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Sep 17, 2013 10:44 AM

Chow Reviews on Message Boards

Locked "CHOW Reviews" recently started showing up on the message boards that I check most often: Cookware and Home Cooking. Don't know about others, but I feel that this practice undermines the purpose and spirit of a message board, which should be a place for user-generated discussions - not a place for management-selected (and mostly staff-written) reviews of new products. When I want to read those, I'll go the the "product review" section of the site. Embedding them in user discussions strikes me as a particularly intrusive and annoying form of advertising, and I hope this change will be reconsidered.

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  1. Hi Miss Priss,

    I'm not totally sure what you're seeing, but hopefully this clarifies things:

    1) CHOW Reviews now automatically show up on the Cookware board. None of these are locked, however. The little symbol you see next to the title is a 'tag' symbol, indicating that it's a product review.

    2) No CHOW Reviews should be showing up on Home Cooking, so if you've seen that, then definitely let me know.

    3) Ever since we started publishing product reviews in June, we've been adding discussions about the reviews to the Cookware board. Now, as of last week, this happens automatically, and the discussion lives right on the Product Review page. It also allows users to add their own rating of the product if they've used it, and to add their own review.

    The whole point of this feature is to stimulate discussion and get users to weigh in on the same products that we're reviewing.

    Hope this makes sense,
    Dave MP

    9 Replies
    1. re: Dave MP

      Thanks for your prompt response, DaveMP. You're quite correct, no Chow Reviews on Home Cooking - my mistake. Regarding the Chow Reviews on the Cookware board, your explanation nicely illustrates my point, which is that discussions on message boards should be stimulated by users, not management, and products discussed on the boards should be those that users, not management, have selected.

      1. re: Miss Priss

        I agree the decision to cross reference the CHOW product reviews with CH threads muddles the highly held belief that product endorsement is not allowed. It muddles the idea that manufacturers aren't somehow getting their products pushed through CHOW review and CHOW Team selection and/or endorsement merely by being selected in the first place.

        Even if clarifications state this is not happening or the intent (meaning, no money is changing hands for selecting products for review) the decision casts doubt.

        Hundreds of CH's discuss dozens of items under the Cookware board every day. The CHOW Review Team is hand picking products.

        1. re: Miss Priss

          "discussions on message boards should be stimulated by users, not management, and products discussed on the boards should be those that users, not management, have selected."

          I do understand what you're saying here. But I guess my thinking is slightly different. I think all sorts of things might stimulate a great Chowhound discussion, whether it's an article in a newspaper, a new restaurant opening, an episode of a TV show, or a review of a kitchen product. Our release last week marks the first time that we have full discussion-functionality on CHOW content, and eventually we'd like to do away with other commenting systems, and have this Chowhound functionality on all of our content. It allows users to interact with each other more easily, allows users to keep track of their own comments and conversations, and creates richer discussion than a regular commenting system.

          I agree with you that discussions that are stimulated by an editorial review are slightly different than discussions started by a regular user, but in terms of what ends up getting discussed, I would argue that the differences are minimal. That's why we think it makes sense to list these discussions on the Cookware board. We're doing this because we see that there's a great, knowledgeable community that might be interested in discussions that are taking place about the products we're reviewing. A great example of that is already happening here: http://www.chow.com/reviews/33-baking... Similarly, there may be people looking for info about a specific product who then might learn about the broader Cookware community.

          Listing product reviews on the Cookware board means that everyone can keep better track of the discussion taking place below the product reviews. It also means that people can keep up with user reviews of products, which may in and of themselves spark a good discussion. We don't think it makes sense for good discussions about cookware to happen in multiple places, and that's really the main impetus behind this change.

          We appreciate the feedback here and elsewhere, so thanks for conveying your thoughts and posting. We are definitely keeping the community in mind, and it's helpful to understand what people are thinking. We may not always be able to respond like I have done here, but we're always listening. Thanks!
          Dave MP

          1. re: Dave MP

            While the steel pizza slab generated some interesting discussion, other product reviews have not. Some reviewed products do not have any CH responses within the Cookware board thread. By adding a comment section to the CHOW version, I can understand expanding on the number of people who can potentially read the review. Right now any CHOW product review can turn up on a Discussions, Videos and Product Review tab at the same time. Oh and the blog tab has run a few Product Review highlights too. So I see the expanded promotion.

            What I was trying to address aligns with the OP on how it appears. It appears the CHOW Product Review Team is hand picking specific manufactured brands/products rather than randomly selecting a discussion already in play on the Cookware board to test drive and ADDING to a current discussion. I have already read a number of CH's questioning how that looks..as if these are paid reviews; not random selections. The process for how products are selected by the Team is not fully explained.

