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What worked and didn't work about Chowhound


If you were taking lessons from Chowhound in designing a good site for civilized discourse about food, what could you copy and what would you change?

  1. copy:
    heavy moderation of off-topic posts
    zero tolerance for spam
    strict rules for posts by restaurant owners and employees

    eliminate anonymity
    post immediately only for trusted users, others screened by mods
    publish the rules
    give newbies more help
    sticky topic with links to "evergreens"
    zero tolerance for commenting on other posters' opinions
    improve targeting of ads
    ban distracting / sensationalist / "native" ads

    5 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I agree with all you list except anonymity. I have such a common name that I'm pretty secure but I have a CH friend who has a problem with real names being used.

      I just signed up with eGullet to see what I think of it. IIRC, for the first ten days I can only post twice a day which I think is good. They can keep an eye on newbies. You also can't reply directly to a poster but just to the thread which I bet keeps it more civilized and on topic.

      Thanks for asking.

      1. re: c oliver

        I can see both ides of the threaded vs. flat argument, though the CNET implementation where it's threaded for three levels and then flat sort of combines the worst of both.

      2. re: Robert Lauriston

        Robert - it seems quite boring with all those rules about off topic and commenting on opinions.

        Maybe it's best to think of it like a good dinner with friends - the discussion around the table and ebbs and flows across topics. When it starts people don't know where it will end up and what will be explored....that's the joy of the conversation.

        Similarity at the dinner table if someone gets out of order, argumentative,mis too opinionated, or spruikes or promotes their interests without regard to the social nature of the dinner they get ostracized.

        I think the "dinner" analogy works well as it allows a looser definition of the boundaries......if you want interesting high value contributions you need to respect the contributors maturity and thus have more fluid rules.

        1. re: PhilD

          I think the "looser" conversation boundaries sounds grand. We may think that's what we want but trust Jim Leff when he brings up The Jenga effect.

          1. re: MplsM ary

            Those piece of the tower were drawn quite some time ago. The structure changed, but nothing came tumbling down.

      3. Funny, I was just about to post a question (NOT a Q&A) about whether Chowhound would ever get the maps back.

        When Chowhound linked to maps, though they were flawed, this was wonderful. Now that smartphones are much smarter and all smartphones have mapping, I find I miss the maps more than ever.

        For me, here is what works:
        Threading of topics
        When moderation is transparent
        Keeping the focus on food
        Edited to add - the ability to question and comment on how the site works. This is really important and not tolerated on a lot of boards.

        Here is what I would change:
        Transparent communication between site owners and users
        Maps for restaurants mentioned in posts
        Make the rules black and white and easy to find
        Designate a few users to welcome and foster newbies
        Make the purpose of the site clear
        Ad targeting that makes sense
        Ignore users as well as topics
        Mobile app that allows for the same functionality as desktop
        More robust profiles that allow for photos and links
        Edited to add - The ability to use fonts. If nothing else, the ability to bold, italicize and underline. An ability to use lists would be great too.

        Just starting. Wait till I really think about it!

        1. Copy:

          Be sufficiently flexible to allow for such innovations as Cookbook of the Month


          Don’t allow chit chat
          Give cookbook authors enough leeway to participate in the discussion
          Establish rules of fair usage regarding quotations, post them, and enforce them consistently
          Implement private messaging

          1 Reply
          1. re: JoanN

            Oh yeah, I believe "no chitchat" was one of the rules CNET or CBS threw out.

          2. Get rid of the heart
            Make a thumbs down button
            A semi-unmoderated off topic area
            Addition of PM's
            An ignore poster button
            Tolerate commenting on other folks opinions more
            Less moderation and deleting threads/posts some might find offensive
            A payment of $300-$400 to me each time I post
            Inability to have my posts flagged or removed

            Ok, just the first 6.

            What do you guys mean by not allowing chit chat?

            13 Replies
            1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

              Typical of posts that were discouraged were just saying "thanks" without adding anything to the discussion.

