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"Restaurants" Database To Be Eliminated

Melanie Wong Jan 9, 2012 12:26 PM

Subsumed under the topic title, "Change in the site header", http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/827384 , "jane" includes the news that Restaurant pages will be going away. While I have no recollection of major issues with the navigation header, there have been many discussions on this board of the Restaurant database. I wanted to re-post the info here in a separate topic where those who have paid attention to the iimplementation and use of Restaurant pages might see it.

"... It's the first step toward removing the restaurant pages altogether. This may be alarming to some who have used those pages to post restaurant reviews, tips, and reference data. But please don't worry: the pages themselves will still be around for a while, and any reviews that you posted will be available to you for quite some time. We'll have more information on that soon.

Why the change? We originally offered restaurant information in order to make the Chowhound boards more useful. We thought we'd forestall the slightly annoying need to continually reply to a post with the question, "Where is this place you're talking about?" However, those good intentions have not been well served. We have heard that our restaurant listings have not been particularly helpful to most people most of the time, and they've slowed down the performance of the site. So we're beginning the process to eliminate those pages. More on that as the project commences. You will be well forewarned before any of this takes place..."

  1. p
    Pincus Apr 17, 2012 10:40 AM

    I will just echo the comments that it is ridiculous to run a site which involves as part of it user reviews of restaurants, and have no way to locate those restaurants on that site, or to add new restaurant information.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Pincus
      escargot3 Apr 17, 2012 06:08 PM

      and i will add that I really really really really miss that feature. It's totally ridiculous to have deleted it.

      1. re: escargot3
        Servorg Apr 17, 2012 06:11 PM

        "It's totally ridiculous to have deleted it."

        Why, yes...yes it is...

      2. re: Pincus
        Robert Lauriston Apr 18, 2012 02:28 PM

        It's not ridiculous to get rid of something that's not working and for which you don't own all the rights you need.

        I'll be very surprised if they don't add a restaurant database again, but judging by their help-wanted ads they're a few developers short.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston
          8Gr8N8 Sep 6, 2012 12:13 PM

          I was shocked to find this useful feature removed. The hyperlinks to restaurant info were fantastic. I keep hearing about folks abandoning Chow in favor of Yelp. I tell them not to, but now you're taking away one of the major selling points. Without the restaurant pages, this is no longer the wikipedia of restaurants!

      3. s
        soupkitten Feb 26, 2012 07:38 PM

        just wanted to note that recent out-of-towner rec threads on my home board are not very fun to participate in any more. the folks from my hometown have always been very generous w recs and in the not-so-distant past, there would be a nice little map of wiki points around the visitor's hotel... now the long list of restaurants and convoluted directions make it seem like every new rec or post is more of a burden to the op than anything else, and people don't get to really showcase the availability of great chow because of the failures of the site.

        i truly hope a map-fix is a very high priority, because it's so unhelpful for travelers as it stands now. i personally don't feel any desire to check out threads on regional boards where i'm unfamiliar with the local geography, as i once did. i will also participate less on my regional home board(s). long term, this will kill the site, leaving only the snarky naf-type topics.

        1. escargot3 Feb 26, 2012 10:15 AM

          Companies often make major changes in how they conduct their business. And sometimes, despite all their research and discussion, they come to the wrong conclusion. Netflix is a good example of poor decision making.

          It takes courage to acknowledge the mistake, and change it. But it also is simply good business to take that corrective step.

          Simply put:
          the proposed change is a slap in the face of those who are enhancing Chowhound boards for all by offering time and intelligence to enhance these pages.

          I strongly encourage the owners to reconsider the proposed changes.

          1. grayelf Feb 13, 2012 08:57 AM

            I'm sad the restaurant dbase is going. Although I didn't use it consistently, I did occasionally update records, and it seems a bit retrograde not to have this information available here, plus it seems like it will create a lot of "blanks" in posts where folks have referenced the database. It's also a slap in the face to the CH-loving Hounds who obviously spent countless hours tending the garden and debugging the plants without pay or recognition. It appears there are other exigencies that have created the need for Chow/CH/CBS to do this. We are not going to be told what they are which is understandable. As others have said, this is a business, and decisions partly or wholly based on $ tend not to be popular. Throw legal considerations in there and no one is going to be happy, including the very people who are doing the excising. But CH/Chow/CBS gets to change its mind, and so do we. If the changes are detrimental, we will vote with our feet, er keyboards and frequent other sites. I know from personal professional experience that sometimes it's just not feasible to take stakeholders' feedback into account in a meaningul way before making a drastic change, and being on the receiving end of a perceived lack of responsiveness is painful in the extreme. I wonder if CHs would have felt better about this decision if they had been consulted prior to it being set in stone? The outcome would be the same but perhaps it would have avoided some of the anger to have been asked...

            I would like very much for the database to remain, in case that isn't clear from my post.

            9 Replies
            1. re: grayelf
              a
              abstractpoet Feb 13, 2012 10:48 AM

              With all this talk of people leaving the site or drastically reducing their participation, it reminds me that Chowhound's greatest resources – by far – are the 'hounds themselves. Regardless of what folks up top think about the value of the database itself, if its removal causes many of this site's best users to migrate elsewhere, the ripple effect of that cannot be overstated.

              Hasn't that always been the main difference between Chowhound and Yelp? You "yelp" as a form of self-expression, to make yourself heard. But I've always come here – as much as anything – to learn from the wealth of knowledge and treasure-seeking spirit of the Melanie Wongs and the rworanges.

              1. re: abstractpoet
                rworange Feb 13, 2012 11:25 AM

                No.

                Thanks for the kind words, but please don't think or say that.

                Another difference between yelp and Chowhound is that Chowhound doesn't make posters stars. It makes the content of the post the stars. There may not be democracy as far as the site rules, but all posters are created equal in terms of content.

                Like everyone, I have people whose posts get more attention and respect from me, but it was because i get to know them because of content.

                The real danger of not having restaurant information is that it sends people elsewhere to look for it. Then that becomes the go to place for information.

                Not everyone is as discriminating in terms of quality.

                Whether a few posters leave or cut down on posting doesn't matter a bit in the big picture.

              2. re: grayelf
                drewskiSF Feb 13, 2012 11:36 AM

                i think it's been particularly frustrating for people that have invested their time to add information to the DB is because just a few months ago there was talk of freshening the data, brainstorming for improvements, keeping users in the loop, etc.

                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8024...

                and now it's amputation of diseased limbs with no set plan on reconstructive surgery.

                sorry, i've switched from the gardening analogy

                1. re: drewskiSF
                  h
                  Herne Feb 14, 2012 12:49 PM

                  Given the minimal traffic on ChowHound Ontario:Toronto at this time I find the shutting down of this page beyond understanding. Doing everything to encourage more people/posts seems a more rationale effort at this time.

                  1. re: Herne
                    Googs Feb 14, 2012 02:19 PM

                    I guess for every restaurant I add or modify over the coming days, under "Good To Know" I should write "efforts to communicate first-hand information is useless." The restaurant pages are far, far more than just an address file. They are the best way to gather detailed, first-hand restaurant information and CH reviews.

                    There are a lot of things that could be gone and never missed that would speed things up. Bandwidth draining ads are the first offender and the utterly useless "been there", "wanna go". I know you need ads. Do you need ones that take so long to load?

                    1. re: Googs
                      Robert Lauriston Feb 14, 2012 04:20 PM

                      The restaurant pages are not very helpful in finding reviews on Chowhound, in fact in many cases relying on them will cause you to miss reviews.

                      Prior to the 2009 change discussed at the top of this topic, each restaurant page included a very helpful list of Chowhound topics linking to the page, but since then it's just another copy of the usual incomplete and badly weighted search results.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        Googs Feb 15, 2012 05:59 AM

                        I'm the type of person that makes sure a link appears in any discussion about any restaurant, adjusting and creating listings as necessary, whether it's my review or someone else's. Why bother writing if you don't plant a flag? You better bet I find it a great way to thoroughly organize information regarding Toronto restaurants. Not sure how they do things out your way.

                        1. re: Googs
                          jen kalb Feb 15, 2012 10:16 AM

                          I agree - I find restaurant discussions that are just a string of names (or assume you know the locations fairly irritating, would much rather have one stop for my info rather than being driven off of chowhound for the essentials I need to know.

                          1. re: Googs
                            Manybears Feb 23, 2012 09:02 AM

                            The effort you and others on the Ontario board put into linking restaurants in threads is a big reason I find CH so helpful--thank you. With a number of restaurants being a pain to Google (because of generic names, for example) this provides a way to find out what else has been said about a particular place and really make the most of the Chowhound discussions.

                2. Robert Lauriston Feb 12, 2012 11:30 AM

                  On reflection, I think removing the restaurant database will improve the site. In addition to the promised performance improvements, the search results will no longer be polluted with the semi-random star ratings, the "been there / wanna go" idiocy will disappear, and we won't have any more random auto-links.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    DiveFan Feb 12, 2012 02:07 PM

                    Yah, maybe the 'new' functionality will allow us to include the directly obtained GPS coordinates of the target location. No copyrighted info that. Hint. Hint.

                    1. re: DiveFan
                      rworange Feb 12, 2012 06:46 PM

                      in the locked parallel database thread i got it that there was no appealing to Chow managment and the database was gone.

                      Jim Leff who seemed to be appealing to chow to extract the data for possible use, put the nail in the coffin with his last two posts that reversed and went back to his original position of a restaurant database was irrelevant to this site. It was unfortunate people put so much into this but it didn't make any difference to the forums at all.

                      However, in my eulogy to the dead databse let me say some of the reasons outside of contributing content to the site why this could have been so great.

                      It was a database that wasn't easy to get to, for years didn't show up in searches correctly and wasn't promoted by Chow.

                      Searches and interfaces can be fixed, that has nothing to do with the content.

                      That was one of the primary problems, search wasn't helpful.

                      Searching by neighborhood is always great.

                      The cuisine data was better than anywhere and had that been a search not only could you find out, for example, restaurants that served Chinese cuisine, but what type Cantonese, etc.

                      The linking to significant reports would have been great had that been thought out.

                      if you wanted to see what other blogs or professional reviews were available for that restaurant. That was a hugely unutilized part of the system.

                      Then there was all the usual stuff like price, credit cards, liquor and other features.

                      It is nice to know if a restaurant is closed. One of the things that is most common on the web is it is impossible to tell if someplace is closed. Restaurants that have long closed and been razed show up in google search with no note of being closed. The people who worked on the Chow database worked to make sure that was reliable.

                      That is useful within this site as well. Isn't it a pain to open up a thread, get all excited and then either see a post at the end that the joint is closed ... or worse ... no one notes that and you go not thinking to call and check.

                      Needless to say, cutting and pasting restaurant info into a post is not only time consuming, but that data is subject to change.

                      it was a truly flexible international database that no other site but forsuare has. Yelp is currently going international, but it is not flexible.

                      Had there been any talk of improving it there are a few things i would have suggested changes to. .

                      it would be useful to split the hours field into two. One that is like yelp's where there are only specific hours to be added and one freeform field that don't fit the norm ... the restaurant is usually open mon-fri but check the website because blah, blah, blah. But i do like now that on a number of sites including yelp you can see if the restaurant is currently closed.

                      Good to know would have been nice to change to general restaurant overview like zagat does. It could be entered by Chow staff or approved posters. Then for the people who wanted to know an overview, it would be there.

                      I'd suggest adding information about event facilities. That is what lots of the SF restaurant records include. I put how many private rooms, how many people included. It wasn't searchable but it was there.

                      It would be nice if when you searched the first two lines of the overview were displayed so people could see searching Chinese restauarnts if they should look further.

                      It be nice if clicking on the phone number would connect you to the restaurant on a smartphone.

                      Over course something like yelp where you pull up a map and see what restaurants were around a specific location and then move along the map with restaurants displayed would be great. I found lots of great restaurants on yelp using that feature.

                      I also think the star system could have been valueable had it been a smart star system.

                      One objection was that restaurants and chefs change ... then it would be nice to have a star recheck. Chef changes ... reset the accumulated ratings to zero.

                      I personally think the quick review section wasn't useful, but if the stars had been visible on the thread, i'm sure Chowhounds would have been compelled to start entering stars so a correct view was represented.

                      The photo section needed some real love. That needed to integrate better into the site.

                      As usual this is too long. There are more treasures and possiblities that people worked years to input with the promise that somewhere up the line, things would be fixed.

                      The thing with yelp, like Chowhound in the past, is that is succeeds because of content.

                      People use it despite what it is because the find information there. The info quality may be debatable but i find it is getting more and more reliable. Lots of Chowhounds post there.

                      Like Chowhound said in the past, make the site what you want it to be. I see that sea change on yelp. People are starting to make it less of a frat party because they want a place they can get reliable info.

                      The restaurant data drew me to yelp. I ignored the reviews. However, when you are constantly going to a site for restaurant info, you look around and see what else is there. I'm liking more of what I see. If I want to discuss an interesting post, I can contact the poster on the pm system.

                      I'm getting to know the reliable posters and some old friends that i knew from days past on Chowhound.

                      That is the value of a database. It can pull even a die hard like me into re-evaluating a site.

                      Since this is dead, I hope Chowhounds don't jump in to start objections to stars or whatever. It isn't going to happen. A new database is not even on the table for the future.

                      Given that, I think Chowhound creaks. I hope there will be some changes that were objected to in the past like a PM system. I'm liking the idea of a like button. I say this without sarcasm. I now want those things.

                      I also thing the Chowhound brand should be done away with. Someone on Chow said that there was confusion about what was Chow and what was Chowhound.

                      I agree. I was confused until reading a discussion about the slogan of something like the site for sophiticated eaters, prrimitive cooks. For the first time I realized that didn't refer to Chowhounds at all. Only Chow. Removing the Chowhound brand would decrease the confusion.

                      1. re: rworange
                        Servorg Feb 12, 2012 06:52 PM

                        "Removing the Chowhound brand would decrease the confusion."

                        Perhaps a new name like "Gobble Gobble Gobble" as this whole data debasement deal is making me think of a turkey...

                        1. re: Servorg
                          rworange Feb 12, 2012 07:20 PM

                          No. This is the Chow vision now. If you expect something else it leads to confusion. Call it Chow.

                          Once I got that, i let go. Like Jim often says, it is amazing it lasted this long and i will continue to enjoy the parts of it that remain but with different expectations and participation

                        2. re: rworange
                          Jim Leff Feb 13, 2012 10:34 AM

                          No I didn't.

                          1. re: rworange
                            f
                            Food Fiend Feb 25, 2012 01:36 PM

                            I'm an enthusiastic user of Chowhound (and can admit shamefully to being an infrequent contributor). I've valued the voices of posters such as rworange (and dozens of others) I've come to recognize and respect. So, responding to rwoarange's request (far earlier in this thread) for others to pipe up:
                            (1) I agree with almost everything in rworange's 2/12/12 post immediately above;
                            (2) having addresses and map to the right of the page is invaluable in trying to figure out if the posts are relevant to me, particularly when I'm perusing other Boards in my travels;
                            (3) the Chow Team's email to users about the removal of Restaurant pages was regretfully opaque and confusing (but I appreciate Meredith's (mudaba's) attempt to provide some --unfortunately limited-- response to concerns); and
                            (4) Chow should consider hiring rworange.

                            1. re: Food Fiend
                              rworange Feb 25, 2012 04:09 PM

                              >>> (4) Chow should consider hiring rworange

                              Lol. God no. I don't even like meeting Chowhounds face to face unless I have to. My virtual hobby could get ruined by too much reality.

                              Thanks for the other comments though. I hope if enough people post, a replacement restaurant database will get a priority.

                              One comment though about the confusing message. One yelp poster who had consistanly double posted over the years has stopped posting on Chowhound.

                              I just can't convince her that her reviews will not be deleated so now we don't get her reviews on Chowhound.

                              I saw her review on yelp about an interesting new place and was waiting ... and waiting ... for the usually copy and paste on Chowhound. Didn't happened and when i asked what that is what she said.

                              So a lot of people still misunderstand and think the restaurant forum part of this site is going away in March.

                      2. Robert Lauriston Feb 11, 2012 11:40 AM

                        I think the posts from mudaba and Jason make the unfortunate situation clear and people should cut them some slack and move on. In case anybody missed this crucial bit in the 150+ posts:

                        "... this is the sort of thing that is also very painful to engineers, who were simply following orders when they built the database. There are also relatively new engineers working on our team who inherited many problems from the past, and who spent all of 2011 rebuilding our infrastructure on a new, updated platform (latest version of Rails), migrating data and doing what is called deferred maintenance. And finally, these are the same engineers who have told me personally, 'There's no other way around this. It just can't work.' ..."

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          m
                          mdg Feb 11, 2012 02:43 PM

                          "It just can't work" tends to mean "I can't think of a way to make it work", or more likely in this case, "It just can't work within the budget we've been given."

                          Relying on user-generated content and then trashing years of it because Chow management doesn't value it enough to save and reuse it (albeit imperfectly) in a new database doesn't bode well for the future. Move on, yes. Cut Chow slack, not ready for that yet.

                          Michael

                          1. re: mdg
                            Jim Leff Feb 11, 2012 08:49 PM

                            FWIW I'm familiar with a few of the issues re: the underlying platform of this site, and I find it credible that a true dead end may have been hit (I don't know it for a fact, but I think it's credible).

                            I also think we've made our point as persuasively as we could about why users are teed off about this. At this point, I'm pretty sure the issue's not just being sloughed off.

                            That said, I understand why hounds are teed off. Quite rightly so. The powers that be can do what they want re: placement of invasive ads, social media hooks and obnoxiously-named features; we're tolerant. But at the very least they need to keep up their commitment to preserve our data. Seems a fair expectation.

