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How useful is Chowhound?

ttoommyy Feb 17, 2011 11:18 AM

OK, maybe I could have thought of a better title, but it's what I've been thinking recently.

It seems ever time I open a thread like this:

"My FAVORITE place to eat in Such and Such City is Mike's. They have the best steak and the wine list is extensive. Our dessert was to die for! The place was packed and we were lucky to get a reservation; we hear it is booked for months. I can't rave enough."

The responses are:

"Reallly?!? My wife and I ate there the other night and the steak was tough, the wine list at our local deli is more extensive and I'd rather have had a Twinkie than the dessert I ordered. I would never recommend Mike's to anyone. Plus, the place was empty."

or

"Mike's used to be good but now everyone goes to Joe's. It's like what the old Mike's used to be, but better And by the way...a quick search of Open Table shows Mike's is far from 'booked for months'."

or

"We love Mike's, but not for steak, wine or dessert. The chicken is the dish to order and their beer on tap is what we saw everyone ordering. We skipped the boring desserts and opted for a cheese plate."

OK, I made up all the above comments but you get the drift. It's difficult to get a majority opinion about any restaurant on this site. It's frustrating and to be honest, I have stopped listening to people's reviews on this site. I really don't know what to think anymore. I understand everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but when they differ so much about one place, what is one to think?

  1. CindyJ Feb 25, 2011 05:17 AM

    Score another one for the unique usefulness of CH. My old pepper grinder -- the one I use for cooking -- finally gave out and I needed to replace it. A quick search on the Cookware board gave me my clear and obvious choice -- the Unicorn Magnum. (The Magnum Plus is too tall for the drawer where it'll be kept.) My new Magnum is on its way to me. Thanks, again, CHers!

    1 Reply
    1. re: CindyJ
      dennisl Mar 1, 2011 05:57 AM

      Not a reply to the discussion, but the original post.

      I have found Chowhound to be a place of very useful information, especially when travelling out of the country.

      Also, there are a few posters on my regular board that I find must have the same taste as I do and appreciate the same food, so their opinions carry more weight with me. I also appreciate if people can give a little bit, after all it IS just their opinion and not written in stone. Then again, you have some people posting whose idea of good food can be a chain that I wouldn't set foot in, so I think CH needs to be taken for what it is, and not taken too seriously.

      It's supposed to be FUN to try new restaurants, etc. not the end of the world if people don't like your favorite things.

    2. EarlyBird Feb 22, 2011 01:15 PM

      The best part of CH is the home cooking discussions. I have learned some very good kitchen tips and techniques, and uses for different ingredients, new recipes and help in getting into new flavor profiles on Chowhound. I've also gotten good leads on restaurants in cities that I've never been to before and have been "oriented" to a new city's cuisine. I find CH very helpful in that respect.

      5 Replies
      1. re: EarlyBird
        paulj Feb 22, 2011 02:32 PM

        Half of what I learn on CH, esp. the home cooking discussions, comes from doing the research myself. That is, a question (or complaint) will prompt me to dig further into the subject on my own. Often it is just a matter of curiosity. Other times I feel a need to confirm (or disprove) my gut feeling.

        1. re: paulj
          GraydonCarter Feb 23, 2011 06:34 AM

          > doing the research myself

          That's probably my main complaint about the cooking boards. People will throw out recipes and tips, but there isn't much fact-based discussion about why certain techniques work. I'm thinking of the flour-based frosting as a good example, where there isn't much good description of the reasons behind the technique, so the only way to really know why you would prepare frosting that way is to try it yourself.

          1. re: GraydonCarter
            linguafood Feb 23, 2011 07:34 AM

            But isn't that part of the fun?

            1. re: linguafood
              Servorg Feb 23, 2011 07:53 AM

              Or start a sub thread or another stand alone thread on the nuance one is interested in? After all, this (CH) is a user generated content board. If you want different content then take the lead.

