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Asking for Help from Specific Posters

Recently a visitor to San Francisco posted a few questions to that board, and in his or her title included prompts to specific frequent posters who should reply. For example: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/500435

This started a conversation that seems better continued here than on the San Francisco board. Is there a written or tacit rule about this?

Personally, I certainly understand feeling like certain posters are more in line with my tastes--that's why we have the "People I'm reading" function so that we can follow them. However, I did feel that it was a bit rude to single out certain people.

The joy of Chowhound is to get responses from lots of people, some seasoned pros, some first-time posters with fresh perspectives, and for me the "et al" tacked on to the end of the title didn't convey the sense of welcome that the OP may have intended.


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  1. In the old Chowhound days, composing a message title soliciting a response from a specific Chowhound poster would get the message deleted. Not many of Chowhound's draconian moderating policies seemed like good ideas, but this one did.

    While it is a universal human trait to associate with folks with whom one has an affinity, Chowhound is about community. Entitling a post to solicit responses from certain Chowhounds subtly discourages other Chowhounds.

    1. Even though I was one of the people singled out in that header, I have to agree. I think it's rude to say blatantly that you want some people's opinions and not others. Someone who may have had something of value to add might be turned off (and ironically, I didn't post to that thread, because I'm not personally familiar with three of the four places mentioned).

      Furthermore, like all online communities, the number of people who post is tiny compared to the people who "lurk," many of whom when asked why they don't post will say they're afraid that their contributions won't be good enough or they'll be treated harshly. Singling out people just adds to those people's feelings that the boards are cliquish or that their contributions wouldn't be welcomed.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        I agree - I don't see this happen often, but I also think that it can lead to a cliquishness (is that a word?) that I would not like to see develop on Chowhound.

        1. re: MMRuth

          Being new to CH, I must say that I already feel there IS "cliquishness." (I think I liek that word.)

          However, posts that solicit replies from specific people are indeed excluding others.

          1. re: miss_bennet

            I've been around for a couple of years - which on CH is by no means a veteran - and it is easy to sometimes fall into a familiarity with certain posters on the boards that one posts on regularly. I try to avoid that, but I think some of it just floats to the top, even if one doesn't mean it to.

            On some boards - like Not About Food - some of the same posters have the same discussions over and over again. On Home Cooking, there are a lot of us who post a lot, and so we may refer to things that actually aren't obvious to others - I'll work on that! Your post is a good reminder of the possible (unintended - by me at least) consequences of that sort of posting.

            One of the things I love about Chowhound IS the community aspect of it - but it should always be a welcoming community.

            P.S. I do think the same familiarity grows on the regional boards - after a while, you get to know who likes what and why, and so end up referring to that etc. But I'm always thrilled to get great deliciousness tips from new hounds!

        2. re: Ruth Lafler

          On the MidAtlantic Board this singling out is common; especially among a few Hounds who have met offline. Tag lines like "I agree with (posters name) and phrases that single out specific Hounds as having a restaurant preference that holds more weight than another Hound is not only rude-play but boring. For those folks, no amount of tact or Mod support seems to deter it. So once again, it's take what you like and leave the rest..for the rest of us...some Hounds just need the limelight...and I'll continue to giggle at how ridiculous that need is.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Ruth, what a terrific observation! Frustration and hesitation about "coming out" as a lurker to a fellow participatant is common among many of my friends who enjoy CH because providing & sharing CHOW tips doesn't seem to be enough...having those experiences flamed, challenged or ridiculed (and we all know the diff btwn a flame & another great perspective) just isn't worth the hassle.

          2. I agree with all of the reasons why people should be discouraged from calling out specific people to respond to their postings.

            One solution might be to make a point of not responding when referenced. On the San Francisco Bay Area board, many posts in the past have asked for Melanie Wong's opinions specifically, and it appears that she never responds to those posts that call her out, though I might have missed cases when she did. Seems like good practice that will, over time, discourage people from repeatedly calling out specfic people to respond.

            (Of course I don't mean that one should never respond when referred to -- I, for instance, responded to Dave MP's recent Bar Jules post in which he asked if I'd chime in after we happened to see each other at dinner one night. I'm talking about the case of a poster soliciting advice from specific people outside of the context of a shared occasion. Chowish lawyers might be able to find the gray area here and suggest a case where my distinction melts into ambiguity, but until then ... .)

