Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Site Talk >
Mar 26, 2012 03:24 PM

A re-introduction and my new role at CHOW

Dear Chowhound Community,

As many may know, I recently started working full-time at CHOW. Over the past few weeks, I have been observing how things work here, and have also been reading what Chowhounds are saying about the site. I have been a Chowhound user for nearly 11 years, and I can honestly say that the website has changed my life. I distinctly remember reading about Chowhound in Calvin Trillin's New Yorker article in 2001, and really identifying with it—I was most definitely the type of hound Jim Leff was talking about, and was excited I wasn't alone in the world! Since then, I've used this site in the places I've lived (Boston, Santiago, San Francisco, London) and have used it with great success while traveling, too (from Los Angeles to Rio de Janeiro to Kuala Lumpur to Cleveland). I am very excited to be working on a website that I love, and helping to preserve and advocate for a community that has given me so much over the past decade.

My role at CHOW involves several different pieces (some more related to the Chowhound boards than others). But a large part of my job here will be to focus on Chowhound, and I see this role as acting as a liaison between the various parties involved with this community: the management team, the CHOW editorial team, the engineering team, the design team, the moderation team, and the hounds themselves. I am looking forward to working with all of these groups, to understand their views, needs, desires, frustrations, and plans for the future, and ideally to get everyone on the same page. I realize that this last goal is probably quite unrealistic—there are bound to be disagreements and differing opinions—but I think the first step to getting there (or getting close) will be to bring people together so that they all understand each other.

After three weeks here, I am happy to say that I am very optimistic. There is a great group of people working on this site, and everyone truly does care about the future of Chowhound. Following along on Site Talk, and on various local and topical boards, it's clear that the Chowhound community is very invested in the future of the site as well. It's also clear that the original vision of Chowhound (to help fellow hounds find the best food possible) is still very much alive.

The main reason I am posting this thread is to (re)introduce myself to the Chowhound community in my new role, especially to those users who are the most passionate about this site (i.e. the users who are regular Site Talk posters, or who post 20+ times per week on the local boards, or who actually bother to read this entire letter from me!). The team here at CHOW HQ has been reading everything you write on Site Talk and takes it into consideration, and I've been reading through some of the history of conversations here, as well, to get up to speed. Your advice and help is invaluable, so thank you for your ideas and your patience.

Of course, the people who post on Site Talk are a small percentage of our total membership, and registered users are only a small percentage of our total users. So while we're actively engaging with Site Talk users, I'll also be looking for increasing input from our broader user base.

So, now that I've introduced myself, I plan to be participating more on Chowhound discussions and keeping everyone on the same page about where things are going. I intend to continue eating and exploring San Francisco, and posting about food, but I'd also like to engage more with the posts on Site Talk (along with Meredith, Jacquilynne, The Engineering Team, etc.) to make Chowhound even better.

Good things are happening here at CHOW, and I think the Chowhound boards have a bright future. It will definitely require patience and compromise, but I am excited to be a part of it. You should be too!

Dave MP

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Looking forward to improvements. Welcome and well met. Oh and Congrats!

    1. I am also looking forward to improvements. I hope you are more open to them than "The Chowhound Team." The site is violently over moderated. It is a classic case of mission creep, if moderation is good, more moderation is better. We have gotten to a point where the moderation has throttled the discussion. We have gotten to the stage of "If I wouldn't have said that, it gets deleted."

      42 Replies
      1. re: Saguaro

        I like that! "violently over moderated" is well said. As well has strong trending Moderator's favorites.
        But let's let Dave MP get his balance here and give him a chance. I am sure if he seeks more feedback, he can contact us. And I hope that he does.

        1. re: Saguaro

          Put me in the camp of this site being under moderated. I think it's drifted away from not enough food talk and too much chatter.