                            But moving on would be good. And, from my perspective, it's a freaking miracle that we're all still here, FIFTEEN YEARS after the site launched, trading chow tips. That was never in the plans, or even the distant hopes. This is gravy. And every chowhound appreciates gravy!

                            CBS certainly doesn't host it as a public service gift. But I'm still awfully glad they're keeping the lights on. I'd hate to imagine no Chowhound.

                            1. re: mdg
                              Robert Lauriston Feb 12, 2012 11:25 AM

                              Of course there are budget constraints. There always have been, that's part of the reason that the site was a mess and had to be rebuilt yet again.

                              It sounds like some of the mistakes they made along the way have compounded the flawed design of the restaurant database with copyright and/or licensing issues:

                              "There are legal constraints to pulling of your restaurant data, and even if we could get it to you, we could not keep it on the site in the current restaurant page format."

                          2. p
                            PAO Feb 10, 2012 04:06 PM

                            I for one am very sad to hear this. I have found the restaurant pages to be helpful and much more reliable than Yelp or UrbanSpoon. In fact, the restaurant pages are the only feature of Chow that I use.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: PAO
                              Midlife Feb 10, 2012 05:11 PM

                              This is very interesting to me. As someone who was never aware (who knows why, after 6 or 7 years on Chowhound) that there were reviews in the restaurant database, I've always found it very useful to do searches and read the narratives posted on the boards about whatever restaurant or area I was curious about. I'm sure the database is more direct and helpful if you already know the restaurant you want to read about (I said above I trust CHers more than other posters elsewhere), but I find it a bit difficult to see why the database would be the ONLY source worth using here.

                              1. re: PAO
                                Jacquilynne Feb 11, 2012 07:48 AM

                                Looking at your history, it looks like you've posted 3 reviews on the Restaurants pages, but made nearly 1000 posts on the Chowhound forums. I just want to clarify that it's only the former that's going to be affected, not the latter.

                                1. re: Jacquilynne
                                  Servorg Feb 11, 2012 07:53 AM

                                  Does the information that you have access to show the hounds who either created or updated Restaurant pages, Jacquilynne?

                                  1. re: Servorg
                                    Jacquilynne Feb 11, 2012 08:17 AM

                                    No -- I can see reviews they've posted and where they've marked been there/wanna go, but I can't look at a user and see what restaurant records they've edited.

                              2. mudaba Feb 10, 2012 11:21 AM

                                Hi everyone,

                                I don't want to muddy these already muddy waters any more, but I do want to try to clarify a couple of things:

                                1. We are definitely moving ahead with the elimination of the restaurant pages. It is a business decision based on many factors, including the fact that we have had infrastructure changes that cannot support Restaurants in its current form.

                                2. We are considering potential ways to bring back some of the functionality in the future. A future new mapping or linking function would be entirely different from what we have now. We are exploring ways to improve the boards format for everyone who visits.

                                3. There are legal constraints to pulling of your restaurant data, and even if we could get it to you, we could not keep it on the site in the current restaurant page format. Again, this is a business decision.

                                I apologize for being oblique, or confusing in any way. I am trying to learn how to communicate as clearly as possible on this kind of thorny matter, so please chalk any confusion up to my learning curve.

                                Meredith

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: mudaba
                                  rworange Feb 10, 2012 12:35 PM

                                  >>> We are exploring ways to improve the boards format for everyone who visits.

                                  i am removing my flip remark which does no one any good and writing this new post in case you caught it.

                                  That remark in light of the database decision makes me shudder. What if the archive data doesn't fit into that new format. It seems very possible Chow will be dumping the archived data like data base data and starting from scratch in a brave new world that Dave MP will be attempting to make palpable to posters.

                                  There is a difference between technology and content.

                                  As I said above it is like the video player for your videos was infested and someone threw out all your videos and told you to start from scratch.

                                  The technology as everyone acknowledged was bad for the database but the data wasnt. I would hope you acknowledge that when you decide to change the design to the forums ... which actually few have complained about.

                                  1. re: mudaba
                                    l
                                    lovegoodfoodnh Feb 10, 2012 12:54 PM

                                    Wow that is really short sited. The only time I use chowhound is to see what is happening in my area restaurants or what people think before I try a new restaurant. I can and do get recipes etc from other sites such as epicurious or cooks magazine. You are where I go to get my restaurant information. No-one else offers this same info - yelp is not any good, can't trust trip advisor.

                                    I guess I'll have to go elsewhere. I signed up for your site solely to post on the restaurant pages. I am sure that I am not alone. I would ask you to rethink your business decision because I think you will lose people.

                                    1. re: lovegoodfoodnh
                                      Jacquilynne Feb 11, 2012 07:45 AM

                                      Just to clarify, it's not the Chowhound discussion forums that are going away. It's the Restaurant database pages, and your history shows that you haven't posted on those pages.

                                      1. re: Jacquilynne
                                        Cynsa Feb 11, 2012 09:40 AM

                                        Not posting on the Restaurant database pages doesn't necessarily mean that one won't read the data and find it useful, does it?

                                        1. re: Cynsa
                                          Jacquilynne Feb 13, 2012 01:55 PM

                                          Not at all, you can definitely find them useful without posting on them, but some people have thought that we were eliminating the Chowhound forums, so I've been trying to clarify that for people, and let them know whether any of their postings will be directly affected.

                                  2. mudaba Feb 9, 2012 02:36 PM

                                    Hey everyone,

                                    I wanted to just weigh in on this thread (I also posted this elsewhere) and to ask that everyone have a little patience. We need time to plan any new restaurant database solution. Rushing it right now, in the middle of trying to clean up the last, poor build is not the way to get a good solution. So for now, if you want to link to Yelp, it's fine. Perhaps once we have a chance to reevaluate and build something truly worthwhile and undiseased, you will find that your needs are met. But it takes time.

                                    An announcement that I just made on another thread is that a longtime Chowhound is coming to work at CHOW in March. His user name is Dave MP. I am very excited to have him join us here, and to digging into questions of how to build a strong mobile site for Chowhound, how to get address information onto the site, and how to build features that really work. Dave MP has been active on the site for over 11 years, so you can trust that he will have your best interests at heart. We will also be user testing larger new features like restaurant address linking, but again, it takes time. Please look at the positive changes we are making and understand that it is a commitment to good things in the future for Chowhound.

                                    Thanks, Meredith of CHOW

                                    19 Replies
                                    1. re: mudaba
                                      drewskiSF Feb 9, 2012 05:04 PM

                                      I guess what's confusing me and others is how you don't own the manually entered data?

                                      You locked the thread about the parallel database, but the proposal being disucssed was not to take all of the information that exists in the DB right now, just a fraction of it, the manually entered data. If the outside data was put into place on mm/dd/yyyy, only export records created / modified after that date.

                                      Things like Foreign records would be even easier, since my understanding is that the purchased data was US only?

                                      I appreciate that you want to build a quality infrastructure, but amputation of the "diseased tissue" before having any plan for a replacement ("once we have a chance to reevaluate and build something truly worthwhile and undiseased") seems like the wrong sequence of events.

                                      1. re: mudaba
                                        Jim Leff Feb 9, 2012 07:16 PM

                                        Hi, Meredith,

                                        I had a long reply to this, but finally got to your final posting in the other thread. Sounds like there's extenuating issues.

                                        I of course won't support off-site efforts to extend this feature if you guys plan on redeveloping something. And I'm trusting (and it is blind trust) that you wouldn't dump all this data (representing so much hard work, pro bono, from chowhound users, all done at your own behest) unless there was truly no other way (and, IMO, you owe them a serious apology for putting them through that and then pulling the rug, whatever the reason). I hope my trust is warranted.

                                        1. re: Jim Leff
                                          mudaba Feb 10, 2012 05:36 AM

                                          Hi Jim (nice to hear from you!),

                                          You're absolutely right that we owe users a serious apology for the wasted time and efforts that went into the restaurants database. Oddly, though they are frustrated with our engineering team over this matter, this is the sort of thing that is also very painful to engineers, who were simply following orders when they built the database. There are also relatively new engineers working on our team who inherited many problems from the past, and who spent all of 2011 rebuilding our infrastructure on a new, updated platform (latest version of Rails), migrating data and doing what is called deferred maintenance. And finally, these are the same engineers who have told me personally, "There's no other way around this. It just can't work." And I have to trust them.

                                          Trust isn't something simple that you can ask for, and receive. It's something that comes over time, when you see a new level of responsiveness, and you see positive steps in the right direction. Maybe it's the removal of that left-sided share tool you always hated (in the works), or a better nav that is clearer and more streamlined, or it's the hiring of someone who you believe has your best interests at heart.

                                          In other words, I can't ask people who have put literally hundreds of hours of work to trust engineers they've never met before. But I hope that a year from now, they will look back and say, "I guess it just had to be that way, as much as I hated it." It's not simply about a big mea culpa right now; it's about making things better for the long term, and that's what I'm interested in most of all.

                                          Meredith (of CHOW, I always write, though may not have to forever)

                                          1. re: mudaba
                                            Jim Leff Feb 10, 2012 06:14 AM

                                            Hmm. Sounds like you guys are all still baffled by the discord. Perhaps an analogy will help.

                                            Say your landlord asked you to voluntarily grow a garden in the back yard, and then, after you've worked very hard to transform the crappy, scrawny little saplings he gave you into something lush and thriving (and which, incidentally, improved the property value), he sent in workers to rip out all the plants, leaving a deserted plot of dirt for which there are no immediate plans.

                                            The critical question: "why are you taking out the plants right now when you have nothing to replace them with?" remains unanswered. All you get is bizarre doubletalk about how this move displays "a commitment to good things in the future".

                                            The messenger's getting shot, the workers are getting shot, the leases are being reexamined, new apartments are being looked at, all the while there's nothing but ineffectual spinning which never so much as touches on the only issue that counts: why kill it now?

                                            The "rushing" you're decrying seems to be on your end. If you don't have anything to replace this functionality, why the rush to extinguish it, when so many users have worked so hard on it and obviously found it so useful? I hypothesized, one posting back, that there seemed to be an extenuating situation. But after your last posting, i'm not so sure.

                                            I hope this doesn't come across as harsh. I'm just trying to frame the issue so it's understood.

                                            1. re: Jim Leff
                                              mudaba Feb 10, 2012 06:25 AM

                                              We're killing it because it is a broken feature that is riddled with problems for the site. I'm sorry that my long and detailed response to you was simply a red flag. It was meant to be the exact opposite. In fact, this is something we have been talking about and investigating for some time.

                                              I'm not baffled by the discord. Perhaps the plants in the backyard are actually termite-infested weeds, and no one knows enough about what's in the earth to understand that, and the landlord's getting rid of it in order to bring in a landscape artist to build a Japanese zen garden. Not everyone's going to love the zen garden, but it will never have termites. How detailed can I make this metaphor?

                                              The engineers are exterminators, and they say that the garden is deeply troubled and it has to go.

                                              M.

                                              1. re: mudaba
                                                Jim Leff Feb 10, 2012 08:02 AM

                                                You're stopping just short of saying the bugs (computer, not biological) have a chance of maybe damaging the rest of the site. That's the point where reasonable parties would understand a rush to remove before a replacement's anywhere near ready. Anything short of that - e.g. "it's a hassle to maintain", "it looks ugly", "we're just unhappy with it" - doesn't justify ripping out right this second, with the consternation it's causing among our best users (I've never seen Melanie Wong on the warpath before).

                                                The technical suckiness isn't news. We knew it sucked when it was first installed. But some hounds worked hard to turn lemons into lemonade......at your request. And then you ripped out everyone's work. Because it was built on suck. Which we knew going in. See the disjoint?

                                                You keep returning to the plan to build something better. That's awesome, but that's not the issue. The issue is timing. Why rip out NOW, when there's nothing ready to replace it? You don't like it. It's technically crap. We deserve better. Agreed on all counts! But hounds found it useful enough as-is to kick up this fit. So I'm still not getting why it's got to go away right NOW, leaving nothing?

                                                I ask this as a hypothetical question, because you've obviously gone as far as you will/can in answering this. So please read this as a Fiddler-on-the-Roof-ish exasperated throwing up of hands toward the heavens, rather than a red-faced customer poking his finger into your collar bone! :)

                                                BTW, thanks for the ease-up on allowing links from Yelp, etc. I know that's not making anyone there very happy. Hopefully the resurrection of this feature will be good enough that Yelp will want to link to us! And hopefully you'll bring some of our veteran users in early to solicit their thoughts before building it out.

                                                1. re: mudaba
                                                  Jim Leff Feb 10, 2012 08:16 AM

                                                  PS I just thought of a Grand Compromise.

                                                  If you can get engineering to try to import all (or at least some) of the previous user generated content into the new system, I'd bet that would relax people quite a bit. So please consider at least holding on to that data, so they can try to tinker around with it when the time comes.

                                                  (If you addressed this already, my apologies, I haven't been able to keep up with all the talk on this.)

                                                  1. re: Jim Leff
                                                    Engineering Feb 10, 2012 01:09 PM

                                                    Hi Jim, thanks for trying to clarify this situation. The analogy is good, and makes a lot of sense.

                                                    I just want to say from an engineering perspective that we do have a compelling technical reason for the timing of removing these pages and the access to the data. Your compromise has also been discussed at length in the past. At this time I think it would be inappropriate to make a promise to bring this data back in one form or another in the future, however we would like everyone to know that we know the value of the data and are working hard not to just throw away chowhounds' hard work. This is a very complex and nuanced situation and we are working diligently to find a solution that will help everyone have a better experience on chowhound.

                                                    Jason
                                                    CHOW Eng

                                                    1. re: Engineering
                                                      Servorg Feb 10, 2012 01:39 PM

                                                      "...we do have a compelling technical reason for the timing of removing these pages and the access to the data. "

                                                      What reason would that be exactly?

                                                      1. re: Engineering
                                                        Jim Leff Feb 10, 2012 09:10 PM

                                                        Hi, Jason,

                                                        Gotcha. And, yeah, I can think of security vulnerabilities caused by buggy s/w which you'd not want to discuss publicly, so it makes sense....to me at least. Thanks for the chime-in, it puts my mind at ease.

                                                        It would be a mistake to out-and-out promise to bring the user-contributed data back (until you see what's involved). But listen, I think it goes without saying that you'd have a lot of relieved chowhounds loving you if 1. you do find a way to import it into a new system, even if it's a hassle*, and 2. construction of that new system happens pretty quickly (if CHOW didn't realize how vital this was before, I'm figuring they know now; user anguish aside, certainly none of us are thrilled with dotting the boards with Yelp links!).

                                                        One thought re: #1. If, for whatever reason, the user contributed data just won't import smoothly, please consider dumping it into a free field within a given record, just as a "hail mary" last-gap solution. It wouldn't take too long for a few thousand hounds to massage the data (assuming the new db is user-editable). This would not be optimal, but would be better than forfeiting the data, and, again, it wouldn't stay ugly for very long ("the power of networks", etc etc). Just a thought.

                                                    2. re: mudaba
                                                      drewskiSF Feb 10, 2012 08:56 AM

                                                      Hi Meredith,

                                                      It seems like the Zen Garden was a recent development and was never talked about when the plans to dismantle the current diseased and festering garden were announced so that's a positive sign.

                                                      Still, it doesn't sound like you have a firm plan for a Zen Garden, but rather a plan to plan a Zen Garden.

                                                      I do appreciate your efforts to explain the situation, but it's still not entirely clear to me (other than the strong loathing of the existing infrastructure) what the answer to Jim's Q of "Why now?"

                                                      Is there some contract up for renewal that's creating this rush to dismantle? Apologizes, if it's been explained and I missed it.

                                                      Because right now it appears you're about to exterminate with Agent Orange, leaving behind a lot of contaminated soil with the timeline for the Superfund cleanup and subsequent Zen-ness still up in the air.

                                                      You talked about building trust and it sounds like people have regained some with the current engineering team's performance, but with this move you're about to shatter it. Not with engineering specifically, but with Chow in general . . . which is arguably worse.

                                                  2. re: mudaba
                                                    rworange Feb 10, 2012 10:32 AM

                                                    >>> Oddly, though they are frustrated with our engineering team over this matter, this is the sort of thing that is also very painful to engineers, who were simply following orders when they built the database.

                                                    While I had not planned to write another thing about this decision that statement illustrates how totally Chow does not listen to what posters are saying.

                                                    If there is one thing that i personally have made it a point of saying over and over on these boards is how thrilled I am with the new engineering team. If I must, I will be more than happy to go back and provide at least a dozen links. I say it every chance i can.

                                                    Also my professional experience as an IT manager makes me more than aware that engineering doesn't do the work of the product manager. We are told the plans and we turn the design into a product. Yes, we can advise, but no, the utlimate decision is not ours.

                                                    So this has ZERO to do with engineering.

                                                    However, I know as a manager that some info that comes back from engineering might be the best technically, but in terms of the business there is a need to brainstorm alternate solutions

                                                    My experience is that the perfect world never happens. What is put on the waiting list, stays on the waiting list. .

                                                    I feel exhausted by trying to explain somethng that no one is going to listen to ... however here's one last attempt.

                                                    Chow was totally unaware of the treasure trove of data in the restaurant database.

                                                    As of today no one on the Chow team is aware of the treasure trove of data in the Chow database.

                                                    If you were, you would have never made the decision you did.

                                                    But you just see it as a name and address finder. As that, yes, it is expendable. Chow can just link to one of the other outside vendors.

                                                    If Chow would just give some time with a few posters who invested in this to take a look at what is there and and listen to the benefits to the site in general it would be to Chow's own benefit.

                                                    Chow isn't even aware of how necessary a name and address function is to the site. if it did, as the database was dumped there would have also been a set up to replace it with linking to an outside vendor for addresses.