              I'm sure that was partly because the pre-CNET board design made reading, posting, moderating, etc. so painful that the fewer posts there were the better, but I still find it annoying when somebody posts "thanks" 80% of the way down in a 200-post topic. But that could possibly be addressed by a better UI.

              There is a semi-unmoderated off-topic area, the Not About Food board.

              1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                Visit the What's For Dinner threads and you'll see. It could have been great but all the "sounds great," etc. drives some batty.

                1. re: c oliver

                  Oh yeah.
                  I wanted to start a thread where all you can post is a picture, 3 sentences max, and a #.
                  Then another thread where you can discuss pictures by their number.
                  Those dinner threads are super annoying because there are like 500 replies and like 8 pictures, useless.

                  Edit: I just realized the ability to PM other members would solve this as well.

                  1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                    And, like, nobody, like, has to post in (or read) them, like, literally.

                    1. re: linguafood

                      I know, I avoid them. I was just saying that I found them of limited usefulness. Relax.

                      1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                        Oh, I'm, like, super-duper-relaxed. You?

                        1. re: linguafood

                          Not as relaxed as if I had that bloody mary with a whole chicken on top though.

                          1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                            That's it. We're moving in together. Milwaukee's a really nice city, too. Good beer '-)

                  2. re: c oliver

                    Well, judging from its longevity (and the continuous joining of new participants), the ones who are driven batty must be a small minority. And thankfully, we are all sentient beings who can choose in which threads to participate.

                    Blue hearts n all that shit '-P

                    1. re: linguafood

                      I was just using it as an example of 'chit chat' and I'm sure you'll admit there's loads of it there.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Get rid of the blue heart "like" button and use big-girl/big boy icons and I;d chit chat less. That;s a start.


                        Because discussion fourms are not to be about discussions. Nor chit chat.

                        Damn. I said chit chat. Is that chit chat? Did I just ban myself.

                        In the end, I had a two page length response to this quesiton, but it's not worth posting the obvious. And all points were.

                        1. CBSi trying to re-invent the wheel when perfectly good and well supported forum software IS out there.

                        2. No PM nor ability to contact othere members easily.

                        3. Site and tech and device and OS and compatablity glitches out the ass. Thus see point #1.

                        You should have the traffic CH. You have the advertisers. You have content. BTW-you're welcome for that. And also via your staff-both paid and not.
                        I see no moderation issues. Nor issues re: opinions and respect for them. AND the ability to offer a reply to said opinions.
                        If you want to make CH and exclusive club for CH foodie sycophants ---knock yourselves out. I;m out then.
                        Too many other options.

                        Site issues, device issues, goofy non-essential changes and intrusive ad placement keeps me away. And I moderate and admin several forums. All where the site software and ads are transparent and those issues non-existant and the posters are a 24/7 handful.

                        Funny how the world works.

                        Good luck. And I like ya just a little bit more than I hate ya as a IT site. But it's close. :-)

                        As a community of interacting human beings and food knowledge, it's pretty damn good and beyond friendly and helpful for me.

                        But i chit-chat, so I;m out. LOL.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Yes, the chit-chat is there. Because the "theme" of those WFD threads is just sitting around a table with drinks in hand, talking about what we're cooking for dinner.

                          It's a more relaxed atmosphere on the WFD threads (and on most topical thread boards) vs. the actual locale boards such as Greater Boston, San Francisco, etc. where people are sussing out the best ramen, Korean kimchi, or Armenian restaurant. Just as there is more chit-chat on the Food Media & News boards as it relates to Top Chef, the Next Food Network Star, Chopped, etc. threads.

                          I'm cool with the chit-chat. Obviously.

                        2. re: linguafood

                          linguafood raises good points. All the Topical boards on Chowhound are granted significant leeway by the mods.

