Oh, I don’t at all disagree with some of what you’re saying – that the current way of doing things doesn’t make long-term users feel valued is a huge problem. Bringing on new, energetic users would be great – but I think that’s a battle that’s already lost.
I guess I see a few complications with the ire aimed at Marssy and Pat: for one, anyone coming into those jobs (with orders to execute a plan that was bound to piss a ton of people off) would have had a hard time succeeding. The community manager could have been an angel of empathy, and people still would have been furious. Chowhound’s vociferous user base is awesome to behold when it means lively and interesting reviews. It’s tough when you feel that passion bearing down on you in terms of complaints, nasty emails and insults that feel personal.
Also, I guess I’m just really uncomfortable with some of the language lobbed at them; calling them lazy and stupid feels unnecessary. They’re real people. I have no idea if they took a corporate job because they’re supporting a disabled partner, needed to use a health benefit, etc. I also don’t know what they’re incented on and what the long-term plans for the site are. I don’t see it as a black and white scenario.
Back to hyperbowler’s really excellent (and generous) analysis: I think message boards are on their way out. I’m in my 30s, I know very few people my age or younger who use them. I had a group of real-life pals who used Chowhound who were about my age and most have turned to Twitter and Instagram for the type of intel they used to find on the SF Bay Board. The data here tells the story of a long-time downward trend that started many years ago, before tags, before the current management, and even before the regime that preceded this one.
I’m really happy that HO exists, and I hope it succeeds. Right now, it hasn’t quite hit a critical mass in my area where it feels dependably useful – I’m not sure it’s the place I’d turn if I thought “hm, what’s an under-the-radar place can I go for lunch in X neighborhood?” I hope it becomes that, and I’m at least doing my little part by contributing.