LA Times article about what happened to CH


It’s interesting…I think she missed exactly how much the communities were fractured and how that affects the user’s experience / interactions.

I also think she she missed the significance in the behavior of the CH Team (meaning those who are CBS employees - I have no idea how many, if any, volunteer moderators are still there) when interacting with users and how that lead to many people feeling (justifiably, in my opinion) dismissed, condescended to, and being tossed aside.

That being said, I’m glad it’s out there and that it’ll be a way for others to find the new sites.


very acute article. nice, but regrets appears written by somebody who was never actually there.

I was very surprised to read Leff’s statements (at the end.) he had posted a number of messages on ChowHound that I (dummie what I am) interpreted to be seriously less than complimentary about how the CBS Interactive thing was going. I’m now forced into thinking he’s merely a paid consultant - he’ll opine anything he’s paid to think.

behind the scenes, it looks like this: there is a new boss, who is of the opinion that tags are the future of the online world, at that’s where the site is going. everybody else is just paid/hired help - so either they support the party line or get to be un-employed.

it may succeed wildly, it may tank ignominiously. there is however very little question it exists on the basis of new users since most everyone else has had it up to their xxxxxx and left or been thrown out.

as an obvious “for commercial gain” site, the smart-phone, the world in 128 characters is enough, thumbs crowd may not be sufficient to carry it - but that’s just my opinion.

the usability of the HO site is going to suffer from similar issues mentioned. with now dozens and with thousands to be sections, the user’s inability to restrict which information/sections they wish to “see” will lead users to simply give HO up as a time waster. the city by city, block by block sections are wonderful and there is absolutely nothing amiss with SFO people having fifteen dozen sections to discuss which new eateries are opening on a Monday. for the rest of the world, having to plod through hundreds of “new” listings for topics/areas of non-interest is an abysmal waste of time. users need the ability to limit the showing of new content to sections/boards of interest.

we did a vacation fling to SanFran - I read every group’s board about what’s to do see / eat in San Fran. not going back next week, no interest in the four hundred/day new messages about the best bagel in San Francisco.

as the dear Mr. Spock once said: the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one. and forcing everything on everyone everyday, will be a problem.

One step too late. I was just about to post that.

I think the forums and boards format will never go away. The real question is that are they increasing or decreasing. The need to have media to able to achieve knowledge is very valuable.

go away…
yes, but that’s not the problem.

if one reads the generalized complaints about site XYZ, one comes to the conclusion when a site requires more time to absorb / participate in, people stop going there.

at present, users here employing the “Latest” must deal with a list of every topic with a new reply or new topic in every section. at the rate of “I demand a section for the 400-410 number block of …” it’s going to become unworkable and such a time sucker-downer people just stop participating.

With it being the LA Times, I wonder if someone will post about it…and how ‘they’ will deal with it.

It’s funny but the big thing in my mind that has rarely been mentioned in these discussions or the couple of articles is that CH went through exactly this brouhaha last year, with a beta period that resulted in much-hated changes (Heartgate, anyone?) and user frustrations falling on deaf administrative ears. I do believe that much of the recent flouncing has been in the minds of Hounds at least since then, but it was just easier to stay last time around.

And it feels petty to bring it up, but in my case the only change from the last time that I liked–that you could include a link when making an original post–was taken away and replaced with that godawful format that’s like posting on a Big Chief tablet. It’s a frustrating and ugly experience now, and HO/FTC at least have the potential to become more signal than noise, given time.

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CH used to be cool . I would post some question in NAF or general topics and there would be upwards to two hundred replies , You would talk , bitch , and argue . You would find how to cook a whole animal over fire . Where the best spots to eat and visit when you were out of town , And you didn’t have to wait 48 hrs. for a response . IT was a great site . Not anymore . It has become a huge fucking # . Over and out .

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I discovered Chowhound a few months before Jim Leff sold Chowhound to C_Net because he was tapped out on funding the site. I’m now convinced that EVERY format revision since then has been a direct response to the infamous “bottom line.”. I cannot bring myself to believe that on this latest “redesign” any thought was ever given to us, the contributors who wrote the content CBS has been pitching to their advertisers as potential buyers.

