Mid Month/Month End Updates
Over on the midwest board, we've been innundated with nearly identical running update threads every two weeks.
On the 15th of the month, a "Mid-Month Update" thread is posted. At the end of the month, a "Month End Update" thread is posted.
Here are examples:
January 15th: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/360254
February 2nd: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/366799
February 15th: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/371383
March 2nd: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/376744
March 16th: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/381651
April 1st: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/387121
April 15th: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/391923
April 30th: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/396842
These threads seem to go against the posting etiquitte that is at the top of every board, in particular, the section on chattiness that can be found here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/36760...
While it is interesting to hear where people ate in the last two weeks, more extensive reviews are now being put into those threads, rather than threads about specific restaurants and/or cuisines. (Here's a recent example of someone holding back a review until a month-end thread is started: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/396650 - thankfully the poster was talked out of it.)
You state "Chowhound's goal is to help people find great chow right now." However, these threads are making it increasingly difficult to accomplish that. Because so many restaurants are mentioned in those threads, they are showing up in search - but with little information about the restaurant than the fact that somebody was there, and their singular experience. Not to mention that you have to dig through dozens of posts to find the one opinion - and then do the same for others who ate there in other two week periods.
Perhaps these threads are a result of Minneapolis/St. Paul getting more traffic - at times we seem to dominate the midwest board, so these boil things down and keep us out of Indiana's hair. But, these bi-monthly digests are replacing real discussion and content - I can tell you that I'm visiting (and contributing) less since these threads started appearing. They're just too hard to keep track of, and have so little staying power.
I've reported the threads, and posted in them asking the same questions above - and nothing has happened (except my posts being deleted). I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way about these threads. Can The Powers That Be either contain these threads, or explain the value they add to Chowhound?
Danny, that's a great summary.
I agree with you that these threads are leading to a discussion structure that results in a "list all the places I ate" theme. On the latest thread I posted a (now deleted) plea to 'hounders to restrain themselves. Here's why:
1. They invite chattiness. The signal-to-noise ratio does seem to be steadily worsening there, as more and more people reprint their calendar instead of focusing on the worthwhile gems.
2. They seem to be turning into an default thread as you mentioned, where people are holding off on posting their good info in a logically-named, informative, accessible thread about a particular restaurant because they'd rather add it to the end-of-month thread. Gotta ask: are these threads fostering the notion of competitive posting? Of course they don't mean to do so, but that emerging tendency is a huge turnoff.
3. They pose a significant problem for people who are trying to search for useful info on a particular restaurant. This is my PRIME concern. The search tool is a painful exercise now. The dedicated threads are lost among these catch-all topics, and drilling down to whatever good info might be mixed into the jumble is increasingly laborious.
Sure, the topic is helpful for jogging a person's memory about restaurants or meals they would not otherwise have bothered to write about. But let's ask one another a serious question: if it wasn't memorable enough to stand as its own thread, or build on a theme from an existing thread, how does tossing it into the monthly pile support the mission of this site?
Thank you, Danny, for having the courage to post this. We Twin Citeans are a congenial, go-along to get-along folk, so, it's not easy to be a dissenting voice.
My normal response to a complaint like this is to say, "Scroll on by. If you don't like it, ignore it." However, I don't think that response works here for a couple of reasons.
1. Maybe I'm imagining it, but the posting volume has gone down on the MSP board since these threads have started. Partly because some people are holding off posting their reports until one of these threads come along. Since there are fewer threads bouncing about to draw people in, there are fewer posts altogether. This will kill our little forum.
2. Aside from the volume thing, what’s the difference between reporting about your visit to, say, Town Talk Diner outside these update threads vs. posting about it inside? Because people find these laundry lists of where people ate during the month boring, (at least I do.) I don't mean to be unkind, but I do not find it interesting to hear about every meal someone ate--we all eat several meals a day; I don't want to feel like I'm reading a food diary--I just care about the exceptional ones, good, bad or unique. If people are bored by and avoid these threads, they aren't going to see your Town Talk Diner report to comment on it, which means we are losing our back and forth commentary. It's the conversation, the give and take, the back and forth discussion that makes Chowhound valuable. As a pack, we can "digest" a meal better than a lone 'hound; this is how we learn and grow as individual 'hounds and as a community.