              1. re: Servorg
                CapeCodGuy Feb 24, 2011 08:09 PM

                +1

      2. a
        Augie6 Feb 22, 2011 10:34 AM

        I can not speak for all areas.. But the Pennsylvania Board has been nothing but GREAT HELP... TTOOMMYY I agree there is some conflicting issues, but most times you can get a good judge of a place. I also agree with some of the post saying I tend to listen to more of certain posters than others.

        There is also a lot of different levels of quality and satisfaction. I am not hard to please but can be hard to really impress. I trust this sites reviews over any internet findings

        1. GraydonCarter Feb 22, 2011 10:31 AM

          By far the most useful thing about CH is the "Hound" aspect. You can get an abundance of more current reviews from strangers elsewhere, at least for popular restaurants. But for those of us who are treasure seekers / chow hunters / food hounds, I love the ability to collaborate on exploration.

          I'm thinking of the guy who noticed a new restaurant under construction during one of his infrequent trips through my area. Over the next couple of months several of us reported progress on the signage, posted menu, and then grand opening. It became one of my favorite places and not only would I not have discovered it were it not for the sharp eyes of a fellow hound, but I think the teamwork and discussion reinfoced my anticipation in trying the place once it opened.

          4 Replies
          1. re: GraydonCarter
            Duppie Feb 22, 2011 10:41 AM

            I concur. I waited for almost 2 years diligently reading the treads in anticipation of a Asian grocery mall and the restaurants,stalls and market that finally came to pass. Something that could have possibly flown under my radar if I had not been a regular CH member.

            1. re: GraydonCarter
              limster Feb 22, 2011 10:43 AM

              Bingo. Collaborating on finds and discovery is what CH was created for, and it's still the best use of it. Of course one can come here to look for good places to eat, but that's not the main point of the site.

              1. re: limster
                alanbarnes Feb 22, 2011 11:17 AM

                Another example of Chowhound's utility - in my metro area there are scores if not hundreds of strip-mall Chinese restaurants, most of which serve mediocre Americanized food. Of all these places, one is owned by a family from Chengdu (?) and has a "secret" menu of fantastic Sichuan dishes. The location isn't promising - it's in a lily-white suburb near a junior college - so I probably never would have tried the place, and certainly wouldn't have known to ask for the "special" menu, were it not for info provided by other hounds.

                1. re: alanbarnes
                  a
                  Augie6 Feb 22, 2011 11:31 AM

                  Special menus and hidden places are my Fav part of this site.. I found out about place I would walk by every day and just thought it was shady

            2. Disneyfreak Feb 22, 2011 08:40 AM

              I find Chowhound very useful -- generally speaking. Yes there are some responses that are of the "did you search for that" variety but those are generally few and far between. I use it for recipes and for restaurants when I am traveling out of town. I know that there are varying opinions on restaurants but I go for a general consensus. I also use it to check on restaurants I've heard about other places. Generally I find that I trust the opinions of people here more than other places.

              1. alanbarnes Feb 19, 2011 10:45 AM

                I find Chowhound incredibly useful. Sure, there are going to be differences of opinion. People have different tastes and expectations, and order different things off the menu. And although good restaurants are somewhat consistent, each meal they serve is going to be slightly different, even if the food was prepared and vacuum-sealed in a factory on the other side of the country.

                Even people with different opinions of a place can provide information that lets you decide whether you're more or less likely to enjoy it. One person's "elegant and reserved" is another's "stuffy and overly formal." One 'hound may rave about great ingredients and simple preparations, while another is aghast that a place will charge so much for food that's so plain. Either way, you'll know the first place is a poor bet if you're looking for a casual eatery, and the second if you're interested in molecular gastronomy.

                Of course there are posts that aren't particularly constructive. Nobody who wants to check out a particular Sichuan place is likely to be interested in an opinion about how bad it is from somebody who went there looking for sweet-n-sour chicken and hates anything spicy.