          1. re: Jase

            What I think is going wrong with CH is the fact that, no one from top down wants to call it what it is, and what it is, is a different animal than Chow. The ChowHound is purely Social Media. And I use this definition for What is Social Media "Social media are online communications in which individuals shift fluidly and flexibly between the role of audience and author. To do this, they use social software that enables anyone without knowledge of coding, to post, comment on, share or mash up content and to form communities around shared interests." From

            CH started at a time when social media and users of, was relatively young. Now we are gaining very sophisticated Social Media users into a system that does not yet recognize or identify itself as such. What you call chatter, others call engagement and producing content. That builds community and sharing grows.
            When it is stifled, or forced to fit into rigid moderated exchanges, it suffers. We have people who complain about someone +1 on a post, or using LOL or even the blinding lights of smart phone (and no not even camera flashes). We have users who work to close down exchanges of ideas other than their own, and this is supported. We have users who think only certain content should be allowed and do not want to exchange ideas different from their POV or open to more dialog outside of it.These issues have come up recently in Site Talk threads and it is a almost bitter split into two camps, social media vs. Question/.answer, or a review style post.
            CH needs to figure out it's place in this, but people are using Social Media more and more, so the old model of Q&A and sticking solely to that model is failing users of CH. CH used to be a community, now it is just factions fighting for some kind of control. YMMV.

            1. re: Quine

              Actually the old model was very much a discussion of food. The new model is a lot of superfluous +1 posts, complaints that have nothing to do with food and there isn't moderated exchanges.

              I'm fully cognizant of exactly what social media is and how it's used by many. I just don't agree with your take on the site.

              1. re: Jase

                In all fairness to both of your p.o.v. early Chowhound didn't have the framework that has come as a result of the purchase by CNET/CBS. We didn't see FB, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, Youtube or CHOW back then. The community was Chowhound. So now that new members arrive from social media that is not based entirely in the foodsphere the membership is shifting, changing and unaware of what say the first 30-40,000 members of Chowhound once experienced here.

                We all agree there are pros and cons with each and every change to the site. But the signal to noise that Jim Leff and many other Chowhounds often refer to and miss has changed by the very nature of social media surrounding it.

                As one frequent member who has been around a bit long enough to recall much of what was while trying to be a small part of what is, I recognize there is a need for this new role @ Chowhound and it will remain my hope that this post will matter, will address the continuing growing pains and better direct the members enjoying Chowhound.

                1. re: Jase

                  So maybe if all a post contains is "+1" the moderators need to consider whether it should remain. Unless a thread is taking a poll, I'm not sure what +1 adds to the conversation.

                    1. re: roxlet

                      I can remember not to do that anymore...

                    2. re: CindyJ

                      Or a tally +1 button that does not create a post, but works as the +1 (or like) button works. A good solution.

                      1. re: CindyJ

                        it's a concise indication that you agree with the previous post which i think adds to the discussion, regardless of if the post is a poll or not. more data points are better than less, even if brief, imo.

                        for example:
                        "XXXXX has the best steak frites. The steak is well seasoned and always the requested temperature. They double fry the fries giving them that great crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside consistency I love"


                        1. re: drewskiSF

                          I agree with this although I think a "Thumbs up" or "+1" button would be better. +1 is the same as "I concur" and no one says anything about that.


                    3. re: Quine

                      I think there is, at the heart of this site, a divide between two different types of posters. One type believes that they get the most out of this site when the tone is, above all, friendly. The other (and I admit to falling in this camp) thinks that on-topic and disputes are actually good for the site. These exchanges generate the most information. They force people to examine and clarify and strengthen their assumptions and positions, or even to change their outlook. For lack of a better term, these exchanges keep the standards up around here.

                      There are a number of posters who disagree with me on topics that I know a decent bit about (or so I think, anyway). And they'll make long arguments against my views, not backing down if I make an equally elaborate counter-argument. I LIKE these posters, and I respect that they care enough about food or food-related topics to risk being told that they're wrong (just as I do). I think the big trick of this kind of posting style is not to resort to ad hominem attacks or call another poster stupid or arrogant for disagreeing (even though people getting miffed about being told they're wrong is an unavoidable occasional consequence of truly open, on-topic discussion... so be it). If you think someone's information is wrong, tell em it's wrong and tell em why - that's productive IMO.

