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Feb 22, 2010 12:05 PM

Chowhound vs eGullet

I'd love to hear your thoughts about the distinctions between the two. Do many folks who are frequent posters on CH also post on eG? What does eG offer that CH does not -- and vice versa? If you read/write on both, which do you prefer, and why?

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  1. Interesting question.

    I enjoy Chowhound's topical forums, like this one. However, my home board is UK/Ireland and I don't contribute too often there. This is mainly because it is very London-centric and really has very minimal postings about the rest of the two countries. Most threads tend to be started by folk visiting London from abroad, requesting information - rather than folk contributing their experiences. It's a significant problem, IMO, of all regional boards that are not north American. I believe most casual viewers of the UK/Ireland board would think it one for American tourists or ex-pats. It is only when you use it for a while that your realise there are some Brits and Irish folk there. I actually don't find it much of a useful resource even if I was visiting London.

    On the other hand, egullet UK/Ireland board has almost exclusively British & Irish posters. They are also contributing about restaurants throughout the country and a full spread of quality - from back street curry cafe to Michelin starred places. Because of that, it's where I post my restaurant reviews and, also, where I get most of my online tips for dining around the country. It's also the place there can be wide-ranging discussions about the dining experience in the two countries.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      It would be interesting, I think, if this same question was posted on eGullet. You might find out why folks in the UK and Ireland don't post here more often.

      1. re: CindyJ

        Well, I know a couple of other egulleters who also post to Chowhound. I suspect the main reason more of them don't (and those of us who do, don't post more) will be pretty much the same as mine - that CH just doesnt offer as much as egullet for us. Of course, it's possible that with CH being as London-centric as it is, other egulleters may simply never have come across CH. I hadnt until I was planning a trip to America and it came up on Google for some town or other that I was searching for.

        1. re: Harters

          What I observed, in a fairly quick perusal of eGullet, was that for my particular area (I'm in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA) there was much more emphasis on places in Philly than in the suburbs. Of course there are all of the other forums that have little or nothing to do with geography, but I found it a bit cumbersome to navigate through.

          1. re: CindyJ

            I agree on the usability aspect. For example, egullet does not have a "My posts" facility. Means that on the rare occasion I post to something other than my usual board, I have to make an effort to go and see if there have been any responses.

            Of the home boards, I can really only compare the two UK ones. And, as I said, egullet fits my needs better than Chowhound because of the geography but also the range/type of restaurants being discussed fits my eating better. The only other comparision I make (and I'm genuinely unsure if it is a good or bad thing), is that the UK board appears to have a relatively high percentage of posters who are employed in the industry (I know of two Michelin starred chefs and one national newspaper restaurant reviewer).

            1. re: Harters

              If you don't post on Chowhound it becomes a self-fullfilling prophecy. No one wants to post becauce no one posts.

              It is not that I haven't read the complaints about the UK posters. Egullet will put up with more of what you think is necessary than Chowhound.

              I sort of understand. I participate in Yelp and though I like it for some reason I just don't post there as much as Chowhound. I only post when I want to get as much exposure to a great place as possible.

              Or I'll post if I'm the first to post. Yes it is shallow. What can I say. That feature is like catnip to a kitty.

              1. re: rworange

                "That feature is like catnip to a kitty."

                Or like "zest to an orange" perhaps... ;-D>

                1. re: rworange

                  "It is not that I haven't read the complaints about the UK posters. Egullet will put up with more of what you think is necessary than Chowhound. "

                  Could you expand on this more, please? I wasnt aware that there have been complaints about UK posters. I'd be really interested to know what sort of complaints have been made about us.

                  I'm also not sure about egullet "putting up" with stuff. They seem to mess about with my posts quite regularly (something that CH hasnt done in a long while) - one of the differences though is the egullet moderators always seem to drop you a note explaining why they done what they've done. The CH moderating policy says that its mods are unlikely to do this.