                The best thing about Chowhound is that, unlike other sources of opinions, you can ask follow-up questions. People may rave about the steak at "Mike's," but if your significant other is a vegetarian you need more info. And I've found that the folks here are generous with their time and experiences and very willing to share whatever info they have.

                Is that any guarantee that you're going to love someplace that's recommended here? Of course not. But in a city of any size, the collective wisdom allows you to narrow down the places you're interested in trying and dramatically increase your "success rate."

                1. linguafood Feb 19, 2011 09:32 AM

                  All I can say is that CH has been an incredibly fantastic resource whenever I travel. It has pointed me to Raku & LOS in Vegas, and I've had great recs for NYC (Crispo, Yasuda, Back Forty, wd-50, Fatty 'cue) with a few doozies (Convivio, Maialino) thrown in.

                  It is my go-to website whenever I have any questions involving food, restaurants, etc. etc.

                  It also is a black hole that sucks up the time not spent on facebook.

                  1. Miss Needle Feb 18, 2011 07:34 AM

                    I guess you don't read the Manhattan board where Eleven Madison Park is the most fantabulous restaurant in the world and One if by Land Two if by Sea is reserved for your worst enemy.

                    I actually do find CH faves on my local boards. But that doesn't mean I will always agree with them. Agree with those who say to find posters who have the same tastes as yours. While it may seem like a pain in the neck, the only way to do that is to read the posts. Just cuz somebody's got a zillion followers doesn't mean you guys will share the same tastes. One hound that I see eye to eye with on a lot of things has a very small # of followers and doesn't have a prolific posting history. Another hound who's got a huge following -- I tend to kind of glaze over the posts because it places other criteria on a meal that I don't really care about.

                    I do wonder, however, whether location has something to do with it. On heavily trafficked boards, I find CH very useful as there are many opinions to sift through. But on less popular boards, I will say that CH hasn't served me as well. In those areas, I need to supplement CH with other sources.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Miss Needle
                      lynnlato Feb 18, 2011 01:47 PM

                      Good points, Miss Needle. You've got to invest the time to get to know the folks here in order to identify those CHers whose opinions you value. And I also agree that some of the less frequented boards are lacking in good input/feedback.

                      I've gotten such great advice on the Home Cooking boards, the New Orleans boards, Manhattan boards, etc. that I just keep coming back for more. I've met and made great friends and so I can say that CH has served me well.

                      1. re: Miss Needle
                        GraydonCarter Feb 22, 2011 10:23 AM

                        > One if by Land Two if by Sea

                        To use your example, it is a bit more difficult to find reviews on CH for One if by Land. Yelp has some 420 reviews of this restaurant and Chow has one Quick Review and one Dig Deeper discussion listed under the restaurants page (for some odd reason). I suspect that New Yorkers are using a shorthand for the restaurant name, and the autolink feature doesn't pick up all the discussions. So one must be quite diligent and adept with their search abilities to find something on CH.

                        This to me is one reason CH is not very useful. Therefore you get lots of inquiries of the "Can you recommend a fantastic place for dinner tonight (not too expensive)."

                      2. Servorg Feb 18, 2011 06:39 AM

                        To paraphrase JKF in his inaugural address: "Ask not what CH can do for you. Ask what you can do for CH." But truly, it is in our hands to make the site more useful (a consistent theme of limster over the years and I bow in the direction of GB). Add a place link. If you see a place link that someone puts up, but it doesn't have a website see if you can find one and add it to the pl. See an interesting looking place on your daily commute? Post about it. And if no one else comes to the forefront and says they've been there, take one for the team and then write it up.

                        Let's all strive to make this an even better site than it is now - knowing full well that if it occupies anymore of my waking hours I'm going to be doing a 12 step program to wean myself off of it in the not too distant future... ;-D>

                        1. nsxtasy Feb 18, 2011 05:47 AM

                          I agree with what others have already said here, so I won't repeat those thoughts, other than to add that it's ironic to see consensus in a topic about how opinions here rarely agree. :)

                          I will add a few additional thoughts, though.

