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It's an election year - in my perfect world CH would have a new voice too

meatn3 Feb 8, 2012 07:15 AM

The conversations about the restaurant data base going bye-bye and the thread about our ideas to improve the site led me to the idea of:

a member nominated advisory board!

Hounds would know they at least had a voice in decisions like the restaurant fiasco before the decision is carved in stone. Management (if they could keep an open mind) could benefit from the knowledge which comes from long, active use of the site. We have members with extensive real world technical experience who can speak the same language as the engineers.

In my perfect world we would be putting this together and CH would continue to move towards a brighter, collaborative future.

And maybe a chicken in every pot too!

  1. h
    HillJ Feb 8, 2012 08:56 AM

    Would this perfect world include knowing who those voices are or would they be part of the collective anonymous? Frankly, adding a CH suggestion box or member survey tool to every registered members profile that could be "sent in" to the folks listening on the other end of this site would be my preference but good on you for asking the question, meatn3.

    5 Replies
    1. re: HillJ
      meatn3 Feb 8, 2012 09:05 AM

      Nice idea!

      I just throw it out there to seed the imagination and see if it can be massaged into something viable through the collective genius of the hivemind.

      1. re: HillJ
        rworange Feb 8, 2012 11:47 PM

        i'm sorry to be skeptical of a suggesti9n box because right or wrong this is my perception of what happens at Chow

        Chow has its ideas of what is a swell new idea.

        For years, posters ask for something else. One person posts they would like something Chow has been wanting to do.

        Based on the minority opinion, the change goes through with a message that says Chow is listening.

        So a suggestion box / poll would just be fodder to implement something Chow wants if a small handful of usually new people want it too.

        Based on past experience of working with Chow I don't have hope for Chow listening. I did some user testing with others a few years back.

        The Chowhounds involved in the test made it clear to Chow that what it wanted to do would cause problems when installed. Chow ignored what the posters involved in the test warned about and installed it as is. Surprise, surprise. Chowhounds screamed at the buggy system.

        While it made have made itself feel good that it was listening, my favorite was the message a week before something was about to roll out asking people what they thought. Like anything would change at that point ... and it didnt ... but we were thanked for our input.

        Then there is the database thing which has its own thread so I won't go on much. But summing it up Chowhounds have spent years asking to have the bugs worked out of what it seems was a five year beta test.

        That gets interpreted as people don't like the database and we are listening to you and getting rid of it to give a better user experience.

        No one said to kill it. We asked to fix it. We told you what needed to be fixed and as late as the end of 2011 Chow was promising fixes ... just be patient.

        Then when it announced killing the database, buried in a thread at the beginning of 2012, there were assurances of not to worry, reviews would be around for quite a while. Yesterday was the formal annoucment giving people about a month before things disappeared. Hardly the same thing.

        Also buried in a thread is that Chowhounds are confused about their identity and maybe it might be a good idea to drop the Chowhound brand.

        The only thing i wish is that Chow could understand is that Chowhounds have the same objective as Chow ... to keep this site alive and growing.

        Yes, we need to attract new people who want to stick around for awhile. But Chow always seems to make the decision to try to lure in the new people while not even giving thought to the people who have been here.

        Should Chow be really serious about this, Chowhounds should be involved in the design part of a project.

        I think people new to the site should be included. We do want to attract new people. However, when people who use the site frequently say something is not going to be well recieved by the majority, then really listen and brainstorm for a solution that makes the community as well as Chow happy.

        There are things that are necessary for web businesses these days and social media is one of those things.

        For example, facebook, tweets, ets. Yeah need them. Don't need cludgy poorly designed ways to get there.

        That tab to the left that replicates the same info at the top of the post is so amaturish. When I'm surfing the web I only see it on sites that are usually home grown and not professional.

        If Chow could broach changes in terms of

        - how it benefits the site in terms of traffic and meeting whatever criterea they need for their bosses

        - listen to Chowhounds about potential community problems and come up with a way to achieve a feature driving traffic to the site while not making the site difficult to use for posters

        Chow could pass anything thru without complaint ... well, significantly less. We want the site to live too. We want new people.

        I will say there has been one major improvement in the site and that is the current engineering team. When there is an installation it is virtually bug free and engineering is responsive and on top of any bugs.

        I can name dozens of users who left the site when the shameful, buggy installations were the norm. Few of those posters came back. I can guess people new to the site didn't stick around either.

        Chow seems to want to force the yelp model on the site. Yet they do it badly and if that is the goal Chow can never catch up.

