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May 29, 2010 08:10 AM

Meandering thoughts on Chowhound Social Networking

As I read the posts on both Sam's and MOH's memorial threads, some ideas came to mind. For a brief while there was an offshoot in Sam's thread that reflected on what being on-line meant in terms of our relationship, and how that differed from off-line relationships. It didn't belong there, but it might be an interesting discussion, nevertheless.

What I'm pondering is the whole aspect of social networking as it relates to us, here on Chowhound. The site itself has a narrow focus – deliciousness. And I believe that this is the way it has to be. We discuss everything and everyplace there is to discuss about food here. But we delve into food in so many ways, that there's no room to talk about us – we know each other only from our food opinions. That's actually quite a lot, as it turns out. But it's sad that while we are so close to each other in some ways, we find out some of the details about each other that even strangers at work knew, from an obituary.

That 800+ post megathread of what we do is completely unreadable. Literally. Even with my buffers extended, I can't read it. Boy, what a popular topic, eh?

I don't know if there ought to be a food-bio of ourselves here or some other form of profile. Actually, I think any such attempt would dilute the focus here. But perhaps we ought to have a companion page on Facebook, where some of us already have profiles. I found the Chowhound page that's there now – it's essentially a placeholder with no structure. There are a couple of global posts that FB has picked up.

I'm just thinking aloud, but what it comes down to is that some thought needs to be put into the social networking aspects here. I can think of many facets - restaurant/client relationships, for example – we have many chefs and industry workers here and we have numerous conversations between themselves and between them and the rest of us. While Chowhound discourages the owners and managers of a place from posting here, (certainly in the form of advertising), perhaps a FB page might be a good place to discuss the goals and backgrounds of chefs and participants.

We already have our little cliques and private conversations. But the coming onslaught of social networking is going to affect those as well. Those that don't belong, and want to, feel left out. With some structure in a social networking environment, we could integrate these private and pseudo-private pieces into a greater whole. Privacy is key, as FB has found out. But we put so much of ourselves out there in Chowhound as it is.

Enough thinking out loud. Any takers down this weird path?

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  1. I think you've struck a pick into a deep vein of valuable ore! And this certainly an area where those of us who "get in trouble" with the mods are frequently nailed. My personal opinion is that the social and cultural history of many foods and tradtions are as critical to my own enjoyment of foods as their flavors. When I first came to Chowhound a few years ago, such information was frowned upon, but I do have to say the mods have lightened up on this aspect considerably, but we're not fully there yet.

    My ONLY reservations about this are the privacy issues. I don't do Face Book, or Tweet, or any of the stuff I call "electronic psychic nudity." When I Google myself, I get enough information about me, and I'm not particularly interested in having my email addresses flooded with more letters from Nigerian Princes and Princesses asking me for help getting millions out of banks and offering to sharing it with me. One of the possibilities is a plain old fashioned "vanilla" "mailing lists." An electronic distribution method of distributing contributions to everyone signed up for that specific discussion group. And then there are newsgroups, which are also falling into less universal use simply because both mailing lists and newsgroups don't have the inherent graphic-friendly capability of a "standard" world wide web page that comes with both Chow/Chowhound or Face Book.

    Oh... For me, there's also a question of whether it would be formally affiliated with Chow/CBS, and moderated? It will be interesting to see what sort of ideas others come up with. But I'm awful glad you're back,, applehome! '-)

    1. I think a site unconnected to Chowhound but composed of Chowhound members would succeed wildly. "Hounds after hours", or "Hounds between meals"? Members have a commonality of interests but nonetheless are fascinatingly diverse. I think it would stay friendly and make Chowhound friendlier. You and I took a disagreement on CH off board and saw eye-to-eye pretty quickly and have been quite cordial with each other since. That was a couple years ago; I don't even recall what the disagreement was about. I am a private person with no interest in Facebook or any social networking sites, but I do enjoy repartee with some neat people here and I would walk the path you envision.

      1. In the simplest form, I think there are generally enough email addresses in people's profiles to allow as much contact as I need. And I've read posts where a CH asks another one to email him/her about an off-topic issue. I also agree with C1 that the mods are giving a lot more latitude in some areas and I appreciate that. I was part of FB for about two days and it annoyed me so much I opted out. I find I have more social networking opprotunities than I have hours in the day. There's a small "gang" of CHers that I correspond with. We rarely discuss anything that would be of interest to CH at large but I think there is that potential. I speak only for myself. If there were such a site, then I could still not opt in. Just a few thoughts.
        PS: I'm glad to see you back here.

        1. After some thought, I'm going to leave this alone for now. We have emails and some of us have blogs (where you can comment) and then there is Facebook, which I don't find to be as onerous as many do. Chow recently picked up on the FB linking scheme, but that's pretty much useless for what I'm talking about. If Chow/Chowhound ever develops anything more significant either on their site or on FB, I'll look into it.

          But basically, I think we're happy that CH is what it is. It's more than a restaurant look-up guide, more than a recipe swapping site, and whatever social network that there is, is there essentially to backup those main functions. We know enough about each other to trust (or mistrust) reviews, recipes and the general history and lore (and sometimes, even science) we present. The food stories we tell each other are a real plus.

          My concern, which is that social networking is the next quantum step in "Internetting", falls mainly in the realm of what's next? How does this evolve? Should CH become another Facebook, or at least evolve to include some of its features? (How do you moderate Facebook?) If I knew, I'd help lead the way.

          I do think that the FB fears are blown out of proportion - especially based on the latest enhanced Privacy setting features. It's one thing to use it to broadcast everything you're doing and to have thousands of friends - saying yes to everyone that asks. But it's something else to use it as a "Closed User Group", maximizing your security and only allowing those you want to be friends, and to share your info or your data.

          It's one thing for Sam and I to have exchanged emails about his misspent youth racing in IMSA, and our joint love for F1 racing, by emails. But if that were part of a more public (yet controlled) conversation, perhaps others would have chimed in and we could have explored some different territory than food alone - we are all so much more. For certain, that's not Chowhound's job, and as you guys say, they are getting more lenient in the area of discussions that are at least somewhat food or site related.

          For now, you can reach me here, at my email, or leave a comment at my blog. I'm happy to discuss anything with anyone - generally speaking.

          1. I have yet to be able to get into the 'what we do' thread. I tried a year or two ago, and now it just sits there, revived often enough for me to know that others share my curiousity. I've had the same thought, lately, about an off-shoot.. I don't have the . . . technical abilities required. Applehome, if someone were to do this, I would be thrilled. I integrate food into every aspect of my life, and it feels strange to have to segregate much of my life from this discussion of food (though the mods seem to be very patient with me, when I get too chatty).

            If you can make an 'after-hours' site, I'm on board.