                          Sometimes you can read more into comments than just a thumbs up or down. For example, maybe someone is complaining about (or praising) something that isn't important to you (for example, complaints about wine pricing if you don't drink wine). So it's still useful information.

                          Sometimes someone had a bad experience two years ago and is still complaining about it even though it's "old news". So you can discount that opinion based on currency and relevance.

                          I think you can often capture the gist of what people are saying even when it's short of a consensus. I'll give you an example. Chicago, where I live, has 6-10 truly high-end restaurants. With the exception of the one place that's widely acknowledged as the "best of the best" (Alinea), all of the others have predominantly positive reviews, but all have at least one Chowhounder who has had a severely negative experience. So every time any of those restaurants come up in a discussion, that's what you hear in response. A fair conclusion would be that these are excellent restaurants where you are likely to have a great dinner but that does not guarantee perfection.

                          Bottom line, we're dealing with matters of taste, and it's more common for there to be some disagreement than for everyone to feel exactly the same way about a place. But by aggregating the comments and putting them in perspective (including giving added weight to those who are the most insightful and with whom you most often agree), you can get a pretty good feel for whether you're likely to like a place or not.

                          Of course, you won't really know until you try a place for yourself. That way you will form your own opinion, and you can then help others here by posting to pass it along.

                          Hope this is helpful!

                          1. HillJ Feb 17, 2011 07:29 PM

                            Troubled posts occur on every board, not just restaurant reviews. Some CH's are better at writing comments than others. What do you prefer three sentences or 10 paragraphs? Some CH's write a restaurant off before ever eating there. Does that qualify as a review? Some CH's only write comments supporting their favorite CH's comments. Fan club! It's no different in life, you are attracted to people (for the most part) that reflect your own opinion. Ever notice how many posts repeat the same responses as if the individual never took the time to read the entire thread? Yes, CH has it's usefulness/playfulness but it's not the be all it once was....it was bound to happen sooner or later. Being a popular CH is a responsibility of time and wordsmithing. Writing food poetry, professionally written restaurant reviews and so forth doesn't appeal to all of us...but when other people do it's entertaining, a fun read and informative stuff. So, I find 90% useful.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: HillJ
                              Jay F Feb 18, 2011 07:43 AM

                              >>>>What do you prefer, three sentences or 10 paragraphs?<<<<

                              Either one is fine, as long as each paragraph is no longer than four lines. I can't read without a little white space.

                            2. Naco Feb 17, 2011 12:06 PM

                              Ditto to most of the above- zone in on quality posters. I don't expect or want too much consensus about whether a place is good- the fun is in the debate.

                              I have had some weird experiences, though. I started a thread on Home Cooking not too long ago, asking for spicy lentil recipes, and specifying some constraints. I got a couple of good responses, but many more frustrating ones- such as the suggestion to buy a cook book. Thanks, I'd never heard of those!

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Naco
                                rworange Feb 17, 2011 04:42 PM

                                If you get a response like "buy a cookbook" just report it to the moderators and they will remove it. If you let those type of flip comments stay, it only encourages more of the same

                                Chowhound is more than being guided to a restaurant. There's a ton of sites like that.

                                There is a treasure trove of information here that exists no where else on the web.

                                To me, the site is about learning to think for yourself ... to sniff out your own delicious food and share that with the posters here.

                                I seriously would have went nuts this past year In Guatemala if I hadn't learned chowhounding skills over the years. Chowhound made me not only open ... but curious ... about new cuisines.

                                My payback is to share my experiences this past year on this site for anyone who might be curious to know a little more about Guatemalan cuisine.

                                I stepped into restaurants that aren't in guidebooks and ate wonderfully. I seriously can't think of one often recommended Guatemalan restaurant from tourist books or travel sites that matched any of them .. I went to those as well.

                                If if was not for Chowhound, I never would have sought out a unique, hidden restaurant in a remote and mainly Mayan village.