        However, a good many people who post on yelp aren't thrilled with that site and would flock to Chowhound if Chowhound did what it does well.

        There are things where Chowhound could have outshined yelp... lists and the database had a much better structure than yelp ever could have because of yelp's limitations. But neither was made user friendly and the bugs never got fixed. And so it goes.

        And be honest. I would bet that the only reason the database is being axed is Chow doesn't want to pay the cost of the data provider. It has nothing to do with speed or whatever other things have been said.

        Jim Leff keeps saying that there are a million address books out there. I would guess that is how Chow considered the database and therefore easily expendible.

        It was more than an address book even in its buggy state and had the potential for much more.

        It seems like Chow was totally unaware of the treasure trove of info there and no wonder ... it was virtually impossible to get to those records.

        We were waiting on a promise from the month it was first rolled out five years ago that soon there would be a good interface. That never happened.

        If Chow is really listening they would do well to reconsider the database issue and seriously talk about a work around.

        There are ways to pick out those records that are totally user input. Chow knows that.

        To think that all will be well by setting up some sort of panel and at the same time dumping the database ... it doesn't come off as a sincere commitment to work with the community to the benefit of boh Chow and Chowhound

        1. re: rworange
          h
          HillJ Feb 9, 2012 05:17 AM

          Great example of a suggestion for the suggestion box, rw. You only helped further the notion whether you believe in it or not. What I know is that I can't do anything about your frustrations, concerns or suggestions because I don't work @ CHOW. Reading member contributions be it recipe, review or site experience is good for any company to look at. Since we sit behind a keyboard trying to understand what makes the company "tic" without truly knowing the decision process, I have a hard time following some (not all) of your assumptions but I do respect that you care and pay attention to every CHANGE that takes place. This is not the first time that a member of the CHOW team has joined a thread to say that "things are in the works" and chowhounds have doubted the sincerity. But I see no benefit in suggesting our input counts for nothing when the site is filled with examples of member ideas put in action.

          1. re: HillJ
            rworange Feb 9, 2012 10:06 AM

            >>> I do respect that you care and pay attention to every CHANGE that takes place

            Only the ones that are so egregious they bite you in the ass.

            I have long ago stopped paying attention to the changes in the site. It is like people say of the weather in Boston wait a few minutes and it will change. I'm more in touch with yelp these days.

            My issue is the way the database was handled. When for five years a number of posters have reported on Site Talk the fixable problems on Chowhound and that gets interepreted as chowhounds don't want a database ... well.

            Nice straw man though. The usual statement that people are against any change and going to bitch. There are a number of great changes i have been a cheerleader for such as the the recent redesign that makes navigating between Chow and Chowhound easy

            1. re: rworange
              h
              HillJ Feb 9, 2012 10:12 AM

              i have been a cheerleader for such as the the recent redesign that makes navigating between Chow and Chowhound easy.
              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`
              As a user of that redesign-love it!

      2. mudaba Feb 8, 2012 09:39 AM

        We have been talking a lot about this very thing over here as well! Look for more information about this by the end of this week.

        Thanks, Meredith of CHOW

        1. pane Feb 8, 2012 10:53 AM

          I agree that this is a fantastic idea.

          Chowhound includes a broad range of users--from the recognizable names who post 10 times per day to people who contribute less frequently but add value through their insightful comments and reviews. Also, you get a sense from reading the threads of how smart and accomplished so many Hounds are--the extensive real-world technical expertise you mention.

          It would be great to have a 'board' that reflects our diverse user base and is grounded in a shared commitment to good eats.

          1. i
            INDIANRIVERFL Feb 8, 2012 11:14 AM

            How to pick them. Number of posts per board? Evaluation of their usability and pertinence? Number of years as a member? Single vote per member per board?

            I habitually check Great Lakes, Florida, UK, and Europe. I have an idea of who's opinion and recommendations I trust. Any other vote for a board would be like picking 4 of the 27 candidates for local judge. It's throwing a dart.

            I would much rather see a translation program. Not everybody in the world speaks English.

            Better yet, translating my english quiries into German for the next trip back. Look out Berlin!

            1 Reply
            1. re: INDIANRIVERFL
              pane Feb 8, 2012 11:42 AM

              These are all great questions--and I think, really, the (so far imaginary) advisory board's got to be a mix, and # of posts per board or years as a member doesn't encourage that. I read the San Francisco board (a lot! I write the weekly digest) and some very smart and dedicated hounds might post only a few times per month.