                      My favorite posters on this site have often been among the most argumentative, and I've seen quite a few of them leave the site because this kind of exchange seems not to be fully supported by the moderation standards. I think that's a shame. And I think it leads to a more superficial discussion of food as an overall tone for the site; it leads to a site that, more and more, resembles a chatty 'I <3 food' social media exercise. I go to social sites (or, more often, hang out with friends) when I want to socialize. I go to CH to learn about food, and I learn more when ideas and recommendations, etc, are held up to scrutiny.

                      1. re: cowboyardee

                        I agree that a good back and forth is not only good for but vital to a site like this. The thing is, you a) end up with a long chain of yes it is, no it isn't type stuff. The other thing that gets tiring very quickly is people who make comments on celebrity chefs (Guy) or other people whom they've never met. Let alone know them. Those opinions, not so coincidentally correspond to the persons like or dislike of said person in question.


                        1. re: Davwud

                          Thing about those kinds of threads is you can just avoid em. The goal, IMO, should be to make the food discussions interesting and informative in the threads that actually discuss food. Threads that discuss food media are kind of a different beast. If the site allows discussion of Guy Fieri as a phenomenon in the first place, that also sort of allows discussion of whether he knows what he's doing in the kitchen. That may not be a topic I find particularly interesting, but like other topics I don't find interesting (say, decorating cakes), it's easy to just not open the thread.

                          As for 'yes it is,' 'no it's not' type of arguments: yes that is sort of silly when people don't back up their arguments. Easy to skip over too, though. I really just don't understand why people are bothered by lengthy arguments where people do go in depth and elaborate themselves, even when both sides refuse to give up any ground. Even though an exchange might last a while and nothing may be resolved in the end, this kind of exchange generates a great deal of useful and/or interesting information for this site.

                          1. re: cowboyardee

                            "Thing about those kinds of threads is you can just avoid em."

                            That hasn't been my experience. They screw and multiply. BTDT, like it here better. And the folks who like those kinds of threads are immune to concerns about the overload and excess complaints from their fellow board members, I've noted for many years.

                            In fact, the absence of crap tolerated on CH is the reason I've stayed and participated, after having lurked. After decades in online forums of all types, this type of moderation works best for me, anyhoo.

                            1. re: mcf

                              I've been at other forums where some boards have completely different textures than other boards. That's not a bad model for the chowhound, IMO. If the Food Media board is a little sillier than other boards, that really doesn't bother me.

                              In a more basic sense, what I'm worried about isn't the presence of uninteresting conversations (even more so if they're localized to a specific board that I can just avoid unless I want a little silliness), but the loss of serious and interesting discussions, and the loss of serious and interesting posters. I'm not convinced that people having a silly discussion in one area of the site actually hinders people from having a serious discussion in another. I'm more concerned that moderation policies hinder serious discussion and drive away serious posters, leaving only the silliness behind.

                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                Hi, cowboy:

                                At the risk of proving someone's point with a +1, you put that *really* well. The site's been homogenized to a precarious degree. The rules will have succeeded, the site will have failed, and we will all have wandered off.

                                Dave MP? How's that listening going? Go to "Wine"... There used to be 8-10 daily threads; now there're 1 or 2. Even "Cookware" is down--and cardboard.


                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                  It takes new people to keep these boards going. On a board like "Wine" I'd have to believe that there are only so many discussions the same few dozen 'regulars' can keep an interest in.

                                  Interesting...................... a '+1' doesn't bother me at all. I just take it like someone hit 'Like' on Facebook.

                            2. re: cowboyardee

                              Ya, I know they're easy to avoid. My point is they're allowed to go on ad nauseum while more pertinent information is bounced.


                          2. re: cowboyardee

                            I think you've mischaracterized the two camps. I don't object to disputes, but I'm all for the strict moderation of interpersonal animus and slams on CH. If it's on topic and a difference of opinion and information is exchanged without redundant redundancy redundantly and over and over again... and no hostilities ensue (irony meter on) that's win win. But that's not how it goes without strong moderation.

                            1. re: mcf

                              I didn't say I oppose moderation in general. Or that I approve of interpersonal slams (I called them 'ad hominem attacks' in my post above). Or, heck, even that I've been a perfect angel about keeping my temper on this site myself.