                                It had a chef who went to Italy for a few years to learn Italian food dishing up some of the best pizza and tortalone I've had anywhere ... a German chef with a European degree in pastry baking making some amazing bread ... not to mention FABULOUS Southern biscuits and gravy by the owner whose passion is chuck wagon cooking. ... bizarre but true ... and ... I had a little know Mayan dish made by a woman who speaks only the local dialect and neither English nor Spanish.
                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/766241

                                One of the greatest pieces of food writing, not only on Chowhound, but anywhere was Jim Leff's Chow Tour. Unfortunately it seems unavailable on the site.

                                Even though from what I've read, Jim hated the whole thing, it was something timeless and important. Timeless, not because those restaurants do or don't exist anymore. It was the "how to" of finding great food.

                                Yeah. I find Chowhound useful. It taught me how to recognize and find the best food on my own.

                                1. re: rworange
                                  goodhealthgourmet Feb 17, 2011 07:46 PM

                                  One of the greatest pieces of food writing, not only on Chowhound, but anywhere was Jim Leff's Chow Tour. Unfortunately it seems unavailable on the site.
                                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                  http://www.chow.com/food-news/chow-to...

                                  ;)

                                2. re: Naco
                                  goodhealthgourmet Feb 17, 2011 07:55 PM

                                  @Naco, that's a bummer about your experience with the lentil thread - i find Home Cooking to be the most genuinely useful & informative of all, but there are killjoys on every board. i would have been happy to suggest some recipes if i had seen your post - i'll search for it and see if i have anything useful to add.

                                3. woodleyparkhound Feb 17, 2011 12:01 PM

                                  "Agreeing with others comments that certain CHers comments carry more weight, particularly if I've noticed their prior posts indicating similar tastes/preferences to mine."

                                  Exactly.

                                  When traveling to a new city, I always use it to unearth the great places. When doing this I spend a lot of time searching topics of interest and doing my homework -- noting the quality of the comments of certain people. I also note how many favorable comments there about a place are vs. unfavorable. It hasn't always worked out brilliantly, but I can remember one occasion in particular where i struck up a conversation with people at the next table (at a place that turned out to be wonderful). When I said it was my first night in town, they said, "How did you find this place? I lived here three years before I heard about it!"

                                  24 Replies
                                  1. re: woodleyparkhound
                                    CindyJ Feb 22, 2011 05:51 AM

                                    Getting restaurant recommendations in cities (or countries) I'm visiting is, for me, one of the most valuable aspects of CH. When asking for advice in unfamiliar territory I'm often not familiar enough with the individual posters to know if their tastes are similar to mine, but on the whole I trust CH recs WAAAAY more than I do, say, Zagats or one of the generic travel guides (i.e., Fodors or Fromers).

                                    1. re: CindyJ
                                      nsxtasy Feb 22, 2011 07:55 AM

                                      >> on the whole I trust CH recs WAAAAY more than I do, say, Zagats or one of the generic travel guides (i.e., Fodors or Fromers)

                                      ...or Y**p! :)

                                      1. re: nsxtasy
                                        Miss Needle Feb 22, 2011 08:12 AM

                                        Actually I've found Yelp to be very helpful at times.

                                        #1 For identifying off-the-beaten path restaurants that never get mentioned on Chowhound
                                        #2 In certain areas where there isn't much of a CH community and where most of the posts tend to be a rehash of Frommers and Fodors. My goodness -- I've even seen some of the exact words that the Frommers and Fodors authors use in their guides to describe a place. This is where Yelp really comes in handy.

                                        1. re: nsxtasy
                                          thew Mar 1, 2011 07:02 AM

                                          it varies by where you are, but yelp is very helpful in many places

                                        2. re: CindyJ
                                          rworange Feb 22, 2011 08:11 AM

                                          I hope anyone getting advice on the International boards report back from their trips, even if it is to simply say they liked or disliked a place. IMO, that is really helpful to others who might be looking for the same info.