                                                    There's a lot that could have been done if a restaurant database was valued.

                                                    The current contract could have been extended until the revised database was in place

                                                    The current contract could have been extended until the new improved Chow database was in place.

                                                    There could have been an attempt to renegotiate with the data provider to see what could have been extracted legally for a price.

                                                    And with all due respect to the engineering team, how many times did Chowhounds have to tell you that user input data was identifiable.

                                                    You can do that by date ... records added prior to the first data provider and never touched. You know that. You also know there are sequence numbers for the initial input data.

                                                    You could have done that by location. None of the records outside the US are by the data provider. That is where the ambiguity of the contract comes in. Are the foreign records never a part of what was provided, now the ownership of someone else?

                                                    What posters have been saying and Chow is not listening to is that we understand only some data could be recovered.

                                                    We are willing to deal with that recovered data and work hard as we have over the years to re-establish a quality product ... and as has been said ... unpaid.

                                                    Get the data extracted that can be extracted.

                                                    Extend the contract with the data provider until a new design can be put in place.

                                                    Chowhounds will be willing to do everything to assist with that.

                                                    But otherwise Chow is saying that what is there wasn't worthwhile .

                                                    It is like someone took all the years of work you put into your videos on chow, said the video player sucked and just deleted all the work you did and told you to redo everything.

                                                    At least you got a salary for that. People here just did it because we love the site and wanted to contribute to make it strong. You are telling us all that work isn't worth anything ... that you got out of that what you paid ... nothing.

                                                    The decision that creating a new database again from scratch (maybe) will yield the same data trove shows a lack of knowledge of what is there.

                                                    As jen and others have stated, i will not be contributing to it somewhere up the line if there is a new one. Also, Chow has been pretty clear it is not a priority and may never happen.

                                                    Also, while i know i like Chowhound too much to leave, I will no longer be contributing any real content on it.

                                                    I will write all my future reviews on yelp.

                                                    The most this site will get from me is "I liked the bahn mi at the new Telegraph'. The rest of the info will be on yelp. This is it from me from now on as far as Chowhound ... when i have time to post even that much.
                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8328...

                                                    I can't invest anymore time into this site. Chow has demonstrated to me they place zero value in what posters put here and that extends far beyond the database.

                                                    i didn't need to listen to enginnering last year tell me 'we promise' we are going to do a good job in the future. The didn't say a thing but put out a consistantly excellent product until it caught my attention and i noted it over and over

                                                    Why would i want to be patient. I was told to be patient for years. i was even kicked off site talk a while back when I stopped being patient. I went back to being patient. This was the result of that patience.

                                                    1. re: rworange
                                                      Stephanie Wong Feb 10, 2012 03:18 PM

                                                      I'll miss you

                                                      1. re: Stephanie Wong
                                                        rworange Feb 10, 2012 04:12 PM

                                                        Oh lord. Since nothing can be done, i want to stop posting here about this.

                                                        I am not leaving unless i get banned. I just am not adding more than a few words anymore. That should make a number of people happy.

                                                        I just don't think Chow values the content of posters and the important thing is getting the word out about great places. Currently yelp now has the louder microphone.

                                                        I learned long ago, an individual poster doesn't matter. i've seen posters I loved come and go.

                                                        It is just that if I'm going to write a review, it is going to be on a site that is stable.

                                                        This database thing is just too big. Years of data were dumped. i have little confidence that the same won't happen up the line to the forum data.

                                                        So as that link in the other posts indicates, i'll still be on Chowhound and if anyone is intrepid enough to want to know more than "Gaumenkitzel has fabulous fresh smelt" ... and really they are ... along with the link to the yelp information about the restaurant, they can see why they are so fabulous in my review there.

                                                        Otherwise I know people looking for information about a restaurant will find it on yelp.

                                                        Hey, hasn't it been said that those one or two word hints are the best anyway.

                                                        And now I'll bow out of Site Talk hopefully. I'm not into eating or beating dead horses. As far as the management of Chow this is a dead horse. i won't be persuing this anymore here.

                                                2. re: mudaba
                                                  meatn3 Feb 9, 2012 07:44 PM

                                                  Great news about Dave MP - hopefully his experience as a participator will be valued by TPTB.

                                                  I'm confused...
                                                  "We need time to plan any new restaurant database solution"

                                                  Is a new restaurant database in the works? What is the timeline? How will it differ from this last one? Will the masses be able to critique it before it is carved in stone?

                                                  If a new one is coming, why trash so much excellent, hard to find data when there are ways to incorporate it into a new format? Not to mention crushing the spirits of those who busted their backsides to provide it?

                                                  If a new database is planned then what is the rush to eradicate the existing one? Forgive my skepticism, but the actions don't make me feel real optimistic.

                                                  Meredith, I appreciate that you are one of the few voices from the corporate side which show a name and face. I hope your doing so doesn't begin to feel like the frustration is aimed at you personally. This just feels like an ill considered decision with no awareness/concern of the future or recognition of the past efforts of those who are deeply invested in the continuation of the site.

                                                  1. re: meatn3
                                                    mudaba Feb 10, 2012 05:49 AM

                                                    Thanks for your note, meatn3, it's nice to hear that it's not all aimed at me! I certainly understand why you would ask why we can't have the new system replace the old one. The truth is that these are major undertakings that take a lot of planning, and any new system we build will have to be built from scratch (back to my last note to Jim, above--this needs to be a matter of trust with our engineers, who say exactly that). We would like to undertake our investigations thoroughly and systematically and hand-in-hand with the many other initiatives and goals we are faced with right now through our corporate parent. As you can tell, I'm a believer in transparency, but I can't give you an exact timeline right now. Our new, post-migration development cycles are still really in creation mode. I have worked in this new operations role for only 7 months (after 7 years at CHOW). Dave MP won't start until March.

                                                    In other news, I made an incredible no-noodle lasagna last night: http://www.chow.com/recipes/30280-noo... I want us to remember that it's all about sharing food and ideas, and this is a good one! (It's very early over here).

                                                    Meredith

                                                    1. re: mudaba
                                                      rworange Feb 10, 2012 12:22 PM

                                                      >>> it's nice to hear that it's not all aimed at me

                                                      And you know i have said that personally to you. However, seriously Meredith, the lasagna line is something you need to edit out. It demonstrates you don't understand in the least your community.

                                                      it is the equivalent of Mitt saying he's not worried about the poor, wants to place a little $10,000 wager, etc. Edit.

                                                      1. re: rworange
                                                        m
                                                        markseiden Feb 11, 2012 10:48 AM

                                                        i thought it was the equivalent of "let them eat lasagna".

                                                  2. re: mudaba
                                                    jen kalb Feb 9, 2012 07:52 PM

                                                    I appreciate your concern, but being to add external links, its not a big help. Maybe some people will add links but most participants are passive. if the links come automatically they will appreciate their appearance The reason we on these Site Talk threads all embraced it is because we are the responders, the information sharers who provide repetitive info - and having a database and linking was an infinitely simpler way of doing this as well as adding value not provided elsewhere. And, in addition, the pages connected all the site info about a restaurant, including enabling finding nearby restaurants. These wonderful features are going away.

                                                    Finally, Its a lot to expect that people who bent over backwards to build a better moustrap go back to what they were doing before, laboriously searching and linking each post, every time there is a thread on a topic. Maybe some folks will but I suspect others will become a lot less giving.

                                                    Its too bad. we ought to be discussing how this could become an even more welcoming place for vivid discussion and comment - finding ways to encourage folks to post fuller accounts of their meals and other finds on the boards - and for info seekers to find the info they want - maybe we could learn from the yelps, googles, etc of the world about how to make reporting and responding and conveying basic info easier

                                                  3. Passadumkeg Feb 9, 2012 07:19 AM

                                                    Bye, bye Chow,
                                                    Hello Yelpiness,
                                                    I think that I'm gonin' to try.

                                                    Buddy Dumkeg

                                                    1. rose water Feb 9, 2012 06:19 AM

                                                      I see this as a very big loss, and am concerned about how it will play out.

                                                      For one thing, there's a wealth of info there. Every time squid kun links to a restaurant page, I'm amazed about how much content is there. Photos of menus, tips on how to navigate, photos of storefronts... It's a huge treasure, and such a shame to dump it.

                                                      From a community perspective, it is a huge loss to eliminate what was clearly a labor of love by squid kun, Melanie, rworange, jen kalb and others to consolidate info in a focused way for all of our benefit.

                                                      From a CH boards/discussion perspective, eliminating the autolinks may render many archived threads useless/incomprehensible. I know there have been a number of discussions where people discuss places at length without mentioning them by name, then include the link to the restaurant. Am I right in understanding that these will all vanish when the restaurant pages go? By the same token, it's incredibly helpful to have the links mentioning restaurants that have closed denoted as closed. This keeps archived posts up to date, particularly for people visiting or unfamiliar with the local area.

                                                      The other huge loss to CH boards/discussion is the specificity the restaurant links provide. Having address info and a map on the sidebar helps to contextualize the information provided in a more offhand/freewheeling/sprawling discussion. Reading about a tantalizing tip, and simultaneously figuring out where the place is located makes it much more likely I'll make it there (and eventually report back). Especially in NYC, and I imagine on boards for other cities, where there are tons of visitors, having this easily accessible level of detail makes the board much more of a resource.

                                                      The download option isn't a fix. Before it vanishes, I'd love the option to download the restaurant pages updated by squid kun, store away jen kalb's in case I ever visit Italy, and copy MMRuth's NYC shopping list. The names (without address info, current restaurant page info, or anything else) of the 4-5 pages I "wanna go" is of no use.

                                                      1. Midlife Feb 8, 2012 06:42 PM

                                                        I'm not sure I'm at all qualified to comment on this issue as I only recently realized that the restaurant database had user reviews on it. Nonetheless...................... here's an an example of my feeling about Chowhound, restaurants, and why I think a Chowhound database is probably something very much worth preserving.

                                                        This past weekend my daughter was in New York on business and looking for two food-related things. First........ a place to find the 'perfect' pizza slice in Brooklyn, and later, in Midtown Manhattan.

                                                        She tends to follow Yelp.............. I'm a Chowhound devotee. So...... we're texting between NY and California, with her asking for help. And............ the above was WITHOUT the restaurant listings, which would have been even more helpful.

                                                        She found some places for slices on Yelp in Brooklyn that were OK, but I searched and found better on Chowhound (just using search through the Outer Boroughs Board). The next day she found a pizza spot on Yelp, in Midtown that turned out to be terrible. I found a couple for her on Chowhound that were better.

                                                        Bottom line................... I trust the reviews I read on Chowhound about 10 times more than those I find on Yelp.

                                                        So................... anything that keeps Chowhound able to serve this purpose is something I will support and recommend.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: Midlife
                                                          rworange Feb 8, 2012 09:07 PM

                                                          Eh, to be honest, since you just searched the forums and didn't use the database it doesn't matter to you. Whether there is a database or not really wouldn't matter.

                                                          However, if you were looking by neighborhood, then just having the addresses and map to the right of the page would give a clue if it was in the area you would like to eat. That info goes away in March.

                                                          So when you search, you have to hope someone mentions where the restaurant is located, otherwise when you find a joint with great pizza you will have to google the web to see if it is where you want to eat. You will have to do this for ever restaurant you find.

                                                          An easily searchable database by cuisine and location with significant Chowhound reports linked might make Chowhound more appealing to your daughter.

                                                          The problem has always been there was no good way to access the database, so most people were unaware of what it offered.

                                                          A software installation a while back removed most of the search criteria as well which hurt even more.

                                                          1. re: rworange
                                                            Midlife Feb 8, 2012 11:42 PM

                                                            "Eh, to be honest, since you just searched the forums and didn't use the database it doesn't matter to you. Whether there is a database or not really wouldn't matter."

                                                            Um, well........... I think I said that discovering the reviews (and the database) was something that made me want to get behind the "keep the database" movement. I'm assuming the reviews will disappear along with the database. I don't find it all that hard to Google for a location, but what you're describing would be much more useful.

                                                            That "easily searchable database by cuisine and location with significant Chowhound reports linked" might be appealing to ME too.But, then, I can't begin to count the number of times I've read a moderators comment here about how the site is highly focused and they work hard to keep it that way. That's in reference to the boards, but also it seems that providing a better version of Yelp is not in the business plan around here.

                                                          2. re: Midlife
                                                            k
                                                            katya Feb 8, 2012 09:33 PM

                                                            Midlife, funny I always tell people review on Chowhound are 20 times more trustworthy than those on Yelp.

                                                            I am really disappointed about this move by Chow.com. They will be losing a lot of traffic to the site - there are many people who don't post that just go to read reviews. I definitely think a Chowhound database is worth preserving.

                                                          3. a
                                                            abstractpoet Feb 8, 2012 04:07 PM

                                                            Not much to add, but I've been following this thread with interest since I first heard the news. Like most here, I think the elimination of the Restaurants pages is a bad decision -- in spite of the fact that I only occasionally clicked through to those actual pages.

                                                            What I, and many posters, do find most helpful is the "linking" feature -- the ability to have the addresses of all the restaurants mentioned in the thread show up in the sidebar on the right, and also marked on the "Places Mentioned" map. This was especially useful in threads dealing with long, multiple-day itineraries, where a couple dozen different restaurants might be mentioned. Or threads comparing several different restaurants within the same category.

                                                            The rationale that the site will run faster without this feature just seems silly. I've never really heard anyone complain that Chowhound is too slow -- I can only assume that this might only be an issue for people who visit Chow primarily, as opposed to those who post in the forums.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: abstractpoet
                                                              rworange Feb 8, 2012 04:20 PM

                                                              >>> Not much to add, but I've been following this thread with interest since I first heard the news

                                                              I hope that people will not be put off by feeling every thing that needs to be said, has been. i hope anyone who would like Chow to reconsider this decision will post ... even ... it is only +1

                                                              There are a half dozen people who have put lots of work into this It is easy enough for Chow to blow those people off. If having the addresses show up in posts seems worthwhile, say so.

                                                              Not to say that only a few people contributed. Lots of people contributed to that database.

                                                              For years chowhounds have been asking to have an easy interface to the database. It never was a priority to Chow. So many people were not aware of the great information that was stored there ... and it is obvious that is particularily true of Chow.

                                                              1. re: rworange
                                                                Phil Ogelos Feb 8, 2012 04:52 PM

                                                                @rwo,
                                                                What? Your post is utterly incomprehensible -what are you trying to say?
                                                                Man, it makes one want to quit this site all together and just sit down to a good, simple plate of meat & potatoes.

                                                                1. re: Phil Ogelos
                                                                  rworange Feb 8, 2012 05:02 PM

                                                                  I was responding that some people might not comment on this thread because they feel there is nothing more to add.

                                                                  However, while I feel it is a slim chance, the more people who would comment that they would like the database to be saved ... who knows ... maybe the decision will be reversed .

                                                                  So many people have said why the database is valueable to this site so much better than I ever could. Whether or not that results in any change ... thank you.

                                                                  However, I hope as many people who would like a database on this site will post, even if that is a simple "keep the database" or a comment I usually detest '+1', indicating support

                                                                  Long threads like this usually have the same group of people responding. In this case it would be the handful of people who worked on the database. Chow will not listen to a small group.

                                                                  That was true of the first 50 posts in this thread.

                                                                  However, since yesterday, that changed. More of the community are posting and as many different people who can post and lend their support, the better.

                                                                  1. re: rworange
                                                                    b
                                                                    BigWoodenSpoon Feb 8, 2012 06:09 PM

                                                                    I want to lend my support to the movement to keep the Restaurants database active.
                                                                    I have used it many times and would be extremely sad if I couldn't access it, especially when I'm out of town and need info on the good places to eat outside of my home turf.
                                                                    Please let us keep it.
                                                                    Thanks!

                                                            2. j
                                                              johnrsf Feb 8, 2012 12:09 PM

                                                              I'm not sure I entirely understand how the elimination of the restaurant pages is going to affect the Chowhound experience, but if it makes it harder to find restaurants mentioned in discussions, then it will make me less likely to visit Chowhound when trying to decide where I'm going to eat. Researching a restaurant on Chowhound had always been a confusing experience for me, and anything that makes me more confused will make me more likely to use Yelp or Urban Spoon to read listings and reviews, even if those reviews are not as discriminating as Chowhound discussions have been. If Chowhound loses some of those discriminating reviewers, then the Chowhound experience will not be worth the effort. I would think that Chowhound should try to improve the restaurant pages rather than eliminate them. Compared to other restaurant review sites, Chowhound is much less user-friendly site, especially if one tries to access it by mobile. Efforts should be made to make it easier to look up restaurants and read discussions relating to that restaurant.

                                                              1. b
                                                                barbjack Feb 8, 2012 11:21 AM

                                                                I am very sorry to hear that the restaurant reviews are being done away with! I have been using the site for years whether to find a place when I travel and also to check out what people are saying about new spots nearby. That is the main reason that I visit the site and can't imagine that people only visit it for recipes and chats about their favorite canned soups or whatever! Not that there is anything wrong with recipes, I do use them from time to time, but the main reason for the site was I believe to start with, the restaurant boards.Very very disappointing. I just spent time on a lengthy post this week. This sort of sounds like Netflix charging me more for less to better serve me! (I know, I am not paying directly for chow, but still...)And I had no luck with the instructions on how to download and save my reviews. All I got was empty excel spreadsheets.

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: barbjack
                                                                  rworange Feb 8, 2012 11:34 AM

                                                                  The restaurant part of this site is not going away.

                                                                  What is going away is the restaurant address data.

                                                                  There was a section on the address record where people could enter review outside of the forums you use. Those are the reviews that will be gone.

                                                                  Obviously you didn't post there so your excel sheets are empty.

