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Jan 26, 2012 07:43 PM

What feature would you like to see on Chowhound?

I'll start: I want a way to "unlike" a thread so that I no longer get notifications when someone posts something. I know this has been mentioned before. I bring it up again because some of these threads just get tiresome. On the upside, though, I am more cautious before posting on threads.

How about you? Any ideas for optimizing the site?

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  1. A morning after button on your posts, AKA a delete button, private messenging feature, the unlike button is a great idea also,

    1. Expand only current day's posts as option. Collapse control. These would help with long threads.

      3 Replies
        1. re: GH1618

          Since the current feature only expands posts that you have not seen, what advantage is there to only seeing the current day's posts? To me, that would result in even more posts by 'hounds who have not read the thread responding without context or comprehension. Moreover, they are more likely to contribute only redundant comments which become nothing more than "noise."

          1. re: MGZ

            If one has a poor wi-fi link, as I do, the browser can time out waiting to load a thread. Or I can just get tired of waiting and shut it down to come back later. In that case, the entire thread will appear expanded, even though I have not seen current posts. Or I may want to go back to a thread which I have read to reread something, or to edit a post. It's only a problem with long threads.

        2. We're one of the few large forums without a PM system. I wind up wishing we had one all the time while posting and browsing here.

          56 Replies
          1. re: cowboyardee

            Just curious, cowboy, how do you think that would help the site and/or the lager community? I fear that it would take some relevant material out of the main dialogue, but since I think the last online private message I sent was on AOL in '96, I am probably not in the best position to judge.

            1. re: MGZ

              "I fear that it would take some relevant material out of the main dialogue,"
              Officially, CH doesn't like that material showing up on threads and is constantly deleting it. I've had people ask me about my blog or outside activities, and while I would happily answer over PM if we had said system, my only options were to post a reply only to see it deleted or else give up or exchange personal contact info.. and not everyone is comfortable doing that.

              I bought things from fellow CHs. I participated in a passaround of kitchen products (knives) - a PM system would have made this easier to set up, and easier to invite fellow CHs who might also be interested.

              Basically it would allow people to interact on a personal level without sacrificing their privacy. It enriches the site, not impoverishes it.

              1. re: cowboyardee

                " only options were to post a reply only to see it deleted or else give up or exchange personal contact info.. and not everyone is comfortable doing that."

                Why would that make you or anyone else uncomfortable (exchanging email addresses for off board contact)? Anyone can create a "throw away" email address and one can certainly supply as little (or as much) personal information as one would like when emailing another hound.

                1. re: Servorg

                  I receive e-mails all the time from fellow 'Hounds. Sometimes, unwanted.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    "I receive e-mails all the time from fellow 'Hounds. Sometimes, unwanted."

                    You get spam? Somehow, I never get any... ;-D>

                    1. re: Servorg

                      You get spam? Somehow, I never get any...

                      More like hate mail.

                  2. re: Servorg

                    Because I have to moderate my own email address, throwaway or not. And go through the minor hassle of setting up an account.

                    If I get spammed or harassed over PM in any of the other forums where I've participated, I can still have a moderator address the issue.

                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      I agree with this request. I used this feature on another forum that I used to be active in. From time to time I would want to send a personal note, and the pm feature is an asset. At least once I've wished for this feature on CH.

                        1. re: IndyGirl


                          I've changed my mind. This site does need a PM systems for so many reasons not mentioned yet.

              2. re: cowboyardee

                +1. I would love to be able to do this. As a college student, I don't know anyone who thinks about food in a similar way to me (i.e. there's more to cooking than dumping a bottle of sriracha in everything). Potentially it would allow me to meet some other college students (in Boston) who are interested in going to the farmers market, or a restaurant other than the nearest Qdoba or Applebee's, or anything else of the sort. PM'ing would be a good way to do this, without giving out personal information too fast.