                  1. re: Harters

                    Sometimes UK posts get off topic as far as Chowhound is concerned. I'm sorry for not being more specific, but I'm moving out of the country in 7 days (yikes), so I can't spend time to finding specific expamples.

                    I'll use an example, from my experience.

                    Someone posts about a great Chinese restaurant. Then they start an indpeth discussion about a particular dish ... or some other topic other than the restaurant.

                    Chow moves that part of the disucssion to the general topics board.

                    The UK people get pissed because it interrupts the flow of the disgussion.

                    When Chowhound first started this policy ... many years ago ... I had a similar disgust.

                    However years later, when I want information about ... name it ... let's say specific types of noodles ... looking on the General Topics board gets a wider audiance and more info than if the discussion stayed on the local board. It was a major PITA when it started. In the long run, it works out better.

                    1. re: rworange

                      I understand now - you have a typo in your original. It's not complaints ABOUT posters but complaints BY posters.

                      And you're absolutely right. It's the thing that pisses me off about Chowhound more than anything.

                      Egullet is not far behind but is certainly more tolerant of a free-ranging discussion - whilst it will move a complete thread (say, something that has started about a TV programme but has widened), it doesnt hive off chunks of a thread. In my experience, Chowhound's policy immediately kills the discussion once its been moved (as also happens with egullet). I think the egullet flexibility better fits the way we Brits conduct conversations online - in small country such as ours, discussion about one restaurant, which then widens to a dish or style, will quickly come back to other specific places which produce the dish or style, probbaly in other parts of the UK.

                      I suppose what I'm saying here is that, in my perception, egullet's UK board is more geared to home-grown British posters. Whereas, if I was an American tourist visiting London for the first and wanted to ask the questions that American tourists seem to want answer to, then I would post on Chow.

                      To raise another difference, I particularly like the way egullet actively combines threads. So, for example, there is a single thread about a restaurant. If a poster starts a new thread about the same place, it'll get amalgamated. This is a great policy, as it allows the new poster to see what has been said before - and saves constant repetition. Chowhound permits a multiplicity of threads on the same subject - it is extremely tedious to see the same question asked over and over again and to see the same answer over and over again. I imagine folk who are more active on the Chow UK board must find it even more tedious.

                      1. re: Harters

                        yes, but .. the option on Chowhound is to post the link to the old thread.

                        I critisize Chow because they like short and snappy.

                        On the other hand, given the Chow software, If a thread exceeds 100 posts, it is takng major time for me to load ... then there's the whole issue of adding the ads and other stuff.

                        Let me tell you how pissed I a when theres a 300 plus thread and someone adds a comment like ":I agree". It takes forever for me to load and I would like to personally rip their fingers off.

                        There's only so much focus I have. Yelp might have 1000 posts about a place, but I can sort on date, rating, etc and only read a bit of it. On either eGullet or Chow it is a major PITA

                        So my own personal preferance is threads no more than 20 - 30 posts. If someone tries the place a few months later ... start a new thread.

                        Also, having to deal with a place that is about to open ... the firs 20 posts are speculation. Then you get a post. My own philosphy is that if you haven't gotten to the point imediately ... start a new post. I down't want to wade thru 20 posts about... "Anyone know when xxx: is opening ... "I hope it willl xxx"

                        Give me a break. Let's find out if the place is any good instead of guessing about it.

                        1. re: rworange

                          "Let me tell you how pissed I a when theres a 300 plus thread and someone adds a comment like ":I agree". "

                          I've some considerable empathy with this view. Perhaps because of the "serious posters" (LOL) on egullet's UK board, we tend not to see that sort of less than useful comment, so an ongoing thread tends to be a helpful read. I'm an active member of another (non food) board where reaching a certain levels of posting gets you access to new section. It's good to try and restrict access until folk have "proved themselves" - but you see some folk clearly adding "I agree" type posts to build their count. Pisses me off.