                          WFD, other boards, have built up constituencies over time that are knowledgable and sharing. There are lots off-topic posts the mods tolerate because the software can handle it and today's social-media-aware posters demand it. Newbies check into boards like WFD, lurk a bit, figure stuff out and insert themselves when they feel comfortable. Some are socially inept and fail. That's just the way it goes. Most others chime in and energize the board with fresh thoughts and ideas. In short, tolerance and flexibility is key. The absence of over-regulation on these Topical boards is most welcome.

                    2. I used to prefer using my actual name to a screen name, but after using a few online forums I discovered that there are some individuals who are given to harassment of those who disagree with them. Since thenn, I have come around to believing anonymity is better. This site, being relatively well-moderated, doesn't publish outright harassment, but I still see the fringes of that sort of behavior now and then, if not the full attack. But the danger is that harassment will take place elsewhere even if completely screened out here.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: GH1618

                        I would ban or discourage pseudonyms only in the context of zero tolerance for commenting on other people's opinions.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          "[Z]ero tolerance for commenting on other people's opinions."

                          I'm not sure that works. What is this entire thread if not significantly a bunch of comments on your opinions? Might wanna clarify that notion or it's a moderating impossibility.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            But isn't that what Chowhound is about - our opinions on various restaurants, foods, shows about food, cookware, the best pantry items, etc.? Zero tolerance of our opinions essentially shuts the board down.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              The pseudonym question is a valid one, Robert. But one you lost years back. It is not the way internet discussion boards work, much as you and I might prefer otherwise. It is about harassment and someone's feeling of security on a site. And I accept that I'm in a minority in that, on virtually every board I have ever posted on, I have used either my full real name or, as here, have my real name in my profile. I also accept that it would be very easy for someone so inclined to track me down and come knocking on my front door. That knowledge is a far better moderating influence on what and how I post than anything the Chow mods could manage.

                              1. re: Harters

                                I think many people believe posting anonymously leaves them less vulnerable to crazies that might find out where they live and stalk them or something. And it probably does limit somewhat, within reason, but most don't realize that with a little knowledge of where to look and a minor amount of effort, they can be tracked down pretty easily.

                                1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                  I'm more concerned with employers, potential employers, etc. I prefer to speak my mind openly on a variety of issues without some HR hack googling my name and, say, the word 'unionize' and removing me from consideration of a job/promotion/etc on that basis.

                                  If you try hard enough, you can find my name via my profile. That's fine by me. But I'm not looking to make it any easier either.

                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                    Totally agree. When using the internet I have ZERO expectation of privacy so minimize the info available generally.

                                    I'm curious what sites require that your real name be used.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      A small number, to be sure. Here's the oldest existing and, possibly the very first, online community: http://www.well.com

                                  2. re: Jerseygirl111

                                    It's about more than the stalker issue. There is keeping your online life separate from your real; keeping your family from knowing what you're up to, especially if you occasionally talk about them; keeping your employer (or potential employer) from *having a clue* what you're up to. There are many reasons; anonymity is generally a good thing online for as long as you can maintain it. You're right, though; determined searchers, seekers, stalkers *will* find you given enough time, money, and online savvy. It's all about deterrence.

                            2. Leff had a site held together with chewing gum and bailing wire. Regardless, he knew constant moderation was key to civil discourse, he prohibited marketers/special interests from hijacking threads and, every bit as important, he drew logical geographic boundaries that the new team has chosen to ignore.

                              1. Change: Add a Jr board! I need my own board!!!!!!

                                3 Replies
                                  1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                                    Jim Leff would have let me have my own board!

                                  2. Hi Robert,

                                    Is this an intellectual exercise, research for a client or the next logical step in your serial entrepreneurship?

                                    I'm ok with any of the above but I can probably tailor a more satisfactory response if I understand your motive.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: steve h.

                                      Good question, Steve. I vote for #3.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        It's unanimous!

