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Chowhound Mod on NPR This morning

d
deldredge Apr 18, 2007 05:40 AM

There was a chowhound mod on a story on NPR this morning about online messageboard "code of conduct" http://www.npr.org/templates/story/st...

Although it was an interesting story, It bothered me a little bit. The mod (I forget her name) was basically explaining that you can say whatever you want on Chowhound unless it's offensive or off topic. I take strong exception to that. I've never seen a messageboard more tightly policed than this, and I've never ever seen any offensive posts on Chowhound.

I've seen many many posts deleted apparently because they are not favorable reviews for restaurants, which of course is very counter-chowhound. I'm always amazed at how many posts get deleted. If you read chowhound by RSS reader you know what I mean.

In fact, this post will probably be deleted.

  1. Jacquilynne Apr 18, 2007 07:33 AM

    That was me on the radio. And you even heard the story before I did, because we don't get NPR up here in Canada.

    It's great that you've never seen anything offensive or personally attackish on Chowhound! Our moderators strive to be the ones who get there first, so that no one else has to see it.

    They work hard to keep the boards as friendly and welcoming as possible, because we don't want Chowhound to be the kind of environment where people feel free to flame and attack other posters. Setting a polite tone keeps our site from breaking out into those sorts of excessive, profanity-laden flames that you often see on the internet. And when those flames do flare up, they're so outside the norm that they're quickly reported by helpful posters so we can remove them.

    The moderators never delete posts simply for saying negative things about a restaurant. Honesty, though, is really important on Chowhound--it's not a useful resource unless the opinions are legitimate. We do remove posts--both positive and negative--from folks who have an agenda that goes beyond sharing chow tips with their fellow Hounds.

    -- Jacquilynne, Community Manager for Chowhound

    5 Replies
    1. re: Jacquilynne
      z
      zin1953 Apr 18, 2007 07:41 AM

      There is a difference between "flames and attacks," which I certainly agree do not belong on this or any other internet bulletin board, and questions and/or critiques. It is a sad commentary on today's "modern" society that moderators are indeed not only needed but an absolute necessity. But this site has the shortest, "hair trigger" of any I have ever seen/participated in . . . and there is no way to find out why or what was wrong with one's port . . . . If the poster does not attack or flame, does not use obscenity, etc., how can one ever find out why the post was deleted to prevent the same "mistake" (if there even was one) from happening again?

      1. re: zin1953
        Jacquilynne Apr 18, 2007 08:26 AM

        If you're wondering why your post was removed, start by checking your email--and spam filters!--as we do often send explanations directly to posters who've had posts removed.

        Next, if you didn't receive an email, read the Etiquette guidelines, which cover many of the reasons why we remove posts: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/367605

        After that, if you're still not sure why we removed your post, see this post from Jim on why we don't always have time to explain: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/304161

        And finally, if you've gone through that, and still don't know and really feel you need to, send the moderators a polite email at moderators@chowhound.com, and if they can, they'll investigate and get back to you.

        We'd like this thread not to become a general place for complaining about moderation. The moderators--mostly volunteers, and all Hounds like you--work really hard to keep Chowhound a friendly refuge from the nastier aspects of Internet discussion. They're not right 100% of the time, and they're not consistent 100% of the time, but they do everything with the best of intentions, to make Chowhound a better place.

        1. re: Jacquilynne
          The Dairy Queen Apr 18, 2007 08:37 AM

          Another tip that's worked for me: if you're wondering why your post was removed, check your My Chow page to see if your post is still listed there. Sometimes your post may have been moved, not deleted. If your post was only moved, you can easily find out where from your My Chow page.

          P.S. I missed hearing the story on NPR, but I can't wait to go home and listen to it on my speakers. Thank you for providing the link, deldredge.

          ~TDQ

          1. re: Jacquilynne
            z
            zin1953 Apr 18, 2007 09:08 AM

            >>> We'd like this thread not to become a general place for complaining about moderation <<<

            I agree, and that was not my intent here. I was merely voicing the observation that Chowhound has a "shorter" leash than any other site on the net that I've participated in.

            I won't go into detail here -- again, wasn't my intent -- but let's just say it's been less than illuminating . . .