                                                                  1. re: rworange
                                                                    m
                                                                    markseiden Feb 8, 2012 12:19 PM

                                                                    right. this sort of confusion may be a consequence of unclear messaging in the
                                                                    email to the members from CH management.

                                                                    (few occasional users seem aware of the difference between a CH posting in a forum
                                                                    and a CH posting in the restaurants section. for me, the latter often followed an actual visit
                                                                    to that restaurant.)

                                                                    1. re: markseiden
                                                                      rworange Feb 8, 2012 01:24 PM

                                                                      Yes. A bonus of all this. People now think Chowhound is shutting down as has been stated over and over. So in addition to losing the database, Chow probably lost a good chunk of posters who won't be returning because they think the site is closing down.

                                                                      1. re: rworange
                                                                        Phil Ogelos Feb 8, 2012 04:12 PM

                                                                        I'll be returning, rwo, because I've come to this particular thread, read all these lines and between them, and believe I know what will and will not happen after 1 March. ['Believe,' mind you -I may yet be surprised!]

                                                                        That said, I'm embarrassed for the Chow family that this relatively simple bit of communication has been so poorly handled. I'm a speechwriter by trade, and so particularly sensitive to how facts and opinions are conveyed. In this instance, it's as though the management delegated its responsibilities to an indifferent party. Techies do what they do; I respect them for it and for the services they provide through CHOW. But the IT-guys are not geared to walking the universe of this site's clientele through alterations as significant as the ones in question now.

                                                                        I have to believe that there are graphic ways to describe the changes to come and what they mean to various 'hounds -is it too much to ask for a single page to be created that conveys visually this lesson? I mean, you're a subsidiary of CBS -shouldn't the kind of Murrow/Cronkite expertise resident in your parent company come naturally as you deal with this minor challenge?

                                                                2. Cynsa Feb 8, 2012 09:04 AM

                                                                  With the elimination of the Restaurant database, I am being herded into the Yelp fold by CHOW, bleating with every step.
                                                                  I'm with Peter Yee and PeterWang; don't eliminate the restaurant data base - make it better - I use it!

                                                                  1. e
                                                                    elliora Feb 8, 2012 05:34 AM

                                                                    I wanted to chime in here, although clearly it won't help. I am not a user who is invested in the database, I did not spend hours uploading information. Obviously I am also upset at what so many people are loosing, but for those like the poster above who are confused at what this means, I wanted to put it in a way that made it clear to me. You can no longer go to a thread and see where the restaurant is, unless someone manually cuts and pastes the address. So now if I click on a thread I may not even realize we are talking about a place in a city I will never go to unless I read the thread and then google it. That may not seem like a big deal to some but for those who read the boards daily it is a huge inconvenience. I think particularly in large metro areas. The SF boards I read cover a huge geographic area and involve many, many threads. Why would I want to google every restaurant name to find something as simple as an address?

                                                                    1. hohokam Feb 7, 2012 10:30 PM

                                                                      As I see it, this amounts to a huge step backward for the site. Moving ahead with this kind of change without a viable replacement at the ready seems like a poor decision to me.

                                                                      Perhaps starting on March 20 every post should end with the following auto-signature:

                                                                      Find these restaurants via Google: http://maps.google.com
                                                                      Find these restaurants via Yelp: http://www.yelp.com

                                                                      I'm only being half facetious here.

                                                                      1. h
                                                                        hyperbowler Feb 7, 2012 09:50 PM

                                                                        I've contributed to various food related websites over the past few years. Time and time again, I've seen my content wiped from the internet because a site folded, there was a restructuring, etc. It was crushing to see this happen. I was initially hesitant to join another community, but quickly saw that Chowhound was different. It had roots. The countless unpaid hours the members have contributed speak to their generosity and their dedication to food rather than the ego you'll find on yelp. To see Chow trash their user's work casts serious doubt on their commitment to the users, and makes me reconsider whether it was a good idea to become active here here.

                                                                        The main reason provided for the elimination of the database is that "we honestly believe it will make the site run faster and better." To prioritize speed over utility doesn't make any sense. The subordinate explanation that addresses were provided by an outside source is unfortunate, but suggests that an alternative source should be acquired.

                                                                        Practically speaking, removing the restaurant database would lend a serious blow to the utility of the site.

                                                                        First, I have to admit that I didn't realize the existence of the restaurant database to begin with, and even committed the newbie error of linking yelp in my first post. I consider that a failure to bring the database to the user's attention, rather than a failure of the module itself. Since I became a user in June of last year, I have found the database critically useful. I frequently scour old threads for information, and can easily ignore places when the database mentions them as "closed." Without this functionality, I'd waste a lot of time yelping places only to find that they're closed. With enough repeats of that happening, my enthusiasm for Chowhound's utility would progressively decline.

                                                                        Second, I've always found Chowhound to be a high signal and low noise environment. The automatic restaurant linking makes it unnecessary to waste one's time writing address information. I really don't want to have to access yelp or google several times before writing a comprehensive post, or have to spend have my posts answering disambiguating addresses.

                                                                        Finally, the Chow lists option has been crippled since I joined. Now that it's working again, I find it baffling that this hasn't been supported all this time. I see users making the same suggestions time and time again, and it's a waste of their time to not have a way for them to quickly link to an updatable list that answers a poster's question. If anything, I would suspect that is the main reason that users diminish their participation after a while. Wouldn't Chow want users to spend their time adding new content to the site rather than answering the same stale questions de novo?

                                                                        1. p
                                                                          PeterWang Feb 7, 2012 08:23 PM

                                                                          I have to chime in and say that elimination of the restaurant database seems like a dunderhead move. Yes, it is somewhat clunky, but it seems to me that the right direction is completely the opposite one -- re-work it so that it is efficient and well-integrated into the site. It was very helpful to tie together threads, keep from having to repeat address info, and a small but important feature was to let you easily know that a place discussed was closed.

                                                                          I repeat my categorization -- a dunderhead move.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: PeterWang
                                                                            a
                                                                            annalou Feb 7, 2012 08:55 PM

                                                                            Ditto to Peter Wang's post and most of the above. Make it better, don't eliminate it please.

                                                                            1. re: annalou
                                                                              t
                                                                              Thomas Nash Feb 8, 2012 07:37 AM

                                                                              Yes. Make it better, don't eliminate it!

                                                                              The present address provider is not adding much value as it only incrementally updates. I suspect that terminating this provider involves not renewing a contract and this is driving the short time fuse.

                                                                              It would be much better to design a new approach before terminating this one. If the provider contract is the issue, I can't see why one couldn't extract user provided addresses and eliminate the provider addresses while rebuilding the system. This has been suggested several times on this thread.

                                                                              This is clearly an important functionality and it could certainly be improved. As I suggested at a user focus group, allowing for .vcf downloads of address and other information into address books would be extremely useful.

                                                                              What seems particularly unique in the present system are the (semi-)automatic links in comments so one knows what place is being talked about. This could be maintained after a redesign with, perhaps, a google integration plus user provided information.

                                                                          2. Peter Yee Feb 7, 2012 08:11 PM

                                                                            I'm disappointed to see Chow making this move. I actually like the feature and consider it one of the few useful upgrades in the current Chowhound.

                                                                            1. Phil Ogelos Feb 7, 2012 07:43 PM

                                                                              Alas, good things come and go: if living online has taught us nothing else, it's to not become too attached to the things we love and value here. I've depended upon Chowhound for more than three years to navigate the dining scene in the US & Canada. I can't pretend to understand the tech talk that Melanie Wong and her colleagues have used above to justify closing it down, or the counterarguments raised against them. It is what it is -a site once valuable, now evanescent.

                                                                              So Chow is quitting; it's apt in a way that -just as gourmands like to conjure memories of beloved restaurants that perish- we esteem and yet lament the passing of this site, and look forward to another, maybe better one, taking its place.

                                                                              14 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Phil Ogelos
                                                                                Jim Leff Feb 7, 2012 08:05 PM

                                                                                Phil, the site's not going anywhere. Just the restaurant database....which was an add-on that came many years after the site was founded.

                                                                                Don't worry, Chowhound gets lots of traffic, so it isn't going anywhere for the time being!

                                                                                1. re: Jim Leff
                                                                                  Phil Ogelos Feb 7, 2012 08:08 PM

                                                                                  I don't want to appear dense, Jim, but you'll have to explain what "the restaurant database" means, because it's a term of art that non-IT/non-CHOW-insiders can't possibly know. Please.

                                                                                  1. re: Phil Ogelos
                                                                                    The Chowhound Team Feb 7, 2012 08:24 PM

                                                                                    Phil, the pages at http://www.chow.com/restaurants pages are the ones being phased out and reviews which have ONLY been posted on those pages are the ones which be unavailable as a result of this change. You haven't posted any reviews like that (and neither have the majority of Chowhound posters.)

                                                                                    However, all of the restaurant discussion you've posted on the discussion forums at http://chowhound.chow.com, for example this one http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/826554#7053501 (which is linked to and also appears on the Restaurant Page at http://www.chow.com/restaurants/91612... ) will remain.

                                                                                    1. re: The Chowhound Team
                                                                                      squid kun Feb 8, 2012 01:42 AM

                                                                                      >the pages at http://www.chow.com/restaurants are the ones being phased out and reviews which have ONLY been posted on those pages are the ones which be unavailable as a result of this change.

                                                                                      Also erased by this change, if it occurs as planned: user-contributed info including hours, cuisine, photos, credit card policies, alcohol service, venue/chef history, and links to restaurant websites, menus, and relevant media mentions.

                                                                                      1. re: The Chowhound Team
                                                                                        Phil Ogelos Feb 8, 2012 04:41 AM

                                                                                        Wow, now I'm really confused.
                                                                                        Attempting to "Export [My] Data" last night, only two of my posts showed up. What of the other ~175? Do they remain, or will they vanish?
                                                                                        Nor can I discern what qualifies as posted there on "Restaurants," and what not; the classification seems like an IT-in-house sub-strate that is not actually instinctual for (or comprehensible to, QED!) the regular CHOW-devoté.
                                                                                        Oh well, time (or the civilian team) will tell, I hope.

                                                                                        EDIT: looking around me, it seems most everyone but me contributing to this thread knows what this database entails; that said, I can't believe I'm the only outlier who doesn't recognise the term and its significance. Perhaps I'm the canary ...

                                                                                        1. re: Phil Ogelos
                                                                                          Jim Leff Feb 8, 2012 07:37 AM

                                                                                          Phil, let me try to explain.

                                                                                          What we are doing right now: discussing stuff in an online forum, will continue as always. An unbroken chain since 1997. It all stays up. Don't worry.

                                                                                          A few years ago, there was installed an interactive list of restaurants (which we're calling here "the database") which people could use to locate individual restaurants being discussed here in the forum.

                                                                                          The list/database was noisy, buggy, incomplete, and didn't work real well, but users pitched in and edited it and weeded out duplicates and made it a lot better. And now it's being removed, which is galling the users who spent all that time making lemonade from lemons.

                                                                                          In what I thought was a terrible decision, the powers that be ALSO allowed users to review restaurants directly in the list/database. And all those are going away, too. So the people who liked to post reviews there are upset. Though, really, it's preferable to have people review restaurants here in the forum, anyway.

                                                                                          If you didn't use or know about any of that, NOTHING WILL CHANGE.

                                                                                          Better?

                                                                                          1. re: Jim Leff
                                                                                            rworange Feb 8, 2012 10:53 AM

                                                                                            >>> In what I thought was a terrible decision, the powers that be ALSO allowed users to review restaurants directly in the list/database. And all those are going away, too. So the people who liked to post reviews there are upset.

                                                                                            I agree that was an awful decision.

                                                                                            However, Jim you are saying things that have no basis and agreeing with Chow's perception.

                                                                                            I have yet to see one person upset about the reviews part. That is what Chow thought the problem would be so they are exporting those reviews.

                                                                                            Ironically, I'll bet few of the people who posted those reviews will pick them up or even know they are gone.

                                                                                            You could look at each of those reviews and the majority of them were from people who also posted on yelp.

                                                                                            A good number of people posted from facebook and those people were often shills so they have no email address to notify them.

                                                                                            I'll bet a good number of people who signed up for Chowhound were one time or infrequent posters and have throw away emails. So they won't get any notification.

                                                                                            So no ... the people upset are NOT people who posted reviews.

                                                                                            The poeple upset are upset for the reasons mentioned over and over on this thread.

                                                                                            If you aren't listening to Chowhounds, then we have zero hope Chow is listening.

                                                                                            As a meticulous writer who is carefule with words, you show your lack of understanding by calling it the lists/database.

                                                                                            As someone who probably used lists the most on this site, I have zero interest in that. it was a nice feature, but when it broke over and over, I had long ago written it off.

                                                                                            What upset me most was never getting an answer for years from Chow about whether the data was gone. Obviously it was fixable, yet Chow not only refused to make a fix, but refused to give any answer about the status until now.

                                                                                            While I can get to the info now, Chow did me no favor with its extract. I didn't trust Chow promises, didn't ask them to do that and once it was restored did a cut and paste of that info. I won't be needing the extract.

                                                                                            So again, no one is complaining about lists being gone. They are complaining about the database going. As much as you or Chow may not think so, it is not a feature but a big part of the site.

                                                                                            I've told you that I know databases out there. Yes, there are a million of them all by the same crappy dataprovider or one like Chow used. If you are looking beyond address and phone number ... good luck.

                                                                                            People put just as much care into making the Chow database a reliable, usable product as we do into our reports One that would draw people to Chow and once they got here they might just stay.

                                                                                            Your dismissal of it as an easily expendable address book shows you never looked at it. I also wonder why you were out there googling for restaurant info when you had better info than anything on the web here .

                                                                                            Try to understand what people are saying. You have a unique perception about Chowhounding. That worked well when you set the tone of this site and kept the site somewhat focused for as long as possible

                                                                                            However, Jim, the day is here that we all knew would come when you sold it. The forum side is getting dumbed down and gutted. Chowhound has to keep pace with the basics that every restaurant site has ... to use your words, an address book

                                                                                            Because you are someone who is careful with words, i have to say that calling the database an address book is like calling the reports on the forums 'reviews'. Those of us who understood how you percieved the distiction between those two things, out of respect used report.

                                                                                            1. re: rworange
                                                                                              Servorg Feb 8, 2012 11:03 AM

                                                                                              I became totally disgusted and never even bothered to read the "reviews" linked to the place links after the first 5 or 6 times of clicking on the "hounds" screen name and finding "Once <insert given screen name here> starts posting something" - in other words the "poster" came along to put in a so called review and never was on any chowhound board discussion, EVER, at anytime except for the hit and run "review" they put in. Worthless shilling for the most part (and sometimes just angry, ax grinding by some disgruntled individual with a grievance against that restaurant).

                                                                                            2. re: Jim Leff
                                                                                              Phil Ogelos Feb 8, 2012 04:15 PM

                                                                                              Yes, Jim, better.
                                                                                              I wrote a longer post just now, but I couldn't ignore my obligation to thank you. So, thank you.

                                                                                            3. re: Phil Ogelos
                                                                                              Robert Lauriston Feb 8, 2012 07:40 AM

                                                                                              It's possible to post a review on chow.com/restaurants that does not appear on chowhound.chow.com. You can recognize those because there's no Read / Reply link at the end. Those are the reviews that will be removed.

                                                                                              It's also possible to post on chowhound.chow.com and check "This is a review of a specific restaurant," in which case the review shows up in both places.

                                                                                            4. re: The Chowhound Team
                                                                                              m
                                                                                              markseiden Feb 8, 2012 09:03 AM

                                                                                              as it turns out, some number of my postings appear within the restaurant subtree of the site. a small number. i am slightly surprised that you could not come up with a mechanism to relink these to a sensible place within the site rather than losing the content, but i consider my passing comments on restaurants to be hardly the
                                                                                              equivalent of Proust.

                                                                                              however, having worked a lifetime in the internet, i am completely nonplused that you could not come up with a way to justify essential, useful database features, which make it so much easier for people to find the damn place, figure out if it's open on tuesday or right now as well as link to other essential factoids. either you need to link
                                                                                              to an address book, allow people to link to such info, or provide a place
                                                                                              for one (a database).

                                                                                              the user experience and site stickiness value of the last option should not be underestimated. i second rworange and melanie's expert opinions on this.

                                                                                              you may recall that roger shank, the AI pioneer, described computers as having common sense when they could understand the "restaurant script". you risk
                                                                                              collectively faiing the human intelligence test by throwing out much of
                                                                                              the ontological data for restaurants that has been painfully developed
                                                                                              by the community here.

                                                                                              1. re: The Chowhound Team
                                                                                                Melanie Wong Feb 8, 2012 11:09 AM

                                                                                                Hello Chowhound Team, from the posts were seeing from folks who are confused about the change and from the emails that are showing up in my inbox today, it's clear that the Restaurant Database and its features were not well known to the readership. As jen kalb says above, Chow did not tap its potential.

                                                                                                In the month or so since the change was announced here, I've been paying attention to how folks have changed their posting behavior. On a thread I participated in on the LA board, someone had posted a url to the restaurants yelp page to provide an address. I saw that it was later deleted. is this what you plan to do in those cases?

                                                                                                Also I have noticed posts with links to threads discussing the same restaurant to provide a cross-reference. With the restaurant database going away as the hub for cross-referencing multiple discussions, I can understand why posters are trying to be helpful in this way. But it adds to the clutter on the site and I'd hate to see an outbreak of posts that provide no other info than a cross-link.

                                                                                          2. re: Phil Ogelos
                                                                                            Melanie Wong Feb 9, 2012 12:47 AM

                                                                                            Hi Phil, I am not in favor of closing down the Restaurant database. Far from it.

