What would you like this forum to be like?

I know many of us came from CH, either because of the recent development or other reason. To build a site that everyone loves and feel they are a part of, we need some feedback on

  • what you like and what you don’t like for a food forum?
  • what are some of the things you’d like to see more of at this site vs CH?
  • what turns you off? what made you visit CH less frequently now, or in the past?
  • what type of forum moderation would you like to see?
  • what would encourage more community spirit?

Please chime in! Thanks!

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  1. There weren’t enough critical reviews on CH. I always held back because there were too many outside viewers and I’d remain silent rather than say anything negative. The readership was influential/large enough that it could affect a restaurant’s business and that’s never my intent.

  2. We all have opinions and everyone is entitled to theirs. The back-and-forth about who’s opinion is right has always been off-putting.

  3. Fewer repetitive general tourist questions. Yes, I will admit to being a tourist with food questions, but there is no “best 5 places to eat in 3 days”. The length of some of those debates was comical. Specific questions are more interesting to answer.

  4. Moderating for personal attacks is always a good idea. I thought that moving topics between different boards was not useful to me, even though it was useful for organizing the various discussions. I don’t care if there is a “chain restaurant” or “general topics” or “home cooking” topic on the SFBA board. I care more about reading opinions generated by SFBA regulars on a variety of topics rather than opinions from a national group of users just because a topic can have national relevance.

A way to avoid repetitive questions is to either have sticky posts with links to frequently asked questions or to combine new posts on the same topic into cumulative threads. Chowhound always had the philosophy that threads on the same topic shouldn’t be combined because that theoretically would discourage people from posting about the same topic, and the umpteenth thread on the same topic might have new content. From what I remember when I used to frequent eGullet, they always combined threads on similar topics and greatly annoyed some people, who considered that micromanaging. It’s also labor-intensive for moderators.

For the New York board, it would be ideal to get Kathryn on board, as she has fantastic sets of questions and links at the ready and posts them often on Chowhound. Kathryn’s profile page: http://www.chowhound.com/profile/10936

By the way, I’m Pan on Chowhound, but that moniker was too short to be registered on this site.

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While I realize that revenue is a necessary evil, CH seems to have put revenue
above everything else. I would like this site to be a “Consumer Reports” of food, dining, and cooking. I would be happy to pay for access once this site has amassed a degree of content and membership. It could offer various paywall options, such as $1 for 24 hours, $3/wk, $5/mo, $25/yr. This would weed out the threads started on CH by “drive-by” posters. Easily-identified footer ads on the “old” CH were easy to identify and skip but now they pervade the content throughout.

A decade or so ago, when I started participating in CH, there was a box on the right side of the page that continually listed the titles of threads which had the most recent posts, along with the board on which they appeared. So, both new and extant threads, making it easy to click over to answer a new question, etc. Once they omitted the board part, it was frustrating - e.g., you live in Albany NY, click to a query about the best pizza in Albany only to find that it’s Albany GA, when you live i Albany NY.

Much of the redundancy on CH was due to its inability or unwillingness to move new thread content over into extant threads on the same topic. It’s fine to initiate a new thread for a restaurant whose previous thread is outdated, but there’s no need for multiple threads on the best chocolate chip cookie recipe!

Finally - yes, spelling, grammar, and punctuation DO matter.


I say one step at a time. First, try to create an easy to use website (technically speaking). Then, try to nurture an open, friendly and welcoming environment. After building a stable population, then we can talk about the more detailed aspects. So my suggestion is: Let it grows first.

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IMO, fast, unflinching moderation of personal sniping and attacks with zero tolerance is one of the most valuable things CH used to do, along with formerly zero tolerance for commercial posts or business responses to CHers. ETA:

Thanks for creating what looks to be a very promising site. Really appreciate your efforts.

I was MCF on CH, btw

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interesting perspective. i thought moderation of posts has gone completely apeshit recently.

says the poster who’s been BFL :smiley:


Oh, I agree lately, and the past year. They’ve just gone apeshit with censorship of site criticism but have been very lax about incivility for at least a year, at least a lot of the time. They plead “not enough resources” to police that, but it takes them about 1-5 seconds to delete a link to an alternative discussion site and to ban the poster.

When I say “used to do” I mean way back at this point.

So glad to see you here! I was horrified to hear of yours and some others’ bannings and suspension. And delighted by only one. :wink:

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Lack of a clean interface and the inability to see many topics at a glance were what killed off CH for me, if I had to narrow it down to what bothers me most about their new design. I have no complaints about Hungry Onion in that regard.