                                          I post about Guatemala current.ly. I've given tips to three people and none of them bothered so much as agreeing or disagreeing with the recs. I may LOVE a place but others may not. It is good to have differences of opinion or confirm they liked it. At this point I'd even be happy with a "+1" as much as I despites that sort of post.

                                          One poster ruined it for everyone else. I took pity on someone who emailed me that due to working day and night, they were leaving for GT iat the end of the week and please give recs. I made an exception due to time constraints and made recs thru email.

                                          That wil NEVER happen again.

                                          While that poster somehow found time in a busy schedule to email and ask for tips, not only did the poster fail to post about the trip, there was no response to my email asking how it went.

                                          Since the International boards don't get as much play as the US boards, I hope tourists will do follow up pasts after seeking advice. It helps everyone.

                                          1. re: rworange
                                            HillJ Feb 22, 2011 08:13 AM

                                            rworange, you're one strict CH. Sounds more like a test! I would fail to live up to your expectations.

                                            1. re: HillJ
                                              rworange Feb 22, 2011 08:19 AM

                                              I don't even report back on all the advice I get here for various reasons.

                                              But when there are multiple posts or emails asking for specific details, it somehow seems right to pay it foward by as little as a one word "liked" or "disliked" post.

                                              While I will continue to answer questions on the boards, no one is ever getting advice from me by email again. I've had other similar experiences over the years and this just sealed the coffin.

                                              Or do you think an email response of "thank you, I'm swamped with work and will try to get back to you" is too excessinve a requirement to my one line email (really) of "how was the trip'?"

                                              1. re: rworange
                                                HillJ Feb 22, 2011 08:21 AM

                                                can't control the outcome rworange. pay it forward means to assist without expectation.

                                                1. re: HillJ
                                                  rworange Feb 22, 2011 08:26 AM

                                                  No problem for me. I'm not the person who needs help finding restaurants. But it would be a help to others reading the boards.

                                                  1. re: linguafood
                                                    rworange Feb 22, 2011 08:34 AM

                                                    The topic is How useful is Chowhound.

                                                    It isn't useful if people take and don't give back.

                                                    I don't care too much about the breach in etiquette from the emailer. The point is that the International boards don't get as much traffic as the Us boards.

                                                    That is true of International travel sites in general unless hitting the travel biggies.

                                                    No, people don't NEED to report back. But if asking for help, to me it seems a no brainer to try to help out others by adding to the info base. .

                                                    1. re: rworange
                                                      linguafood Feb 22, 2011 08:39 AM

                                                      Well, it would be nice if people got back to you regarding the recs you made. As someone who practically runs the Berlin section of the Europe board, I am well aware of your experiences. Happens to me all the time.

                                                      It's unfortunate, but I can live with the idea that I am an appreciated resource even tho not everybody pats me on the back for it.

                                                      1. re: linguafood
                                                        HillJ Feb 22, 2011 08:48 AM

                                                        I am an appreciated resource even tho not everybody pats me on the back for it.
                                                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                                        thank you linguafood, you're a gem.

                                                        1. re: linguafood
                                                          Servorg Feb 22, 2011 08:48 AM

                                                          But the thing is, it's not about getting patted on the back or being appreciated. It's about letting other people that come here know what it takes to make CH a better, more useful site. We have folks who are more than ready to hold the mod's accountable for what they feel is making the site less useful - over moderation. While I don't agree that point is a fair one to discuss. But we also need to point out and discuss that the life blood of CH is more reports on new, or even old places, through fresh eyes.

                                                          1. re: Servorg
                                                            HillJ Feb 22, 2011 08:52 AM

                                                            There is absolutely nothing wrong with appreciation. Some CH's are better at thanking than others. Appreciation is in the eye of the beholder anyway and while I believe rworange, you are a dynamo resource/researcher/fellow CH, I think having an expectation is going to disappoint you on occasion.

                                                            But, I have no issue offering thanks to a fellow hound. That's community.