                                                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                              Phil Ogelos Feb 9, 2012 08:18 AM

                                                                                              Understood.

                                                                                          3. s
                                                                                            sidd Feb 7, 2012 06:34 PM

                                                                                            I am shocked! Pls add me to the list of people who are anguished by this.

                                                                                            1. Jim Leff Feb 7, 2012 05:30 PM

                                                                                              I failed to notice this thread. Reading it, I now understand why people are annoyed.

                                                                                              I never liked how the restaurant database was set up in the first place (for one thing, the ability to review a restaurant on its page balkanized discussion and drew in shills). So I never paid particular attention to it. And wasn't sorry to see it go.

                                                                                              But if people have been working this hard to add data, to winnow dupes, and were counting on it for location info (I've been happily googling for restaurant locations since the late 1990's), I can see how this would really peeve you. Yikes.

                                                                                              OTOH, do bear in mind that Chowhound was real useful for years without one of these databases. So it's not like this kills the usefulness, fwiw.

                                                                                              27 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: Jim Leff
                                                                                                Servorg Feb 7, 2012 05:38 PM

                                                                                                "OTOH, do bear in mind that Chowhound was real useful for years without one of these databases. So it's not like this kills the usefulness, fwiw."

                                                                                                While that's true, Jim it is the absolutely breath taking tone deafness of the decision which makes my head verge on exploding...

                                                                                                1. re: Jim Leff
                                                                                                  rworange Feb 7, 2012 05:51 PM

                                                                                                  Thanks, Jim

                                                                                                  I realize that Chowhound was useful without the database.

                                                                                                  But before the database, lots of us were cutting and pasting restaurant addresses, hours and other information in posts. it was a real drag and the restaurant database was so fabulous because the info got entered once and could be changed when appropriate.

                                                                                                  Like reviews that info goes stale and changes as well.

                                                                                                  Also, restaurants close. It was a super drag to get all excited about a restaurant in a topic and then get to the bottom and see someone posting that it was closed. With the restuarant records you could look to the right of the thread and see the 'closed' without getting emotionally involved.

                                                                                                  Given that, we now have six years where no one has noted restaurant closures on the threads because we relied on the restaurant database.

                                                                                                  it was also nice to go into a smart phone and pull up and address from the restaurant record on Chow. Times have changed and anyone looking for restaurant info is expecting it can be accessed easily.

                                                                                                  When people google a restaurant these days, more likely the first thing that comes up in the search list is yelp. If I were new to this and got all that info from yelp, I would be posting there after I finished eating.

                                                                                                  1. re: rworange
                                                                                                    Jim Leff Feb 7, 2012 06:36 PM

                                                                                                    "If I were new to this and got all that info from yelp, I would be posting there after I finished eating."

                                                                                                    No you wouldn't. Because their opinions are often useless because so much of their user base is unserious and shill-ish.

                                                                                                    You might, however, be collecting address/phone/web/hours/map data from there, the way many of us once collected data from Zagat. I do that, myself. Yelp, for me, is the new Zagat. I completely ignore the opinions, but I highly value the hardcore data.

                                                                                                    As far as actually participating there? Look, anyone that can stand Yelp's community ought to be at Yelp, not here. Chowhound's a whole different culture. Yelp's about every restaurant (which is why they make for such a useful address book). We're about finding greatness. That's sooo different. And doesn't particularly loan itself to address book construction (though some of you did a damned good job of trying, and I'm sorry it got shut down).

                                                                                                    1. re: Jim Leff
                                                                                                      drewskiSF Feb 8, 2012 10:30 AM

                                                                                                      i post to both Yelp & CH and think CH is shooting themselves in the foot with this decision.

                                                                                                      why would you knowling-ly send people to another site to get data you once had available to them?

                                                                                                      like others have said, if some pool of purchased data is up for renewal, purge it and keep the other user entered data.

                                                                                                  2. re: Jim Leff
                                                                                                    Melanie Wong Feb 7, 2012 05:55 PM

                                                                                                    Jim, you're falling into the trap of just seeing it as only an address database and I think that's where Chow management makes a big mistake as well. Here's a well-filled out page for Hakka Restaurant in San Francisco to let you see what the real potential is. This is the online successor to _The Chowhound's Guide_.
                                                                                                    http://www.chow.com/restaurants/91453...

                                                                                                    If I tried to search for the place by name using the search engine, I'd get a slew of unwanted results for mentions of Hakka cuisine or other restaurants in the area that share the same name. This one landing page gives me a quick look at photos of the restaurant, curated reviews ("read/reply" ones were fed from posts on the board; ignore the ones that just say "read" as that's from the feature that we both hate), and links to the relevant discussions. I can also use the map to search for restaurants nearby from the database (should my target be closed) and sort those results by the ones most discussed/favored by chowhounds --- nothing else does this.

                                                                                                    Not having it does indeed kill some of the usefulness of this site if readers cannot find what they're looking for. This site has to keep up with the times or it looks like a dinosaur. It loses readers who land here from search engines who need a quick answer and that kills traffic. More than 30% of searches for restaurant data come from mobile and that is increasing daily. The restaurant pages fit my needs as a mobile user to find the info I want on one page and access more with a minimum of clicks.

                                                                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                      Jim Leff Feb 7, 2012 06:32 PM

                                                                                                      Melanie, I'm not falling into a trap. I just have other preferences. I HATE seeing "reviews" on those pages (I won't go into details as to why, because I know you understand - and no knock on the specific reviews in your example, btw), and I'm so extremely used to surfing for restaurant info that it solves a problem I, personally, don't have (but I'm just one guy!).

                                                                                                      I do see that it's very good, complete, and took a bucketload of time and energy for hounds to build. So, again, I'm sorry that time was wasted, and please don't think I'm poo-pooing that, or excusing the decision. I just have a different perspective, on this feature specifically, and on site actions, generally. Regarding what Servorg calls "tone-deaf decision-making", etc, I know how close this site was to closing. Some of you know this, intellectually, but I know viscerally. And it's NOT closed! It's in its fifteenth year, and that's a freakin' miracle!

                                                                                                      That's the news for me. Everything else is gravy (and, yeah, the gravy's often poured too thickly, or too thinly). Again, I'm not belittling the work invested in this database, but Chowhound's continued existence, beyond all expectation, makes me wag my head in amazement and giggle. And it's really hard for me to get seriously indignant while I'm giggling, y'know? :)

                                                                                                      So, by all means, protest this, and anything else that's important to you. But maybe my view will put things in a little more perspective, in the big picture/long run. Or maybe it's a perspective that only I can experience. I don't know. But there you go.....

                                                                                                      1. re: Jim Leff
                                                                                                        m
                                                                                                        mdg Feb 7, 2012 06:58 PM

                                                                                                        Jim, it's not closed yet, but this decision - which seems to be about cost-cutting more than anything else - doesn't lend confidence that it won't be closing soon.

                                                                                                        I so much appreciate your great work and how it's been kept going by its new parents over the years. When silly features come and go, so what? But today's not 10 years ago. We have geographic databases everywhere, in the web and on our phones, and lots of people expect that information to be there when and where we need it, not scattered hither and yon. That expectation must continue to be met to deliver a good user experience in 2012 and in the future. It doesn't need to be in exactly the same form - it would be better in a different form! - but if it goes away altogether, that's a very bad sign.

                                                                                                        The Chowhound culture has become closer to that of other sites over the years anyway, as so many posters are all take, no give. Fortunately we have largely kept the shills at bay, and that alone is a huge differentiator from Yelp!

                                                                                                        Michael

                                                                                                        1. re: mdg
                                                                                                          Jim Leff Feb 7, 2012 08:03 PM

                                                                                                          -------------
                                                                                                          "But today's not 10 years ago. We have geographic databases everywhere, in the web and on our phones, and lots of people expect that information to be there when and where we need it, "
                                                                                                          -------------

                                                                                                          Michael,

                                                                                                          But here's the thing. Why is it better to have that info HERE? Again, Chowhound's a lousy address book. And there are severak really good address books. And the thing about the Web is that info half a world away comes to us as quickly and conveniently as info on the same server. I've been Googling (and sometimes Yelping) for restaurant address/phone/map/hours data all along. They're more complete than ours ever was, and likely ever could be. I just don't mind "going out" for that data.

                                                                                                          Yes, I understand that by having it "in-house", it allowed us to create those on-the-fly links to restaurant info, eliminating or at least reducing the "where is that place?" replies. But that function worked pretty badly, anyway. I stopped even looking at it years ago. I never trusted it (but, again, that's just me...this is all just me!).

                                                                                                          Again, though, a lot of you liked it better than I did. I understand why, and I see the heartbreaking work you did (melanie and squid kun painstakingly weeding dupes!), and so I'm definitely not saying "good riddance!" here. Again, if you're unhappy, do express yourselves, by all means! I'm not trying to throw cold water on that!

                                                                                                          I'm just trying to offer some perspective so people are maybe a little less upset. Nothing more, nothing less. Chowhound's supposed to be fun, and I don't like to see people get upset, that's all.

                                                                                                          1. re: Jim Leff
                                                                                                            rworange Feb 7, 2012 08:46 PM

                                                                                                            >>> Again, Chowhound's a lousy address book. And there are severak really good address books

                                                                                                            No. Actually it was an excellent address book that didn't have the bugs worked out so it didn't get the love it deserved.

                                                                                                            How can I say this with certainty?

                                                                                                            A few years ago when there was yet another awful installation, I did my usual 'the heck with this' and looked at every other database on the web to store info.

                                                                                                            Since no one on Chow cares, I won't go into detail, but I can rattle off all the problems with every other database on the web. it needed a little work, that was all.

                                                                                                            So, as you know, when I look all over and try to find something better, I come back. Now I have to go and look for someplace again. Wherever I keep the address book info, I won't be wasting my time linking to it or cutting and pasting it here.

                                                                                                            It also cuts my confidence in whether Chow sees any value to the forums or restaurant disucssions. So I will be double posting to yelp and chowhound for a while. i don't have confidence that the lights might get as casually clicked off on the forums as they were on the database.

                                                                                                            1. re: rworange
                                                                                                              Servorg Feb 7, 2012 08:54 PM

                                                                                                              I will say one thing with certainty, I will never add another address here for a restaurant which comes up. This decision just killed off that gene for all time.

                                                                                                              1. re: Servorg
                                                                                                                rworange Feb 7, 2012 09:12 PM

                                                                                                                Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

                                                                                                                When Chow first put in the database and asked Chowhounds to manually add records, lots of us also linked significant reports to the database.

                                                                                                                Chow decided a few years later to revise the database and without any warning just wiped out years of work by Chowhounds replacing it with something that didn't work at all.

                                                                                                                That should have been a big old red flag. Our input and work on this database was totally unimportant to Chow. They wiped things out a few years ago just like they are wiping this out again.

                                                                                                                I just know I will never use another feature here.For all of yelp's faults, it never did this to its followers.

                                                                                                                And then it is so unaware of what was important on that database that they have a download of the quick reviews. Not only was that the least important part of that record, because of the way it was implemented it actually was bad for the site.

                                                                                                                You didn't even have to sign up to post a review there. There was no little visibility to Chowhounds. There was no way to flag a shill review or even tell a shill because lots of these people had no history on the site. Even what was on yelp was more useful because you can always track the history of posters on yelp.

                                                                                                                I'm sure the shills will be sorry to see their quick reviews go.

                                                                                                            2. re: Jim Leff
                                                                                                              maoliu Feb 7, 2012 09:34 PM

                                                                                                              I don't get it. It is pathetic to kill the database. It sounds like we are going back to 8 years ago, when the rest of the world is moving on. I see it as a slow kill to the chowhound. Yes, there is google, there is yelp to get the address information. However, there is also Facebook who tries to replace your desktop and homepage. As a business, why would you refer your users to the competitors when everyone else is trying to dominate? I am just hoping that the next thing I heard won't be Chowhound is purchased by Yelp.

                                                                                                              Now I really feel like such a fool to defend the incompleteness and the forum structure with some Yelpers over the holidays. While CH may not have every single restaurant in the area, it has all the worthy ones and the talk of the town. Isn't that enough? With today's information overloaded world, a cliff note summary on worthy places is exactly what I need.

                                                                                                              1. re: maoliu
                                                                                                                meatn3 Feb 8, 2012 07:04 AM

                                                                                                                "While CH may not have every single restaurant in the area, it has all the worthy ones and the talk of the town. Isn't that enough? With today's information overloaded world, a cliff note summary on worthy places is exactly what I need."

                                                                                                                Exactly!

                                                                                                                TPTB obviously don't spend time on CH and are clueless to the depth, knowledge and quality of posting. In trying to emulate Yelp, etc. they loose what makes Chow/hound unique - and will become another insipid wannabe.

                                                                                                                I wish they would get it that we are not protesting because we are against change.
                                                                                                                We are protesting because we see this change as damaging - in many, many ways.

                                                                                                                1. re: maoliu
                                                                                                                  Jim Leff Feb 8, 2012 07:31 AM

                                                                                                                  " I am just hoping that the next thing I heard won't be Chowhound is purchased by Yelp."

                                                                                                                  We've already been swallowed by one of the biggest fishes in the food chain. I wouldn't worry about that.

                                                                                                                  -----------------------

                                                                                                                  "While CH may not have every single restaurant in the area, it has all the worthy ones and the talk of the town"

                                                                                                                  Wow. Chowhound was built with the presupposition that there are always under-radar great places out there to be discovered, and that those are usually the really great places. And the sort of people devoting themselves to ferreting them out usually spurn "talk-of-the-town" places. Because most greatness isn't spotlit, and most (though not all) spotlit restaurants are spotlit for reasons other than their bona-fide hyperdeliciousness.

                                                                                                                  If you think this site has (or could) come close to finding "all the worthy" places, I'd have to say you're not only very wrong, but missing the point entirely. And as for the second part, god help us if we're a service for tracking "talk of the town" places.

                                                                                                                  As a Chowhound, I don't constrain my sights within a set of restaurants pre-selected by other people (even smart, discerning people). I spurned Zagat, City Search, etc, because, as I kept raking through nabes (an activity I described as "chowhounding"), I found myself building up a portfolio of places that appeared on no lists anywhere. And there are still gobs and gobs of great places that unmentioned in this site at all, much less in the restaurant database.

                                                                                                                  Those places do, though, usually google. And many of them are on Yelp, as well (with mostly really crappy, worthless reviews....though there are also a scant few really good people over there, alas). So those have always been my address books. And it's worked great for me (maybe not for others....vive la difference!).

                                                                                                                  So for me, Chowhound makes a lousy address book. A good address book covers the whole range, including potential gems no one's yet annointed. A Chowhound-based address book inherently cannot be a "chowhound-ish" address book, because it's limited to pre-screened places. And (holding my nose) "talk of the town" places.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Jim Leff
                                                                                                                    Servorg Feb 8, 2012 07:48 AM

                                                                                                                    "A Chowhound-based address book inherently cannot be a "chowhound-ish" address book, because it's limited to pre-screened places. And (holding my nose) "talk of the town" places."

                                                                                                                    I think this makes you Jim "Yossarian" Leff. You've set out our very own "Catch-22 of the Day" as it were (keeping it as chow-centric as possible). lol A functioning and "add-able" address book is just a tool. Unlike being a tool a useful tool is a good thing.

                                                                                                                    Yeah, our online address book will never be complete (by definition) because new gems are always just over the horizon and old ones are going belly up. But having a compass needle pointing towards one place often helps lead us, willy nilly, serendipitously toward other, new undiscovered gems as we wend our way around the mean streets of whatever city we happen to be currently residing in, as we look for the discovered gems we stumble upon the undiscovered ones.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Jim Leff
                                                                                                                      meatn3 Feb 8, 2012 09:00 AM

                                                                                                                      I take "talk of the town" to be related to CH.

                                                                                                                      I find the type of restaurants I'm interested in easier on this site than any other. I feel that a place I learn about on CH has a better chance of suiting my taste.

                                                                                                                      I'm usually good at ferreting out places on my own. I spent a number of years on the craft show circuit (pre-internet resources) and became known as the go-to for dinner ideas. But I have learned of many a gem here in spots I never would have visited. Many have now become favorites and warrant occasional road trips.

                                                                                                              2. re: Jim Leff
                                                                                                                Melanie Wong Feb 9, 2012 12:44 AM

                                                                                                                Jim, your continued reference to the restaurants database as an address book did tend to mislead me into thinking you have the same blinders on. (And thank you to Robert L for being more explicit than I was above about the two types of “reviews” that display on the pages to clear up that other point of confusion.)

                                                                                                                You’re good at searching. You have other preferences along with the talent for finding things on your own. Not everyone is like that or wants to spend their time that way. Those folks are the audience for the restaurant pages. The content from the boards was repurposed, filtered and formatted in an easier to access mode. And thereby created a revenue stream for Chowhound content that allowed these boards to live another day. While the Chowhound side has the vast majority of site traffic, we know that an eyeball on the Chow side is worth more to advertisers than a reader of the boards. I continue to be concerned with monetizing our clubhouse and keeping the lights on.

                                                                                                                When Jonathan Gold’s _Counter Intelligence_ came out in 2000, IIRC, you criticized it for not including a neighborhood index. The restaurant database supplies Chowhound content with searchable cuisine and neighborhood indexing. We need more, not fewer, tools for readers to mine the archives of Chowhound content and have a reason to return.

                                                                                                                The chowhound database has stuff in it that is not found on google or yelp. This spring I was in meatn3’s territory and stumbled on a restaurant that’s been there for a few years but has no google place page or references on the web other than the county health inspection listing the address. It’s published here now. The database includes virtual wineries that have no physical address, cell phone numbers for tamale ladies, church auxiliaries that host food festivals, and other chowish entities that google doesn’t know about but for the information archived here. It kills me that Chow is doing away with this info.