                1. re: schoenfelderp

                  schoenfelderp, my son since he first started college, including a year abroad, has found to be the best place for meet ups. Something as simple as coffee or a impromptu food events and even over nights across the globe with like mind couch surfers. He's traveled to Paris, Roubaix and London most recently using this online community site. The next meetup is at the Royal Albert Hall for Cirque's TOTEM..including apartment dining beforehand. Have you ever visited

                  1. re: HillJ

                    I haven't but I'll be sure to, it sounds pretty good.

                2. re: cowboyardee

                  But don't folks who wish to have private contact with other C-Hers just put an email addy on their profiles? I guess I've always assumed that not doing so meant one only wanted to communicate on topic and in public.

                  1. re: mcf

                    If you read my other posts on this thread, you'll see that I already addressed why I feel a PM system is superior to adding an email address to your profile. And, to be honest, it's not a particularly radical suggestion.

                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      I suspect the PTB don't want to be a social networking site in terms of functionality/mission, but that's just a hunch. Just as you don't want to moderate your own email, maybe they don't want to moderate a PM system so you can do stuff that email works just great for. I don't have any spam issues with gmail, btw. And I set up an addy I don't use except for stuff I don't want attached to my regular email, and have stuff forwarded from it so I don't have to check it unless something comes in. Easy peasy.

                      1. re: mcf

                        Wow... with all those reasons not to have a PM system, you're making me wonder why just about every other large forum on the internet bothers to have one. What suckers.

                        More seriously, having a PM system isn't the same thing as becoming a social networking site. That's like saying installing a cupholder makes for a luxury automobile.

                        I'm sure the PTB don't necessarily want to moderate a PM system. Given a choice, they probably don't much want to moderate the forums we have. I'm sure they'd be thrilled if they could just close down the forum and have people mail em money in a box. The point was I'm making a suggestion that I feel would add value to my user experience while also simultaneously adding value to the site.

                        Not only that, but it gives people a chance to comfortably take OT conversations off the forums. Keeps that signal-to-noise ratio up. How much effort is wasted moderating this kind of thing and then explaining later on site talk about why ______ post or thread was removed.

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          Here's my POV... my sarcasm deleted. First, you can't be bothered to "moderate" your own external email, but want admin here to take responsibility for moderating yours and everyone's PMs here when external email meets all the needs you've addressed.

                          Second, most forums I'm participating in don't have PMs, some do. Widely variable, completely up to forum owners.

                          Third, I've been posting to unmoderated usenet (even now that it's fairly moribund) for decades and met numerous folks in person, vacationed with one, exchanged items, packages by snail mail and in person, no problem. USPS, email and telephone, Skype... so many opportunities to meet one's own needs for private communication.

                          1. re: mcf

                            I can be and am bothered to moderate my email. If you can be bothered to look, you'll see that my email address is listed in my profile and has been for some time. You make it out like I'm asking the mods to spot me $50. No. Really. NO. I am making a suggestion that I feel would help this site. It adds value to the site, makes the site more user friendly, and ostensibly can help retain members.

                            Even though I have made an email address available to members of this site, I feel a PM system is a far superior option for communication between site members. On top of its organizational value, it encourages communication in a way that posting one's email address does not. I am more reluctant to email a member of a forum than to PM them. A PM system creates an environment where people feel safe and comfortable contacting each other. This is why PM systems exist.

                            Finally, while I acknowledge that being commonplace isn't proof in and of itself that a function is a good idea, let's not misrepresent the facts either - a PM system is found more often than not on other internet forums.

                            Your argument against a PM system is really toeing the line between 'I don't like the idea' (I disagree with you, but fine) and 'I'm offended that you would even make such a selfish and destructive request" (ridiculous)

                            1. re: cowboyardee

                              How do PM systems work on other sites? For instance, can you turn off your participation in the system if you don't want to be contacted? Do the moderators on other sites take an active role if you are being harassed by someone on the site? I've been against this idea in the past, but I can see that plenty of other folks here see it as a positive so I can see going along if it offers a better way to keep off topic chat down on the boards.

