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OK, *Why* has CNET take a step backwards?

Gómezeow Sep 7, 2006 06:44 PM

As has been discussed endlessly in other threads, there are various surprising "shortfalls" in the new Chowhound format. So that leads to the question: Why is the message board software chosen for Chowhound so behind the times? There has to be a reason. It simply has not been communicated.

I don't mean to take away from the incredible effort it must have been to transfer all the historical posts to a new board, or the finally much-improved search capability.

But, could this not have been done on superior message boards software? Pick a complaint: URLs, formatting text, private messaging, search results for first time users--all of these would already have been "fixed" before they even made the switch.

Now, I have a lot of respect for CNET. I think they "got" the internet well before almost anyone. So, that is why I'm thinking, there *HAS* to be a reason for using this overly-simplistic format. I just want to know what it is! What is the reason, CNET??

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  1. Robert Lauriston RE: Gómezeow Sep 7, 2006 06:57 PM

    I couldn't disagree more. I find the site elegant and well-designed.

    I've used around a hundred different conferencing systems over the past 19 years and the old Chowhound was in the bottom 10% as far as usability and user-friendliness. The new one is in the top 10%.

    And, this being a custom app, CNET's not stuck with somebody else's timetable to address users' complaints and suggestions.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston
      toodie jane RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 10, 2006 03:52 PM

      -elegant and well-designed-

      well, rather boring and bland is how I see it. Horrible color choices, lacking life. Chow.com is even worse. It is so at odds with the enthusiasm and spirit of invention that chowhound seems to be about.

      I don't care for garishness, just some life.

      1. re: toodie jane
        limster RE: toodie jane Sep 10, 2006 08:59 PM

        I've never been wildly enthusiastic about the user interface of the old board or the new ones, even though I think of them as being sufficiently functional. But as for "life" on the boards, I think that comes from chowy posts provided by intrepid chowhounds rather than the aesthetics of the boards themselves. And if the boards lack life, then the responsibility falls on us.

        1. re: limster
          butterfly RE: limster Sep 10, 2006 09:19 PM

          Not necessarily--if the interface makes it cumbersome for us to find posts that we might be interested in participating in--and then wastes our time once we do find them (by forcing an absurd amount of scrolling through posts we have already read)--then the site is going to lose a lot of valuable participation.

          I only have so much patience to go through all of these dropdown menus under hot posts... It's fine if you are only interested in one or two boards, but now that things are more broken up, it's asking a lot to make people cobble it all together for themselves. It was much easier when HotPosts listed all of the posts broken down by boards on one screen in a more compact font.

          1. re: butterfly
            limster RE: butterfly Sep 10, 2006 11:37 PM

            "Not necessarily--if the interface makes it cumbersome for us to find posts that we might be interested in participating in--and then wastes our time once we do find them (by forcing an absurd amount of scrolling through posts we have already read)--then the site is going to lose a lot of valuable participation. "

            Agree entirely -- if the boards were not functional, that would be a problem. But as I mentioned above, I find both the current and the old interface were equally cumbersome. In the old board one had to go through an absurd amount of clicking (often back and forth) to read through the whole thread. That's replaced by scrolling.

            Hotposts on the old board made it easier only if one comes into the same many times a day to catch up with new posts. But if one comes in once or twice a day (or worse, is away for a day or two) it quickly became overwhelming and onerous to go through all the posts one by one. The opposite is true of the new site. I find that I can efficiently read through everything if I come in once or twice a day, but it's less efficient to keep checking in just to read one new post.

            Don't get me wrong, I was one of the first to request for the threads to be sorted by board in hotposts. But by changing my browsing habits, I find things comparable in ease to the old.

            The lists of threads on the boards is more compact in the new format; in the past that involved loading many megabytes of the board indices which would usually crash my browser.

            Of course it would be ideal if the board software was flexible enough to accommodate different browsing habits, but I don't think of the current site as being inherently superior or inferior to the old.

            1. re: butterfly
              Melanie Wong RE: butterfly Sep 11, 2006 12:30 AM

              Limster, I made similar observations here on how I've had to change my browsing habits to get the most out of the new software.

              1. re: butterfly
                limster RE: butterfly Sep 11, 2006 03:22 AM

                Very cool -- thanks Melanie!

        2. Das Ubergeek RE: Gómezeow Sep 7, 2006 07:00 PM

          The only major complaint I have is the five-levels-deep threading... I think that having PM capability would mean that important discussions of chow would move where the greater CH community wouldn't be able to see them.