                          Mr Angry

      2. I post on CH but not on egullet due to their personal essay requirement. For my local boards (NYC), egullet gets some traffic but not as high as CH (probably because of their essay crap). Thus, I don't really read egullet's NYC board. But I think their cooking board is fantastic. They merge topics which can facilitate reading. It is also easier to post pics on egullet which makes for some really good cooking tutorials. Here is an example of a thread that I love:

        It would be hard for a reader to really understand what to do without seeing the pics. I think it would be great if CH could have a feature like that.

        I also have noticed higher profile industry posters on egullet compared to CH -- doesn't mean CH has any -- they may just post under a pseudonym.

        14 Replies
        1. re: Miss Needle

          That's a great feature, and, like you, I wish it was available on CH.

          1. re: Miss Needle

            All the reasons you like egullet are the reasons I despise it.

            I hate merged threads. I don't want to have to go through 5000 posts lo read about the French Laundry. Despise that feature ... despise it.

            I hate the photos. If you don't have a pc that processes those quickly, it is a super drag. Though Chow really needs to fix all the problems with photos. I like Yelp where if you want to look at photos, you can. You are not forced to put up with it like egullet.

            I don't cook, so egullet isn't my thing.

            I hate seeing how many people read your thread. It shouldn't matter, but I'f I'm reporting a place less traveled and the hits are low, after a while it gets discouraging.

            At least on the SF board the people there are ... to use a term that is controversial ... foodies. All the restaurants of the moment that any guide book carries are there in mind-numbing detail ... the hidden gem ... not so much. Not only not so much but no one gives a damn.

            The people on the SF board were out and out nasty. I hated the hate make about one moderator where people ganged up on him. It was ugly.

            I hate talking with industry professionals. In the beginning it was fun to chat with chefs. However, after a while you become virtual friends and I'm less likely to report something sucked. First of all you don't want to hurt someone's feelings. Secondly you will probably have to chat about it with them on or offline Third if it is an egullet darling the posters can turn on you ... not just online ... but behind the scenes.

            The one good thing about egullet at the time I participated were there were posters in an area that didn't get a lot of Chowhound buzz. So I learned some new stuff. Still it wasn't enugh stuff to put up with all the other nonsense.

            And for what anyone might think of Jason Perlow ... I thought they treated him like crap in the end. Maybe that wasn't true, but it was the impression I got.

            1. re: rworange

              rworange, I've noticed that you have reported some issues regarding your computer and chowhound. Personally, I haven't had any of the issues that you do. But perhaps my computer has a larger RAM or I have a faster connection. You bring up a good point about those with computers that can't process pics quickly. Perhaps CH could have a feature like some sites do -- for slower computers, click here -- and you wouldn't have the flash or the memory-intensive pics.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                For all the old problems of the old Chowhound software, the main benefit was that it was accessible by almost everyone.

                There are a few rare sites that I have problems with. Chowhound unfortunately is one of them. The Food Network I just don't bother with. It is too annoying. And eGullet is another when a gazillion photos are in a post.

                Sorry, as devoted as I am to chowhound I refuse to buy hardware or software to accomodate it since 95% of other sites work just fine. Ironically, a few years ago I wasn't dealing with Yelp because it was slower than Chowhound. Now it is super speedy by comparison.

                Seriously, I have to jump through flaming hoops to use this site. On the positive side, I no longer have a Chowhound addiction. Kicked the habit, so to speak.

                Also, if I just discovered Chowhound today, due to all the technical problems, I doubt I would have bothered with it at all. I probably would have bypassed it when it came up in Google.

                I'm moving out of the country in a few days and as far as Chowhound, all I think is ... eh.Because the area I'm moving to is in one of those horrible board breakups ... South American, the Carribean and Central America ... I'm not sure if I'm going to bother reporting about the food in that area.

                I don't mind getting no response to posts. However when they are buried in such a humoungous part of the globe... two continents and a gazillion countries ... what's the point? If there was a Central American board, I'd be happy to post. At this point I'm just thinking of starting my own blog. That part ofthe world doesn't get much attention food-wise on the web, so that might be the higher profile way to go and get the most info out to peoplel

              2. re: rworange

                How did egullet treat Jason Perlow like that? All I see when I go to egullet is a post thanking him for his service when he left/got kicked out.