                              But, to be honest, from reading your posts I'd consider you someone who is willing to make an interesting and informative argument about food matters, even at the expense of telling another poster plainly that they are wrong or ruffling some feathers - the kind of argument I like. I don't feel that is always supported on CH. I've have been chastised by the mods not to turn CH threads into a debate, to keep it friendly above all. I think the site is better when it's kept informative above all (though I'd agree that personal attacks should be moderated). My big point: discouraging on-topic debate for fear of personal attacks is counterproductive. Removing entire debates just because a post or two got heated is counterproductive. Removing any post where anyone seems just a little bit testy is counterproductive. This is the internet, not an afternoon tea party.

                              ETA: the very best forums I've seen (by which I mean the most informative ones) have had a very high tolerance for debate and, at the same time, a very low tolerance for personal attacks. I believe this encourages information. This forum does indeed have a very low tolerance for personal attacks, but also a fairly low tolerance for debate.

                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                The fact that you can cite threads in which I, for one, have made forceful arguments and plainly called something or someone "wrong" is evidence that debate is not what's being discouraged. Where I've been deleted (never been admonished about being not nice because I REALLY work at not hitting 'send' if I feel the least bit irate) and deleted often is in ending up in medical literature or discussion too deeply. I understand and respect the moderators' consistency here and try to self police about that.

                                Where I've been troubled about moderation is only very recent. Both in the Paula Deen and TC threads, some really ugly personal characterizations were left intact while other stuff was deleted (about people on shows, not posters) and also, where a new poster was playing fast and loose with passive aggressive attacks left and right and posts were being left up. I know there are other examples I can't recall right now where nasty junk that never would have lasted an hour has been left up even after report(s). But it's their boards, and I'm not going to ruminate on why their standards don't always square with mine, though it bugs me when they don't seem to square with theirs, either.

                                "ETA: the very best forums I've seen (by which I mean the most informative ones) have had a very high tolerance for debate and, at the same time, a very low tolerance for personal attacks. I believe this encourages information. This forum does indeed have a very low tolerance for personal attacks, but also a fairly low tolerance for debate."

                                I agree with the first part of the above. But I don't think CH mods have a low tolerance for *debate* so much as they do non stop, repetitious debate. It doesn't take long for a lot of these discussions to read like a loop...

                                Moderator is a stinky, onerous, thankless job. When you're doing it right, you're *always* pissing someone off. Usually someone tenacious and vociferous.

                                1. re: mcf

                                  Hi, mcf:

                                  Oh, I think debate is not tolerated well at all here. I would say that after one opportunity to voice and opinion or advance a case, the odds of being poofed go up exponentially. Two exchanges--rare. Four? Very thin ice.

                                  I can't cite you to the specific threads, but I've been *told* by Mods that debate is verboten. What they mean by that (whether they know it or not) is you have to conform your debate to the subliminally snarky, kibuki form that has evolved here. Some master the form and can snark unscathed. Some don't and are banished. But I think cowboy is right that squelching debate happens here a lot, and it rankles *and* drags the site down.

                                  I'm back to my idea of a year or so ago of a pilot program with a board will no or very relaxed "rules". No one forces anyone to read it, it won't be the end of civilization, and people might be surprised how it works (or doesn't).


                                  1. re: kaleokahu

                                    "Oh, I think debate is not tolerated well at all here. I would say that after one opportunity to voice and opinion or advance a case, the odds of being poofed go up exponentially. Two exchanges--rare. Four? Very thin ice."

                                    So how to explain a thread where the debate was intense and it got 540 replies then? ;-D>


                                    1. re: Servorg

                                      That thread was heavily moderated, and wound up getting locked as well. That's not exactly a shining example of tolerating debate.

                                      1. re: carolinadawg

                                        When one says that the mod's won't allow debate after 4 exchanges I think 540, moderated to some degree or not, pretty well throws that assertion under the bus.

                                        1. re: Servorg

                                          Perhaps, but to deny the chilling effect of moderation on debate in these threads is to deny reality.