                              1. re: Servorg

                                On some sites, you can block individuals from messaging you, and also set your forum settings to "ignore" if you don't want to see their posts. On the rare occasions I've used an "ignore" setting, it's been a wonderful tool to have.

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  Depends on the site. Some allow you to turn off your participation. Some allow you to block individual members. Some just assume that people who don't want to participate won't check their inbox. Offhand, allowing members to opt out of and turn off their PM system strikes me as a good idea for Chowhound.

                                  As far as harassment and spam, generally most sites will allow you to contact forum administration or a mod to look into the matter if a situation arises. That said, I've participated in a bunch of internet forums, and I can't even remember ever having an altercation or harassment issue over PM. Flame wars always seemed to happen more on the public boards (I assume the logic was that if you're going to call someone names and get cited or banned for it, you may as well do so in public), while PMs were mainly for friendly off-topic chit chat and to set up get-togethers and such. I can remember a few issues coming up with members being spammed though - it usually resulted in the deletion of the spammer's account, though that's also forum-dependent.

                                2. re: cowboyardee

                                  I'm not arguing against it, I just dont agree that not having it imposes any limitations. IIRC, the mods have always asked folks to take discussions of chow get togethers off site, too, and I suspect that there's a liability concern for them... not one that others see as such a big deal, but one that they choose not to take on.

                                  I don't have any argument against the utility of a PM system, other than the fact that for those who are very privacy conscious, choosing whether or not to communicate off the boards might be more appealing, but it's not as if it would be hard to ignore PMs. Better yet, if such a system comes into existence, there should be the ability to block individuals from messaging. I'd love to have an "Ignore" button for certain folks on the boards, too.

                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                    i've change my mind. There are many reasons why this site should have a PM system outside of the ones you stated.

                                    1. re: rworange

                                      Rworange, what are the other reasons? I'm curious now. I just want the PMs for the sake of convenience, and so that I keep my Chow stuff here (and out of my email).

                                      1. re: IndyGirl

                                        For some people, they just lurk rather than post for a number of reasons.

                                        It would be a way for those people to offer tips to posters off line.

                                        While I realize that the object is to share with the community, it might be nice if people who didn't want to share with all could give posters help.

                                        i didn't particularily want to post on the board last night. There was one of those tourist questions and i wanted to email the poster with advice ... no email address on the profile. No one to date has answered that poster.

                                        One of the benefits i've found on sites with pm systems is that restaurants will sometimes contact you personally with freebies and deals. The current rules on this site prohibit self promotion, but a pm system allows this action behind the scenes.

                                        It is an excellent way to send a message to a large number of Chowhounds without having to deal with email addresses.

                                        Ok, the last two should give Chow some pause for thought, but I'd find the first reason an enhancement to this site.

                                        1. re: rworange

                                          I certainly agree with your first reason. Especially if you wanted to add extra non-chow info,like other things to do in that neighborhood, etc. A valuable addition for that reason alone.

                                          I don't like the idea of restaurants offering freebies to reviewers, because (obviously) I'd like to believe in the reviews here. Also, as someone who has posted honest reviews, I wouldn't want to have a restaurant owner contact me, hoping I'd either change my review or write a more positive review later in exchange for some freebies. I'm not sure I'd have thought about this if you hadn't brought it up.

                                          I've noticed that Gardenweb, another huge site where I have posted occasionally in the past, doesn't have PM capability. I wonder why?

                                          1. re: IndyGirl

                                            Yeah, personally I don't respond to these when they come in or accept their offers

                                            VERY occasionally I will put something on a retry list on my own dime as a result. Once I retried a place and it still sucked (slightly eccentric older owner so that kind of compelled me). My review stood.

                                            One time I did change a review on yelp because of a pm message. The owner made a number of changes because of my yelp review and while I still have it on my retry list, I didn't add the extra info to my Chowhound post though.

                                            I usually do scathing reviews only on big restaurants where it doesn't matter. A little locally owned business like that, I use euphamisms if they suck. So I felt bad about the review and the owner was just so nice. He listened to that nonsense from me and took action. i was the jerk really. i should actually go back and retry them.