            C'est la vie . . .

            1. re: Jacquilynne
              silverbear Apr 19, 2007 09:52 AM

              This statement:

              "They're not right 100% of the time, and they're not consistent 100% of the time, but they do everything with the best of intentions, to make Chowhound a better place."

              is so much better than what I've seen previously:

              "the mods are invariably right"

              Instead of thinking of moderators as omniscient, infallible individuals, it's best to think of them as referees. They will inevitably make some bad calls, but everything should even out in the end, and the best response is to get on with the game rather than having a John McEnroe moment. Perhaps a little more ackowledgement that moderation is always imperfect, using Jacquilynne's wording above, might reduce complaints about moderation.

        2. Seth Chadwick Apr 18, 2007 09:51 AM

          "I've seen many many posts deleted apparently because they are not favorable reviews for restaurants, which of course is very counter-chowhound."

          Really? The Southwest board has plenty of very unfavorable reports on restaurants, I see many slams on various Phoenix and Vegas restaurants all the time. Since my other half lives in SoCal, I read the L.A. board and there are some pretty harsh critiques of restaurants there. So, I am not sure I could draw the same conclusion you have.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Seth Chadwick
            Yaqo Homo Apr 18, 2007 10:11 AM

            I agree. On the NYC boards, unfavorable reviews appear all the time. My guess is the ones being deleted are perceived by moderators as perceived being excessively mean-spirited, or those that attack the restaurateur personally.

            1. re: Yaqo Homo
              silverbear Apr 18, 2007 11:09 AM

              ...or perhaps those believed to be posted by the restaurant's competitors, disgruntled employees, etc.

              As for moderation, I generally like the high degree of moderation here, but I must take issue with the comment above about never seeing offensive posts. CH has a policy of not trying to shield users from all that might be offensive to them. That makes sense to an extent, but not when it allows biased language focused on characteristics that are typically protected by federal, state, and provincial laws in the U.S. and Canada (race, religion, age, etc.). Some of the more bothersome postings I've seen might trigger a lawsuit in any number of workplaces. If I had one wish it would be to see more aggressive moderation along those lines.

            2. re: Seth Chadwick
              Dommy Apr 18, 2007 12:37 PM

              One thing that DOES get deleted is if the post rants about cleanliness or about service ONLY and does not mention anything about the food...

              --Dommy!

              1. re: Dommy
                Snackish Apr 18, 2007 01:02 PM

                Which seems kind of weird. A filthy restaurant with bad service is one I don't care to visit, no matter how good the food.

                1. re: Snackish
                  Dommy Apr 18, 2007 01:09 PM

                  Yeah, the mods have always defended this because they say those types of complaints are not about the 'Chow'. So I can understand that, but the statement that negative reviews don't get shut down, is not true...

                  --Dommy!

                  1. re: Snackish
                    s
                    soupkitten Apr 18, 2007 01:22 PM

                    i agree-- cleanliness is part of the dining experience and so is service.

                  2. re: Dommy
                    The Chowhound Team Apr 18, 2007 02:25 PM

                    Howdy Hounds, some clarification:

                    Regarding issues of cleanliness and hygiene, here's the relevant quote from our posting etiquette: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/367605

                    "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. Please report them to the appropriate health authorities."

                    Regarding service issues, it's generally appropriate to say how one was treated at a restaurant. However, debates about what constitutes good service, service pet peeves, what the restaurant should have done etc.. which would not be specific to a given restaurant do not belong on the regional boards. These we either remove or move to the Not About Food board.

                    1. re: The Chowhound Team
                      Dommy Apr 18, 2007 02:50 PM

                      Thanks for clearing that up! :)

                      --Dommy!

                2. cayjohan Apr 18, 2007 08:25 PM

                  I’m curious what the policy is on deeper food issues is. Since ( and I’m going to paraphrase here) the Chowhound website is devoted to finding “good chow,” why (oh, why!) can’t we talk about serious food issues, like food-borne illness or the like. I posted last year with a question on oxtail and its relationship to BSE (and it was a serious question). I was seeking info from people in “the know” (i.e. Chowhounds), only to find my post was deleted. As we - collectively - move further into the food world, we have to expect that “tough” questions come up from time to time. Can the Chowhound Team, so lauded (and I agree with that) by the NPR piece acknowledge that CHOW is more than restaurant reviews, and that a deep discussion of HOW and WHAT we eat, and from WHERE our food comes is important to a lot of us who patronize the website.

