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FAQ: Chowhound Posting Etiquette

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LOCKED DISCUSSION

Chowhound has a narrow mission: to allow unbiased consumers to share honest chow opinions with their fellow consumers. On our regional message boards (San Francisco, Chicago, etc.), the focus is where to find great chow in that area. On our pan-regional "topical" boards (e.g. Home Cooking, Food Media & News, etc.), discussion is a bit more wide-ranging, but still on topic.

We moderate the forums with our mission in mind - keeping the site informative, friendly and hype-free. While the following guidelines don't cover every possible moderation scenario, they explain the basics of contributing to the site.

For New Chowhounds: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/36760...
For Restaurant Owners, Friends, and Other Insiders: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/36760...
For Bloggers and Journalists: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/36760...
For Organizers of Chowdowns and other Real Life Meetups: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/36760...
For Everyone: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/36760...

While we cover many common issues in this etiquette section and the official Terms of Use ( http://cbsitou.custhelp.com/app/answe... ), we reserve the right to move or remove any posting without notice or explanation at our sole discretion. We do not commit to preserving every posting; please bear this in mind if you post.

While we sometimes do explain deletions, Chowhound's large (and growing!) size makes it impossible to always do so. Please don't take deletions personally; we're just trying to ensure the chowiest possible resource for hounds just like you! No one likes to have their postings deleted, but thousands of Chowhound users appreciate our unparalleled signal-to-noise ratio.

We also don't commit to removing every post that falls outside these guidelines. Our moderating team is mainly volunteers, and we don't have the resources to review every post that's made on the site. We also can't promise 100% consistency in moderating; small differences in each situation may lead to different decisions. We also don't read everything on the site, so, if you do spot postings that strike you as problematic in any way--please help by using the 'report' button to bring it to our attention (choose the most appropriate of the three options, but don't worry if it doesn't quite fit, just leave a comment to let us know why you're reporting it), or you can send an email with the URL of the post in question to moderators@chowhound.com.

  1. FOR NEW HOUNDS

    Start by registering a username. A unique nametag helps others to get to know you and your preferences. Please avoid using URLs (myblog.com, etc) in your username. You may not register multiple usernames. If you want instructions for how to change a username you've previously registered, please email us at moderators@chowhound.com.

    If you're looking for chow tips, first take a look through our regional message boards. You'll find tens of thousands of useful postings, including literally hundreds of replies to oft-repeated questions such as "Where are the best ribs in the South?", "Where can I eat near Lincoln Center?"...and the ever-popular matter of Brunch.

    Please do search through previous discussion to catch the previous tips on a given topic, and join in on those conversations if they're still active. It's also okay to start new discussions about previously-covered topics. New posters may have fresh tips to offer, and restaurants may have recently closed or declined. By constantly revisiting topics, we keep our info fresh. Avid regulars may find repetition tedious, but the food scene's dynamic, and we aim to track it in real time!

    If more than one person from your party is going to post a report on a particular meal (something we encourage, the more the merrier!), please post your reports in the same thread and mention you were dining together. It helps those reading along get a more complete picture of your experience and avoids the incorrect assumption that the meals being described happened at different times.

    When you post a query, you'll get better answers by being as specific as possible. "Coming from out of town, where should we eat?" is too broad to draw many helpful responses. "Where's a good place to eat lunch with kids in the Theater District, we'd like something for $20 per person or less?" or "What are my best sushi bets around 30th and 3rd?" are the types of questions most likely to draw good response. If you're posting on a statewide or regional board, please remember to include the city you're interested in - preferably somewhere in the title of your post.

    We do not permit message board postings that advertise or publicize anything -- including good causes and non-profit events. Messages containing sales pitches, hype, or come-ons will be deleted. If you're interested in advertising on Chowhound, please contact advertising@chowhound.com.

    1. FOR RESTAURANT OWNERS, FRIENDS AND OTHER INSIDERS

      If you are affiliated with a restaurant, caterer or any other food oriented business under discussion on Chowhound this section applies to you, even though we refer specifically to restaurants.

      Do not consider us a marketing/publicity opportunity for your business. Those with a relationship to a given restaurant or other commercial venture must disclose their affiliation when discussing the place or its competitors. All we ask is that you talk to us like a civilian; we will not allow our community to be exploited.

      You may post factual information in response to questions about the business or to correct misinformation. ("We are not open on Tuesdays." or "The mushrooms come from Oregon.").

      Please don't recommend your restaurant (as a rule of thumb, you should never be the first to mention your business in a thread), offer opinions on the quality of your products, use us for customer service purposes ("We're sorry you had a bad experience..."), post promotions ("Join us for our annual lasagna festival next week!"), invite people to come to your restaurant or argue back re: consumer opinions or experiences.