                                            The other thing ... and while you can block emails ... I've had some rabid pm messages from people who didin't like my review. It had me for a while not posting anything negative on yelp.

                                            And for some sites, PM doesn't mean private. If you don't want the site monitoring your messages, send an email.

                                            1. re: rworange

                                              It occurs to me that it's a way for restaurant owners to attack writers of honest, unfavorable posts/reviews without detection and reporting.

                                              1. re: mcf

                                                "It occurs to me that it's a way for restaurant owners to attack writers of honest, unfavorable posts/reviews without detection and reporting."
                                                This is a fair point. It had already occurred to me that the specific nature of chowhound might make a PM system attractive for spam and angry letters of retaliation from people affiliated with businesses discussed here. I assume this might cause some reluctance on the part of CH's managers in adopting a PM system.

                                                BUT this is not an unsolvable problem. One solution off the top of my head (and I'm sure there are others): make a PM feature available only once a poster has made, say, 50 posts and has been a member in good standing for one month. The idea is to make sure that people don't create a screen name just for the sake of spamming and/or writing angry retaliatory letters. Tip the scales to make sure that people using a PM system are invested in the site.

                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                  I know that one of my forums has a probationary period for PM users, and while it's very helpful, it hasn't been foolproof. Over a number of years, in fact, we've found that certain long time participants were fake, and were divulging people's private medical info to practitioners they'd discussed. Honestly, the best way to avoid the Tripadvisor crapfest is not to have an internal PM system. When folks who want private contact have the ability to post or list their email addies on posts or profiles, there's just not a downside to not having it, compared to the TA syndrome potential.

                                                  A proactive and interested business owner/practitioner finds little difficulty creating a profile, a brief personal story and infiltrating, with disastrous consequences at times.

                                                  IME and IMO.

                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                    Nothing is 100% foolproof. A business owner can also infiltrate the forums and shill and argue with detractors by doing exactly what you just mentioned. The idea isn't to make a PM system absolutely impervious to any form of misuse but just to make it as robust and secure as the regular forums. Suggestions like the one I made above are capable of that.

                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                      On the rare occasions I've seen a shill here, it's been removed within minutes of report. Frankly, I don't think something has to be 100% foolproof to be a good idea. We know from Tripadvisor how toxic such porosity is. Some otherwise good ideas have severe unintended consequences, too.

                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                        I'm just saying you seem to be holding a hypothetical PM system to a different standard than you do the forum which it serves. I'm sure there are regular posters here who are affiliated with businesses they've defended on these forums, or even people who joined the forums specifically to defend their business but have done so in such a way that they haven't been identified as shills.

                                                        If a business affiliate is willing to engage in that kind of subterfuge to get access to our (again hypothetical) PM system, he or she can probably also already do the same thing on the forum itself.

                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                          It isn't happening in any significant and irrevocable way now, so I guess my view is why, oh why, invite it.?

                                                          There's a huge difference between the value and integrity of TA and CH, and I believe the strong limits on business participants here and the ability to report and have immediate redress is hugely empowering. I'd hate to see the same perversion and corruption of CH that has happened at TA when it is so easy to communicate with other CHers who want to have private communications as things stand now.

                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                            I have been against the idea, mostly because as you say in this post, once the Pandora effect goes into action your slide down the slippery slope increases in velocity, and usually with no way to arrest your momentum. It just seems like the negatives outweigh the positives. Even one of the examples RWO offers above in which members trade tips that properly belong on the board for all who are interested to benefit from is a fairly big negative to me. Since CH is pretty tightly compartmentalized in terms of the local and regional boards by geographic region the tendency by those who don't like those "map" restrictions may well be encouraged to use the PM system to circumvent those rules. That would be a serious negative.

                                                            1. re: mcf

                                                              You could make the same argument, more or less, about ANY new feature.

                                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                I guess we're on opposite sides of the PM issue, and I think it's clear what risks I think outweigh any potential benefits. I don't really have more to say about it.