          1. The Chowhound Team RE: Gómezeow Sep 7, 2006 07:14 PM

            Some of the items you mention are under consideration for future development by Chowhound Engineering, but others are not. Making the software simple, text oriented and elegant was a deliberate choice.

            While many of the common message board packages offer a vast array of add ons and 'features', from private messaging to custom smilies, they tend to lead to overly busy, blinky-flashy content, and complex user interfaces.

            1 Reply
            1. re: The Chowhound Team
              adamclyde RE: The Chowhound Team Sep 8, 2006 05:54 PM

              and a huge thank you for keeping the whole text simple, preventing avatars, formatting smilies, etc. It was one of mine and many others requests when they first asked us for feedback before the new software came aboard. I'm glad it happened that way...

            2. g
              Gómezeow RE: Gómezeow Sep 7, 2006 07:25 PM

              It is elegant and I suppose it does look nice. I don't disagree about the old Chowhound. I guess I thought that functionality would be more important. All the complaints I've seen would already be fixed, so there would be no concern about "others timetables".

              I disagree about private messaging. If you were familiar with its use on other sites, you would probably see your concern is unwarranted.

              It is true, some message boards go overboard with Avatars and smilies and blinking lights. But, I know certain software allows you to limit this as much as you want. At any rate, I guess I sort of have an answer to my question, so thank you.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Gómezeow
                Robert Lauriston RE: Gómezeow Sep 7, 2006 07:31 PM

                There's a whole topic for complaining about the lack of private messaging:


              2. c
                Chimayo Joe RE: Gómezeow Sep 7, 2006 08:38 PM

                I think the Chowhound team's first priority should be fixing the 5 level depth threading problem. That's just a mess.

                Although there are things I do like about the new format, I read over a dozen forum websites daily, and this format ranks dead last on the information conveyed by the index pages. That prevents me from rating it even in the top 50% of the forums I read. The index pages do not provide me with sufficient information to decide if a thread is truly worth my time to open, so almost always thread topics that pique my interest slightly(but are not of clear utility to me) remain unread.

                1. Robert Lauriston RE: Gómezeow Sep 7, 2006 08:50 PM

                  Does anyone really have anything new to add to the 'Why I'm no longer using Chowhound much anymore' topic?


                  1. b
                    blewgo RE: Gómezeow Sep 11, 2006 02:23 AM

                    Originally posted by Gómezeow
                    "But, could this not have been done on superior message boards software?"

                    You mean software with things like quoted text? The best thing I can say about this software is that it is faster than the old software. I am amazed that a company with CNet's reputation would come up with this garbage.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: blewgo
                      Seth Chadwick RE: blewgo Sep 11, 2006 02:50 AM

                      I tend to agree. I was scratching my head wondering why they didn't take advantage of the plethora of very good software out there that is fast, efficient and developer friendly and would allow for all the aesthetic changes one could ever hope for.

                      I believe someone had mentioned the bloat from unnecessary components of ready-made software for forums and bulletin boards, but I am not sure where that concern lies. Every software package for something like this has checklists. Like this option? Turn it on. Don't like that option? Turn it off.

                      Even better is ready-made packages that allow the user to define how they see the pages. Simple, quick, and efficient.

                    2. PJ Hyett RE: Gómezeow Sep 14, 2006 07:08 PM

                      The bottom line is that the software isn't done yet and we're also not particularly happy with the design. The issue is time.

                      Rest assured that we aren't going to leave it like this and that's why my name is on this post, not Chowhound Engineering.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: PJ Hyett
                        Bob Martinez RE: PJ Hyett Sep 14, 2006 08:00 PM

                        How about real dates?


                        1. re: Bob Martinez
                          Melanie Wong RE: Bob Martinez Sep 14, 2006 09:33 PM

                          How's about finding PJ a skirt steak and Denver omelet in San Francisco?

                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                            Bob Martinez RE: Melanie Wong Sep 15, 2006 02:56 AM

                            You mean that post from "2 months ago?"

                        2. re: PJ Hyett
                          Dave Feldman RE: PJ Hyett Sep 15, 2006 02:07 AM

                          Thanks, PJ. I hope you find that skirt steak and Denver omelet, too.

                          1. re: PJ Hyett
                            David Ford RE: PJ Hyett Sep 17, 2006 11:13 AM

                            Thank you for that, PJ. Coming from you, it means a lot.

                            Although my use of Chowhound has diminished quite a bit in recent months due to frustrations with many of the current design elements, I'm still here. And from time to time, I am checking back.

                            With that, I look forward to the results of your Fall rebuild, and respectfully bid my regards to you and your hard-working design team.

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