More Places features
We launched phase one of Places a couple of months ago, and thanks to the dedicated work of many of you (special thanks for cleaning up the cuisine info), we’ve got a great start on a deep restaurant database. Today we debut the two most-requested additions to the feature: a way to add a Place without linking from a topic, and an easy way to get to the Places pages.
First, adding a place. If you search for a Place and don't find it, you'll see a link that says: "Didn't find what you were looking for? Add a place now." We thought that requiring a search first was the best way to direct users to the rich board & place content that we may already have, but if you think this is inconvenient, let us know.
Add a Place: http://www.chow.com/places/new
Second, finding Places. We've added hub pages. Places hub pages, like this one for Los Angeles (http://www.chow.com/places/regions/2) are the front doors to regions’ Places pages. We’ve launched with just a handful of these hubs, for some of the more trafficked regions; we’ll expand to all the boards soon. Right now, each hub has a Google map, a list of most recently added places, ways to search and browse restaurants, and recent posts. For cities that have them, there are also recent Digests. We’ll add more content as we go along.
You can find these hub pages from the top navigation bar on the front page. So, for example, if you go to the front page, click on the Places carat, you’ll see a list of regions that correspond to highly trafficked boards. Click on Manhattan and you’ll go to the Manhattan front page.
Manhattan Front Page: http://www.chow.com/places/regions/18
We've already begun work on a slew of Phase II enhancements & improvements, so look for changes in the coming months including ability to navigate through places using the map, pulling board posts onto relevant places, neighborhood browsing, saved places on "My Chow" and more.
The engineers have been working very hard on the features we are launching today and the ones to come, and of course on the frustrating technical difficulties that many of you have been having. There will be more snags, I'm sure. But please give the features a try, keep telling us what you think, and we'll keep trying to improve them.
The new, non-hidden Add A Place feature is fine except for the new LTAP design.
CH needs to explain the LTAP change (results list limit to 4 places) because it seems more like a bug than a feature. Limiting by Region is a good first step BTW.
If we don't know how the new LTAP supposed to work and why, how will we know when it's broken??
I noticed that after selecting a particular Cuisine (Vietnamese) the LA Hub map shows only the 20 most recently updated Places. Huh? I hope that was a snap decision that can be changed.
I would Expect that All of the Places for a particular cuisine would show up. I hope that CH isn't arbitrarily restricted to the limits of Google Maps e.g. 100 placemarks max per map.
Selecting the places per Neighborhood would be useful but that's in the future :-). What constitutes a 'Neighborhood' is in itself controversial.
I agree... it would be great to not be limited to the 20 most recent. I noticed there's a "see all" link, which is great. But then it goes away from the map to a laundry list. I'd much prefer to see more on the map itself.
If there's a limit to the number on the map, then perhaps there could be a user filter on which to display? For example, 'most recent' or 'most relevevant' or 'closest' (which would require the user to indicate an address... which sounds like a phase II project). At the minimum, it would be great to have the option of showing the most recent 20, 50, 100 or something like that.
Finally, the plans you describe for phase 2 sound very good. What will really make this helpful and interactive if when you can drag around a neighborhood map and see ALL the places that have been tagged... so you can do an interactive search by neighborhood, regardless of cuisine, etc. I was in chicago yesterday and needed to find a place very near O'Hare airport. So I had to search the board. and I tried searching places. What I found was hard to determine what was really close or not. But if there'd been an interactive places search in google maps, I could have simply gone to the chicago map, zoomed in on the o'hare airport and seen what was nearby. That's going to make this really, really helpful. Seriously.
It sounds like that's what you are planning for phase II right? Very cool if so.
The new "Region" field in Places items has problems. It was added after most items in the current database had been entered, and in some cases it's incorrect. Several Manhattan places were categorized as Outer Boroughs, for example. I've just finished correcting some of them, but while they now show Region=Manhattan, they still turn up in an Outer Boroughs Places search.
Another problem: If you try to change the Region to Other, the edit won't stick. Here's a Singapore restaurant that turns up under Outer Boroughs: http://www.chow.com/places/2453 . After numerous attempts to edit it, the system stubbornly continues to list its region as Outer Boroughs. Here's one more, a New Jersey place erroneously categorized under Manhattan: http://www.chow.com/places/8866
re: squid kun
Along the same lines ... here are some Outer Boroughs places that were erroneously categorized as Manhattan (haven't gotten around to fixing these):
And one Tristate Region (Other) erroneously categorized as Manhattan:
re: Morton the Mousse
In subsequent versions of the hubs, we're planning to automatically link relevant threads. In order for the content to be manageable, we'll probably provide only the most recent threads. So we will -- probably not in the next rev, but soon -- provide a way to get those relevant but old threads up there.