                                        Robert's a good man. We're close to the same age, have very similar work experiences (tech, publishing), both lived in Italy, both enjoy the Bay Area. He's more passionate about food and wine than me. He's true to Leff's creed about relentlessly seeking out the most chow worthy stuff regardless of price. And I respect that. Hell, I even travelled to his restaurant in Oakland after a day game at the coliseum and really enjoyed myself.

                                        Still, I'd vote for #3. ;-)

                                      2. re: steve h.

                                        I'm not sure something so likely to be money-losing counts as entrepreneurship, but I have a site with Discourse up and running and as soon as I have a handle on admin and configuration tasks will be soliciting experienced participants on the SF Bay Area board to provide feedback on which features to enable / tweak / disable.

                                        It'll be focused on SF Bay Area and environs but if people like it I'll publish instructions on cloning it.

                                        Discourse origin story:


                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          Got it.

                                          Your timing is good. Execution will be a bear. It's a good thing that profitability is not part of the short-term equation. Keep me posted.

                                      3. If you're starting a new food board make sure you're Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. That way the site can remain "pure," uncompromised by the need to be self sustaining.

                                        Jim Leff sold CH because of money*. CBS is making these changes because of money.

                                        * Leff went to heroic measures to keep CH afloat. The site was bleeding him white - he had no choice.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                                          Times have changed. Discourse makes CBS's hand-rolled kludge look like the pre-CNET board and the cost is around $30 a month.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Discourse looks very interesting. There is a lot of functionality built in. Just started reading "Discourse as Your First Rails App." I could be gone for days exploring all this fun stuff! Very cool.

                                        2. A Change: I'd include a PM system that was in a format compatible with the thread posting format. Chitchat continuing for more than a post or two would be chopped from the discussion threads and sent to the participants' PM mailboxes as conversations that they can continue there. Minimal hurt feelings, threads stay on topic.

                                          12 Replies
                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                            I dunno cowpoke, as appealing as that sounds, I sort of prefer the 2-step process it takes for someone to independently PM me. I can be found, but it takes intention. a bit of chit chat is pleasant I think and a bit of moderation after too much chat can solve that. as Robert points out, this site is well (some would say heavily) moderated.

                                            I like a lot of Lauriston's ideas posted here, except for the anonymity part, as being the paranoid weirdo I am, would probably just find some more plausible alias - my true surname is shared by only 4 others in the US (or anywhere best as I can tell) that I can find and that vastly changes the odds of the game.

                                            although I have to concede there are jerks who hide behind the 'screen name' and get nasty.

                                            1. re: hill food

                                              i'm in the same boat as you, hill, with a surname that is shared by a miniscule few, but when you add my first name, i'm the only one with that combination in the u.s. and, after lengthy research, it appears as though, the world. so, anonymity is high on my lists of "musts" in public forums.

                                              1. re: Vidute

                                                Speaking as someone who has a very common name (think John Smith), the opposite can be just as oppressive. If I use my real name, I get lots of folks assuming that I'm the person with that name who they know.

                                                In addition, I have work-related reasons to want to participate anonymously. Even in things I do on my own time, I have to make sure that nothing will reflect badly at work.

                                                1. re: 512window

                                                  I'm the former governor of Florida and George H W Bush's drug czar.

                                                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                    Where can I score Coke in Minneapolis - ya know the good, Mexican stuff with sugar?

                                                    1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                      So you know!

                                                      If you were still governor of Florida, you might want to post under a pseudonym like BoMart or HangingChad.

                                                2. re: hill food

                                                  It should be pretty easy to design a PM system that allows users to disable their PMs, and maybe auto-message anyone who tries to message them that they don't use the feature, etc.

                                                  I'm actually kind of neutral on the too much chitchat vs too much moderation argument that's been waged here since well before I joined. But I'll point out that the PM solution I mentioned above doesn't necessitate that all friendly banter be removed from threads, nor does it mean that there can't be penalties for people who take the chitchat waaaaay too far on a constant basis. Mods could still use their judgment.

                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                    Can't remember if I mentioned it here, but the emails I receive are NEVER about food.