                                          1. re: carolinadawg

                                            You read that thread through and point out to me where the "chilling effect of moderation in..." that thread denies the reality of the debate in any way, shape or form.

                                            1. re: Servorg

                                              Oh goodie, a fight in here now, Typical. Back to the pews guys.

                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                difficult to do without seeing what, if anything, was moderated out.

                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                  Without knowing what was moderated out, your request is impossible to answer. In any event, that's not the only thread on CH that has been moderated. We obviously disagree. Before this thread gets moderated and locked, I'll just say, have good night.

                                          2. re: Servorg

                                            Hi, Servog:

                                            You asked for an explanation. I am told there was a schism between and among the Mods and management on that one. It got so much attention from outside the site that they couldn't really squelch that one the way they usually do. IMO, they had to play that one out (but they caved and locked it anyway after the furor died down). And it was GOOD that the powers let that happen that time, so thanks for pointing out a good model.

                                            And, as carolinadawg has pointed out, that thread was heavily moderated. Most "debates" get truncated, and we're lucky if anything even vestigal remains. Just because a remnant remains of a thread doesn't make it uncensored or free (or interesting or funny).


                              2. re: Jase

                                No, it's still horrifically over moderated. But you bring up a good point. They let some of the most inane chatter go on and on yet somethings that truly seem worthwhile get bounced. As well, they definitely play favourites. That too has to stop.

                                I will give you a couple of examples. Here in TO there's a problem that food trucks are facing. The local bylaws are very much restricting their trade and as such, most trucks tend to gravitate outside the city. A petition is afoot by one of the trucks to help amend bylaws to make things more fair. Well, I posted the plight of the food truck and put a link to the petition. It was pulled. I kinda get why but ultimately, it should stand in my books. CH is about finding great food. But it should also allow us to fight for good food we've found.
                                Conversely, if you go to the DDD&Discusting thread you can read dozens of posts about whether or not Guy can actually cook. It reads like a Monty Python skit. Yes he can, no he can't, yes he can, no he can't, etc. How is that helpful??
                                A bunch of us have been having a good laugh at the many atrocities posted on Cake Wrecks. It's been much fun for the (at least) year it's been up.
                                Yet I posted a You Tube link to Epic Mealtime and it was pulled. How is there a difference??

                                To you Dave I will leave you with this one statement to consider. It's not mine but came from the S/O of a one time significant poster who'd lost a lot of interest. "They've moderated the fun out of it."

                                Now don't get me wrong. I spend way too much time on here and think it's still the best thing of it's kind. But it's sliding down the slope.

                                Good luck Dave. Hope things improve.


                                1. re: Davwud

                                  Your two examples are a perfect illustration of the difference between a local board (TO) and a topical board (Food Media). One (local) is trying to assist folks in finding the best existing food in that locale. When you start leaving that "mission" behind you rapidly end up with all noise and no signal.

                                  Once those food trucks can be found inside the city (or talking about where to find them where they are now and what you think they make that makes you drool like a fool) then you are welcome to post about them to your hearts content. Trying to get hounds to sign a petition to get them allowed inside the city limits is just one more nail in the coffin of actual places to eat and wanting to talk about what ought to be there but isn't.

                                  1. re: Servorg

                                    I love how folks keep talking "mission." Trouble is they are acting like missionaries, shoving arguments and "how it should be" down onto others. All in the loving name of Food.

                                    As long as they skate that edge, while *very* clearly doing the "i'm not touching you, I'm not touching you" in their comment, baiting for a reaction, it is allowed, as it's within the mission. And It is amazing how some of these posts, once they get the reaction, *suddenly* get edited, to innocent angel chirps.

                                    I've seen deleted posts, things taken down by the mods, re-posted, and linked, and then disappearing at the edge of the edit time. "These's are not the droids, you have been seeking!"

                                    So people who are spouting "mission" is all well and good but maybe you're a foodie, and I am a chow, or a food geek or nerd. We all feel as passionately about our position on food and exchanging ideas and experiences, but we do it in different "churches".

                                    The old model is brittle and more transparency is needed. The mission must adjust to how the users are changing. To be flexible is to allow growth, to sway with the winds of change or get knocked down down, ripped out by the roots.

