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Jul 3, 2007 01:52 PM

Introducing Places

There's a new feature on the boards that I hope you like. We're calling it Places.

Often there's a discussion about a place and somewhere down the thread somebody asks, "Where is this place anyway?" Now there's an easy way to explain.

Here's how it works: When you write a post, you'll notice a button at the bottom that says "Link to a Place". So if you've mentioned a particular restaurant (or shop or bar) in your post, you can then type in the name and as much of the address as you know, click Search, and some choices of listings will come up. Choose the right one, and then click “Add a Place.”

What happens then is kind of magical: the name of the place comes up below your post and on the right side of the page on which the post appears, and that name is linked to a page about that place that's been automatically created-- a stub page, in the language of wikis. (You’ll need to refresh the page to see the links.)

And it is, in fact, a wiki. Anyone can edit the information on that page. We hope that you'll continue to update the page with information about hours, atmosphere, favorite dishes-- anything that will help the Chowhounds find and learn about the places you're discussing. The page will include links back to the threads that mention the place. For example, I started a thread asking where to buy Spanish wine in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I linked to the two places I knew.

One of those places is K&L Wine Merchants. I followed the K&L link to its stub page and then added some information there about the place.

How is the content of these Places pages different than a topic? Well, discussion is, of course, opinion. We'd like to keep the wikis to an NPOV as Wikipedia puts it-- that is, a neutral point of view. This is the spot for information about what's on the menu, who's in the kitchen, tips on where to park-- any information that will enhance others' experience.

Ultimately, we hope that we'll develop the most comprehensive database on the Web of places to find deliciousness. (Or places to avoid.) The particular expertise of Chowhounds means that the information here will likely be informed, up to date, and helpful. At least that's the idea. And then the information about various places can be easily grouped and organized, much the way the Digest now summarizes posts.

Of course, whether this feature is useful depends on your interest. We hope that you'll find it promising enough to spend the time inputting information about the places you discuss. And the feature, labeled Beta, truly is in Beta form. The stub pages will grow and change. We're waiting to hear your thoughts, including what information you’d like to see added to the Places pages. We’ve got a thread started at

And for more information, please check out the FAQ:

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  1. Wow - this looks really cool.

    Question: Does the wiki entry for a place pick up any existing posts automatically? I'm thinking of several extensive reports - such as Chowdowns - that would be very helpful in a summary of this type.

    Or does a place only know about the new posts that include the actual "link to a place" feature?


    24 Replies
    1. re: AnneInMpls

      Anne, I don't think it picks up any existing posts. I just added a "wiki" for Conny's Creamy Cone, for instance (which has certainly had prior posts), and it only picks up the one I specifically linked in. I suppose you could either cut and paste a "permalink" to an old thread into the body of the wiki, OR, you could resurrect an old post for the specific purpose of adding a "link" to the place so that post will now appear with the wiki.


      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        TDQ, thanks for the info. Perhaps the next time I'm avoiding work, I'll buzz around the MSP places and add some links back to the more enduring threads/posts. (Although, for the sake of continued employment, I'd better not do too much of this.)


        P.S. It was your very post - with the Places links to Connie's and the New Hong Kong Kitchen - that let me know about this nifty new feature.

        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          TDQ, you've got it exactly. It doesn't pick up existing posts; you have to resurrect an old post (love that language) and create a link. We talked about this for a while, and we concluded that the only way to create reliable links was to have people choose the names & addresses of the places in question (or type it in themselves). Any kind of automated system would just make too many mistakes, especially when there are so many places with the same or similar names.

          1. re: jane

            I'd like to go back and add places information to all of my posts. Or maybe just the ones I've made since I registered. Either way, that will bump a couple dozen threads up to the top of the list for purely administrative purposes. If several other people started doing it I can imagine that new posts might get drowned in the torrent of revisions.

            Is it okay if I do what I have in mind? It would be nice if I could add places metadata to my old posts without having to create a new reply. Would it be possible to allow us to go back and edit our old posts and replies so that we can add this data more unobtrusively?

            1. re: stuart

              Hi Stuart, actually, I did that for a couple of posts on the Midwest board, but I realized it had the exact effect you're describing--that is, bumping old posts without adding any new chow content. Now I'm just plopping in the Places link into a thread every time someone else adds some chow content--the thread's popped to the top anyway, right? That way you don't annoy all those folks who use hot posts. And, while I'm at it, I try to add links for all of the places mentioned in the thread.

              Also, I've found you can link old threads into the "Local Knowledge" section of the wiki, which is really helpful if there's an older thread about the place that is really helpful (for instance, as I've done here for Little Szechuan):


              If you want the link to be "clickable" you have to follow this syntax very specifically:

              "Description of link--in my example Chris Mitras Little Szechuan is back thread"

              The description has to be in quotes, then a colon, then the url. No spaces.

              You can do this linking of old threads into the "Local knowledge" section of the wiki without having to bump a bunch of old threads. It's not ideal, I know, but it's a pretty good workaround, I think.

              I hope this all made sense!


              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                Thanks. That's very helpful information.