I could have coped with the navigational issues at CH even if I wasn’t thrilled with them. Their nonsense about people not liking the new design because people just don’t like change also put me off.


exiled CH’er
gave up’er from ChefTalk
still lurking on Cooks @ CIS - it’s wasted
on sabatical from DiscussCooking after watching the last cast iron bash
semi active @ netcookingtalk - but it’s pretty slim pickings

RIP’ed from:
spiceplace.com - exists, dormant

so, I’ve seen a few. admin’d a few 600+ msg/day sites. I have opinions.
hopefully this place can be a plain ole cooking site - pull up a computer and have some coffee. cooking, recipes, techniques, questions, different foodstuffs, new stuff, interesting dishes from other cultures, the hardware, baking - the list is
quite large.

the sub-boards by city / city block / etc are very valuable, but to a limited group. this is sorta’ like ‘nature’s way’ - it’s not bad, it’s not good,

it just is. I read wailings about no traffic on Board X - well, how many new restaurants open in a city in a year and how many people are going to post about them here? Yelp already exists - this place is not likely to replace it anytime real soon now. but it could, btw. Yelp has it’s issues however if this site sees hundreds of thousands of new users, those issues come with that traffic, and the ilk of that kind of traffic.

this becomes even more critical as the number of sub boards increases. I do enjoy a good road trip - but I do not enjoy having dozens of totally uninteresting new messages about the latest burger joint opening in 135 cities pop-up on my “New Posts” list.

personal attacks regardless of how sweetly posted should be deleted immediately and the poster banned for life on the second event. there is nothing that kills a discussion board for newbies like stumbling into some poor sap getting his butt flamed. they have no desire to be subject to that and simply go away.

I would also recommend an ultra-strict “family environment” - the F* this and F* that has already started. if it cannot be expressed without profanity, it should not be posted. see newbies, above; they likely aren’t thinking they just walked into a porn site. I am not any kind of nut-case prude - but profanity laced message boards just create an environment of “anything goes” - and that’ll bite.

for the management: never proffer the excuse the moderators cannot possibly read all the messages every day. in the event no one has noticed, the plain old ordinary run-of-the-keyboard users read all the messages, why cannot a “moderator?” CH suffers from “employee moderators” - folks - it ain’t

their call. they have not been selected for their ESP ability to absorb the community spirit - and they probably want to keep their job.

need moderators? solicit some sensible sounding volunteers. spread them over the world’s time zones - this is not rocket science.

mechanicals: if you’re going to have ten thousand sections, a user has to be able to establish a list of sections they wish to read/follow. the “Community” option of the old CH was a disaster - every new message from every section on a list. total complete waste of user’s time and generator of much unhappiness / user frustration / user dissatisfaction.

and a function none of the mouse club softwares have caught up with:

  • the user gets a list of “new posts”
  • the user clicks on the first new post and reads it
  • somewhere on the screen is an arrow, a box, some indication for “next”
  • the user clicks on that
  • the user is not taken to the next new post on the previously shown list; the user is taken to the next post in the section / board of the displayed message.

it’s certainly “the most efficient way to waste time” and is about as un-user-friendly as can be imagined. regrets, it’s not a configuration issue - it’s a pretty serious programming issue that all the usual forum software ignores.

I agree. The new dumbed-down design is clearly designed to de-emphasize conversations and direct viewers to their Serious Eats or Eater.com style articles that have a greater chance of attracting advertisers.

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A few thoughts about some of the things I’ve read in this thread:

First, punctuation, spelling and the like matter, but how well people spell and use grammar has nothing to do with site design, and moderation for spelling and punctuation would be insufferable, so let’s understand that not everyone spells well or uses good grammar and tolerate it.

Second, put me down in strong opposition to deleting posts for having some 4-letter words in them. I don’t want anyone infantilizing this site. The Internet is an adult place, and any children using this site probably won’t be shocked by an occasional expletive. There’s a huge difference between “that food is fucking great!” and “fuck you!” The first is one I’d be unlikely to post except as an example in this thread but shouldn’t be censored, and the second, if not meant jokingly, should be deleted, with the poster in question put on probation. I don’t mind calls to limit use of potentially offensive language, but I do mind absolutely banning 4-letter words.

Third, and I think this is important: What’s wrong with businesses posting with full disclosure, if the post is not purely promotional? Nothing, in my opinion. I would strongly disagree with prohibiting businesses from posting (and, full disclosure, I am not in the food industry). I frequent Wikivoyage, and their policies might be good to examine. Not all of them are applicable because users won’t be able to edit or delete others’ posts here, but let’s consider some of the main points: https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Wikivoyage:Welcome,_business_owners

‘The key guideline is: “Don’t tout.”
Save the sales pitch and just tell it like it is. You don’t have to
stick to a dry recitation of facts, but keep in mind that Wikivoyagers
aren’t fools. They’ll see through flowery descriptions and effusive
praise, and they won’t trust it. Any of it. They’ll distrust your
information, and they’ll also start to distrust Wikivoyage in general,
which isn’t good for you or for the rest of us. Using advertisements you
have placed elsewhere, or using the word our, or using any of the words to avoid are indicators that you are heading the wrong way.’