3. These threads kill the search engine. No one will find it helpful, 3, 6, 9 months from now to know where TDQ ate in late April. Instead, they want information about a specific restaurant; or, cuisine; or neighborhood; or price point, and so on. Now if you search on Town Talk Diner, you're going to get a bunch of one-liner hits in a giant thread you're going to have to wade through.
4. Forget the search engine, you can't even remember what you read in these threads a couple of week later. I remember Josh's University Avenue thread, Chris Mitra's "Little Szechuan is back" thread, Cassandra's "cheap fancy pants challenge" thread, but I can't remember even a week or two later where that off-hand Town Talk Diner comment was. The lack of focus dilutes Chowhound as a resource.
5. I don't think people are reporting very critically in these threads--they aren't dissecting their meals and giving us specifics.
My initial reaction to the first of threads was annoyance. I had already gone to a lot of effort to post very specifically about my recent dining experiences in other threads. So, I just posted a bunch of links to all of my recent posts. I did quickly realize, though, that I hadn't posted about EVERYWHERE I ate, so found it an interesting exercise to list out all of the places I had eaten and comment on them. But, I also realized there was nothing particularly noteworthy about those meals, which is why I hadn't already posted about them. So, while it was interesting as a one-time experiment, I don't find it ongoingly helpful to go through this exercise.
There is one thing I like about these threads and that's that it does seem to draw out some of the newer, quieter folks. I don't know to encourage these people to post otherwise except to say, we're interested in what you have to say, take a chance and open up a new thread to report on a recent dining experience you had.
In fact, the folks posting in these threads are people whose posts I otherwise find very interesting and valuable. I am interested in what these folks have to say; it's just the grocery list format I can't abide.
Finally, I do think these threads constitute "chatty polling threads," which the mods say they discourage as expressed very succinctly here:
It’s also in the posting “etiquette” in paragraph #4, here:
As a community, all we can do to discourage them is not post in them. Also, when we notice the threads devolve into chat or other non-chow discussion, we can report them to the mods using the "report this post" feature. And, of course, we can lead by example; eat at a new, or new to you place? Post about it. Notice one of your favorite places has gone downhill? Post a downhill alert! Try a new dish for the first time? Post about it! Just have a great meal at one of your “standbys” that hasn’t been mentioned on the boards in awhile? Post about it!
re: The Dairy Queen
I might have the dissenting opinion here, but I like the monthly updates. If I've been somewhere new or exceptional in the month, that I think is deserving of its own thread or belongs in a pre-existing thread, I'll post there immediately after the meal. However, if it's somewhere I go to frequently, or it wasn't worthy of it's own thread, I save it for the monthly thread and try to specifically point out which dishes I had, service issues, etc.
I also enjoy reading the monthly thread because it reminds me of either the oldies but goodies that people probably wouldn't post about otherwise, or notifies me of a new place that doesn't have its own thread. I also actually really enjoy seeing the full picture of where people have been over the past month. Maybe it's wrong but if I see someone say, "well, we hit Big Bowl on Friday and then Olive Garden the next night - the lasagna was great!" I pretty much discount that post/poster.
I'll admit too that husband and I were pretty much the ultimate foodies in our social circle, until we started hanging out with Chowhounds folk. We love good meals and good service and won't put up with much else, but I'm not nearly as good with details as TDQ and others. The monthly thread gives me a chance to say "I had the lamb dish" while I would be hesitant to post a whole new topic unless I remembered every detail of the experience.
That said, I wouldn't be too sad if they were gone, my posts would likely go elsewhere, but I certainly don't have an aversion to them.
Just a side note: being "good with details" is something I've really worked at over the years and I'm so flattered when you say I am "good with details" because I pale in comparison to so many talented posters on Chowhound. I do hope I've improved over the years, but I think I have a long way to go.
And, I don’t think you have to be a food expert to post here on chowhound. It can be intimidating at first, but people aren’t here to judge your food writing skills. They are here to learn and think about food thoughtfully themselves, and, of course, find out the best places to get great chow.
But, I will tell you that whenever I eat out, especially when I'm eating at a new place, or a dish I haven't tried before, I do it with the expectation that I will be posting about it later. I bring pen and paper and take notes (discreetly) about not just what I ordered, but also how the dish was described by my server and on the menu (ie., in terms of preparation and such). I bring my little camera and discreetly if I can snap a photo of my meal, as well as the menu, to help jog my memory of what it looked like.