                I still think it would be helpful to allow hounds to add places to the database independent of posting. I have another idea that might be just as good and would certainly be easier to implement. What about a sticky thread in each board designated specifically for adding previously discussed restaurants to the the places database. That way we can quickly build up the places database without flooding all the forums. Users would be encouraged to reply in the thread and add places for all the places that they've discussed and also to add links to the relevant existing threads.

                It doesn't really even have to be sticky. Would it be cool if I started such a thread on my own?

                1. re: stuart

                  Stuart, we definitely want to be able to make it work so that you can add a Place without bumping up an old thread. That's something the engineers are working on. In the meantime, the Places thread is an interesting idea....offhand, I can't think of the downside. I guess we'll see.

                  1. re: jane

                    I've tried to use the 'link to place' while in edit mode for a previous post, and it doesn't appear to be functioning. Just brings me down to the last comment of the post. Could somebody please point me in the right direction? Thank you!

                    1. re: tochipotle

                      Unfortunately, you can't link to a place while in edit mode. You have to include the link in the post the first time around. Someone has suggested changing that in this thread:


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        I tried to put in links while I was composing a message and gave up. Is there a simple way to do it (simpler than what's already been described in this thread)?

                        1. re: Pan

                          Pan, yes!

                          For instance, when you open up a reply window, to post a comment about restaurant X in St. Paul, MN, you'll see in the lower left hand corner a link that says "Link to a place BETA." Click on that and a little window will pop up where you can type the "Name of Place" (restaurant X) and "Location" (St. Paul, MN), then "click search." That will bring up (hopefully) the name and address of restaurant X. Click the radio dial button next to it, then click on the orange "post my reply" button as usual. What that does is add a places "link" into your post.

                          Now, that you've created that link you (or ANYONE else) can click on that "places" link to bring up a wiki where you can then add all kinds of interesting info about the restaurant--secret menus, best dishes, ordering tips, etc. The wiki, to me, is what's valuable about the places feature. That also creates a link in it to the thread you just created, and all of the threads that ultimately get "linked" using the search feature.

                          What I was talking about earlier in this thread is adding a "clickable link" (to older threads discussing this restaurant) to the wiki itself because it seemed lousy to bump a bunch of old threads for the specific purpose of adding a link...

                          I hope that helps.


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            Right - you just have to be careful not to click on the link before you've posted, because if you do (without right clicking on the link and choosing "open new browser), it will erase your message when the page for that Place is opened in your browser. So, you add the link, post, and then click on the link to edit it.

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              MMRuth, this is the part I'm not having problems with as long as the "place" is found in the database. Very confusing!


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                I've not run into a "place" not in the database yet - but I've not been adding as many as the folks on the MSP board (smile)!

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  I just tested this - added a new (fake) place without being taken away from the page I'm posting on. If this were a real place, I'd now click on the link in my post above, and put in the relevant information. I agree that this isn't ideal, but am I missing something?

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    Yeah, I guess I should describe more. It's not that the address is new--Google maps has the address-- it's that the restaurant located at that address is new. For instance, we have a "hot" new place in St. Paul called Ngon Bistro. There used to a restaurant at that same address called Pho Anh. When you try to add a link to Ngon Bistro, the search finds Pho Anh at that address. Here's where the problem arises for me--if you start trying to fiddle around with the wiki to change the name, etc before you've hit the orange "post my reply" button. you might accidentally lose the text your post if you are flipping around to a bunch of new windows...

                                    The important thing to remember is that you can always (or, within 2 hours anyway) edit the commentary in your post using the "edit" feature. But you can only add a places link the initial time you make your post. So, do the link first, then your text. You can even "edit" your text in if you're nervous.


                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                      What happened if I tried to link to the place you created...?

                                      New York, NY, USA, New York, NY

                                      1. re: Chris VR

                                        seems to work! will try another that I created...

                                        Speed's Hotdog Wagon
                                        54 Newmarket Square, Boston, MA 02118

                        2. re: jane

                          That would be much appreciated. The bumping up of old threads just to add a link without any other new information is starting to be annoying.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            We hear you. It definitely cools down the hot posts. More news as I know it...

                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Rather than paste URLs of topics into Local Knowledge, I just add a link to the old topic.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Yes, but you have to bump up the old topic in order to do that, right? And, unless you're adding some new content along with the link, it's kind of annoying to the hot posts users, or just disppointing/confusing when people see the old topic bounce to the top, and open it hoping for something riveting and insightful as they have come to expect from Robert Lauriston, and discover, instead, that all you've done is add a places link.


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            That's a temporary situation. As discussed elsewhere in this topic, they're planning to make it possible to link a place to a topic without bumping it.

              2. Is there a way to browse the list of places, without going to an individual place's info via a link in a post? I can figure out the clunky manual way--just adding numbers to the end of the URL. But is there a link to places on the top menus somewhere that I'm missing?

                12 Replies
                1. re: rose water

                  I've been wondering that as well ....