      We realize it's disheartening to see negative things said about your restaurant, but Chowhound prohibits customer service and "spin control". While there are many means for restaurants to message and engage their public, Chowhound is a rare bastion for pure consumer discussion. In the end, the dining enthusiasm we generate makes Chowhound a very good friend to this industry, and we ask commercial parties to help foster this environment by resisting the urge to join the fray.

      Restaurateurs and food business owners (or their friends, employees, PR firms, relatives, etc) who post phony testimonials or recruit others to post for them will be uncovered. Any subsequent discussion of the restaurant -- from any poster -- may be removed. We fight hard to preserve the site's reputation for integrity and to ensure the trustworthiness of our resource, and we don't allow fake or solicited reviews.

      Some businesses establish an account in the name of their business if they need to make one of those rare allowable posts. We allow that, despite our general rule against people having more than one registered username on the site. However, even if you have an 'official' account for your business, any and all comments from your personal account, or those of your employees, friends and family, must still follow the guidelines -- especially the requirement that you disclose your affiliation to the restaurant any time you post about it.

      If you're anything other but an ordinary customer at a restaurant, please refrain from posting your opinion about it. If you're a friend, relative, investor or anyone who may receive special attention or treatment at a restaurant, your opinion won't reflect an unbiased view of the experience an average consumer would receive.

      We know that the restaurant industry can be very small in a given city, and that industry privilege exists. As chefs, waiters, sommeliers, etc, you're probably friendly with your counterparts at other restaurants, and you likely get treated very well in a lot of places, so this may significantly limit what you can post about. But for the benefit of the many thousands of non-industry people reading along, we ask that you avoid posting reviews or recommendations for places where you've received 'industry insider' treatment.

      1. FOR BLOGGERS AND JOURNALISTS

        We welcome bloggers and journalists to join our community.

        We know that sometimes you'll be involved in a discussion and have relevant information on your blog that you want to share. As much as possible, please include information directly in your post on Chowhound so that it becomes part of the discussion. Where including a full review doesn't make sense, you can share your thoughts and link to your blog entry for the review. Please make sure your post would be useful even without the blog link and includes both what your suggestion or opinion is and some specifics on why you feel that way.

        You can include a simple link to the front page of your blog as a signature on your posts.

        Hyping your website isn't allowed. Please don't start new threads just to link people over to your reviews. If we see a pattern of posts that suggests you're more interested in getting your site links out there than in participating in the community, we may ask you to stop linking your blog. Some things we would look for: only participating where you have a blog link to share, posting the same link in multiple places, posting multiple blog links in the same conversation, frequently posting with minimal information just to justify the link, never asking or answering questions only posting your reviews, etc. Even if your goal is not to promote yourself or your blog, please use discretion when linking or using a signature -- be sure you're adding real information to the conversation, to avoid annoying your fellow hounds.

        Journalists are welcome to post on Chowhound, including the gathering of story information, provided the discussion is on-topic and of potential use to the community as a whole. Please keep the discussion on the site, rather than soliciting people to contact you by email or phone. (The exception is in our Chowhounds Wanted thread at: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/855725 )

        If you're gathering information for a story, we recommend you say so upfront; many hounds will be happy to help if you're open about it. They are often less happy to help if they think you're trying to hide an intention to use their information in a story.

        If you need to reach out to posters for real names and contact information for use in your story, please send an email to moderators@chowhound.com with a brief introduction to your story and your contact information, along with a list of the users you want to reach out to, and we can pass your details along to them.

        1. FOR EVERYONE

          Please don't ask Chowhound users to reply to your postings via email. Email feeds one chowhound, whereas public discussion feeds the whole pack!

          If you're helped by info you find here, please give back by posting a tip or two of your own (or at least a report of how your meal went). If you disagree with an opinion, please speak up! Polite, friendly disagreement ensures a diversity of opinions and keeps our resource honest. But please bear in mind that restaurant quality can vary; this week's crispy frites might be next weeks sodden steak fries, so give people's taste buds the benefit of the doubt. The mantra is "hate the chow, love the chowhound!"

          Chowhound is about food, and it's supposed to be relaxed. We don't get into "big picture" issues. There are myriad online forums for debating politics, ethics, and other hot-button issues; please use Chowhound not to debate but to share news and tips.

          In that same spirit, we avoid topics that are simply chatter. Threads should contain or solicit useful information and tips, rather than existing merely to give others something to post about. Chatty questions include (but aren't limited to, these are just a few examples) those that result in anyone and everyone chiming in with an item to add to a list ('every food reference in a movie ever'); questions that you're asking out of curiosity ('I'm curious if anyone else feels the same way about kumquats as I do'), questions that are basically rants in disguise ('this waiter was rude, am I right?'); questions based purely on personal preference which anyone can answer and no answer is more or less appropriate than any other ('foods no one else likes that you love'). If you just want to start a conversation for the sake of having something to talk about, it's probably chat, but if you're interested in the specific answers, and they'll help you eat better, it's probably okay.