            1. It's a behaviour we really discourage. As Ruth noted, it's a real turn off for many posters who might have had an opinion, and it comes very close to crossing over the line of telling other hounds what they can and can't post (which is definitely not allowed). It also puts the named posters on the spot to answer, which is unfair to them.

              The great strength of the Chowhound community is in the large number of people who come here to swap tips, bringing with them many perspectives and data points. Singling out only a few people is self-defeating, and it doesn't help build that community.

              This poster has said that she meant no harm, so we leave it up to the posters (named and unnamed) on the SF Bay Area board to decide whether they want to respond to her query. In the future, however, we may edit the title on, or remove and ask for a repost of, threads of this nature.

              2 Replies
              1. re: The Chowhound Team

                Is it okay to single out someone to thank them? (i.e., for a recipe or restaurant rec, etc.)

                1. re: Val

                  I don't see anything wrong with that. It's a common practice amongst veteran posters, and I've never seen someone object to it.

              2. Thank you pane for starting this thread and all of those who added their wisdom. I am glad I am not the only one who feels this way...

                1. Can't recall seeing this type of post on the LA board but I do recall at least one instance when the OP said something along the lines of "Only Original NY and NJ Born and Raised Hounds Need Reply" which I suppose is treading along the same lines (and may be even more exclusionary and worse to some degree).

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Servorg

                    I followed this thread over from the SF/Bay Area board. I am a newbie Chowhound who resides in Vancouver. The reason I read the SFBA board (and even dare to post there!) is that I think San Francisco is a remarkable city (food, people, setting, location, transit, the list is endless) and I go there as often as possible. I was not put off by the mention of the individuals as it did not seem to be in bad faith by the OP but I think I can see why people might be, especially if they weren't familiar with that particular board and its posters. I have been made to feel incredibly welcome there which was especially nice since I posted there asking for help with an upcoming trip itin, and I know that those Hounds are continually bombarded by such requests. At any rate, it encouraged me to continue to lurk a lot and post a bit, as well as branch out to my local board, which covers a massive geographic area. My one grump so far about posts (and heaven help me, I'm sure I've offended in this way) is when it's not obvious from the title where you're posting from/about when the board covers a large area...

                  2. I'm relatively new to CH and have to lend another opinion about this. I can certainly understand the potential negative issues associated with this, however, I have to say that I was extremely flattered to have been one of the people singled out in the post. Its a post that I might not have responded to if I had not seen my handle in the title. I also have had my feelings hurt in the past (when I was a *very* new poster) b/c many of the CH "old-timers" did not like my opinions about certain things and were not afraid to say so. It definitely seemed like a clique-y thing.

                    The fact that opinionated says "et al" at the end of the thread title, to me, shows consideration for the other CH's and opens the thread up to everyone. If I didn't have anything to contribute, even though I was singled out, I would say so, or not post at all. Its as simple as that. I think that people are being a little too sensitive here. If this starts to become a problem, then let's address it, but until then, let's just be the wonderful community that we are.

                    16 Replies
                    1. re: chemchef

                      I can completely understand why you felt flattered (I would too) - but I worry about the converse - other newish (and old time ones, for that matter) posters who are excluded from the list of names, and who therefore may feel alienated, or as if their opinion counts for less.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        I would hope that people on this site realize that some people's opinions/tastes more closely match theirs than others. That's all. I don't see that as offensive in any way... its just the nature of this type of site.

                        1. re: chemchef

                          I do agree that different posters are looking for different things, and also have different tastes about the same things - I just find it a little clubby when people do that. And who wants to be "et al."?

                          Edit - Actually, the more I think about it, I cringe when I see people do that. I just feel as if it's a way of saying, explicitly, "I value A's opinion over B's". I figure that responses are responses - sometimes they come from posters' whose tastes I know and I agree with, and sometimes they are tips about places I would never of thought of from posters I've never heard of, and that leads me to explore further. And some responses, while they might not help me today, will help someone else tomorrow. After all, at the end of the day, CH is about finding answers for me, but also suggestions that others might like as well, if if I might not.