              3. re: Miss Needle

                Agree with you that the cooking and baking boards are wonderful. Some of those extensive photo essays are enormously informative. I also love the "Spotlight on . . ." conversations that they set up with cookbook authors. It's really a treat to be able to "talk" to them directly about their books, problems you may have had with one of their recipes, why they made some of the decisions they made. The attempts at doing the same here at CH didn't seem to work out very well.

                As a general reference, if I'm looking to solve a cooking problem, it's not unusual for me to find a better answer more quickly on egullet than I will on Chowhound. That's in part because of CHs still pretty-miserable search function, but also because industry professionals are encouraged to post there and mostly discouraged from posting here.

                But I spend lots more time on these cooking boards, not least because I find it a much more welcoming community. Egullet posters are more likely than we at CH, and especially those of us who participate in COTM, to dismiss or ignore you if you're not one of the in crowd.

                I guess I understand those of you who are put off by the personal statement thing, but it sure does cut down on the hit-and-run, can't-be-bothered-to-search, where-do-I-go-for-dinner-before-the-theater posts which can get so repetitive here. And I think those massive threads have their advantages. It may be annoying to read through them, but I get equally annoyed at having to read through about three dozen different threads on Babbo. Egullet and CH come out at 50/50 on that one.

                1. re: JoanN

                  >>> Egullet posters are more likely than we at CH, and especially those of us who participate in COTM, to dismiss or ignore you if you're not one of the in crowd.

                  Yeah, it is that clickiness that is probably the most repugant thing about eGullet. It was a reason I voiced loudly and often about what a mistake a pm system would be on Chowhound.

                  It is way too easy to chatter back and forth on eGullet. I was initally embraced, but I just could not stomach the herd mentality on that site. I don't give a damn about what anyone thinks about a poster and I'm certainly not going to shun someone because everyone else thinks they should be shunned.

                  The high school mentatlity is too much.

                  1. re: JoanN

                    This topic has been discussed before, but I think CH can be cliquey at times. But on the whole, it's a pretty welcoming place, especially the Home Cooking board. I know people like to bitch about things in general, but I'm pretty satisfied with this website as of this moment. Of course, there are a few things that I wish were different, but one can't have everything.

                    As I haven't really read egullet as in-depth as you have, I don't have an opinion about whether or not it's like high school. But I do know that there are a lot of other sites out there where the chattiness can be a bit too much. And it looks like in you can rate posters. Geez, talk about stirring up some potential ill feelings! One of the things I'm not too crazy about with CH is the "people reading me" feature. If you want to follow certain posters, fine. But I'd rather have that info be private. I think the reading me feature can encourage cliques to develop.

                    I agree with you that the the massive threads do have their pluses. If there was a 500 post thread on Babbo, I'd probably read only the last 100 posts or so to get an idea of how the restaurant has been doing in recent times. And I generally tend to skim over posts as opposed to reading them thoroughly unless there is something that catches my eye. So I don't feel the need to read a post from the very beginning.

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      >>>> If there was a 500 post thread on Babbo

                      My computer would probably self-destruct trying to open it

                      Long threads just don't interest me. In terms of pc performance, endless posts on Yelp have no impact. However, I don't even bother reading about a restaurant when the posts get over 200. There was some joint with over 1000 posts on yelp ... and all I could think was, "ary you kidding me?' I didn't bother at all. How many times can people say the same thing over and over.

                      What is nice about Chowhound having titles is that you can call out special things and they don't get buried in the blah, blah, blah ... blah. For example "Oliveto's whole hog dinner this week'.

                      Theyn you can just discuss that event.

                      1. re: rworange

                        I also don't open long threads -- not because my computer would crash but just because I don't have the patience for them to load. Egullet has a few very long threads. What they do is divide that entire thread up into pages -- not sure if CH would be able to do that with their threading system though. But if they could figure out a way to do so, I think that would help a lot of people.

