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Dec 9, 2007 08:07 AM

Chowhound is dead


You know, I really liked the old chowhound. The text-only interface, the small, dedicated group of users, the nested boards, etc.

And then the redesign came, and it was pretty nice. I'm a web designer myself so I have no problem with flashy interfaces.

And then, perhaps lured by the new site's ease of use, came a horde of internet stumble-upons who are decidedly NOT chowhounds. Each and every day (at least on the Manhattan board) there appears another first-time poster who prefaces their question with "I'm not an adventurous eater and here are the food I don't like..." They don't search the site; they don't search google; they don't ask their friends; they just post--blindly--and ask the board's seasoned members to direct them to the lowest common denominator. Maybe you should hit up the the Olive Garden, Times Square branch to take out an ad. Talk about synergy!

The masthead that appears at the top of every page says "Chowhound: For Those Who Live To Eat." When was the last time that was actually true around here?

  1. The original comment has been removed
    1. Despite the fact that computers and internet technology are fully ingrained in our society, there are still many people that are intimidated by search technology like Google. Their eyes glaze over when they enter search terms and Google tells them that the first page contains 10 of 10 million hits.

      It can be daunting to those who still believe that hitting the right (or wrong) series of keys on their home PC will launch the nuclear arsenal and they will be responsible for the end of known life on the planet.

      I certainly understand your frustration with the questions you see on the Manhattan board. On the Southwest board, we are often asked about whether or not there is any decent Mexican restaurant in Phoenix metro or someone will state they are coming to Scottsdale and want a recommendation, but don't mention where they are. And since the actual city of Phoenix is nearly 500 square miles in size and Scottsdale is 30 miles long from top to bottom, we end us asking posters to be more specific so we can guide them.

      There are a couple of options for you, though. You can either 1) ignore those posts, 2) provide the lowest common denominator, or 3) make someone a new chowhound.

      Why not tackle those posters with #3? You can gently guide them to someplace that won't scare them, but will slightly push them into trying something new. I do that all the time when people ask about Mexican restaurants in Phoenix. They don't want "too spicy" or hate pinto beans or don't understand how/why there is chocolate in mole. But, there are excellent, outstanding, chowhoundish Mexican eateries in Phoenix metro that will satisfy their requirements and also get them to try something more exotic than the chicken burrito at El Torito or Chevy's.

      If people don't want to take your advice, that is their problem. But think outside of the box for your sake and for theirs.

      The only way we are going to win the war against bad food and lousy restaurants is to bring the chowhound-worthy restaurants into the spotlight. It is a slow process, but we are gaining ground.

      Please remember that we all weren't born chowhounds. Some of us needed a guiding hand and to be challenged. Reach out to those people. Cut them some slack. Offer them a challenge.

      Even if only a couple of people take you up on your advice, that is a few more people that are taking their first steps to becoming Chowhounds.

      That is a good thing, no?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Seth Chadwick

        I appreciate the response. I just don't feel that it should be my (our) place to a) teach people how to use the internet or b) turn people who willfully ask for banal recs into chowhounds.

        These boards used to be pretty exclusive. Only real 'hounds bothered to post here and the discussions were in-depth and probative. I wish it could have stayed that way. As for ignoring the posts, that's tough--they're all over the place. And they clog the board and the searches.

        Some discussion forums have a waiting period before your first post or force new members to post some number of times before they can start a thread. Now, that's completely impractical here because you can't expect anyone to post three responses on the Manhattan or Phoenix board if they've never been there. But you could require them to at least do some number of searches to see if their question has already been asked and answered before. Or give them a one-day waiting period before they can start a thread to discourage "impulse posts" and encourage a little poking around on their own.

        I used to think that there was no real sense of discovery anymore because so much information can be found instantly on the internet. Now, it seems like not only are people unwilling to do old-fashioned research (Zagat's anyone?), but they're unwilling to research on the internet as well. They just want someone to spoon-feed them their answer. They're lazy (and for the most part not at all into food) and this website is becoming less and less interesting and useful because of them.

      2. I love this site so much specifically *because* I can post a query and get an immediate answer from real live people who love to cook and eat. I look at it like this: the more posters on Chowhound, the better the chance that whatever I'm asking about will get a response. I am constantly googling and searching on the web for feedback about area restaurants and recipes to try, but nothing beats what I've found here. Any question I've posed on this site has always been answered differently than what I've gotten off a search engine or recipe it!!!

        2 Replies
        1. re: diablo

          Diablo, I see that you're an avid, regular Chowhound user. As am I; as is Mr. Chadwick above. We are the types who fuel the real discussion on these boards.

          Those against whom I'm ranting are the ones who ask one question, get their answer, and leave. Once their trip to New York is over or their big 30th birthday dinner out has been eaten, they're gone. They don't stick around afterward to give immediate answers to anyone because they *don't* live to cook and they don't have anything to offer.

          "Discussion board" implies two-way communication. Citysearch, Tripadvisor, Zagat, Menupages, New York Magazine, the New York Times--all of these other information sources exist. I just wish that these people would look elsewhere first so that we don't have to hold their hands.

          1. re: jakew8

            I hear ya, jake, but I even get something from the 'one shot' posters, just because it always involves feedback. I do understand what you are saying, don't get me wrong, but I look at it as a given for this kind of site. It's so good, there's no way it could have stayed under wraps for long. I liked the old Epicurious better than the new, but times change and you gotta roll with it. Hopefully your post will encourage more people to's actually easier in the long run for specific questions.

        2. Oh come on...this sounds like the people who want to close the gates to the country club once they become a member. I get exasperated by posts like: "What's the best restaurant in Manhattan??????" but I was there once. I appreciate hounds who tell me about the best restaurant in a hill town in Puglia, but CH has become so much more inclusive since it went to the new format, and has garnered so much press. I use the word "inclusive" diplomatically. I just ignore the really dopey posts.

          1. You know, I discovered Chowhound through a google search on "the best place to eat in _____ " (Don't remember the city....). And although I started out probably being that random poster you don't like, somewhere along the way I became a regular poster and learned a lot about food and restaurants I didn't know. I made friends, and even discovered that my own twin sister was already posting on the site, previously unbeknownst to me.

            If you want to have more folks like you on the site, tell people you know that share your passion for food. And show a little patience for folks who stumble upon the site....they may yet become hounds. Some day you may find yourself traveling to unknown territories or even (as is happening to me right now) moving...and the help of chowhounds may go a long way towards making you feel at home in unfamiliar places....

            1 Reply
            1. re: janetofreno

              You are always so cordial... so nice... I was going to post something more succinct like, "Get over it and stop being so into yourselves, " but I like what you said much better...:-}
              Thank you for stating your thoughts so eloquently.