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            I guess I'm just not that sensitive. I mean, who gives a crap about being "et al"? If I have something to say, I say it, and if I don't then I don't. Like I said earlier, I probably would not have responded to that post had I not seen my handle in the title. In that respect, the OP got the desired response. Its unfortunate that people get their feelings hurt so easily. I think its useful if its used appropriately. Just take it with a grain of salt.

                            And "clubby"? I didn't even know who the OP was, so how can it be clubby? Besides, there's a heck of a lot of other clique-y-ness that goes on here that nobody even bats an eye at!

                            1. re: chemchef

                              To be clear - my feelings don't get hurt - not that soft skinned. But I've just noticed that on some boards, some posters seem to dominate over others, in such a way that some that have a lot to contribute feel intimidated. I think at this point we should perhaps agree to disagree!

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                I agree with MMRuth. As one of the "et al" people, my first reaction was "who is this person from out of town and why is she deciding who counts and who doesn't?" I know she'll say that the people she singled out were the ones she felt had preferences similar to her own. But had she really spent enough time on the board to be sure? Or did she risk alienating others who might have contributed? It's not a big deal, just something to consider.

                              2. re: chemchef

                                As MMRuth says, on some -- maybe even most -- boards a small handful of posters are predominant. Because those are the names and opinions most recognizable to a casual poster, those are the names that are going to be called out. The more those posters are "called out" the more they will predominate, and it becomes a vicious cycle.

                                If someone pulls up chowhound and sees the same names over and over again, they're going to perceive the board as clubby and not welcoming to outsiders and be disinclined to post. So that one poster might have gotten the response she wanted, but the community as whole loses.

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  The same posters come up over and over again anyway, Ruth. Take it from a newby. Unfortunately, even in this thread, for the most part you all have been around here for awhile. I'm not sure you understand where I'm coming from as a new person (or other newbies for that matter). I'd just like to see some of the new blood's opinions be given more credit.

                                  1. re: chemchef

                                    "I'd just like to see some of the new blood's opinions be given more credit."

                                    That is exactly what I'm trying to say. If that didn't come across, I apologize. My whole reason for posting on this thread is that I think that the calling out to posters inhibits that.

                                    1. re: chemchef

                                      I would like to see new people (and less frequent posters) get more credit, too. That's my point. And I think if you hadn't been flattered (by your own admission) to have been singled out in this case, you might feel the same way.

                                      There's nothing we can do about regular posters having a high profile on the boards. But we don't have to make their names even more prominent by allowing them to be called out in big type in message headers.

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        That's a nice thought, both of you. But, you both seem to have been around CH for awhile...

                                        Many other things about CH have inhibited my postings more than a few people being mentioned in a title. In fact, I see people mentioned in a title and think, "hmmm, maybe I should check these posters out..."

                                        And, like I said, I wouldn't have even posted had I not seen my name mentioned. I think its encouraging to newbies to see their name mentioned.

                              3. re: chemchef

                                The nature about sites like this is that one person might pose the question, but thousand or more who read along stand to benefit from the answers.

                                So rather than encourage replies that most suits an individual's taste, it is best to encourage the full range of replies from people with diverse tastes so that everyone reading along can decide for themselves what they want to eat. That way it's beneficial to many, not one.

                            2. re: chemchef

                              One of the things to remember is that criticizing a restaurant that you like is not a criticism of you! It's a common misconception, and it's important to get past that.

                              At the same time, many of the "old-timers" do try to be extra diplomatic when disagreeing with newer posters. It's not just being nice, but there's also the selfish motivation that newer posters = more information on where to eat deliciously. I know many of the venerable hounds have been kind to me in the past.

                              One of the happiest things for chowhound should be when someone says "Your favourite places sucks, xyz is better." If I really liked my favourite place, I'd be dying to try a place that's so much better than my favourite!

                              It's not about how good people think you are or even how good you are. It's all about how much deliciousness you eat.

                              1. re: limster

                                I have to disagree a bit here. I think it's practically impossible not to hear "your favorite place sucks" without getting your hackles up a bit- because it implies that your taste sucks for liking such a place. Maybe it shouldn't be so, but I think it often comes across that way.