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          "What they do is divide that entire thread up into pages"

                          The paging is something built into the software. Discussion boards which run on Invision, or similar, software has automatic pagination. Makes for very easy reading of long threads - Chowhound is the only board I use (on any subject) which doesnt have this. Even my local village forum, which only gets a few posts per week, has pagination.

                          1. re: Harters

                            The pagination feature is great. However, I'm not crazy about egullet's system of responding to a particular post. It would be helpful to have pagination while being able to follow the response thread. A forum I follow does that where one is able to see the threading system while having longer threads be broken up into pages. People who have slower machines don't have issues with waiting five minutes for a thread to load. And you have the option of skipping to the latter pages if you don't want to read any of the earlier stuff.

                        2. re: rworange

                          Count me among those that don't open extremely long threads. I always figure that by the time there are 200+ replies, whatever there is to say about the original post has been said, and said again... and again.

                    2. re: Miss Needle

                      Does that personal essay get 'graded"? What I mean is, will someone be rejected for eG membership because their essay doesn't meet the eG standard?

                    3. To be honest -- I just checked out eGullet for the first time ever, and found the whole 'membership agreement' and rules, etc. rather off putting. As much as I would've liked to join -- just to give Berlin's resto scene the credit it is sorely missing in the forum, it seemed like a massive PITA. A personal essay? Adhering to specific guidelines?

                      Thank the interwebs for Chowhound.

                      14 Replies
                      1. re: linguafood

                        Totally agree. That's why I just can't bring myself up to post. Honestly, it will probably only take me a couple of minutes to write a personal statement (I type 80+ wpm). I understand why egullet does this -- probably to avoid those hit and run posters, detract spammers, attract a "higher caliber" of posters, etc. But the idea of it is still really off-putting. I participate in some very specialized forums related to my career -- one I have to pay an annual fee, another one I had to answer a couple of industry-related questions to join (to verify I was in the field). I'm fine with that for these forums. But when it comes to the subject of food, I find it a bit distasteful (pun intended). We all have to eat, right?

                        But I guess egullet has their rules and they're free to do whatever they like. I just choose not to participate.

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          Oh, the typing is not the issue, trust me. While I don't know my current word count (I'm self-employed and don't keep track of these things), I'm incredibly fast.

                          I just don't want to read through novels of rule work before I even know what to write. It's not even intimidating, just tedious. And I spend enough time on this site & def don't need to add another aid to procrastination '-)

                          1. re: Miss Needle

                            "But the idea of it is still really off-putting"

                            Completely agree. I wrote one sentence of almost meaningless nonsense and it got accepted.

                            1. re: Harters

                              So then, what's the real purpose of the essay? Is it, perhaps, to give the impression that eG is only for the linguistically gifted? Or to keep out those who might be intimidated by the task? Or maybe just to see if potential members have the ability to communicate via the written word?

                              I'd think any website like eG, or CH, or any other site that has individuals posting questions and replies is self-selecting in that regard; people who have an aversion to writing just don't participate. So I'm still left wondering what purpose the essay serves.

                              1. re: CindyJ

                                As Jason Perlow explained right from the beginning of egullet: "The reason why we have a 2-stage registration process is that we don't want frivolous memberships -- we are not a public bulletin board, we are a member supported service organization for people interested in the discussion of food and other culinary interests . . . ."

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  Sounds a bit like snob-appeal to me.

                                  1. re: CindyJ

                                    The upper crust are different than us heels... ;-D>

                                  2. re: JoanN

                                    Egullet definitely didn't require an essay at the beginning. I think I signed up a year or so after they started and no essay was required. I didn't find much activity in my area (Boston) and was a bit put off over the way they fawned over celebrities like Bourdain and Grant Achatz who participated on the site, so I drifted away from it.

                                    1. re: Chris VR

                                      The essay came around the same time egullet became a "society". It was the beginning of the end.