I don't think I have a super refined palate, so, if there's a flavor or ingredient in there I'm not sure of, I try to ask about it if I can. I try to remember to ask if they make this sauce or that beverage "in house."
I ask my dining companions to taste my dish and tell me what they taste and smell and what they think the texture and fragrance are like so I can see if I agree and taste and smell what they do.
And I try to read a lot of posts by people who I think are really talented in writing about food, like lots and lots of our fellow chowhounds!
It's an art, and it takes practice, and that is why we are all here, of course, to learn more. (P.S. I think you're selling yourself short, Kate. ;-) )
I also enjoy the mid month and month end posts. But I also am not using this board
to do searches on particular places. I actually don't know how to do a search, and
would like to know how.
wow i had no idea these threads were such a big deal, or that a version of them wasn't on all of the regional boards. i guess i haven't been here long enough to get annoyed by them. i haven't contributed to any of these threads, and i agree that the "laundry list" format is blah and usually boring.
but, i do think that the format does mean that some of the non-bright-and-shiny-new-star places get a little nod on chowhound. i've seen some folks mention little or older places (or places where the food is blah but the pie is good, etc) that probably might not make the boards otherwise, & i think that's a good thing for general discussion. when pressed about EVERYWHERE you ate in the last month or so sometimes you'll catch someone out-- "hey i go to this little old-school gyro place that is down the block from my house" or "found myself at a horrible chain restaurant because the in-laws dragged us and the salad was wilted and nasty but i was surprised at how good the "green bean fries" were-- i think they bit the idea from that SF restaurant-- anyone know?"--- which of course leads to annoying chattiness. i do feel it would be better for searches to start new threads for these, i guess, but i think the chi-town, ohio, etc midwestern posters must HATE THE *&%$ out of MSP already for being such avid talkers.
i don't know if it is worth it or possible for the CH powers to divide the midwest board further, but it is strange to see cincinnati threads next to the one about tanpopo, & it doesn't seem to make much sense to me that MSP, Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee, & Detroit are lumped in with Kansas!? i think chi-town chowhounds in particular would start posting if they didn't have to look at MSP threads ad nauseum-- so i think that the slop-bucket that are the MSP mid-month updates do serve to reduce aspirin consumption in the rest of the great flyover region.
i guess my vote might be that the threads do serve some purpose-- for MSP and the midwest board at large-- and maybe they should stay for the time being. if we had our own board it would be different-- then they would probably definitely be clutter and need to go. most of the other MSP posters have been at this little round table longer than me so i do defer to their opinions about these items. i don't frequently search on chowhound so i think i probably have no idea of the headaches these threads cause for more frequent searchers like Danny and TDQ.
I believe the issue of breaking MSP up from the rest of the midwest has been brought up several times and the Chowhound Team have said it's not possible at this point.
I'm not understanding how the monthly threads screw up searches (I search about once a week for something specific). There are plenty of search results that have only a snippet of information on a restaurant - which is what might happen when your search turns up a monthly update thread. I'm not getting how the monthly threads specifically make searching harder.
Chicago has their own board, thats why you don't see them much on the midwest board.
I also see a board of our own as a solution to this. We'd have a place for the short, simple comments to not get lost - without needing to blog about where we ate. We have enough discussion and participants (both online and at our Chowdowns) to support it.
There's a place for the "I loved the lamb at Athens Cafe, what else should I try?" threads. They're getting lost in the shuffle now, and the mid-month/month end update threads shouldn't be the solution to the problem.
As for the impact on search, try searching for places that opened around the time of the start of the updates - like Il Vesco Vino. ( http://www.chowhound.com/search?item_... ) There's one discussion that involves the place, but some of the most informational comments are in four different the mid-month/month end update threads, and you have to dig deep into each of them to find the latest info. If they were all in a single thread about the place, it would be a lot more helpful to someone considering the restaurant.
Got it Danny. I usually just search (Edit/Find) for the specific phrase I'm looking for once I'm in a search result, mostly because I've found this "problem" true for a lot of my searches - there's one kernel of information on a topic within a longer thread.
Since we're talking about this, I really prefer the more topical threads versus restaurant specific threads. Things like 'Afghan in MSP' versus 'Tanpopo is wonderful' - just because they provide a broader spectrum of information. Of course I like specific recommendations on dishes, but my eyes do glaze over when there's multiple paragraphs about one entree (although I know others like that).