                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      This begs for a new thread "Are pills food?"
                                                      It can be the "Is a hotdog a sandwich?" all over again.

                                                      I def want PM's though, and maybe a way to disable them from specific users, or altogether. Also, new users do not get PM sending priviliges for a week, or until they have 10 posts, whichever is longer.

                                                      1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                                                        EFGM, I assume if a CH wants to communicate then s/he will put an email address in their profile. And if they don't, then they don't.

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          Guess I need to put something there then.

                                                          1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                                                            Yup :) I've become real friends and real acquaintances with some face to face(s) because of having my email address being there. And, hey, you can create one just for CH (or other social media).

                                              2. I am not sure this answers your question, since I am not sure whether what I find to be the best of CH can be replicated in a 'good site for civilized discourse about food' (which sounds, well, perhaps a tad formal?)...however, in the years I've been on Chowhound the best part of the site for me, has been the opportunity to meet people (both personally and virtually) whose appreciation for food meets and exceeds my own. I have several good friends that I met on or through Chowhound. In many cases, I originally met these friends either at bay area Chowdowns, or in many cases at the SF Board CH picnic, which served for at least several years as a fundraiser for the Site back in the days when Jim Leff owned it....Not sure how you replicate that, but if you can, more power to you.

                                                I do think that diversity is key: one of the reasons I loved the Chowdowns (and organized a few of my own) was that they presented a the chance to meet folks from a variety of backgrounds but with a common passion for food.

                                                1. If you're going to start the perfect "pure" food website be sure you're Bill Gates or Warren Buffet because it's not going to be self supporting.

                                                  Jim Leff sold Chowhound because of money issues*. CBS is making the recent changes for the same reason.

                                                  *Jim had no choice. He was personally on the hook for exorbitant monthly bandwidth charges that were bleeding him white. I've had my issues with Jim over the years but he deserves our everlasting thanks for founding the site and keeping it afloat.

                                                    1. re: maudies5

                                                      For the same reason bus drivers and many other persons who provide services are anonymous. So you can't invade their privacy for some petty complaint.

                                                      1. re: GH1618

                                                        That makes no sense, and isn't even true.

                                                        1. re: carolinadawg

                                                          Actually, it does. Back in the early days of CH people regularly posted with their real names. I know two female posters who came to regret it. Their names were distinctive and it was easy to track them down via a search engine. Both of them were harassed by cranks. When they moved on to other food boards they used aliases and had no further problems.

                                                          Since the CNET purchase CH has registered users - our identities are locked into a particular handle and we build a reputation, for good or ill, based on our posting history. The mods can hold us accountable if we step over the line too frequently.

                                                          I've got no problem with anonymity as long as it's paired with accountability.

                                                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                            You just reminded me of the time, after CH was mentioned in the New York Times, that a lot of people signed up in a short period of time and Jim had to send out a request that those of us who were just using our first names please add a last name initial to distinguish among all those with the same first names. Been JoanN from that day forth.

                                                            1. re: JoanN

                                                              I missed that call-out. I was a very early poster on Chowhound in the blue background days. I too, used only my first name. Then I dropped out for a while; when I came back, I found that someone else was using my first name, no last initial and I had to make up a new handle, which uses my entire last name. However, my full name is fairly common online.

                                                              While anyone is at risk for stalking & crank behavior from other people online, it is a sad fact that women experience more abuse online than do men, especially in public forums like this. I'm not really in favor of eliminating anonymity.

                                                            2. re: Bob Martinez

                                                              I wax referring to the analogy not making sense and not being true.

                                                          2. re: GH1618

                                                            Mods can have a username and a CH email address for private messages.i know this works

                                                          3. re: maudies5

                                                            the mods are not entirely anonymous. some ID as one, some don't, but careful observation gives one a hunch. when we cross a line we rarely know why a comment was flagged and cut. (unless we've REALLY crossed a line) yet we can always ask if we actually care that much (when I've been cut I usually have a good idea why, even if it seemed a bit specious). I have a really strong one that Jacquilyne is a mod. and maybe that Dave MP guy until he quit to teach or something, y'know, altruistic or what not.