                  Do I like the polite tone? Yep and waaaay Yep. Do I like that others (like me) use %$^&$ when they really want to say something else. Yep. Do I like the recipes and tips and anecdotes? Yep. Do I want to keep an issue as basic as “food” in the “breezy” category? Nope.

                  I love the forum that is Chowhound. I would love having it in perpetuity. I’d love (especially after the NPR shout-out) to see Chowhound grow a little more.

                  Anyone else for that?

                  BTW, Jacquilynne, I heard the broadcast this morning. Good for you. My criticisms are not negative, but progressive.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: cayjohan
                    The Chowhound Team Apr 18, 2007 08:56 PM

                    Our narrow goal has always been to be a place where hounds can share chow tips. The larger goal being to encourage people to seek out their own deliciousness rather than rely on "authorities" and to discover new deliciousness in places that the standard media outlets do not cover, for example, such as places that do not issue press releases for their openings.

                    Our boards are very good at this focused goal even though we're already stretched way thin, chasing down shills and keeping the conversation friendly and chow-centric.

                    Unfortunately, we're not good outside this focus. Chowhounds are great at finding chow, but for medical advice, it's best to consult a doctor, preferably a specilaist in the area of concern. Important issues like health and food borne illness, the environment and other political matters deserve serious and dedicated attention, and we have neither the resources nor the experience to handle those issues with the care and attention that these issue deserve. For example, that's why we insist that folks with food poisoning issues inform the appropriate medical or health authorities rather than post on our boards. We are not and cannot be an effective channel for relaying that kind of health information. And it's not a role we can ever grow into, because we will never have the authority to inspect or shut down restaurant for health code violations.

                    Chowhound cannot be all things to all people. There are much better resources for the important big issues outside of sharing chowtips, and given their importance, we urge people to get hold of the best and most reliable resources dedicated to those issues.

                    1. re: cayjohan
                      tony michaels Apr 18, 2007 08:58 PM

                      I think Jacquilynne summed it up pretty well. If we can't even have flame free discussions about the behavior of children in restaurants then the much more highly charged politically sensitive topics are going to produce conflagrations of undouseable proportions. That would take way too many Moderator hours, (and Moderator bodies) and the yelling and screaming about deletions would rise to a frightful crescendo no matter how the moderation was done.

                    2. d
                      Danny May 2, 2007 12:48 PM

                      If you've never seen a messageboard more tightly policed than this, then you haven't visited http://www.televisionwithoutpity.com/

                      Every TV show they discuss has its own board. There's a sub board for episodes - all discussion of each episode goes in a single thread. There's another sub-board for characters - if you want to discuss a character, you discuss it in that character's thread.

                      It isn't unusual for a thread to reach triple digits in pages. If you start a new thread, it better be something that hasn't ever been discussed before - otherwise it will be deleted, and you will be directed to the appropriate thread.

                      1. e
                        embee May 4, 2007 08:21 PM

                        I'll state my "bona fides" right upfront.

                        As someone involved in an ongoing moderation policy battle, that seems to have my posts on a watch list, I can't be accused of objectivity ;-)

                        I would also take exception to a statement that "you can say whatever you want on Chowhound unless it's offensive or off topic". Posting rules involve complexities that can be very hard to grasp. Even very experienced hounds can have problems understanding why a topic may be okay "here" but not "there". And some of the moderators seem to have extremely thin skins when questioned.

                        Having said that, I feel obliged to jump in just as strongly on the other side. Whatever issues I may have with Chowhound moderation, the mods here do an exceptional job. Though I feel many perfectly fine posts are removed unnecessarily, I also recognize that I would never have the patience to do that job myself. The level of civility here is quite extraordinary given the strong opinions expressed, something I value very much. And I have NEVER had a post removed because of an unfavourable restaurant review.

                        (But I'm still going to argue consistency issues with you, Jacquilynne...)

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