                                                                1. re: cowboyardee


                                                                  I'm unhappy about the data base removal. i am well aware that a pm feature would be bad for the site and only good for me personally because i could take my food discussions off the board. Multiply that ability by thousands doing the same.

                                                                  In terms of Chowhound, it is a selfish feature. I'm just in a place where I'm not in the mood for sharing.

                                                                  Anyway, impassioned arguments on either side pro or con just amount to venting. What will happen, will happen.

                                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                                    "i am well aware that a pm feature would be bad for the site and only good for me personally because i could take my food discussions off the board. Multiply that ability by thousands doing the same."
                                                                    That's a legitimate concern. But my experience from other forums that have PM systems in place has been that on-topic discussion tends to stay in the public forum, while off-topic chit chat and whatnot tends to move to PM.

                                              2. re: rworange

                                                Regarding restaurants offering freebies, I’ve had exactly that happen on TripAdvisor and I think it would be horrendous if Chowhounders could even be thought to be compromised in their opinions as I now believe posters are on that site.

                                                This past November I wrote a very negative review on TA of a restaurant they had listed as the number one restaurant in Valparaiso, Chile. The next day I received by e-mail an apology saying there had been extenuating circumstances that evening and offering me a free meal if I would return and reconsider my review. I wouldn’t have accepted the offer even if I hadn’t been traveling and unable to take them up on it, so I didn’t reply. Within a couple of days there was a very nasty message on TA saying I was obviously a competitor who was simply trying to trash their reputation. After I confirmed my review, TA deleted the owner’s comment.

                                                The owners of the restaurant then wrote a similar comment here on Chowhound where I was responding to a poster’s query about where to eat in Valparaiso and gave another negative review to their restaurant. This time they were positively vituperative, calling me a liar among other things. I reported that to the mods and it was deleted almost immediately.

                                                This experience confirmed for me what others have said, something that until then I only suspected might be true. There are restaurants all over the world that will go to great effort, including offering free meals, to create or retain a high ranking and positive reviews throughout the Web. The validity of restaurant reviews on other sites are already imperiled by these attempts to sway opinion and it would be tragic were it to happen here.

                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                  Tripadvisor is completely corrupted and useless due to hotel and restaurant owners participation on the review boards and by messages. Angie's List, too, IMO, for everything else. They notify those reviewed of the review and the reviewer's contact info. I've seen helpful, negative reviews with details taken down due to presumed intimidation and threats by the reviewed party. This means only those with no integrity and with something to hide have clean or only positive records.

                                                  The very BEST reason to not have private messaging on CH I can think of.

                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                    I don't agree about Tripadvisor at all.
                                                    Letting the owners have a response is fair, and I still have gotten awesome advice from there.
                                                    I think it is pretty awesome if someone comes in and makes baseless charges against a restaurant that the restaurant can respond.
                                                    I also like how it shows the # of contributions the reviewers have , to help weed out the shills either pro-or-con, and see if there is a pattern to their reviews. Some restaurants like to trash their competitors on review sites.

                                                    1. re: PenskeFan

                                                      I have gotten info from Tripadvisor but it is rarely awesome.

                                                      I use it because it is the only info available in certain areas. The international restaurant scene has few sources of public review sites.

                                                      You can go to a Chowhound poster's profile page and scroll to the bottom and see how many pages they have contributed with 25 posts per page. I currently have 393 pages so do the math about how many posts that is.

                                                      Another thing to look at is the last page. some people don't post much but they may have started years ago. That is the most credible thing to me.

                                                      A shill and friends can put in lots of reviews but they will all be recent. If someone has been posting long term usually that indicates someone who is legit.

                                                      1. re: PenskeFan

                                                        TA is a pathetic joke, so completely subverted by spammers and scammers and fake reviews that #1 is almost always a slum or a lousy meal. I guess it isn't fair for anyone to be reviewed, by your logic.