                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                              Chowhound employees posting "official business" have a red diamond next to their user names. Jacquilynne is Chowhound's community manager and refers to herself as such.

                                                              1. re: small h

                                                                Not when she posts as a 'regular' CH.

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  I don't understand your post. It isn't a secret that J is the CM, so hillfood doesn't need to rely on inference or hunches, which is how I interpreted hillfood's "I have a really strong one that..."

                                                                  1. re: small h

                                                                    I was replying to you actually. Jacq posts as the CM but she also posts as just "one of the guys" and when she's wearing that hat she doesn't use her title.

                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                      Yes, I know. I didn't intend to imply that she signed every post with her name & title. I intended to clarify that she is not a semi-stealth Chowhound employee (i.e. "not entirely anonymous," as hillfood put it). She is out and proud.

                                                                    2. re: small h

                                                                      oh small h - I was just KIDDING! of course she is. it's like remarking how the sunrise seems to becoming a pattern. almost predictable-like.

                                                                      J does step in as a 'civilian' poster on occasion.

                                                                      but I wasn't kidding that are some who don't use the red diamond (gotta find me one of those) a few weeks ago I got a friendly e-mail from one, and figured there's no way they could have my yahoo address unless they're a mod.

                                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                                        Yes. I get them from "Peter" and IIRC "Laura."

                                                                        1. re: hill food

                                                                          <I was just KIDDING!>

                                                                          Oh. Sorry. There's no indication of that, since you were answering maudie5's question in (what looked to me like) a sincere way.

                                                                          <...some who don't use the red diamond>

                                                                          I thought those people just didn't post to threads at all. Did your friendly email come from someone whose user name you've seen without the red diamond? I don't ever recall that happening to me.

                                                                          1. re: small h

                                                                            given the context and content of the e-mail I pretty much have it figured out who it is after cross-checking a thread referenced.

                                                              2. Anonymity I would keep - I dont "hide" but I don't need my Aunt "X" googling my name and reading everything I posted here - right I mean sometimes people relay stories in the context of food that their MIL's or SO's don't need to see.

                                                                Some space for a bit of OT Chit Chat and a PM system would be nice - help keep that stuff off the primary discussions but let people know eachother too

                                                                Moderation can be a bit heavy at times. - sometimes hashing things out has value and a shill is a shill.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: JTPhilly

                                                                  JT: oh lord I can relate - try this on for size: commenting on the 'walls' of FB friends from an aunt (and not as a PM or a direct post): "JT - when are u visiting again? have you found a job? I fell down the stairs and had to have the dogs (the blind and toothless ones put down"

                                                                  and explaining that to those who don't know her.

                                                                2. Oh man, a Letter to Santa thread? I'm in.

                                                                  I hereby renew my request for an entrance exam. Nothing crazy, just a little reading comprehension section and one on basic food/drink knowledge. The HAT, if you will (I was going to call it the FAT, but was afraid that might offend some of my big-boned friends).

                                                                  Seriously though, I agree the loss of anonymity would provide some benefit overall, but I worry that it might mean that I could no longer be honest and fair about places in my community. I think I'd basically just avoid much participation on my local board. Consequently, my objection is simply personal and borne out of the realities of my small town life - but, I could live with it..

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: MGZ

                                                                    (Hmmmmm I wonder what big boned friends you might be referring to)

                                                                    1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                      Just sit where you can see my answer grid.

                                                                  2. Copy:

                                                                    - Sectional approach for recipes, fora, variety of content styles (articles, videos, etc.)
                                                                    - Focus on food, and pursuit of quality above all.
                                                                    - Regional boards are excellent, both for locals, and as a tool for facilitating Chow-esque travel.


