for weeks or even months. However, you never know who is reading so I just post information that I wish I could have had some info about. It helps someone, somewhere, sometime.

                                                1. re: rworange

                                                  Yes, and let's not forget that posting can ultimately help you, the OP! Even if I get no responses, I find that writing a post helps me to reflect on and process the experience more deeply. I also love that I can go back to that post to refresh my memory before a return visit or to just relive the experience at that point in time. Going back to recipes that I posted on Home Cooking can be alot easier than trying to dig up a loose recipe.

                                                  Welcome, nanklee! FWIW, I read your post before it got any responses and was interested but didn't have time to respond that moment. Do not think that anything is "wrong" if you get no responses. Some of the best reports can fall into this category!

                                                  1. re: Carb Lover

                                                    That was a good thought. My posts do help me most of all. I pay more attention to the food I'm eating/selecting and I've learned more that way. If I have to explain it to someone else a little more thought goes into it. I just wish my writing skills had improved over all this time. I go back to stuff I wrote three years ago and it is like I wrote a post today. Well, I guess its not about writing but the food ... and my choices for food have gotten more interesting and delicious. So write for yourself, if nothing else. At least you KNOW you'll be helping one person.