                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                          Interesting. I've found TA to be an incredibly valuable tool for trip planning. I just don't pay much attention to the review site. Instead, I use the forums and the pm system, which has been a great combo for me. Certainly there are self-promoting posts in the forums, too, but for the ones I participate in, those get removed pretty quickly.

                                                          1. re: debbiel

                                                            I find the forums a bit more useful, but I used TA primarily for accommodation reviews, and that's where I posted almost exclusively. I just got so disgusted by their lack of concern for shilling and personal attacks by owners, and their lies even when documented for them. There's much better info out there.

                                                            1. re: mcf

                                                              I found this recent story in the LA Times about business owners getting together to "game" the Yelp system enlightening:

                                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                                "As many as 4 out of 10 online reviews are phony or biased in some way, said Bing Liu, a computer science professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago who develops software to detect fake reviews. Liu said the challenge for Yelp and other review sites is in keeping pace with the latest tactics. "It's going to be a problem forever because the incentive is too high," he said."

                                                                I've never been to any site that does as good a job of policing than CH moderators do here. From their policies to their rapid response to reports of suspected shills... it's not that hard, as long as you're deeply committed to it.

                                                    2. re: JoanN

                                                      Gosh, that is scary ... stalked by a business over muliple websites.

                                                      I've never had a business follow me from yelp to Chowhound.

                                                      Long ago when I first started posting I was super careful about letting anyone know anything about me online.

                                                      A girlfrend was posting on another forum and some guy tracked her down and showed up at her front door. She had not given any address and this is someone I knew from high school so i knew she did zero to initiate that.

                                                      Someone whose business is at stake and takes comments too seriously might be more dangerous.

                                          2. re: cowboyardee

                                            I don't think it's true that "just about every other large forum" has private messaging. There is one particular third-party software package used to implement forums which provides PMs. Every site which uses that package has PMs whether they wanted them or not. My experience is that no site I use which does not use that software has PMs. One site I use regularly recently switched away from that old package (which is kind of klunky, in my opinion) to a new system with a more professional look and no PMs. Some members complained about the loss of PMs, but I like it better without them.

                                            1. re: GH1618

                                              I think the 2 major forum packages are phpBB and vbulletin, and both have private messaging.

                                              I believe The 3rd biggest is SMF, which also has personal messaging.

                                              I am on a lot of professional type websites, several for unix/linux and networking issues, some for project management concerns, and others for telecommunications professionals; most run one of those 3, or some proprietary software of their own, but they all have a private messaging system of some kind.
                                              I would like one here, but hey, it is what it is.

                                      2. re: mcf

                                        Some people dont want to have their email picked up by (more) spam bots, but appreciate receiving private messages

                                        1. re: PenskeFan

                                          Type out the words "at" and "dot" and your e-mail won't be picked up by a spam bot. I've had a CH dedicated e-mail address on my profile page for a few years now and have never received any spam to that address, only messages from other CHers.

                                          1. re: PenskeFan

                                            I never get any spam on gmail. Folks can make a novel email addy just for CH and have mail forwarded to their regular email. That's what I do, if I give out an email to anyone from here.

                                            I think it's better than having the whole CH site overrun by aggressive restaurateurs.

                                      3. when you click to see a photo in a newly posted post, (on a thread where most of the older posts are collapsed), then you go back, ALL the posts are expanded, and now you have "lost" just the once-highlighted "new" posts and have to read all the posts. i'd like for the new posts alone to stay open, and the older ones remain collapsed in that circumstance.
                                        i'd like to be able to "add" a photo (or even a second or third) to a post that is still in the two hour "edit window."

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          Great idea. I never click on a photo for that very reason.

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            If you hit "shift" as you click, the photo should appear in another screen.

                                            1. re: chowser

                                              oh, thanks chowser! i will try that!

                                          2. Not a feature, a design change, but I would like for the "[User Name] (View Profile) / Logout" buttons to be set in cap/small cap so that my user name would read "JoanN" and not "JOANN." I asked for this years ago when one of the early site redesigns was in beta and was told it would be looked into, but nothing every happened and I'm still JOANN, like it or not.