The relatively recent policy of allowing businesses to participate in the discussion threads was most likely an effort to allow advertisers to have direct contact with Chowhounds as a means of compensating for the impact that AdBlockers have had on Chow\Chowhound’s ability to deliver “as promised.”

I also think that a lot of Jim Leff’s policies have played an important role in the mass exodus of Hounds now. Banning people from a website who are or have been important conttibutors has never made sense to me, but it’s been there from the beginning. It seems to have gotten seriously out of hand since Marssi came on the scene. But she is a corporate player, and appears to have been extremely frustrated that the changes have not been well received so giving the heave_ho to dissenters was probably an effort to make the transition seem better tolerated to her bosses and advertisers because I can’t imagine a potential advertiser visiting the site and thinking, “THIS is where I want to plant my advertising budget!”

I think that IF anyone on the CBS\Chow team had been open with Chowhound contributors and said something like, “Hey. Hounds, we’ve got a problem or three we need to work out if we’re going to keep Chowhound afloat,” there might have been a whole different outcome.

I also grieve for the loss of my Chowhound home page. It never occurred to me to do a print-screen copy of it. Stupid me!

Well said . I would think that site this and FTC would never have come into place . Thank You CH for creating both of these sites . Bravo !!!


We’ll not exactly the same. This time the format change was major, the main focus of regional boards was ripped out, and the ‘repairs’ came like pulling teeth. The heart issue was, IMHO, just a blip by comparison.


A point missed by the LAT is that for many of us, the CH redesign was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. On the SF board in particular, heavy-handed moderation and egos vying for domination had already taken much of the joy out of using the site. A fresh start like the one this site represents was long overdue.


Yeah, a strict comparison is hard to make other than users feeling their views were being ignored. The heart issue was not so much a reaction to a cosmetic change, but a strong feeling that CH was being “dumbed down”, which seemed a common enough complaint (it was one of mine anyway) with the most recent changes as well.

CHers have expressed frustration with, by turns, being ignored, being censored, being infantilized, and being taken for granted, and a lot of that frustration was left free-floating after last year (and apparently previous issues, which I don’t know much about). This most recent round of changes was just, as @Souperman put it, the straw.

EDIT: I should also say that I have almost no perspective as to local boards, living smack in the middle of culinary BFE and getting a regional hit only once in a blue moon. So I’ve probably got a blind spot to all the regional CH communities that got up-ended and what they have gone through.


I set up a Discourse-based site last year, as an escape hatch after the last makeover, but it turned out to be not much of a change so I never activated it.

This time, they threw away the 50-odd regional boards, some dating back to 1997. I immediately concluded that the change was deliberate and activated right away. Everything since supports my original conclusion. CBS’s goal was to cut into the share of Google clicks going to Yelp, TripAdvisor, Epicurious, etc. Based on what I see in recent Google searches I think that has been successful.

Leff doesn’t get how this change is different. The changes that are making it harder for people to post in a regional-community-centric fashion are intended to bring in the clueless crowd to ask casual one-off questions.


I think that’s a good point. People held that grudge for a year. And then too, although IMO not as bad as this one, the dismissive attitude was the big deal. That’s when vip kicked me out.

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I personally think Chowhound managers know what they are doing. Yes, what they did is not something we like, but I don’t think they didn’t know think three steps ahead of this and knew this can happen. It is just that they don’t really care.

There is a good reason for it. The bottomline is that we were not the flipping the bills. We don’t financially support Chowhound. While we have a great community there, we are nothing like say other communities of some online games like World of WarCraft. They are subscribers which pay month fee.

At the, Chowhound management just put as second-thought and possibility third-thought.


My permanent exit was related to new dictatorial attitude adopted by the moderators - it really had nothing to do with the design. Marssi is a real piece of work, and I find her behaviour cowardly and abhorrent. I ask several times who her manager was, but she, as expected, would not reveal it to me.


I think Jim Leff had it backwards. The “Olive Garden set” is precisely what Chow wants: softer marketing targets for its advertisers.


I think he does. My take is this latest revolt of the natives has him very scared the whole thing might go under - and then there would be a loss of all the past years information. The last comments of his I read emphasized ignoring the management decisions but supporting the site to insure the archive stayed accessible. At least that was the takeaway I got.

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