                                                            1. re: Servorg
                                                              linguafood Feb 22, 2011 08:53 AM

                                                              True, dat. It's just that you can't force people to give feedback or even return to CH after they've found what they are looking for here - good advice on good eats, more often than not it's a one time deal, like when they are visiting a new city.

                                                              It would be great if everyone did that, for sure, but by being passive-aggressive as in "I will only give you tips if you promise to report back" won't be effective, me thinks.

                                                              1. re: linguafood
                                                                HillJ Feb 22, 2011 08:54 AM

                                                                me agrees. The give and take happens naturally.

                                                                1. re: linguafood
                                                                  Servorg Feb 22, 2011 09:06 AM

                                                                  I often nudge new posters who come to the LA board with a request by closing many of my recommendation posts by saying "And if you really want to thank the hounds that contributed so many ideas to you in response to your need simply come back here and let us know where you went, what you ate and how you liked it."

                                                                  1. re: Servorg
                                                                    linguafood Feb 22, 2011 09:15 AM

                                                                    Good idea. I might steal that one for my Berlin recs '-)

                                                                    1. re: linguafood
                                                                      rworange Feb 22, 2011 09:22 AM

                                                                      I do that on the SF board, adding the personal incentive of "and if you report back, we get to know your tastes. As a result, we can give better tips if you revisit"

                                                                  2. re: linguafood
                                                                    rworange Feb 22, 2011 09:08 AM

                                                                    >>> "I will only give you tips if you promise to report back"

                                                                    NO, that is not what I said. I clearly said I wil give tips on the board.

                                                                    I will no longer give offline tips through email. which is outside of the activity of the board ... I don't care what your sad story is.

                                                                    If I give tiips on the board, whether or not that person responds, other people can benefit. I feel that is a good use of my time.

                                                                    If that person, who asked for quite a bit of advice by email had sent anything, I could have posted that on the board saying that a poster sent me an email saying they liked or disliked the tips... that would have benefitted all.

                                                                    This took up my personal time and benefitted one person.If I wanted to be a personal travel agent I would get a job doing that and get paid. That is the end of that on my part. If someone wants tips, ask on the board.

                                                                    1. re: rworange
                                                                      linguafood Feb 22, 2011 09:14 AM

                                                                      But that's the gist of CH anyway, right? By sending people tips via email, nobody else benefits except for that one person you wrote to privately.

                                                                      1. re: linguafood
                                                                        rworange Feb 22, 2011 09:17 AM

                                                                        Yeah. I was a sucker for a sob story. Won't happen again.

                                                                        1. re: rworange
                                                                          Melanie Wong Feb 22, 2011 01:02 PM

                                                                          If it makes you feel any better, my rationale for replying to those emailed requests with sob stories about how they can't find the info they need or don't have time is that people like that who have not spent eons of time preplanning where they are going to eat and what the local cuisine is like are not going to benefit from anything that I have to say. They're obviously not live to eat people or they wouldn't be in that predicament. So it's really pointless of me to make recs, nothing I like will be suitable for them.

                                                                          I do understand that the search engine is not intuitive to outsiders and sometimes I will just forward a link to a thread that is relevant. But mostly I just ignore the email requests because the asker just won't "get it".

                                                                          In the pre-CNET days, I used to reply to those kind of requests with a request for a $1000 contribution to chowhound.com. Now I tell the ones who send multiple requests (yes, some people are obnoxious enough to email more than once asking why I haven't replied to them) they can paypal me a $1000 retainer and I'll write a custom itinerary for them. No one has ever done it. Just goes to show that some people feel that their time is worth more than my own. Feh.

                                                                2. re: linguafood
                                                                  rworange Feb 22, 2011 08:51 AM

                                                                  Nope. People aren't getting it.

                                                                  I don't want people getting back to ME.I want them getting back to the board.

                                                                  I don't want to be THE resource. I want to encourage people to be amoung the many resources.