              A good mix of long-time contributors and users that joined in the last couple of years sounds about right, too. I'd hate to exclude a 25-year-old Hound who just wasn't around to start contributing in 2002, though my home board has benefited greatly from users like Melanie, Robert Lauriston and rworange (and many others!) who have put time, effort and expertise into contributing and shaping the site for many years.

              meatn3, thanks for starting this discussion--it's an exciting proposal to consider.

            2. g
              GH1618 Feb 8, 2012 11:59 AM

              I couldn't disagree more. This is a privately owned website, and the owners can operate it however they please. Everyone else has the right to create a website to suit themselves, and many do.

              3 Replies
              1. re: GH1618
                h
                HillJ Feb 8, 2012 12:04 PM

                That's what makes the Site Talk board so consistently interesting. It's all about how WE see it, isn't it.

                Talk about the talk is as old as the site itself. Putting a board together would be an interesting excercise....but a suggestion box has been the very definition of Site Talk since inception, no.

                However the future unfolds for CH's having a voice on site developments...it's always interesting to read the feedback.

                1. re: GH1618
                  cowboyardee Feb 8, 2012 05:44 PM

                  Didn't someone from chow already chime in and and say they like the idea?

                  Just because the owners have ultimate say over what happens here doesn't mean it's wrong for members to suggest a change. The framework here is provided by the owners, but the content that draws in readers and makes it possible to generate ad revenue is user-created.

                  I guess I could be even-handed like HillJ above me and just chalk it up to everyone having their own perspective. But the 'if you don't like it, leave' line of reasoning comes up almost every time someone suggests a change. And frankly, that perspective is pretty short-sighted. CH's owners presumably don't want to lose too many of their contributing members, and I'm not much interested in building a forum. So lets work together. Or at least not begrudge attempts to move in that direction.

                  1. re: cowboyardee
                    Servorg Feb 9, 2012 10:36 AM

                    The cynical side of my brain sees the P that B liking this idea for the same reason that many big companies like to hire outside consultants. They (the "independent" consultants) provide "cover" for ultimately unpopular decisions which get implemented by the men & women behind the curtain.

                2. mudaba Feb 9, 2012 01:47 PM

                  Hi, Just wanted to follow up on my email earlier. I think this is a great time to announce that we have a longstanding Chowhound who is going to come and work with CHOW full-time, starting in March. His name is Dave MP -- some of you may know him from the SF Boards, or the Boston Boards--and he has been on Chowhound for 11 years! We are really excited about this. I think that Dave MP's perspective as a Chowhound is going to help inform our future feature developments. Once he's here, we can also revisit the idea of "user panels" in reaction to new features that are being designed. There will be more about this in March, but with this thread up, I couldn't help but make the announcement early.

                  Thanks, Meredith of CHOW

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mudaba
                    h
                    HillJ Feb 9, 2012 02:02 PM

                    Best of luck with the f/t job at CHOW, Dave MP!

                  2. kaleokahu Feb 10, 2012 08:48 AM

                    Hi, meatn3:

                    Great idea. But like most great ideas, it's not gonna fly on CH.

                    Admin and moderation here is all about control, and they're not going to give any of it up, even to listen to an advisory board. Then there's the problem of the huge number of posters who will never accept the idea of changing *anything* about the site or its operation. Merely *suggesting* change is very threatening, treated as heresy and apostacy, and rouses folks to the Barricades to defend of the status quo. If they didn't already exist, you couldn't sell the Magna Carta or the Declaration of Independence.

                    But good luck.

                    Aloha,
                    Kaleo

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: kaleokahu
                      mcf Feb 10, 2012 02:47 PM

                      I would think that the rest of us, not admin, would have a bigger problem with a small group speaking for all of us. I hate the idea, actually, unless folks are chosen at random, maybe, from all those interested, and changed over annually at least.

                      Way to be patronizing, btw. Change can be good or bad. Sometimes the best of intentions lead to unanticipated consequences.

                      Some folks don't mind a small group with concentrated power as long as they're IN it.

                      1. re: mcf
                        kaleokahu Feb 10, 2012 10:34 PM

                        Hi. mcf:

                        The history of this board demonstrates pretty much the opposite--that there is already a small group which purports to speak "for all of us" in resisting change and marginalizing those who call for it. Whether or not admin and moderation listen to them is unknown (as is whether they *are* admin/mod), but there are so few changes, one (mere mortal) can only wonder.

                        Your suggestion about rotating board memberships is a good one. How's that for patronizing?

                        Aloha,
                        Kaleo

                        1. re: kaleokahu
                          mcf Feb 11, 2012 07:20 AM

                          I don't experience the feelings of oppression you so often express wrt CH moderation and other posters. To me, it just seems like a request to add another layer of supervision devised by another small group.