                                                                                                                1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                                  Jim Leff Feb 9, 2012 08:29 AM

                                                                                                                  Hi, Melanie,

                                                                                                                  In this thread branch, we're talking specifically about the relative merits of Google, Yelp, and our restaurant db for the specific issue of address book look-ups. It started with me saying that Yelp is an excellent address book (an update on the old cliche where serious food people condescend to Zagat by saying it's a restaurant address book, damn the ratings and opinions).

                                                                                                                  I wasn't saying that's the full extent of usefulness of our restaurant database.

                                                                                                                  ------------------
                                                                                                                  "You’re good at searching. You have other preferences along with the talent for finding things on your own. Not everyone is like that or wants to spend their time that way. Those folks are the audience for the restaurant pages. "
                                                                                                                  ------------------

                                                                                                                  Two responses:

                                                                                                                  1. The thing that always made Chowhound Chowhound (i.e. expert, serious, obsessed, not frizzy/noisy like Yelp) was that we didn't lift a finger to accommodate users who lacked fortitude. Our crappy software was a great boon, because it filtered out unserious, undevoted people. Why would we want to accommodate people who are NOT TENACIOUS SEARCHERS? I see a very tight correlation there to tenacious chowhounds.

                                                                                                                  2. it's no greater "effort" to go to google or yelp for look-ups. The great thing about the Web is that it's omni-access. My page or your page...it's all level.

                                                                                                                  As for revenue streams, I'd suggest we don't get involved in speculation or suggestion on that. We're not privy to CBS' data or intentions. We can tell them what they can do to make us happier as users. They WILL listen to that, and, if we're really lucky, take action, perhaps even competent action.But I doubt CBS management considers biz advice from users (or user's attempts to save them from their own decisions). So I'd suggest taking that off your plate.

                                                                                                                  --------------
                                                                                                                  "While the Chowhound side has the vast majority of site traffic, we know that an eyeball on the Chow side is worth more to advertisers than a reader of the boards."
                                                                                                                  --------------

                                                                                                                  You betcha. And fwiw I think chowhounds have been helpful on that by being a lot less publicly critical of some of the editorial on the CHOW side than they were at first. Hounds realize this is a symbiotic relationship, and want CHOW/CNET/CBS to prosper. That's a great development.

                                                                                                                  ----------------
                                                                                                                  "When Jonathan Gold’s _Counter Intelligence_ came out in 2000, IIRC, you criticized it for not including a neighborhood index."
                                                                                                                  ----------------

                                                                                                                  A book is an old media island, unconnected and standalone. A web site is the most connected thing in the world. Sitting in front of that book, odds are I have to expend considerable effort to look up stuff therein. Sitting in front of my monitor, reading a web site, I don't care where my look-up data comes. I don't find it more "convenient" for my lookups to take place at one URL or another.

                                                                                                                  That said, I share your view that a database compiled by hounds (especially if it wasn't saddled with flakey tech and noisy starting data) would be uniquely useful for the sort of data included. More on that below.....

                                                                                                                  --------------
                                                                                                                  "The database includes virtual wineries that have no physical address, cell phone numbers for tamale ladies, church auxiliaries that host food festivals, and other chowish entities that google doesn’t know about but for the information archived here."
                                                                                                                  -------------

                                                                                                                  That DOES sound good. And unsurprising, considering what a dandy trove hounds have compiled here in the forums over the years. Put chowhounds onto the task of compiling a restaurant database, and it's no surprise they'd build a unique, deep, super-quirky one. But, Melanie, to switch from batting the ping pong ball back at you to something perhaps more pragmatic......since the web is, again, omni-available, and there's no fundamental benefit to in-house data, can we rebuild this elsewhere? Shoot, I'll donate the server space, if that'd help. Maybe CBS would even assist with data export. Or we could network-distribute cut/paste exporting to a few dozen hounds. (If we build something great and sleek, and CBS decides they want it back, we could commit from the outset that they're welcome to it free of charge at any time; this should be for the good of hounddom, not an entreprenurial side venture.) Wanna talk about that? If so, start a new thread (and drop the URL in reply to this, so people can follow).

                                                                                                                  1. re: Jim Leff
                                                                                                                    Melanie Wong Feb 9, 2012 09:10 AM

                                                                                                                    Your last point about building a parallel database is where my thoughts have been these last few days. Made me wish I had hacker skills to pull out what I needed to start over again for a more tightly focused database. I think that's where we need to go.

                                                                                                                    Edited to add: I already have the first 6099 records that chowhounds created when the feature first launched in a .cvs file. Just the names and addresses with some cuisine info, but it's a start. This file was exported in 2007, long before the data vendor came along.

                                                                                                                    On your first point, I have to differentiate between posters and those who only read. Absolutely agree that user interface helps to filter out who posts here and that the original software kept away all but the most dedicated posters, and that is/was a good thing. As we saw when the new software launched in 2006, an easier to read format boosted readership and traffic, also a good thing. What I have liked about the restaurant pages in the database is that it makes it easier for the broader, casual audience to read chowhound content and they are one step removed from the boards so that it is not so easy for them to post on the core message boards. Anyone who gets hooked and is motivated to post can navigate to the boards with one-click and register, and those who found their answer without having to dig deeper into the archive can leave happy.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Jim Leff
                                                                                                                      rworange Feb 9, 2012 10:37 AM

                                                                                                                      Count me in if you can organize a parallel database. I'll put in all the work you want into that.

                                                                                                                      There seriously is no restaurant database on the web that had the flexibility and depth of information that the Chow database had.

                                                                                                                      i also think it has the possibility to generate a huge amount of revenue. i'm even willing to put my money where my mouth is and invest in ti.

                                                                                                                      You must know how personally sucky current mobile apps are. Sure they tell you where nearby restaurants are, but after that ... not much. They will get you there, but where will you wind up.

                                                                                                                      Then there are all those horrible address books from data providers. I see a market there for a quality product.

                                                                                                                      I have so many ideas about how a quality restuarant database could be a major cash cow that it always made my head spin that Chow could not see that.

                                                                                                                      After five years of entering data and thousands of records some of what i thought would work doesn't. There is some information that needs to be added to make it more useful.

                                                                                                                      Honest to God, this cheered me up. Really I'm a great team worker. Chowhound is just a hobby and I'm sort of the anti-Krys here. I'll provide references.

                                                                                                                      PLEASE head this up, Jim. As you wrote " I doubt CBS management considers biz advice from users (or user's attempts to save them from their own decisions). '

                                                                                                                      I didn't think so either, but i woudln't have been happy if i didn't try

                                                                                                                      1. re: rworange
                                                                                                                        jen kalb Feb 9, 2012 11:16 AM

                                                                                                                        sigh. are we talking about migrating /builing a new discussion venue too?

                                                                                                                        it seems to me te quality and quantity of discussion (absent a few bright stars) is way down in my home territory Outer Boroughs. Deleting the data base utility will be exceedingliy unhelpful, and our numbers will continue to fall as the Chowhound site becomes less and less essential and usable. Im all for saving the data if thats the only alternative, but what happens to the discussion interface? the rwo Guatamala data may stand on its own in its uniqueness but the other stuff needs interaction and reviews to come alive.. So fighting for a better interface at Chowhound still feels worth doing. for now.

                                                                                                                        1. re: jen kalb
                                                                                                                          rworange Feb 9, 2012 11:25 AM

                                                                                                                          jen, I agree. However, IT is digging in and at this point I see no hope of keeping the database.

                                                                                                                          No, I do not see it as building a new forum. Wouldn't you like to see all that work you did preserved and available on the web? Woudln't you like to see a blackberry friendly app that was useful? I don't see it happening on Chow. So the choice is a new app or losing everything you input.

                                                                                                                          1. re: jen kalb
                                                                                                                            Jim Leff Feb 9, 2012 11:59 AM

                                                                                                                            1. we are NOT going to build a parallel Chowhound, no! This will be done (if it's done) in a way that doesn't in the least annoy CBS or disrupt the activity of Chowhound. I built a food site once (and the process was hell). The very last thing on earth I want to do is build another. Especially because I really love this one!

                                                                                                                            2. that means per Melanie's idea of building a spider to pull the data, I'd rather do it more above board and with CBS's permission.

                                                                                                                            3. Can we PLEASE not discuss this in this over-stuffed, rambling thread? PLEASE someone start a new one

                                                                                                                            4. I'm going away for a couple weeks, so don't count on much participation from me.

                                                                                                                            5. If the notion of building a parallel database troubles anyone at CHOW/CBS, contact me (jimleff.ny@gmail.com) or Melanie and we'll do what's necessary to put you at ease. This isn't insurrection, it's a creative workaround. And, frankly, I'd rather if there were a solution right here at CBS. This isn't my idea of a good time!

                                                                                                                            Hmmm....in fact, if I wasn't involved, it would probably trouble CBS less....and avoid the misimpression that this will be a competing resource. So I'll chime in and advise, chip in on the server, but it should be run either cooperatively, or, by Melanie or someone (the less CBS has to worry about this, the more they can figure out ways to make revenue to keep Chowhound's lights on, etc. We need them doing that full steam)

                                                                                                                            1. re: Jim Leff
                                                                                                                              jen kalb Feb 9, 2012 12:53 PM

                                                                                                                              Im surprised you are in here pitching at all. Props to you for trying to thread the needle.. Ppreservation of the database is very important, goal .On a personal level, The thought of the loss of the 100s of hours I spent building italy just makes me wilt. If it can be peeled off somewhere so that it can grow and be updated and used as an app that would be great. but I would much rather have the "chowhound app" integrated with the site that many of us had conceptualized that we could use at home and anywhere else to locate chowworthy restaurants. That goal is receding.

                                                                                                                              Leaving aside the issue of saving our work for access on the web, there is an underlying serious issue of the viability of Chowhound at CBS that concerns me. The loss of the database weakens chowhound in the current marketplace because it makes for a less user friendly experience., Without considered work (maybe that chowhound working team) as to how to make chowhound more effective at its mission - especially getting more peop[le to write about and discuss their interesting eating experiences here - and attracting greater readership and participation which improves the stats, I fear for its continued existence. All of the lame attempts to integrate with social media arent going to improvethe quantity and quality of forum participation and make this a vital resource. The growth and vitality of the Chowhound forum is ultimately what I am fighting for

                                                                                                                              1. re: Jim Leff
                                                                                                                                Robert Lauriston Feb 9, 2012 12:58 PM

                                                                                                                                New topic for discussing the "parallel" database idea:

                                                                                                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/832805

                                                                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                  f
                                                                                                                                  freia Feb 10, 2012 06:25 AM

                                                                                                                                  Not any more. Apparently.

                                                                                                                  2. re: Jim Leff
                                                                                                                    Robert Lauriston Feb 7, 2012 08:12 PM

                                                                                                                    I don't think the database per se adds much value. The one feature that made it really useful was removed as discussed in Melanie Wong's first post at the top of this topic. The "wanna go" feature was handy, too, though annoyingly hard to navigate to on a smartphone.

                                                                                                                  3. l
                                                                                                                    L C Feb 6, 2012 11:47 AM

                                                                                                                    I'm just adding my name to the group of users not happy that the database will be removed. Is management suggesting a replacement feature in the near future?
                                                                                                                    Since apparently there's an issue about owning the address info. Dunno why. Would they consider integrating the Urbanspoon widget? At least that'd be easy to search for a place. And it's not the evil Yelp that many like to hate.

                                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: L C
                                                                                                                      Melanie Wong Feb 8, 2012 10:27 PM

                                                                                                                      Further up thread in her Jan 11 post, Meredith of CHOW said, "We certainly understand that many of our users would like up-to-date address information to appear alongside their posts. You've been heard, and if we are able to address this in the future, we will." Sounds like no one is promising a replacement in the near (or distant) future.

                                                                                                                      My great concern is that this 5-year long beta test has been judged a failure by management. Faced with that, few organizations have the institutional fortitude to make the investment to try again. That's why I've lobbied so hard for management to reconsider getting rid of the feature.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                                        drewskiSF Feb 8, 2012 10:42 PM

                                                                                                                        i guess my question for CHOW is if it was deemed a failure, what was the criteria to do so?

                                                                                                                        i thought it sounded like costly contract renewals, not user acceptance, but could be completely mis-interpreting.

                                                                                                                        1. re: drewskiSF
                                                                                                                          Melanie Wong Feb 9, 2012 01:37 AM

                                                                                                                          I should clarify that "failure" is my own term. Yet, if the experiment was considered a success but simply implemented badly with poor data (as described in Meredith's post), I would think that Chow's positioning would be to say that it was coming out with something that works better that would serve the same user needs.

                                                                                                                          Whatever the criteria for success or failure might be, the changes in google indexing that happened a few months ago probably changed the game and the profit picture.
                                                                                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/802462#6792642

                                                                                                                          Checking now, there are still more than 24,000 restaurant records with "reviews" indexed in google. That's not insignifant.
                                                                                                                          http://www.google.com/search?q=inurl%...

                                                                                                                        2. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                                          jen kalb Feb 9, 2012 06:48 AM

                                                                                                                          It seems to me the TBTB wasnt ever particularly interested i n providing a facility for the Boards - it was primarily interested in establishing the Restaurant pages as a separate face on the the Web that would drive traffic to the site. The interface with the Boards were not thought through and the whole thing was bungled..

                                                                                                                          Im really concerned at this point that rather than creatively addressing this issue, for example with creating a tailored database or google linking and mapping that CBS is going to cut loose on these boards altogether.

                                                                                                                      2. j
                                                                                                                        jackiecat Feb 4, 2012 06:10 PM

                                                                                                                        Add me to the list of those who will be very upset if the database disappears. I use it several times a month.

                                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: jackiecat
                                                                                                                          drewskiSF Feb 5, 2012 01:52 PM

                                                                                                                          me too.

                                                                                                                          ok, silly question, but is the OpenTable reservations link new? maybe i just haven't noticed it before . . .

                                                                                                                          example.
                                                                                                                          http://www.chow.com/restaurants/28552...

                                                                                                                          1. re: drewskiSF
                                                                                                                            rworange Feb 5, 2012 07:12 PM

                                                                                                                            No. It was added a few years ago and then discontinued.

                                                                                                                            1. re: drewskiSF
                                                                                                                              l
                                                                                                                              L C Feb 5, 2012 08:02 PM

                                                                                                                              Yes, I think it's new. Users cannot add or edit that field.

                                                                                                                              1. re: L C
                                                                                                                                rworange Feb 5, 2012 10:13 PM

                                                                                                                                If there's an opentable link in reservations that has always been true. It can not be edited. If you cannot add a link it may be because they are shutting down the database and not allowing edits.

                                                                                                                          2. Robert Lauriston Jan 21, 2012 12:13 PM

                                                                                                                            Looks like it's gone.

                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                              Melanie Wong Jan 21, 2012 12:24 PM

                                                                                                                              Still works for me, just linked up a thread on Sf board. And the SF hub still displays, http://www.chow.com/restaurants/regio...

                                                                                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                                                Robert Lauriston Jan 21, 2012 03:04 PM

                                                                                                                                Temporary glitch, maps and links are back for me as well.

                                                                                                                              2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                Servorg Jan 21, 2012 12:25 PM

                                                                                                                                I just linked something on the LA board using it and it worked normally.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                  Melanie Wong Jan 21, 2012 12:29 PM

                                                                                                                                  Or maybe you mean something else?

                                                                                                                                2. DiveFan Jan 17, 2012 04:04 PM

                                                                                                                                  I just discovered this topic and all I can say is 'Wow'.
                                                                                                                                  I agree with everything that has been posted here so far.
                                                                                                                                  Sadly, this is more proof of a pretty clueless management team.

                                                                                                                                  It is making me wonder whether I should go back to maintaining my resto lists in Google Maps; unfortunately their consumer features are designed and coded by even less capable people. At least there I can export my data in KML format and strip out any copyrighted info.

                                                                                                                                  If anyone knows of a promising 'crowd sourced' and open 'Place' database I'd like to hear it. OpenStreetMap only covers its namesake data elements.

                                                                                                                                  A little OT, but if the 'Recipe' database is causing performance issues You Know which content to eliminate.

                                                                                                                                  1. Passadumkeg Jan 16, 2012 12:17 PM

                                                                                                                                    I just used the restaurant search this weekend to find a place to eat in Soccoro, NM. Our 5 kids live in 5 different places around the world. We travel a lot to visit them and I use the restaurant search guide a lot when we visit them. My postings on and interest in Chowhound has diminished greatly in the past year. This may just kill it. I don't trust Yelp nearly as much as I do Chowhound.
                                                                                                                                    Sadly,
                                                                                                                                    Dumkeg

                                                                                                                                    1. Caralien Jan 16, 2012 12:03 PM

                                                                                                                                      Aside from the restaurant search function being rather useless, I'm glad I stuck with Yelp for restaurants.

                                                                                                                                      A lot of posters gave me crap for using evil Yelp (why don't you just post twice? One on each site?). 1) that is a pain 2) I can't find even my own restaurant posts on Chow

                                                                                                                                      I won't miss it

                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                      1. re: Caralien
                                                                                                                                        rworange Jan 16, 2012 12:21 PM

                                                                                                                                        Which is exactly the effect totally removing the database will have. More traffic to yelp away from this site.
                                                                                                                                        "I won't miss it" ... i assume you mean Chowhound in general, as your continued posts are in chatty topics or to do with cooking.

                                                                                                                                        Even though the the elimination of the database will move me to yelp and referring people to yelp, it is too bad.

                                                                                                                                        I recognie yelp for what it is. No, it is not truly evil, but it is shallow, unreliable and I never would have learned as much about food or eaten as well in restaurants ... even learned HOW to eat well in restaurants without Chowhound.