                                                                  I don't want to be patted on the back. I'd rather get kicked in the ass with a "you gave me a lousy rec" because that gives a more balanced picture to everyone.

                                                                  Again, the issue is how useful is Chowhound.

                                                                  It is only as useful as people make it.

                                                2. b
                                                  Buvezdevin Feb 17, 2011 11:50 AM

                                                  Agreeing with others comments that certain CHers comments carry more weight, particularly if I've noticed their prior posts indicating similar tastes/preferences to mine.

                                                  I have also found that CH has been incredibly useful when planning personal or business travel to other cities/countries. I've enjoyed the ability to search and review multiple threads, representing posts over a range of time, because when a restaurant/dish/wine was getting favorable comment from various posters at different points in time it was more likely to make my list of "must try."

                                                  1. MGZ Feb 17, 2011 11:45 AM

                                                    I agree that the value of recommendations on the site are frequently only useful if you know the poster. Often comparing someone else's notes to your own experiences at a common restaurant is a good indicator.

                                                    One thing we can all keep in mind to increase the utility of our comments, however, is to go beyond the "fish was great," recitations and try to incorporate some explanation. For example: "I really enjoyed the fluke. Although it's not a fish I eat often, it had the the flavor I enjoy in other flat fish. The preparation was rich in buttery-lemon goodness and the flesh was cooked to the more flaky texture that I prefer." Or something to that effect.

                                                    1. m
                                                      Maximilien Feb 17, 2011 11:34 AM

                                                      I tend to "follow" the advice of the people I know that have the same taste that I have.

                                                      It takes time to get to know those people; and yes, there are times when opinion diverge; or when a restaurant looses its edge and not noticed because it has not been reviewed or visited for a long time.

                                                      M.

                                                      1. lynnlato Feb 17, 2011 11:26 AM

                                                        There are certain regular CHers whose opinions carry more weight, for me, than others. There are a lot of folks in this community these days and as such, there are a lot of opinions. But I've noticed there are sharks out there lurking and waiting to jump on threads headed as the example one you described. There looking for a debate. It's all in the wording, IMHO. But I think it should be expected, to some degree, if you start a thread about a restaurant experience. I mean, that's the whole point in starting a thread in a community setting. But yes, there are those Debbie & Donny Downers who like to poo-poo everything. Too bad CH doesn't have an "ignore" function so that you can block their posts from your site.

                                                        When I was first introduced to CH several years ago by our local food editor she told me that a catch post heading was key to drawing attention and getting good responses.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: lynnlato
                                                          ttoommyy Feb 17, 2011 11:31 AM

                                                          Thanks for an intelligent response lynnlato. I of course know there will always be a difference of opinion, but I have opened so many restaurant review posts in the last few weeks (here and other sites) that just seem like 10 different opinions from 10 different people. It makes my head spin.

                                                          1. re: ttoommyy
                                                            Chris VR Feb 19, 2011 05:38 AM

                                                            Well, what you're seeing IS 10 different opinions from 10 different people. Everyone has their own preferences, likes, dislikes and peeves. I think there are few "absolutes" in food, and I doubt you'd ever see everyone agree on one thing. It may just be that a discussion forum isn't right for you. Traditional newspaper restaurant reviews might be more to your liking, when a food "expert" gives his/her opinion, rather than people of varying expertise, taste and styles offering theirs. Personally, I like the variety of opinion that a discussion forum offers, but I agree it's a lot more work to figure out which of those 10 different posters I might agree with.

                                                            1. re: Chris VR
                                                              nsxtasy Feb 20, 2011 04:28 AM

                                                              Also, when there are ten different opinions from ten different people, you can still find a lot of good information there. If eight of the ten love a place, it means something different from when eight of the ten hate it. And, as previously mentioned, opinions are rarely just "I like it" or "I hate it"; what makes Chowhound so good is that people tell exactly what they liked (or hated) about it. You can use that in the context of which restaurant dishes and features are most important to you, and which things you don't care about.

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