                  1. re: rose water

                    The short answer is not yet. We do want to create local hubs, where you can search for places, look at new lists of places, see what's been recently added, etc. But we wanted to launch in stages, see what worked and what didn't (and as you can see, there are a lot of things to tweak). Next come the hubs! And if you've got any thoughts on what you'd like to see on those local hub pages, please do send 'em on over. Thanks.

                    1. re: jane

                      You should try to get some kind of search going quickly. Without it, Places isn't really very helpful.

                      At the very least, until you provide a search function, a list of Places noted in a specific Board would help greatly.

                      1. re: Carole

                        Yes, I know that it's frustrating that unless you're engaged in a thread, you can't get to Places. The engineering team is very close to a separate search function -- soon you'll be able to search places separately the way you can search posts separately. After that, we'll be working on a Places hub, with a link on the nav bar, so you can get into it that way, too.

                        1. re: jane

                          I do hope though that we as users don't using Places as a default. Meaning, it is a great and useful tool, but if people start searching Places, rather than the boards themselves, I think they may well be losing out on a lot of tips, since posters may well post on a place, but not add a "Place" for it.

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            Actually, I think that's the value of "Places" in reaching out to a bigger audience than just chowhounds. Chowhounds want to scour every last word for tips and devour the message boards. However, think about how many times we read a whiney post from someone who doesn't deal with piles of information well that it's just too hard to read threads. I know I get plenty of emails like that asking for advice (that I just ignore and delete) because its too taxing and time-consuming to read the boards (yeah, like I should write an executive summary for those babies). I think Places will serve that type of reader well, who is willing to just take information that is spoonfed without having to be discerning in who to believe or with more detail. At least the source will be relatively chowhound-ish, depending on which threads are linked up or what the wiki summary says.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              I see your point, though I guess my other concern, which I did not articulate, is that posters will put information into the Places' wikis, and not into posts. Hopefully I will be proven wrong about this.

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                That's a concern worth thinking about as well. As it stands now, Places isn't interactive, so for myself, I'm less inclined to leave any opinions (e.g., favorite dishes) there. The more fact-based stuff, such as credit card, hours, etc. I will fill in if I'm sure of them, and hope that future readers will correct them as needed when they change. It does provide a prompt of sorts for some of the details that some chowhounds have advocated for in the past for desired posting format, so i guess that's helpful.

                                I'm actually curtailing my linking to Places, unless I have something meaty to say about the spot or provide a link in my posting to a report. When this was in beta, I had thought the intent was to link up to substantial threads discussing a restaurant to create a "favorites" for community viewing. As it seems to be evolving now, the threads that are accumulating might have little substance to them at all, just a "go there" kind of rec for the place, and I don't see the value in archiving them under Places. Someone looking at the linked threads in Places as a shortcut isn't getting a reader-nominated set of links that I'd hoped this feature and over time the set might not be that different than what the search engine would turn up but with less organization in terms of chronology or relevance. Or maybe there's some hidden value there that I'm not seeing.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  To me the main benefit is that it saves time. Enter the Web site URL once and from then on it takes only a few seconds.

                                  Eventually I expect geographical search and mapping features that should be very helpful.

                                  For restaurants with search-proof names, such as Two or Taste, the topic links are very helpful.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Total agreement that those features of Places are great and will grow more useful in time. My problem is the useless of the "In the Boards" section of Places as it stands now.

                        2. re: Carole

                          Well, it's useful for one thing -- when you link to a place, you won't get any more complaints from cranks saying "what's the address of this place!? This post is WORTHLESS without an address!", because they're too lazy to do a Google search.

                          It is actually quite nice to have the address, map, and phone number right there. Too bad almost no one on the DC board seems to be using it.

                          1. re: alopez

                            I think a lot of people don't know about it- I found that when I started doing a bunch of links, I saw other people start doing it too.

                    2. EDIT: I just realized this is covered on Tech Talk. Never mind.

                      Any idea what to do about multiple Places posts with slight name variations? The Boston board now has to Places links to Sultan's Kitchen and Sultan's Kitchen Express--same joint. Given the Boston penchant for making restaurant names possessive (e.g., Place's or Places when the real name is Place) I can see problems arising.

                        1. Jane,

                          "Places" is a terrific idea. It's pretty clear where we are heading with this feature and the potential is tremendous. Some of the pitfalls have been elucidated but I think all can be overcoming with clever programming and some enterprise on the part of us Hounds.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Dave Feldman

                            Dave, I hope so. I've been noticing that many Places spring up without any extra information (what we're calling "local knowledge"), and I'm wondering if the wiki format is somehow uninviting. But I also see that some enterprising hounds have dived right in, so maybe it's just going to take time. The feedback -- pitfalls and all -- is hugely helpful.

                            1. re: jane

                              I think the wiki format is fantastic. I think it just need a chance. I hope it takes off. It seems like the whole idea of places is still in the early adoption phase. In fact, I'm the only one in Cleveland who seems to be using it.

                              1. re: jane

                                The way Places is formatted now, I think the main problem is that to fill in info in Places means that you have to do twice as much "work," and as Melanie mentions, above, it isn't as much fun to put in addresses and links as to talk about chow. But I don't see much downside to it, and plenty of upside.