                                I do agree that it's always important to phrase your response delicately (whether responding to a newbie or a longtime hound) when you are offering an opinion that is not complimentary to their favorite. I'd rather not hear "Your favourite places sucks, xyz is better." but if someone said "If you like *your favorite place*, try xyz, I think it's better." I would be excited to check it out.

                                  1. re: Chris VR

                                    You're absolutely right -- the normal human reaction is going to be as you described. (Although I did use an extreme example; most hounds aren't going to say a place sucks, but might mention that the didn't think the service or food was good etc...)

                                    What I'm suggesting is that we need to overcome that initial reaction to a criticism of something we hold dear, and keep an open mind. Ignore the attitude and go after the information. It's hard, but that's a very useful way to maximize a resource such as CH. Looking back, I realize that chow-wise I've been wrong as much as (or more than) I've been right. Thus, it's been really good for my eating habits to at least listen to the criticism, whether they were diplomatic or not, and give other places a whirl. Afterall, I'm here so that I can exploit all those chowhounds out there in order to eat better.

                                    Digressing a bit, there are many so-called "board favourites" that a lot of people on a given regional board seem to like. But sometimes it's surprising how many contrary viewpoints there are about such places that people were just afraid to mention because they fear getting beaten down. That's bad, because it encourages groupthink and discourages diversity. And when there's an opportunity to actually air those opinions, we might find that the supposedly popular places aren't really as popular as they seem.

                                    are some examples from the Boston Board.

                              2. Jfood has been the target of a couple of titles and although it is flattering it is also somewhat embarassing. There are many posters that jfood reads immediately and others he tries to avoid. And that is the beauty of free thinking people.

                                Yes once or twice jfood has responded to a particular poster who has lead him to some great spots inone town and happens to live in a different part of the country. It is convenient when you are told to go to city A and you have no idea where to eat, and know that poster B happens to live there. Would jfood post the name on the title, not really, but buried in a thread it's not that big a deal.

                                Does jfood respond to titles that he is excluded from, sure. He is here to add to the conversation. But as others have stated if it causes even one new poster to hesitate then placing handles in the title should be avoided.

                                The number of posters in jfood 'hood rotate faster than a calliope and new posters pop up like prairie dogs, so he hopes that anyone who is think of posting hits that "post my reply" button, adds to the thread and gets comfortable with the process.

                                1. pane, a thoughtful issue and well put on your part.

                                  I sometimes feel bad not being a part of any US location clique... er, board. I have to vicariously but enjoyably lurk along the Manhattan, DC, elsewhere in California, and Pacific NW boards.

                                  "My" boards seem to be home cooking, Greater Asia, and South America. People do get to know one-another through "home cooking". If common tastes and approaches constitute a clique, so be it--but join right in!

                                  Unfortunately, "my" regional Asia and South America boards are very sparsely populated--making us either small cliques (to which you all are more than welcome) or just outlier groups. I mean lol there are more Kosher discussants than both Greater Asia and South America combined.

                                  And inevitably, I do read postings of fellow Asian Americans and Japanese Americans--but here again, I've found that we're probably not a clique at all given the active and more than welcome participation of many non-Asian Americans in what might be considered Asian American topics (and so as not to further offend anyone, I mean for things like, "How did your mom prepare New Year's mochi? and not about, "How do you prepare Kung Pao chicken?")!

                                  Finally, and back to topic, I fully agree that calling a few does tend to discourage and exclude others--especially for such well populated and rich boards such as Manahattan and San Francisco. On the other hand, I once got such a "call" for recommendations in Cartagena, Colombia. I think that that was OK. Seeing my name wasn't so much flattering as, "Hey, Fool, wake up, this call is for you!"

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    Yes, that brings up the one reason why I could see using someone's name in a topic line. If that person hasn't been on Chowhound for a while, and you're not sure if they are still even around, then I could see putting their name in the title if you think they are an expert on your specific topic. Otherwise, I could completely do without it!

                                  2. In my case, I saw the original thread title on the SF board, figured it was intended for the folks mentioned (et al didn't do much for me as I presumed that referred to others in whatever group it was) and didn't read it. I didn't have a problem with it but until this thread was started here on Site Talk I didn't actually click onto the original. It may not be much of a loss for one commenter/poster to skip a thread, but it might add up and it is some level of a loss of potential input.