                                                                    - Allow looser/more freewheeling discussion. The high degree of sanitizing or avoidance of controversial subjects makes CH impersonal, and imposes a degree of shallowness on discussions. There are a lot of interesting subjects and personalities here, and much of that potential gets over-enthusiastically scrubbed clean, and results in being dry, and a bit boring a lot of the time. This should be a site for grownups, who can handle being treated like grownups.
                                                                    - Allow PMs, both for community building, and to settle personal disputes.
                                                                    - Relax rules about posting recipes in regional boards. Sometimes, when wanting to discuss how to make regional specialties, it would be better to put it in the place where the greatest number of informed people are most likely to see it, and where you're most likely to recognize which posters are which. (IE - who knows what they're talking about.) "Home Cooking" is fine and dandy, but having one catch-all area for all "homes" makes it not very effective as a research tool for specific recipes.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: trombasteve

                                                                      I don't think one site with boards for every part of the world plus a bunch of topical boards makes as much sense from the perspective of the participants as it did for CNET and CBS. Each board has its own culture.

                                                                    2. Change:
                                                                      Make mobile a focus and not an afterthought. Unlike the original design for Chowhound, more (most?) users are finding info they want on the go, often on a hand-held device. I think Chowhound lost significant ground (and potential users) to sites like Yelp that just made it easy to search for a great [fill-in-the-blank] restaurant near me right now.

                                                                      The quality of the content is reliably higher than elsewhere. This has something to do with an engaged group of users, which is hard to replicate unless you'd personally invite them all to a new site. The current photo gallery options are good, I think--I like them.

                                                                      Find a better way to engage new users and help them understand the best way to seek and contribute information. I think the clunky design and lack of app meant that smart, engaged new users (especially young people who might have been the target market for next-gen Chowhound users) looked elsewhere to make their contribution. I don't want to read a bunch of posts that mimics Yelp's "I got a free dessert and the prep cook was cute" but there are also some great contributors there along with a feeling of energy and community. Many of my favorite writers seem to contribute less to Chowhound in the last few years, and I think with any online community there's always going to be pressure to bring in new, enthusiastic participants to make up for the up-and-down cycle of core contributors that will always fluctuate due to moves, changes in budgets and appetite for contributing online.

                                                                      Also in so/so: find a way to surface and promote the best discussions. This was a strength of early CHOW digests, less so near the end, and I'm not committed to the idea that a digest is the best way to go about this in 2014 and onward, but I do think there should be a way for the most interesting, insightful and excellent conversations to be promoted (also as a way to encourage a sense of pride in creating those discussions).

                                                                      Overall, I'd also say that the people making the major decisions should be people who are core users, which is not, I don't think, a hallmark of the leadership here.

                                                                      1. A few things to think about:

                                                                        Eliminating Anonymity - I think the idea that it is a cure-all is unrealistically idealistic (but I was annoyed by the book "The Circle") and may be problematic for those in professional fields that prefer/require a limited online presence. Perhaps could work for a truly "closed" site.

                                                                        Posting length - Is it possible to experiment with a maximum posting length? I have been getting "prose fatigue" lately from some overly descriptive postings...

                                                                        Mixed topics? - sometimes I would like to post for an idea for dinner based on something I picked up at the farmers' market. I know that is the supposed to be home cooking, but it often makes more sense for it to SF Board because of the unique items/seasons/etc.

                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                        1. re: The Dive

                                                                          Oh, yes, please re posting length!!!

                                                                          1. re: The Dive

                                                                            FWIW, I think awful, boring long posts are simply the price you pay for the occasional really great long post.

                                                                            1. re: The Dive

                                                                              OMG, just scroll past any post that's too long for you.

                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                Not infrequently, when the post exceeds a screen's worth and I realize just how long it's going to be, I do just move on. It seems to be more on the regional boards with reviews of restaurants.

                                                                              2. re: The Dive

                                                                                Seems like too many people seem to think anonymity is a plus not to allow the option.