The new default text in the "What You Should Know" (formerly "Local Knowledge") field is:
"Please give us the who-what-when-where! (Tips like who’s in the kitchen, what to order, when to go, where to park, which table to book…or anything you think is important.)"
I don't think "what to order" belongs there. That's a matter of opinion and sometimes strong disagreement, so it should be discussed on the boards.
To avoid edit wars, the wiki fields should be limited to noncontroversial factual information only.
Previous thread on this:
re: Robert Lauriston
I helped update the cuisine field for a few hundred Place records to help out the launch of the new hub feature. So I saw quite a few records and hope this will stand because I have some strong feelings about this based on what I saw.
The wiki feature, especially the option of filing in "what to order" distinguishes Chow from every other food forum / restaurant site on the web. To me it is the value added part of the site.
First of all people are using that section. I suspect that a few new posters are using it instead of posting on Chowhound but from what I saw that was a microscopically small percentage. Actually this section doesn't get used that much currently.
I've been using that section to pick out what to order from mainly static, small joints that don't get a lot of traffic. If there are comments from a poster about a particular dish, I do a cut and paste eliminating personal comments.
That helps me when I decide to go to that place. Reading Chowhound posts the first time is fun, however having to re-read them when I'm ready to go to a joint ... I rarely get to it. So the wiki is a quick reference.
BUT from day one I knew anything in that section could be here today, gone tommorrow.
So, if I'm ready to go back and the info has been changed ... oh well ... no biggie ... the links to the posts are still there.
That information isn't as dynamic as the boards. That is, once someone enters info in the wiki, I doubt most people will go back and keep track of the info there.
On the other hand, the dynamic format of the Chowhound boards encourages discussion and controversy and topics are more in your face. The My Chow page alerts posters about continued discussion on recent topics.
I read Yelp a lot ... sometimes wading through over 100 reviews to find out the general consensus is that a certain restaurant has three or four recommended dishes. To have that information summed up in the wiki would have been invaluable to me ... a real time-saver.
What drew me to Yelp in the first place was I knew I could easily get high-level restaurant information there ... address, phone, website, etc. With Places I can get that info on Chowhound ... and ... hopefully ... some high-level info on what to order.
I don't really see how this could be restricted without turning it off. Based on what I've been reading, people are going to use it the way they want to use it.
I would hope that the probably few problems with a wiki feature can be handled through Chow policy rather than restriction ... and without taking the feature away altogether, It is one of the parts of Chow I love only second to the boards.
It can and should be restricted the same way the boards are kept free of spam and off-topic discussion: set policy and enforce it.
I guarantee you that if opinion is allowed, many restaurant owners will make sure it's positive.
Information on what to order *is* dynamic. Restaurants go uphill and downhill; chefs leave; dishes go on and off the menu. One of the advantages of Chowhound most often touted by regulars is that the tips are fresher than elsewhere.
Two enhancement requests:
I think the optional phone number field in the manual "Add a place" dialog is a poor choice, since there are at least three more useful fields:
Website (which if available will provide the phone number)
Type of place
Also, if those were available when choosing a place from the "Other places" dialog people would be more likely to add them.
As I browse through the LA and SF Place hubs I'm realizing:
- Adding Regions corresponding to all location Boards should (?) eliminate the issue with the crippled 'Other' non-region.
- The Place hub (region) page layout really needs work.
Ditch the map, Most Recently Updated list and lists of gratuitous topics and digests.
ONCE a cuisine subset of the region is selected, THAT page should show the map and a list of (all?) Places for that cuisine. Below that a list of Most Recent topics of that region and cuisine would be extremely useful. The ObList of digests and recipes could follow.
- Searching by neighborhood doesn't really sound useful without arbitrary definitions. I've found searching Places by city is more helpful and accurate. Well, except for really geographically large cities like Los Angeles.
- Add a Place needs to show up on a lot more pages around the site.
We're finding people search for neighborhood as much or more than they search for cuisine; still, we're working to make the map display whatever search you're performing. Ultimately, the map will sub for the neighborhood (or vice versa). That is, you'll be able to drag the map around to find the place you want.