                                                                                                                                        The problem with Chow seems that they want it to be yelp rather than valuing what it is.

                                                                                                                                        That was obvious with a recent announcement of being able to lift significant parts of reports here. I imagine that is being discountinued with the prposed elimination of the database.

                                                                                                                                        It was obvious with the quick review section on the data base.

                                                                                                                                        It was obvious with the removing the entire digest article from weekly email.

                                                                                                                                        It is obvoius with the change in the content of the Chow digest.

                                                                                                                                        The message Chow sends is that it wants quick, pity and vox populi access to data and has done that best to try to force that on the site.

                                                                                                                                        The shame is that there could have been a way that Chowound intelligence and usefullness could have melded with that objective.

                                                                                                                                        However, Chow throws out features and then abandons them.

                                                                                                                                        The original lists funcition was better than the lists option on yelp.

                                                                                                                                        Even in its wounded form, the Chow database could be far superior to yelp with a little work.

                                                                                                                                      2. mudaba Jan 11, 2012 02:15 PM

                                                                                                                                        Hello Melanie, rworange, jen kalb, Servorg, squid kun, and everyone else who is invested in Restaurants pages,

                                                                                                                                        First of all, thank you so much for caring about these pages so much, and taking the time and effort to give us your thoughts about this change.

                                                                                                                                        We are all absolutely aware of the work and contributions you've made to these restaurant pages and our site. How could we not be? In fact, we've pulled numbers about who has contributed to the restaurant pages with the plan of properly acknowledging those of you who have spent time working on reviews, updating information, and generally trying to build the database. We DO appreciate you. You will hear more about that in the upcoming month, and in good time before we do anything with the data on those pages.

                                                                                                                                        I would like to underscore just a couple of points right now:

                                                                                                                                        1. We have made this decision because we honestly believe it will make the site run faster and better.

                                                                                                                                        2. You will be able to export all of your review and list data. None of that will be lost. The address information, sadly, is not owned by us, and that will be removed entirely.

                                                                                                                                        3. We are attempting to be more proactive and responsive than we have ever been before. Some evidence of this: we are alerting you to this change weeks and weeks before it will take place in order to give you lots of time to get used to it and ask questions. We have a stellar engineering team that is working to address every bug that may come up, and who is responding more than ever to board feedback. The reason we work so hard on this: because we know that our users are the lifeblood of the site.

                                                                                                                                        We have known that this decision would be (justifiably) met with frustration and anger, but there are times when you need to make an unpopular decision for the health of the larger site, and this is one of those.

                                                                                                                                        Again, I would like to underscore that I am writing to you here because I care about the site and your work on it. You'll hear more from us soon about that. Until then, we'll be working to get things right over here, and build products that are sound from the get-go,

                                                                                                                                        Meredith of CHOW

                                                                                                                                        16 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: mudaba
                                                                                                                                          rworange Jan 11, 2012 02:43 PM

                                                                                                                                          1. We have made this decision because we honestly believe it will make the site run faster and better.

                                                                                                                                          What is faster and better about having to manually type in addresses?

                                                                                                                                          What is better about having static data in posts that is constantly changing?

                                                                                                                                          What is better about being the only restaurant review site not to have a database?

                                                                                                                                          The site hasn't been slow for a long time. As I mentioned it is only slow due to links to advertisers, the facebook/twitter interface and temporary installation gliches with software rollouts. The current engineering team is great about addressing the latter.

                                                                                                                                          2. You will be able to export all of your review and list data. None of that will be lost. The address information, sadly, is not owned by us, and that will be removed entirely.

                                                                                                                                          I am happy to get my info about lists. To be safe I will be removing any recipes froy this site because I don't feel data can reliably kept on this site.

                                                                                                                                          I'm not exactly sure what you expect me to do on restaurant info I've inputed. It wasn't a one person effort and I relied on the work of others as well as what I put in. Even if I exported the whole database to my pc it wouldn't do me much good in the long term.

                                                                                                                                          Exactly who owns the address data? So this action is not being taken to give us faster and better but because Chow doesn't want to pay fees?

                                                                                                                                          3. We are attempting to be more proactive and responsive than we have ever been before. Some evidence of this: we are alerting you to this change weeks and weeks before it will take place in order to give you lots of time to get used to it and ask questions

                                                                                                                                          That may make you feel good about yourselves.

                                                                                                                                          It is just a different flavor of we don't care how Chowhounds use the site as we have our own ideas of what works and it will be forced on you.

                                                                                                                                          And you are the keepers of the site ... though not very good ones. So do as you like. Just don't say that you are being responsive. The only response I've ever seen is this is what we are doing and too bad if it really is useful or not. This time there's just a bit more time telling us too damn bad if it is useful or not.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: rworange
                                                                                                                                            mudaba Jan 11, 2012 05:27 PM

                                                                                                                                            Dear rworange,

                                                                                                                                            I can assure you that there is nothing about killing a feature on the site that makes me feel good about myself.

                                                                                                                                            To answer your question, the code underlying restaurants has an impact on the performance of Chowhound that makes the pages load more slowly than they should. The address provider was implemented in such a way that it was not possible to have incremental updates, hence, we had out-of-date information and no way of updating it. And finally, the way that auto-linking was implemented didn't provide a meaningful user experience.

                                                                                                                                            We certainly understand that many of our users would like up-to-date address information to appear alongside their posts. You've been heard, and if we are able to address this in the future, we will.

                                                                                                                                            Thanks, Meredith of CHOW

                                                                                                                                          2. re: mudaba
                                                                                                                                            Servorg Jan 11, 2012 02:56 PM

                                                                                                                                            What proof do you have that the place links database is materially slowing this site? If you look at this little exchange http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/827816 on the L.A. board one can instantly see how useful just the mapping function and website linking is here to many, many posters. The result of this "change" will be a much less user friendly and practical site. As RWO says, you all will be slowing down every user of CH by forcing us to abandon putting up website information or address data without going off site and looking through Google for information on Yelp or other sites to put up the same information that is supplied via our current database.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: mudaba
                                                                                                                                              squid kun Jan 12, 2012 12:56 PM

                                                                                                                                              >>The address information, sadly, is not owned by us, and that will be removed entirely.

                                                                                                                                              ALL the address information? I could understand if that applied only to the info purchased by the site from an outside data provider. But as you know, the Chow restaurant database predates the data buys.

                                                                                                                                              In summer 2007, Chow asked selected regular users to help get the restaurant pages going. In New York, a bunch of us hounds split up a spreadsheet of hundreds of venues and added them to the site, addresses included. Multiply that by the other regions where the site asked for voluntary help. Add the many, many venues entered by users since then, including lots of useful info beyond addresses (menus, hours, media links etc.), and you've got a pretty good start on a robust community-created database.

                                                                                                                                              I'd guess most regular users wouldn't regret losing the tons of venue info dumped here by the data provider. As has been amply documented on this board, that data set was rife with duplicate entries, nonfood businesses, brain-dead cuisine and geographical labels, and thousands of anti-chowish chain eateries.

                                                                                                                                              But why would Chow not own the purely user-contributed info that it solicited from hounds? As others have suggested, there must be a way to separate that from the dubious purchased stuff. Toss the store-bought data; no great loss. But let's keep the irreplaceable info from Chowhounds.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: squid kun
                                                                                                                                                Chris VR Jan 12, 2012 05:53 PM

                                                                                                                                                Yes, I know I personally have created maybe 100-200 records from scratch, using information I've googled. That's not much in the grand scheme of things and not as much as I'm sure others, more invested in the database have entered, but surely it should count for something. Isn't there a way to distinguish the records that have been created/edited from records that are a pure data dump from an outside provider?

                                                                                                                                                1. re: squid kun
                                                                                                                                                  Melanie Wong Jan 12, 2012 06:20 PM

                                                                                                                                                  It's easy to separate the store-bought from manually entered by the numbering system in the restaurant page url's.

                                                                                                                                                  The manually entered ones from when the feature first launched have the lowest numbers, e.g., #2, is Vik's Chaat House in Berkeley, CA.
                                                                                                                                                  http://www.chow.com/restaurants/2/viks-chaat-house

                                                                                                                                                  I don't know how high up these go, but that should be easy enough to determine.

                                                                                                                                                  Then the next series of url numbers are upper end of 5-digits or 6-digits for the store-bought data. E.g., #85105 is Gino's Tavern in NY or Sonic Drive In, FL
                                                                                                                                                  http://www.chow.com/restaurants/85105/ginos-tavern-and-restaurant
                                                                                                                                                  http://www.chow.com/restaurants/315032/sonic-drive-in

                                                                                                                                                  After that big data load and end of the moratorium on adding/editing restaurant records, the new places manually input seem to have six-digit numbers starting somewhere above 900000. E.g., #919025, Glaze in Manhattan
                                                                                                                                                  http://www.chow.com/restaurants/91902...

                                                                                                                                                  There are some records that were created by writing over store-bought duplicate records and therefore have a url that doesn't conform to this convention. But I doubt that there are that many.

                                                                                                                                                2. re: mudaba
                                                                                                                                                  jen kalb Jan 12, 2012 02:06 PM

                                                                                                                                                  I understand Chow deciding not to continue to use database info provided by vendors.

                                                                                                                                                  However, None of the address data in Italy was purchased by CHOW from an external source. It was input by me and others. - the googlemaps linking feature was the only vendor-provided aspect.

                                                                                                                                                  It was often a lot of work to get addresses to map properly.

                                                                                                                                                  I am sure the Guatamala and other info is in the same category.

                                                                                                                                                  Is there an issue with Chow presenting information which was provided by site participants?
                                                                                                                                                  It should be possible to retain this info.

                                                                                                                                                  Explain, please.

                                                                                                                                                  I am not sure what you mean by List data.

                                                                                                                                                  I am really rather indiifferent personally to reviews which were input directly onto the CHOW Restaurant pages - very few in Italy and didnt generally take hold elsewhere- much more interested in retaining the interface/carryover from reviews posted in the Chowhound Boards and discussions there, for their utility and in the reference aspects (finding chowhoundworth restaurants in various geographies and being able to see them visually on maps.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jen kalb
                                                                                                                                                    mudaba Jan 12, 2012 08:29 PM

                                                                                                                                                    Hello everyone,

                                                                                                                                                    I want to make sure I understand what you're all asking. Are you saying that you want the manually uploaded pages to remain while everything else is removed? Or that you want the address information that you manually uploaded to be made available for you to download the way the reviews and lists will?

                                                                                                                                                    If the former, I can tell you that keeping just a small number of pages up, while the majority of the pages are removed, would be bad user experience and not something we would want to do. It would be confusing for users to see a small number of pages and not be able to find others (in other words, more of the same problem we are looking in part to fix). If the latter, we might be able to figure something out as long as I understand exactly what it is you're looking to be made available. So any clarification on what you're asking will help me see what I can do.

                                                                                                                                                    Thanks, Meredith

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mudaba
                                                                                                                                                      Melanie Wong Jan 12, 2012 08:45 PM

                                                                                                                                                      The restaurant database has not been auto-updated for some time. For the past two years, we've been entering in new restaurants and those that were not included in the auto-load, so I don't think it will be confusing to people at all if they can't find something. And even if it is confusing, I feel that's less of a problem than finding NO data at all.

                                                                                                                                                      As I noted above, about 50% of the 900K pages are irrelevant. By this I'm referring to the duplicates and the many chain restaurants that cannot be linked from the Chains board anyway. Can you tell us how many pages have been manually entered and the number from the data provider?

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                                                                        Melanie Wong Jan 19, 2012 11:14 PM

                                                                                                                                                        Looking back through old posts about the Restaurants feature, I found the approximate numbers. The data provider added 750K records to the database, I had reason to believe in this Oct 2009 post, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/656558#5105854 . Prior to the load-in of store-bought data, the database had almost 60,000 records, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/656558#5105969 . By trial and error, #56261, may be close to the last of the user-input records before the provider data was loaded in.
                                                                                                                                                        http://www.chow.com/restaurants/56261...
                                                                                                                                                        Records input by users post-data buy seem to be at least 7K, so non-purchased records would be at least 63K and maybe as high as 90K. That's worth saving, especially since those are more likely to be linked to reports and populated with other details, unlike the many empty store-bought records.

                                                                                                                                                        Forgot that some records were fed from Opentable, don't know if those are counted as part of the data purchased from the data provider.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: mudaba
                                                                                                                                                        rworange Jan 12, 2012 09:21 PM

                                                                                                                                                        Meredith,

                                                                                                                                                        Bad user experience after bad user experience has been the norm of this site for years.

                                                                                                                                                        Now Chow is making the user experience even worse by removing this database in the name of it being helpful. It is not.

                                                                                                                                                        While it is nice to say that maybe, someday there might be a spiffy, perfect restaurant database. I would have my doubts that has any priority at Chow.

                                                                                                                                                        What will be a bad user experience is the next release with some wiz-bang feature like "wanna go" which lasted a hot few months rather than leaving a stripped down database.

                                                                                                                                                        My life is IT. I've worked on almost every database there is IBM, Oracle, HP, DEC, UNiVAC an problably a few I'm not recalling.

                                                                                                                                                        As a project manager the amount of work to change the code and strip out the database is not insignificant. It is probably less work and expense to keep whatever data is possible.

                                                                                                                                                        Lose lists. Get rid of autolinking. My guess is that should solve a lot of performance problems.

                                                                                                                                                        If "been there" and "wanna go" is easier to leave than keep, then leave it. If it is a preformance hog, strip it out.

                                                                                                                                                        Probably every single person in this thread is more than willing to put in the effort to fix whatever glitches might appear with a modified database.

                                                                                                                                                        We all have been putting major work into the restaurant database from day one. We do it not because we see it as a 'feature', but as an integral part of of this site. An extremely useful part.

                                                                                                                                                        I know I have done it for years to draw people to this site because I value Chowhound and no matter how flawed, it made the site better for users.

                                                                                                                                                        Please seriously consider the option of whatever stripped down database we can have.

                                                                                                                                                        Then in the future if Chow wants to put a shiny new wonderful database on the schedule, well great. If not, well, we have been working with what has been foisted on us for years. If this is all we can have, that is fine

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: rworange
                                                                                                                                                          rworange Jan 12, 2012 09:34 PM

                                                                                                                                                          Merideth,

                                                                                                                                                          I want to add this, should you catch the post above mid edit.

                                                                                                                                                          I do want to say how grateful I personally am that so much is better.The current IT team is wonderful. Installations are almost flawless and any problems are fixed in a timely manner. We are no longer wondering for months and sometimes years if something is considered a bug and whether it will be fixed. .

                                                                                                                                                          I no longer feel like I did a few years ago when it seemed like the IT team was made up of unpaid interns.

                                                                                                                                                          With the exception of the removal of the restaurant section, this latest installation was intelligent and well thought out. Kudos to that.

                                                                                                                                                          The announcement that headers had changed made me initially think 'so what'. I could care less.

                                                                                                                                                          But as I said before, most of the navigation problems i had in the past cleared with this new design.

                                                                                                                                                          i need to play more with search, but so far it is looking swell ... other than some minor things i mentioned elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                                          So I don't want you to think the work to turn around some of the site problms is unappreciated. It is nice to finally have some thought about good user experiences and delivering a better experience.

                                                                                                                                                          However, killing the current restaurant database prior to putting a new database in place would be the number one horrid user experience on this site.

                                                                                                                                                          That database, no matter how flawed, was the best thing Chow ever did for Chowhound.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: mudaba
                                                                                                                                                          meatn3 Jan 13, 2012 09:26 AM

                                                                                                                                                          "I can tell you that keeping just a small number of pages up, while the majority of the pages are removed, would be bad user experience and not something we would want to do. It would be confusing for users to see a small number of pages and not be able to find others (in other words, more of the same problem we are looking in part to fix)."

                                                                                                                                                          I strongly disagree that this would result in a bad user experience. What would be left is the type of restaurants that users of this site come here to find. Chow and Chowhound are not Yelp. Every little place that sells food does not need to be listed.

                                                                                                                                                          Time after time there are requests for a CH app. Why? Because folks want to access the hard to find place they read about here and something huge like Yelp is of no help. Most of us don't want to wade through a zillion Denny's listings - that is why we are here!

                                                                                                                                                          Get rid of the purchased stuff and keep the ability to allow US to add places which we find significant. The contributors are the heart and soul of the site and are the essence of what keeps CH unique. Let this list grow organically and it will become more valued and useful.

                                                                                                                                                          This continued talk of "branding" is counterproductive. That view point wants the new bells and whistles which end up not working for whatever reason and essentially is a lot of time, energy and money being flushed down the drain.

                                                                                                                                                          If the powers that be could understand that there is a user based force which by its very existence is pointing the way then things would be much better. The media constantly quotes from posts here - they understand that CH posters are often exploring concepts quite a bit ahead of the general public's interest/awareness. Why continue to try to dumb down the site? Realize the true value, manage it with wisdom, prune carefully and provide the conditions to support healthy growth and then get out of the way. The community will do the rest - and it will be better than anything a team of pR (oops, my capital p won't type) folks could dream up.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: meatn3
                                                                                                                                                            cowboyardee Jan 13, 2012 06:24 PM

                                                                                                                                                            Good post, Meatn3.

                                                                                                                                                            I don't really know a whole lot about the restaurant database or exactly why it has caused technical problems for the site, but I can say that when I've used the database, I've always ignored restaurants that had no reviews and no discussions. The value of chowhound is more in the depth of discussion than the breadth of it.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: meatn3
                                                                                                                                                              m
                                                                                                                                                              mdg Feb 7, 2012 06:07 PM

                                                                                                                                                              I only heard about this today when I was emailed about a tool to export my content due to the restaurant pages going away. At first I thought it just meant the reviews and been there / wanna go, and thought no great loss. It took quite a while to realize they meant the database is going away - because who could possibly think that removing a restaurant database feature from a restaurant site is a good thing?