                          If this isn't patronizing, I don't know what is: " Merely *suggesting* change is very threatening, treated as heresy and apostacy, and rouses folks to the Barricades to defend of the status quo. If they didn't already exist, you couldn't sell the Magna Carta or the Declaration of Independence."

                          Change can be good or bad. Change, willy nilly, to satisfy the Perennially Irritated tends not to address the real issue at bottom.

                          1. re: mcf
                            meatn3 Feb 11, 2012 09:07 AM

                            There have been several changes over the last few years which directly affect reader participation and the usefulness/future of the site.
                            The geographic division of boards is one example where querying members could have gone a long way towards making a change be better accepted.

                            I feel after many years of involvement that I "know" many of the participants. I may not have ever seen them in the real world or even know their legal name - but I do feel I have an accurate read on their intelligence, dedication, point of view and areas of applicable expertise. I can think of several who I wish had been able to consult/advise much earlier in the restaurant data base situation.

                            A viable board needs people with a variety of view points and experiences unified with the dedication to a mutual goal. If it is all "yes" men then it is a waste of everyone's time. If it is cherry picked by management is is suspect. Each CH has their own idea of features and functions needed. Anyone other than a very casual reader will gain a sense of which hounds have a similar viewpoint. There will never be a situation which pleases everyone, but I believe that an advisory board would better the chances of more of our needs/goals/vision being met. Furthermore, if our needs are better met then the site stays stronger and more viable and the corporate needs will be met.

                            1. re: meatn3
                              mcf Feb 11, 2012 09:16 AM

                              I understand your concerns and you make some very good, valid points about user feedback as a valuable tool. What I object to is the idea that you, or someone like you, or a small group that you or anyone thinks is intelligent or dedicated enough or has the right POV should be the Chosen Advisors.

                              In my view, Site Talk should be used/function as the advisory board, not an insider group. What you propose reduces democracy, IMO. Instead of jumping to exclude everyone else, which is really what you're proposing, why not make the same arguments in favor of a greater commitment by admin to using Site Talk for feedback from all of us? Propose process instead of another type of admin layer.

                              That way, everyone interested enough to read and comment on proposed changes or just feedback in the form of suggestions has an equal voice.

                              In that vein, we should all remember that a privately owned site has no obligation to be democratic, just to offer what their philosophy/mission and business considerations dictate. At some point, we each have to just accept that it's their site, not ours, despite the value added (HUGE) by our participation and the wisdom of heeding it to the greatest degree practicable.

                              I'd add that many of us might disagree about who those "intelligent," "dedicated," expert POVs are coming from.

                              1. re: meatn3
                                h
                                HillJ Feb 11, 2012 09:20 AM

                                The very definition of community has multiple intrepretations and even a "long time poster" like me still does not understand which definition applies to the Chowhound community. Asking for input doesn't mean the company will use that input. Sticky points abound on CH outlining guidelines for using the site but aren't enforced every time or with full disclosure as to what constitutes deletion and what remains. Volunteers hounds contributing to Moderation are often anonymous in that role and not required to explain decisions to an entire community of readers. Some CH's could care less about how the site works, just that it does. Some members take the backroom of the entire site very seriously and in some cases wish to volunteer help.

                                At the end of the day, CHOW is a company looking to make a profit. The CH community is part of that business model. If you read the list of employees and their titles at the bottom of this siteview you'll see who's working here, who's in charge, who's part of the team. You'll see the operation life. Whether we like it or not, we have to accept that it's not a "perfect world" but voicing our opinions is exactly what we all do every time we log on.

                                IF the day comes that CH no longer provides this member with the enjoyment she currently receives, she leaves quietly. No OP announcing departure, no fuss...I'll excuse myself from the table and seek another place to share the meal.

                              2. re: mcf
                                kaleokahu Feb 11, 2012 07:57 PM

                                Hi, mcf:

                                Call it what you will. What I described is true. And no, no oppression felt here.

                                Aloha,
                                Kaleo

                                1. re: kaleokahu
                                  mcf Feb 12, 2012 08:10 AM

                                  That's good to hear/read. So what objection to Site Talk and inclusiveness of
                                  "advisors" this way?

                                  1. re: mcf
                                    kaleokahu Feb 12, 2012 07:33 PM

                                    Hi, mcf:

                                    Your question is less than clear. I *don't* have any objection to Site Talk or inclusivity of advisors. What gave you that idea?

                                    Aloha,
                                    Kaleo

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