            The latest placement of CHOW Product Reviews means that CH's who contributed a comment to the original thread on that product had their comments moved to the CHOW side of the site and placed in a newly created comment section directly beneath that CHOW review. So, CH's who say "they never go to CHOW" have now had their comments placed on CHOW. I noticed this today because my comment on the egg slicer was made within the CH forum but it now appears in the comment section of that CHOW review.

            1. re: Dave MP

              Hi, DaveMP. I appreciate your attention to this issue and am sorry it's taken me a little while to get back to you. After mulling over what you've said, my feelings remain the same. It's fine for management to create a place on the site specifically for product reviews, but posting them on a message board in order to attract users' attention to selected name-brand, mostly upmarket items gives the distasteful appearance of product placement. It also clearly demonstrates that the board, like the rest of the site, is a corporate enterprise whose content is ultimately determined by management for its own purposes, not by users for theirs. That's been the case for some time, of course, but it's depressing to be reminded of it so forcefully, especially for someone who’s been with Chowhound since its early, bare-bones, grassroots days. As for the “minimal” differences between editorially-initiated discussions and user-initiated ones: it's not the content of the discourse, but the choice of topic, that concerns me. Sure, there are users who initiate discussions about new products from All-Clad, Cuisinart, and Kitchen-Aid, just as the editors are trying to do; but users also initiate quirky, interesting, knowledgeable discussions about cooking with tin-lined copper, re-seasoning flea-market cast iron, identifying mysterious kitchen implements found in the back of a drawer, and figuring out why Julia Child used an electric stove on TV. In my opinion, that’s the kind of topic that really gives (or should that be “gave”?) the board its character and its appeal, and I'm sad that it's being steered in another direction.

              1. re: Miss Priss

                To add to this:

                We look at a number of factors when selecting what products to review: seasonality, chowhound discussions, our own experiences, popularity, etc. Our latest post, the Apple Peeler review was chosen due to a CH asking if anyone had used it:

                We are just getting started and would love to hear from you on products that you would like to see reviewed. Stay tuned for ways to send us ideas! Feel free to reply here in the meantime. We also have plans to look at some oldies but goodies over the holidays. Hope you check them out.


                1. re: TracyKaplan

                  TracyK, if selection in your product research was in part based on a CH thread about a peeling gadget with two comments from back in February that's pretty interesting.

                  The CHOW Product Review Team has tested a number of "peelers" already.

                  I look forward to your " oldies but goodies over the holidays" maybe you can include gadgets that compliment the home bar and gift giving....

              2. re: Dave MP

                I would argue that the "editorial side" aka CHOW and the "discussion side" aka Chowhound, though clearly delineated in somebody's mind and probably in some agreement reached long ago has never been easily understood by site visitors or users.

                I sent a few bucks to Chowhound when the site was pretty much text only. So, I have been around a while.

                Since CNET took over Chowhound and merged it with their acquisition of CHOW magazine, I've always felt the Chowhound boards are simply maintained so as not to piss off the throng. The focus has been put on the money generating side of things (CHOW). Hey, it’s a business, so I get the ‘why.’ And yet, it always feels like Chowhound is handled with kid gloves.

                Please don’t think I am not grateful for all the maintenance it takes to keep everything up and running. And I am especially grateful we have new boards. No longer is there just a giant sea of the Midwest board. Though I do kind of miss being able to see all the exciting things happening all across the Midwest in one place. Of course I want to have my ganache covered cake and eat it too!

                I think it’s probably time to drop the pretense of a division between the two “sides.”

                The mingling of product reviews and the Cookware board is a good first step in merging CHOW and Chowhound.

                1. re: MplsM ary

                  I enjoyed your comments and observations. Hasn't the "mingling" been happening for some time:

                  The mingling of the current CHOW Blog with Chowhound threads/comments

                  The various Digests with CH thread links

                  CHOW recipe galleries with CHOW photos are often a combination of CH recipes taken from threads originating on HC boards and General board discussions and the work of the ChOW Test Kitchen.

                  I just didn't see buying brand new products for the specific purpose of promoting them pro or con with a CHOW Product Review Team in the same category.

                  Some of the earliest CHOW reviews by the team were met with strong criticism by CH's for lacking depth in review or lack of product comparison or even enough knowledge to perform a successful review. The overall design of these reviews has changed a few times. So, I'm wondering what the CHOW Product Review Team has in store for CH readers next!

          2. Those tiny red tags appearing at the end of the subject line of a CHOW product review pop. Unlike the first go round of subject lines, the product reviews no longer blend in with the rest of the board OP's.

            1. Now that there's no more Chow test kitchen staff, are Product Reviews going away?