                                                                                                                                                              The mind just absolutely reels, and the replies about resistance to change pour more salt in the wound. I eat change for breakfast. The offer to download your own data is utterly clueless - I don't need my own data, I need another people's data about new restaurants worth trying.

                                                                                                                                                              How exactly is the database slowing down the site? (How could it possibly be slowing it down more than the ads that crash the browser?) I can easily believe that the bells and whistles around the pages, like auto linking, could cause problems - so get rid of them until you can do it better. But leave the database! Just let a topic have a nice useful map of the places being discussed alongside it, and let there be a place you can go to find the discussions associated with any single restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                              I can also understand not wanting to renew a contract to include poor-quality data. So remove the purchased data and keep our user-generated data. Any new place I've reported first is something I've added to the database.

                                                                                                                                                              The advice that rworange and meatn3 have provided seems quite sound. Naturally we can't understand all your implementation issues looking from the outside, but we can assure you that the Chowhound user experience will be far worse if you go through with removing the database - and it just could be bad enough that the site will not survive.

                                                                                                                                                              If I can't tell where a place is on Chowhound, I may have to go to a competitor that seems to have a better handle on basic technologies for a restaurant site. It seems like it might be easier to move the core community of local contributors to a new site then to stay on what is looking more and more like a burning platform.

                                                                                                                                                              Michael

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: mdg
                                                                                                                                                                rworange Feb 7, 2012 06:16 PM

                                                                                                                                                                >>> and it just could be bad enough that the site will not survive

                                                                                                                                                                Exactly

                                                                                                                                                                Chow does a lot of talk about wanting to attract new people. The Chow part of the site is set up to attract people who like to eat but don't know how to cook. They have 'irreverent' topical headlines to draw this group. Read under 30.

                                                                                                                                                                i can think of few 20/30 somethings who would be attracted to this site without getting easy info.

                                                                                                                                                                Effectively, removiing the database is like taking a shotgun and killing the restaurant part of Chowhound.

                                                                                                                                                                Chow does nothing to promote the restaurant discussion forum and then takes away the one valuable thing that keeps it somewhat up to date.

                                                                                                                                                                But you know what? When you kill off the restaurant traffic, it significantly cuts down the traffic to the site in general. It is as bad for Chow as it is for Chowhound.

                                                                                                                                                      3. rworange Jan 9, 2012 05:02 PM

                                                                                                                                                        >>> We thought we'd forestall the slightly annoying need to continually reply to a post with the question, "Where is this place you're talking about?" However, those good intentions have not been well served. We have heard that our restaurant listings have not been particularly helpful to most people most of the time

                                                                                                                                                        I hope jane will address this in her post.

                                                                                                                                                        Since the database has been implemented in 2007, IIRC, that is exactly what the database has done. I can not think of one person who has complained about this. EVERYBODY thinks this is extremely useful.

                                                                                                                                                        The problem came when the restaurant records were revised with autolinking and other bells and whistles that never worked.

                                                                                                                                                        The complaints have been about the non functioning bells and whistles.

                                                                                                                                                        I am not aware of any consistant performance issuues for years now and those are usually tied to links to advertisers or rolling out new features that have nothing to do with the database.

                                                                                                                                                        What is particularily shocking about this is Jacquelynne's post a few months back talking about discussions to make some fixes. We all knew this was on a low burner. That was fine.

                                                                                                                                                        However, to pull the database makes me feel like i was lied to and strung along.

                                                                                                                                                        Just leave the database as is. It has extreme value.

                                                                                                                                                        I would suggest what simple changes would make sense, but it doesn't seem that Chow cares about anything posters say.

                                                                                                                                                        Of course, should it be removed I can always hook to yelp when I want to provide an address and direct traffic away from this site.

                                                                                                                                                        As far as I can see the reason for removing the database is untrue and I'd love to see one post about the database that says Chowhounds don't want it. There are many, many posts though saying that the Chow upgrades caused problems. I don't see why a simple database that allows links to the address and other pertinant info in the header is a problem.

                                                                                                                                                        If every other restaurant site is able to deal with this, I don't see why it is so difficult for Chow.

                                                                                                                                                        But, as always, I'm sure Chow has anticipated how unhappy this will make their customers and have decided it isn't important and this too will pass after having to ignore some complaining about it.

                                                                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: rworange
                                                                                                                                                          jen kalb Jan 10, 2012 01:10 PM

                                                                                                                                                          I guess we are in the new state now where none of the restaurant info is any longer available, no website links, no mapping, no open day info, no nothing..

                                                                                                                                                          I wanted to answer a question on the Italy Board with a suggestion and could not remember the name of the restaurant. Guess what, there is no way to find it any more on chowhound. Its back to the books and other online sites from which I had extracted the info to create a useful info infrastructure. and guess what I dont have those books where i am so Im not going to do it.

                                                                                                                                                          I can understand why the site might not have wanted to deal with indexing thousands of pointless pages but not the insensitivity to chowhound board participants from deleting this info from the site..

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jen kalb
                                                                                                                                                            rworange Jan 10, 2012 01:33 PM

                                                                                                                                                            You can get to the restaurants through search.

                                                                                                                                                            However, the clear intention to remove the database is in the drop dow and restaurants is not listed there.

                                                                                                                                                            So in the search box enter the restaurant name and put in entire site and you will get to this page and currently you can narrow the search to restaurants
                                                                                                                                                            http://www.chow.com/search?query=sea+...

                                                                                                                                                            I think it is time for brainstorming beyond the immediate powers that be because of the abosolute disregard for posters.

                                                                                                                                                            Chow did upgrades to the restaurant database that caused multiple problems. Now posters are being penalized for reporting those errors. Then they were lied to with promises of improvements.

                                                                                                                                                            If the KISS approach had been taken or even considered in the future, it would have been better than what we will have ... nothing.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jen kalb
                                                                                                                                                              Melanie Wong Jan 10, 2012 01:35 PM

                                                                                                                                                              You may want to bookmark this page for now.
                                                                                                                                                              http://www.chow.com/restaurants/regions

                                                                                                                                                              If you use the search box in the upper right corner for "entire site", results in the restaurant pages do come up. The subheader above the results lets you select "restaurants". I've not tried it for Italy, but domestic restaurants do come up.

                                                                                                                                                              And if that doesn't work, on the link above for the Restaurants by region (not for Europe though), if you click on one of the cities below the line, you'll get a search box for finding restaurants. If you change the location to Italy, 2000+ entries come up. Is that about how many you estimate were there?

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                                                                                rworange Jan 10, 2012 01:45 PM

                                                                                                                                                                Clicking on the restaurant search and entering Guatemala I get back 231 records. I haven't checked to see if they are all there as i was having problems before this.

                                                                                                                                                                However, it gives me a chance to go back to all the blogs and sites that i linked to Chow for the address and remove the Chow link and decide where i want to store this info for now. Probably foursquare ... which btw ABC has some sort of affiliation with as they occasionally send people over there on their shows like Good Morning American, etc. You would think CBS could have done something similarily useful with the Chow restaurant database wich would have also had the benefit of directing more people to this site.

                                                                                                                                                          2. Midlife Jan 9, 2012 03:17 PM

                                                                                                                                                            Sounds like the Restaurants section is more of a headache for the site administration than we're hearing in the top post. For me it's the reviews that are useful, much more so than the "where is this place". Google will find the place location for me but Chowhound reviewers are generally a whole lot more discriminating than the mass of reviewers on Yelp. Too bad they're going away.

                                                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Midlife
                                                                                                                                                              Melanie Wong Jan 11, 2012 11:05 AM

                                                                                                                                                              I hope that 'hounds won't stop "reviewing" restaurants just because the database is going away, but once you put it that way, I see the risk. Although I will say that the end run of setting up a separate review function separate from the chowhound boards was a bad decision and invited shills and yelp-like rants. And I will not be sorry to see star ratings go away. It's a shame that Chow management did not improve the UI to make it more intuitive for reviews posted on the chowhound boards to feed to the Restaurant pages. Those were the ones worth reading, and I liked having them on one page for reference.

                                                                                                                                                              I can see a PR disaster now --- Chow castrates Chowhound and whacks off restaurant reviews. Then what are we left with?

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                                                                                rworange Jan 11, 2012 01:40 PM

                                                                                                                                                                Cooking and chat

                                                                                                                                                                i'm a concerned about this

                                                                                                                                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/827384#7067899

                                                                                                                                                                It was a casual comment (threat?) like that which preceeded this annoucement about the database.

                                                                                                                                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8144...

                                                                                                                                                                To me it seems Chow fails to recognize what it has in Chowhound, despite the numbers you quoted in another post. To me that first link seems to say Chow is forced to put up with Chowhound.

                                                                                                                                                                The numbers you linked to showed where the traffic is going. And in one way that is correct. There are only so many articles a staff can write.

                                                                                                                                                                There is no identifty crises anymore than there was a database crisis except in the eyes of the staff of Chow.

                                                                                                                                                                Many people who contribute content are proud of the Chowhound identity. it makes it easier to explain away why Chow and Chowhound are different.

                                                                                                                                                                People come to this site for info. Take away part of that info and there is less reason to come here.

                                                                                                                                                                What kills me about this is that it is obvious that for a while now thare is a new engineering team that has fixed a good deal of the awful problems of the past. Lots of the huge things that were problems have become smaller. To remove the database on a phony premise because of problems that were introduced by Chow in the first place only leaves me to think Chow's only purpose to to get rid of Chowhound.

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: Midlife
                                                                                                                                                                njmarshall55 May 16, 2012 11:37 AM

                                                                                                                                                                I agree that a review is very useful. Consisting of a sliding scale for each reviewer on ambience, value, food quality, service quality, overall satisfaction. Multiple reviews would be summarized and drillable...can you tell i've done stuff like this before?

                                                                                                                                                              3. jen kalb Jan 9, 2012 01:35 PM

                                                                                                                                                                I dont know this may be the last straw for me if implemented
                                                                                                                                                                .

                                                                                                                                                                Dont think Chow has really tried with the restaurant pages. They are very helpful where they have been implemented appropriately (i.e. led by users)

                                                                                                                                                                for example, they are a big help in Italy where only houndish restaurants have been added. a

                                                                                                                                                                there have been problems when Chow bought indiscriminate database content.

                                                                                                                                                                If chow could peel back the data buys, I think they would see something useful emerge.
                                                                                                                                                                Even if these pages were just retained as an adjunct to the boards it would be extremely useful to us.

                                                                                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jen kalb
                                                                                                                                                                  squid kun Jan 10, 2012 04:29 PM

                                                                                                                                                                  >If chow could peel back the data buys, I think they would see something useful emerge.

                                                                                                                                                                  Agreed! I've deleted many hundreds of NYC dupes since those ill-advised data buys, and to this day I still run across duplicates every couple of days. If the place pages really are slowing down the site - and BTW shouldn't that have been a predictable outcome? - surely the many thousands of duplicate records can't be helping matters.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: squid kun
                                                                                                                                                                    Melanie Wong Jan 11, 2012 11:03 AM

                                                                                                                                                                    When the purchased database was loaded in, I estimated that 20 to 30% of the entries for the SF Bay Area regional board were duplicates. I've removed close to 2,000 of them from the SF region, and that's only about 10%. Still can't believe that the product managers allowed that data into the system without doing a cursory data scrub. Over the past year, I've visited various parts of the country, always doing some research though the database for my chowing targets, and this same ratio still seems to apply, even in the smallest of burgs.

                                                                                                                                                                    So I'd estimate that the database is carrying about 25% excess pages. Add onto that the Papa Murphy's, Subways, and various chain establishments that no one has ever clicked on, looked at or added any info to, and that's another 20 to 25%.

                                                                                                                                                                    Selective deletion of Restaurant pages could yield a 50% improvement right there. I would like to see that part that's working saved. Yesterday I did a quick check of how many records had "reviews" entered. For the SF region, 1062 and for LA, 1120. That was determined by sorting by rating, and of course, that undercounts as that only picks up the ones that have stars attached to them. Some hounds like me have refused to use stars. Maybe that's fewer reviews than the product managers would have liked to see, but that's still something and quite a few more places reviewed than other sites have.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                                                                                      Servorg Jan 11, 2012 11:08 AM

                                                                                                                                                                      I wonder if the P that B would be willing to set up a "It Takes a Village to Save a Database" type of deal (just like when the boards were realigned and we all pitched in to relocate records to the new and reformed boards) where all interested hounds can go in to scrub and ultimately "save the place links?" I'm sure that a lot more goodhearted hounds would work to make the system faster by eliminating all those duplicates and chainola records...

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Servorg
                                                                                                                                                                        squid kun Jan 11, 2012 12:23 PM

                                                                                                                                                                        I suspect the number of "goodhearted hounds" willing to take on voluntary chores for Chow - like the many who contributed to the restaurant pages at the site's request - is falling off fast.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: squid kun
                                                                                                                                                                          Servorg Jan 11, 2012 12:44 PM

                                                                                                                                                                          Maybe, but then again there may be enough new contributors around that want to make this a better, more usable site that would join with the old hands to make this happen... You never know until you try and go...

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Servorg
                                                                                                                                                                            rworange Jan 11, 2012 03:13 PM

                                                                                                                                                                            You know, there seems to be some issue about owning the addresses.

                                                                                                                                                                            From another post it seems obvious Chow can identify who has inputted addresses whether it is a third party or a user.

                                                                                                                                                                            I don't see where a third party owns address that users input.

                                                                                                                                                                            So the data input by users, i mean address and most of the header info could easily be extracted based on user input and loaded into a new database that would simply be owned by Chow and maintained by users.

                                                                                                                                                                            Go ahead and wipe out the address information. Seriously, the only thing put in there by third parties is the address and often not even the phone.

                                                                                                                                                                            i'd be willing to put in time to work on a Chow-owned database. If only Chow would consider something like that.

                                                                                                                                                                            My career has been IT and working with databases such as Oracle. While this is a black box for me in terms of knowing what is under the covers here, it would see to me the effort to create a new database would be significnatly less that unlinking so many parts of this site from the database. The third party input was always one of the biggest problems with the restaurant database.

                                                                                                                                                                2. Servorg Jan 9, 2012 12:51 PM

                                                                                                                                                                  To say that this news made my blood pressure go up would be an under statement. How about making the pages more useful to our community? The old question of posters asking over and over and over and over again, "Where is it" was shut down for the most part by the inclusion of the place links. I'd better double up on my my medication before I start blowing steam out of my ears...

                                                                                                                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Servorg
                                                                                                                                                                    Robert Lauriston Jan 10, 2012 02:10 PM

                                                                                                                                                                    Eliminating that seems shortsighted to me.

                                                                                                                                                                    Originally it seemed like eachrestaurant page included links to every topic that linked to it, which was very useful. At some point, that was broken, and now it's just a string search, which eliminates much of the value.

                                                                                                                                                                    If the restaurant db is eliminated, does the "Wanna Go" list disappear as well?

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                                                      Melanie Wong Jan 12, 2012 07:58 PM

                                                                                                                                                                      Not broken, the change for the worse was intentional starting in the Fall 2009.
                                                                                                                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/655808#5072419

                                                                                                                                                                      When auto-linking was introduced at that time, every mention was linked up, essentially becoming just a string search, and the Restaurant pages no longer provided a guide to more substantive discussions or way to cut through that chaff.
                                                                                                                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/663117

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                                                                                        Robert Lauriston Jan 13, 2012 11:40 AM

                                                                                                                                                                        Ah. Well, probably best to throw it all out and start over, then.

                                                                                                                                                                        It would be very helpful to have a set of restaurant objects with basic info (Web site, address, phone number) that linked to topics about each restaurant. That could easily be implemented without a major impact on the site's performance.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                                                          Melanie Wong Jan 17, 2012 12:55 AM

                                                                                                                                                                          Well, that might be throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water. So far, nothing that Chow implements is "easy" and it could be a long while before we see any replacement for the existing functionality. I'd rather focus on saving the parts that work and that don't belong to the data provider until something new can be set up.

                                                                                                                                                                          With autolinking currently turned off, one would think that overall performance would improve. Also, the accumulation of irrelevant links stops. I just took a look to see how many places in the SF Bay Area region might have overly bloated linkage. I sorted the database by "most discussed" and the top 100 is topped by Perbacco with 338 discussions and tapers down to 48 discussions for Della Fattoria on page 7. To me, that's a manageable number of links, and for most places, the number is lower.
                                                                                                                                                                          http://www.chow.com/search?query=&...

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                                                                                                                            Servorg Jan 18, 2012 03:03 PM

                                                                                                                                                                            "With autolinking currently turned off, one would think that overall performance would improve."

                                                                                                                                                                            Auto-linking (with the "manage your links" box open is working at least - which is a change from the truncated functionality which I was seeing in the recent past where no restaurant would pop up unless you started typing a name in the box) seems to have been restored. Hopefully this points to a reconsideration of the planned termination of place links/CH database?

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Servorg
                                                                                                                                                                              Melanie Wong Jan 18, 2012 03:44 PM

                                                                                                                                                                              Per my post in the other thread, no change there.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Servorg
                                                                                                                                                                      Melanie Wong Jan 11, 2012 11:08 AM

                                                                                                                                                                      I'm still so mad, I can't pull my thoughts together in a constructive way.

                                                                                                                                                                      I agree with RL that it's a shortsighted move. In this day and age, it would be pretty pathetic to have a dining and restaurant discussion site that does not have an address or geo-location feature. Maybe something else to replace it is in the works that can provide that functionality. Is a direct feed from Google possible for the address field and map, although that would take readers away from the site and land them on google's restaurant review page.

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