Actually, on a board like this, using “our” is great because it gives full disclosure. Wikis are different because each article is multiply authored, whereas every post here is presumably singly authored. Also, “Never remove info on competitors” would translate to “never slam competitors with any business you own or work for, because it’s a conflict of interest”.

Also a relevant set of guidelines to look at: https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Wikivoyage:Don’t_tout


There is no way to have free, objective and unfettered flow of reliable information, much less enough moderator coverage for the way business participation infests and changes the discourse.

I want to discuss food with folks I know and trust, not people with a financial stake in the direction of the discussion.

Let food businesses set up their own moderated forum where we can visit if we want to, is my view. I left TA over this very issue; just totally polluted by it.


What I like in a food forum is the opportunity to seek out advice on cooking from people I’ve come to trust. I enjoy helping others if I happen to have the right advice. I like to hear about what people have been cooking, especially when they share what they’ve made for dinner - bonus if there is a photo. I love to learn about different food cultures and traditions from around the world - even mundane details like how a person shops and what is available in their village/city and special celebrations centred around food.

I also love when a community participates collectively in something like a “dish of the week” where everyone cooks the same dish (different recipes) like pot roast or whatever and then post their results. I’ve learned a lot from these types of threads. And it’s fun, it’s like we all get to eat together.

EGullet used to have this great section that had a guest blogger each week. I loved that! Seems like they may have given up on that feature as I haven’t seen anything new for quite some time. They were such a joy to follow. For those unfamiliar, most bloggers would allow you to peek into their food life for a week. You’d sometimes see photos of their kitchens, the markets they shop at, the gardens they grow, the dinner parties they throw, what they are eating and drinking throughout the day etc. I’m sure the reason it fell by the wayside is that everyone and their dog has their own food blog now but the format of just having someone guest blog for a week was great. It gave me the chance to visit new places. I loved it! Would love to see something similar here.

A dedicated section for just recipes and their reviews by community members would be swell!

As far as censorship, as much as I hate it I think there is cause for it at times on forums. Censoring four letter words is just childish but I believe there can be reason to censor when there has been an offensive personal attack against a contributer.

Turn offs are: an unwelcoming environment to new-comers and snobbery. Too many categories are a pain.
If I were to throw out suggestions for categories, they would be very similar to some of CH, Egullet etc:
home cooking and baking
dining out (regional)
media (tv, blogs, cookbooks etc)
general food section (products, culture, shopping, celebrations, etc)

Okay, enough of my long winded opinions. I hope they can be of some help.

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I’m glad you mentioned eGullet. It had its problems, but at its peak, it was a place where some of the best food industry people came and shared their knowledge with the membership for free. When you forbid anyone from the food industry from posting at all, you can never have Anthony Bourdain, Michael Ruhlman, Grant Achatz or any of numerous other people who used to make eGullet a source of enjoyment and information. So I can only say I very strongly disagree with the idea of a witch hunt to discover who is secretly in the industry and rooting them out, instead of a policy requiring open disclosure and prohibiting advertising.

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there’s a pretty big difference between an expert - a professional in the kitchen - or an industry person with lots of good knowledge - participating in a discussion and same individual post by post advertising/shilling their “product”

somebody from General Mills who chimes in with the optimum protein level for flour to make a pie crust is a lot different than: “You can only make the best pie crust using our Betty Crocker Pie Crust Flour, available in the following markets, , , , ,”

That’s advertising. All of us agree that should be banned. Though I have to say, there can be a fine line there, too. I don’t think any of us would completely agree that the kind of shilling you cite should be banned. But what if the chef of a restaurant is a regular participant in a forum and posts an announcement of a week-long truffle festival at his/her restaurant? I would say that’s useful information and fine unless it’s posted using promotional language.

It can be difficult because just because a statement has self interested in it, it does not make it false or not true.

For example, someone from Chlorox can talk about blench is an effective solution for decontamination. Needless to say, the guy is saying something that can promote the company’s product. However, that statement is not incorrect. In fact, anyone would have said that.

Then you can have something even more subtle. A knife store owner who sells sharpening stones in his regular store. What if he comes over here (not to sell stones), but to teach people how to use the stones. Is he indirectly encouraging people to use his products?

My position is that as long as it is not so blatantly obvious, then it should be allowed.

Completely agreed.

It’s too late for me to edit this post, which is annoying (how about 1 day to edit?)

I meant to say that I don’t think anyone would disagree that that kind of shilling should be banned.