          Reports of health violations, including food poisoning, bugs and foreign objects found in food are not permitted, as our breezy forum is not an appropriate venue for handling such urgent and serious issues. In order to be a trustworthy, useful resource in this area, we'd have to offer accurate, complete and timely information on health code violations and we're not in a position to do that -- and we'd rather not play host to inaccurate, incomplete or out-of-date information on such serious issues. Please report these issues to the appropriate health authorities, but don't post about them here.

          Personal attacks and offensive language aimed at other posters are not permitted. Again: "Hate the chow, love the chowhound." A friendly, respectful environment encourages onlookers to offer their chow tips.

          Our policy on incidental vulgarity, obscenity, and general offensiveness in otherwise chow-ful postings is that anything is OK so long as it's not said in anger or is clearly intended to stir up trouble. Our role as moderators is not to shield all users from anything they might find offensive. If we tried to do so, there'd be literally no end to it, because many different people are offended by many different things. We ask that everyone show tolerance for different sorts of voices in our huge community. The alternative - a group with homogeneous ways of speaking and thinking - would not be good for this resource.

          Please avoid reposting copyrighted material from other sources. You may summarize information, or quote a few lines and link to the original source if the information is available on the web. For recipes, if you've restated the instructions in your own words, please make a note of that in your post.

          We don't allow reviews of "soft open" or "friends and family nights", which are held for a select group prior to the restaurant's opening to the general public. These nights represent either the restaurant pulling out all the stops to impress for a smaller than usual crowd or the time when a restaurant is still working out the kinks and not expecting public review. They won't usually accurately represent the actual experience of dining at the restaurant once it's fully open for business. If you've been invited to a soft opening as a friend of the house you should also review our guidelines for Insiders.

          If you're anything other but an ordinary customer at a restaurant, please refrain from posting your opinion about it. If you're a friend, relative, investor or anyone who may receive special attention or treatment at a restaurant, your opinion won't reflect an unbiased view of the experience an average consumer would receive. If you're in this situation, please see the section for Insiders above.

          Chowhounds in many cities dine together, either regularly or irregularly. Check the stickies at the top of your local board to see if there's anything coming up for your area, or if there's a separate mailing list for you to join to hear about future plans.

          As with any situation where you're meeting new people, please use common sense and caution when making your plans. Hounds are a friendly bunch in general, and chowdowns are usually held in large groups in public places, but you should still be aware of safety issues. Join the group in a public place, let people know where you're going and when you expect to return, and be aware that not everyone from the internet is exactly who they say they are.

          1. FOR ORGANIZERS OF CHOWDOWNS AND OTHER REAL LIFE MEETUPS:

            Hounds on many different boards have organized dinners and other gatherings and they're always a lot of fun--plus the reports after are great chow tips!

            We have a couple of guidelines we ask organizers to follow in order to keep the focus of the boards on chow talk and not on RSVPs and other organizational details. The main guideline is that posts to the boards should be announcements (and followup reports!) only--all discussion, scheduling and RSVPing should happen off the boards.

            The way most people handle this is by posting an initial announcement to their local board with an email address for people to contact if they're interested in getting together for a Chowhound dinner. If you use the 'report' link on that announcement, you can ask us to sticky it to the top of the appropriate board so it doesn't fall off the front page.

            They then use email (members in some cities even have established Google or Yahoo groups or listservs, etc, for scheduling dinners) to discuss the specifics of where and when to meet.

            Please don't mention Chowhound when making reservations or arrangements with the restaurant for your chowdown. As with any other posts on Chowhound, chowdown reviews should represent a normal guest experiencing the restaurant like any other customer. If hounds have received special treatment because of their participation on the site, we will be unable allow any discussion or reviews of the event to be posted.

            Once the group has decided on a concrete plan, you can post a second announcement to the boards, with the specific details, again, including an email address so people can RSVP offline. If you 'report' that one, we'll sticky it in place of the original thread.

            Then, once your dinner has happened, start a new thread so people can report back on what they ate and whether it was delicious so other hounds can benefit from your experiences. (Also, report your stickied thread to let us know it's happened, so we can desticky it.)

            Also, please keep in mind that these member planned events are all unofficial and totally driven by members. Chowhound isn't a sponsor or an organizer, and we can't offer any support or accept any responsibility for any problems that might arise.

            As with any situation where you're meeting new people, please use common sense and caution when making your plans. Hounds are a friendly bunch in general, and chowdowns are usually held in large groups in public places, but you should still be aware of safety issues. Join the group in a public place, let people know where you're going and when you expect to return, and be aware that not everyone from the internet is exactly who they say they are.