Introduction and Welcome monthly threads on Regional Boards?
In the regional boards I follow there seems to be a much higher barrier to entry for Chowhound newcomers than the topical boards. On some of the boards DaveMP is promoting the "dish of a month" which is a bit slow to catch on with regular posters, but I think is a good idea because it is a way newcomers can contribute easily to something that is current (cookbooks of the month and other threads are possibly why Home Cooking as one topical board is more friendly). The Digest publishing those entries with photos is also useful and I think its important that the staff focus on encouraging newcomers. However, encouraging sincere newcomers is a good practice for contributors too, but you will never gain consensus to incubate and nurture new posters (and there is more than a few bad apples which sometimes spoil it for others).
Although the idea of introductions is not rare and I hate that many forums require it before posting, I wonder if it wouldn't be useful for well-meaning newcomers, if there was a way to keep the content fairly fresh and the threads manageable. There are also contributors who enjoy welcoming newcomers, so its a place where they can also provide a word of support and no risk of that being drowned out in a conflagration of a review post. The post could either be linked from the "Welcome to X board" or a sticky, although I sort of like the former as it would rise and fall like normal posts. And having a monthly thread would keep it fresh by rolling over regularly, but for instance if someone says "hello" in June and then contributes a post in December, the "hello" post is still available in their posting history so perhaps they won't so readily be questioned "welcome to chowhound, but this is your first chowhound post..." And for those who don't introduce themselves instead of saying in a thread "please post your 2 favorite restaurant experiences in <city>" which will later get buried, the first-time poster could be pointed to the introduction thread to do those honors. We will still get hacks who sign-up just to skewer a beloved restaurant or promote another and there will be posters (like myself) who don't like introductions, but it levels the playing field for those in-between and also gives them a safe place to make an initial post where they won't get seared by the radiant heat emitted by more experienced contributors.
This is an interesting idea. We've tended to shunt introduction threads off to Site Talk in the past, because our philosophy is generally that people are members of Chowhound, rather than members of the Boston Board on Chowhound.
But we are constantly looking for ways to make the site a little friendlier to new contributors and you're right that something in this vein might help.
I enjoyed your post, itanunas. Even a long time poster like me continues to learn (and deals with deletion often) things all the time on CH. I think the Home Cooking board is my favorite because there is so much sharing going on. Unlike restaurant reviews, which can be limited by the people who have actually eaten there or the menu items available to order, home cooking is never ending. And, even when topics appear to be heated or exclusive to a small group of CH''s within the thread, it's really just about the food passion and how each of us has our own unique way of approaching a recipe. Like I said, I learn something new even if I'm lurking over a thread and not actually contributing.
Welcomes and introductions are really up to us, at least that's what I think. I've been "talking" to strangers here at CH for a few years already on very little introduction and I don't recall a moment when I rec'd a formal welcome...but then again...I just hopped on the merry go round :)
The only regional boards that I follow are Seattle and Pacific NW. My impression is that half of the contributors at any one time are 'newcomers'. Many of the threads are 'Im visiting from San Francisco (or Boston or Japan) and want to know the best, most distinctive places to eat in Seattle (or Kettle Falls).' Sure there are locals who write about their latest finds, or people who have newly moved to the area, but many are one time visitors. This introduction idea doesn't seem to make sense in such a context.
And what happens when I (a regular on Home Cooking) find a thread on Austin about offal and decide to contribute my 2 cents? Am I a newcomer that needs introduction?
To be clear, the idea I am suggesting if implemented would something completely optional. A place where someone who wants to introduce themselves can do so and those who like to "receive" such posters can do so. As someone who likes to jump in with two feet to a discussion as I did when I first posted to chowhound, I would never suggest that something be required or that regular posters need to spend time saying "welcome." I am not certain that I would be part of the welcome wagon either, however, if someone said "I joined chowhound because I was curious where a good churrascaria is..." I would be happy to jump in and I know a couple of posters at least in the Boston board who might say hi to newcomers. In order to keep the threads from becoming too long, my suggestion is they would be closed monthly and I think that having it rise and fall like a normal post makes sense (as opposed to a sticky). I don't see how a single thread which you are welcome to ignore dilutes the purpose and we would only be acknowledging those who take time to introduce themselves.
What I think would benefit us to get rid of is "I see this is your first post on chowhound, please tell us 2 restaurants that you ...." If you feel the post or reply is a hack job, report it and let the moderators take care of it. I have personal acquaintances who read the chowhound Boston board regularly, but feel their posts will just get overlooked (most of mine are too :-) or even worse will get flamed out. Some of them post on Yelp instead and at least one other feels more comfortable on the Home Cooking board. But if they hit that "post my reply" button once, it gets easier to do it again and when they do post a piece of information or review, the regular posters that check the posting history can say "hey, this really is a hound who joined and posted back in May..."
I think the Boston board could use more traffic and could be more welcoming to newcomers. (Yes there are some newcomers who unfortunately feel they should reply to every single thread, but they usually burn themselves out after not too long.) We have lost a number of regular contributors to other regions and stimulating a few more folks to hit that red button would help. We already have a "New to the Boston Board? Read this First" message so I think its a complimentary idea, but am perfectly happy to have it shot down in the court of public opinion.
My husband joined CH back in the beginning. Before what we all see and enjoy here now ever existed. I joined much later and two of my four children also participate. We've all seen a good deal of regulars come & go, leave for other food site communities and unfortunately pass away. There isn't a single board on CH that doesn't experience what you're describing and I think it goes without saying that we each choose what we want and don't want out of this site.
Your suggestions are interesting. I think Sticky posts work and can always be expanded. If you take a look at the Site Topic search history of suggestions to design, redesign, tech issues and community inclusion there's much to learn from suggestions already addressed, items tried and retried and a 2 million member community that hangs in there when rethinking (sometimes over thinking) this site addresses member suggestions.