On the "add a place" feature -- Jim Leff schooled me on this, and I've tried to be a good student: We want to make sure that everyone has searched what's already available before additions are allowed. It's annoying when somebody asks a question that's been asked and asked before; likewise, we didn't want to have people simply adding places before they've searched what's in the database. That said, we're trying to ensure that adding a place that's already in the database doesn't create a duplicate, and when we're certain we've got that working, then we can show "Add a Place" on more pages around the site.
Just wanted to clarify that in reference not to "add a place" (which Jane's talking about above) but re: regular old message board postings, repetitive questions are actually good for the resource, as they allow us to track ups/downs/closings of places, so we can cover, in real time, the ever-changing food scene. Also, every new go-round of a same-old question catches fresh opinions and tips from newcomers who weren't around for the previous.
re: Jim Leff
I'm becoming a believer in the "repetitive questions are good" philosophy--we had four posts last month asking for authentic philly cheesesteak sandwiches in the Twin Cities. The first three posts drew no good recommendations, but wouldn't you know that the fourth yielded a recommendation that seems like a real winner! Things change, people come and go...
re: The Dairy Queen
For the tiny minority who compulsively read everything every day for long periods of time (like you, me, and the moderators), the repetion gets a little annoying. It makes Chowhound slightly less of a compelling "read". But it makes us a vastly more useful resource for the multitudes coming to us for cutting-edge eating advice.
Static judgements about the ever-dynamic food scene are useless (see this NY Post article, in which, incidentally, I was quoted: http://www.nypost.com/seven/09262007/... ). The solution is constant refreshment and rehashing of just about everything. Fresh tips. Fresh opinions. Fresh news. Constant reevaluation. God bless the Internet, which makes this possible (do any of you remember what it was like in 1996 trying to get cutting edge skinny?).
One problem with searching for previously entered places is that if users are doing it via the "Link to a place" route, they're asked to select a region. And unfortunately there are many places, entered before the region field was introduced, that do not bear the correct region and thus won't show up in a search.
For example, I've been focusing on New York places, and I figure there must be dozens, entered before the region field existed, that wound up erroneously categorized as region=Other (instead of Manhattan or Outer Boroughs). Time permitting, I've been trying to find and fix them, but in the meantime users are unwittingly creating duplicate places. Highly frustrating.
OK, I added some Bagel places in the LA region.
Where is the Bagel map? Inquiring bagel hunters want to know :-) ....
re: The Dairy Queen
No, I think we'll be able to add hubs without splitting the boards. (Splitting the boards, we've found, is a complicated and booby-trapped process, so while we intend to do that in many cases -- including the ridiculously broad "midwest" -- we're also aware it may be better not to wait for new boards to create new hubs.)
That's terrific news, jane, thank you. I've heard before that the board-splitting is complicated, so, I'm glad to know that that process won't hold up the rolling out of hubs. For the record, (and it might be a minority opinion) I don't think it's terrible to have us Midwesterners share a single board as long as people remember to indicate city and state on their posts. I wonder if, in fact, the new hubs might even make it easier for Midwesterner to share a single board.
re: The Dairy Queen
Probably the most complicated part is getting previous discussions assigned to the right region, which turns out to be a time-consuming, error-prone task. Headlines work great -- and here's a plug for descriptive headlines for topics in general, which help a lot in focusing discussion as well as searching. Even if you're compulsively reading everything (like Jim).
Sorry, I am trying to add some Korean restaurants to the Ontario borad, but I am having difficulties. I entered "Chowon", and it came up as one of the choices, but when I clicked it, this came up:
Hut Korean Restaurant
Ontario (including Toronto) - 5515 Yonge Street North York ON
I changed the header and added my comments, but it did not save properly.
Chowon Family Restaurant
17 Drewry Ave.
Toronto Ontario M2M 1C9
I hope the right info goes up - and I get used to the "Places Function".
An update on places development: This morning we added a new element to the places pages "Other Topics". While "Linked Topics" shows board topics that contain an explicit link to the place. "Other Topics" is showing posts that mention the place, but don't contain a specific link to it. This should help to fill out some of the places with relevant information from board discussions that happened before the place was added to the database. For an example, see this record: http://www.chow.com/places/9737 You'll see that it was linked in a post yesterday, but it also was mentioned in posts in 2006 and 2002.
Hooray! This bug was resulting in the inadvertent creation of Chow places for hairdressers, travel agencies, and other businesses that just happened to share a name with a restaurant.
I seem to recall reading that places could not be deleted. Is this still true? If that problem has also been solved, I have some candidates for deletion that I can pass along to the staff.