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        While I generally agree with the Chowhound mission (for 14 years) I part company from time to time on moderation decisions which seem to run counter to the formation of a community and drawing new people in. For example clamping down on discussions of meetups, The example re te food carts is a perfect example of a topic which could draw more people in and lead to the strengthening of the local community instead of forcing people to leave and form, say LTH which has a broader scope for these types of discussions. And I dont think that board is short of discussion fo food! I am as much opposed to personal chat and in-groups as anyone, but more discussion and more unique users benefits us all. the recent decision to allow discussion of local media on local boards is a constructive move in this direction.

                                        Personally I like robust discussion but there has to be judgment about when people start going off the rails. Usually the moderation is pretty good but sometimes....a little fussy.

                                        Welcome Dave! hope you will work to get somekind of data/map linking functionality back!! And I think its critically important to get folks to post their food writing here rather than other venues. The amount of real info - acocunts of restaurant meals and other food experiences posted here seems to be dropping in favor of short squibs and recommendations to tourists, and links to posters blogs and foodie related businesses. how does chowhound get to be the kind of info hub/discussion venue for all the most interesting stuff again?

                                        1. re: jen kalb

                                          "Personally I like robust discussion but there has to be judgment about when people start going off the rails. Usually the moderation is pretty good but sometimes....a little fussy."

                                          It's not possible that the mod's are going to get it "right" each and every time for each and every hound. I think "pretty good" is damn good. If anything, more moderation is better than less when trying to keep the signal strong and the noise weak.

                                      2. re: Quine

                                        Quine, it's *their* church. That booth is a confessional, not a voting booth.

                                        1. re: mcf

                                          Interesting and perhaps unintentionally apt analogy there, mcf. I like that. Everyone gets two votes in this confessional--a right and a left.

                                2. re: Saguaro

                                  I totally agree about CH being "overmoderated." I understand that sometimes it's difficult to discern a poster's intent through their words, but it's been my experience that sometimes the moderators read between the lines and then make the decision to delete one or more posts in a thread.

                                  I understand there are guidelines for posting; my guess though, is that those guidelines rarely get read until it's too late. Case in point: last week we had an author of a cookbook participate in a thread that was specifically about her book. (She did not initiate that thread, by the way.) In her post she said something like " my book." Yes, out of context it sounds promotional, but within the context of the conversation it was clear that that she was not on CH to sell her book. Still, her post, and all subsequent replies to her post were removed.

                                  Guidelines are just that -- they're to guide the content of our posts, but they're not hard and fast rules. Or are they?

                                  By the way -- congratulations, Dave MP.

                                3. Hi Dave MP. Best of luck in the new position!

                                  Could I ask a favor of you? Could you or Jacquilynne please share the difference between your community role. Some staff posts are more obvious than others to me but I thought an appropriate question to ask during introductions.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: HillJ

                                    Hi HillJ,

                                    Jacquilynne's role is more focused on managing the day-to-day operations of the moderation team. My role is less focused on these day-to-day issues, and more engaged with larger scale projects and planning pertaining to Chowhound. That said, the two of us are working very closely together, so we are both going to be involved with lots of decisions and issues.

                                    I am also a part of the CHOW editorial team - I write the Chowhound Digest for Boston, and I'm also the editor for all of the Digests. One thing I'll be looking at in the near future is the formatting of Digests, and what types of changes we could make to improve them.

                                    Thanks for the good luck wishes!
                                    Dave MP

                                    1. re: Dave MP

                                      Thank you for explaining the distinct nature of both jobs. I look forward to reading announcements about future Chowhound projects and plans. Perhaps your role will assist with creating a better connect btwn CHOW and Chowhound!

                                  2. Nice post Dave. I'm sure you'll do well.

                                    1. Best wishes Dave MP.
                                      Due to moderation guidelines, l no longer do anything negative, either to a chowhounder, even when they justly deserve it, or to a restaurant, .or to any sources. They seem to get bleeped very often and this becomes a waste of time for both the poster and the moderator. Paralleling eBay with feedback, good counts, negative is no longer allowed.