                                  3. re: CindyJ

                                    I think the real purpose *is*, as others have said, intended as a deterrent to the "casual poster". I think it's something egullet should reflect on. It would be interesting to know if they ever refuse membership to anyone who has completed it - regardless of what they write

                                    I cannot recall the exact wording of my contribution but it was very much like this - "I'd like to contribute to threads about restaurants in north west England". Certainly, it was no more extensive or erudite than that. Clearly that was enough for egullet to allow me to sign up. Bit of a nonsense all round, I'm sure everyone would agree.

                                    However, as I said upthread, it does mean that the egullet UK board has a far, far wider discussion on British restaurant scene than Chowhound - even with its far smaller number of contributors. Chowhound, even with its "open doors" policy, does not attract many British posters - and almost zero outside of London - and even when it does, few are actually contributing their regular eating experiences. You will see similar issues for Chowhound in other English speaking countries outside of North America - a failure to attract locals.

                                    1. re: Harters

                                      At the very least that essay should stop crazed spammers ... but the downside is it also puts off good posters

                                      I think mine said "Because I hate Chowhound" ... I was in one of my goodbye cruel chowhound phases at the time ... and they signed me up.

                                      Maybe it is an early version of the ' type each of the following words into the box below and click continue to verify" and avoid spammers

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        "but the downside is it also puts off good posters"

                                        I'm sure you're right. Much as I enjoy the UK board, for the reasons I give above, I suspect some folk will have been put off by what they might see as an elitist style. However, also, I suspect some folk will have been put off posting to the Chowhound UK board because they might see it as primarily there for north American tourists visiting London, rather than British & Irish diners living round our two countries. .

                                        1. re: Harters

                                          Exactly. And, by the way, as a member of both I dont really (overall) disagree with either assessment.

                                2. re: Miss Needle

                                  For those of us who have been with CH since before eG and other food boards existed, I am sure of some very clear reasons some folk are on one and not the other. Some of it has/had to do with personal differences with how CH should be run, some to do with what is allowed and disallowed here & some of it has/had to do with the software. And some was even personal dislike among folks who knew/know each other and didnt want to work together anymore. The 2 boards didnt develop at the same time... eGullet was somewhat of an offshoot of CH. Additionally, there are clear reasons that some posters, like myself, are on both and even other boards ( & for example) that developed afterwards. Suffice it to say that CH was the first board and many of us helped form and participate in other boards because of features not available here. Each board, in my opinion, has strengths and weaknesses and I use each depending on what's on my mind, duplicating my posts when appropriate to more than one board. In NYC, I think that limiting my participation to CH would cut me off from much that I want to know and discuss (as well as many social events and more personal interactions), but leaving CH would cut me off from a very valuable shared resource & a large pool of interesting people. There are many of us that are on both and many of us, myself included, that would be willing to share our perspective of the history. Feel free to contact me if you wish to be bored by historical details. The bottom line is that there are now many ways to "meet" others who share our interest in restaurants & food and that different boards allow us to interact with these folk in different ways.

                              2. I use CH more to look for restaurants in different city and countries. Most of those boards are not as useful on eG. The strength of eG lies on cooking, baking and related boards which are really helpful and much more in depth than CH. So both sites are very useful. It's alos nice that sometimes some well-known authors, chefs participate in discussion, e.g. Paula Wolfert is quite helpful in one of the discussions about her new cookbook.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: honkman

                                  I have a soft spot for egullet because it was the first food-related online "community" I participated in. Before I stumbled across it (a reference in Vancouver Magazine, I believe) I didn't know such entities existed. At that time, my local "area" was very busy with lots of interesting and knowledgeable posters but after only a few months there was some political fallout and it pretty much died. I think there are three or four posts there a month now, and I only check it when I get an email saying that a new post or thread has arrived (a feature I quite like BTW). I also found out about Chowhound because of egullet so for that I am grateful. As for that entry essay, I remember being quite earnest in my response and taking it quite seriously :-).

                                2. The original comment has been removed