I’m really very concerned about the direction things are taking on this brand spanking new website. Hungry Onion CAN be the answer to our prayers, as in a place to gather and talk about food INSTEAD of a place to gather and grumble about how rotten Chowhound is.
Chowhound is what it is. And I am going to throw this out as food for thought: I don’t know how many others here (or there at Chowhound) have studied “group dynamics” much, but the field does have some relevance in my career(s) background, and it has the ability to help us better understand human behavior, and from that, to increase our understanding of our own behavior.
I’m concerned about this website (and all of Sampson’s hard and generous work) falling flat on its face because the focus is shifting toward stone throwing at Chowhound.
Let me take a minute to offer some insights into what has been happening “on the other side of the curtain” at Chowhound since its inception. First off and foremost, in ANY situation involving human beings, any “group moderation” is HIGHLY unsuccessful when it is done by volunteers. Eight years ago, when I first began participating in Chowhound, that was my prime gripe across the board, both ON the boards and in private communication with the mods. The thoughts and ideas I presented for at least a year, if not more, was that for “moderation” to be effective and fair, it should be conducted by PAID employees who do NOT participate in the discussions.
“Free moderation” has been a thorn in the side of the electronic community since the heavy growth days of America On Line. Tech support, in that high earning endeavor, was done at one point exclusively by volunteers. It was also the lousiest and most unreliable tech support I have experienced in all of my years on the web! The bottom line in any sort of moderation of groups and human interactions is that well trained professionals in that specific field make the best and most efficient/reliable moderators.
How does all of this apply to Chowhound? Well, I’m amazed at the number of people in both of these spin-off groups (this being one of two that I am aware of) who have been banned from Chowhound more than once by unpaid (volunteer) Chowhound moderators who participated in the boards. Not ALL of those volunteers, but certainly some of them banned participants for personal reasons instead of objective logical reasons. POLITICS! In fact, you might even say “dirty politics.” BUT, not all bans were the result of that kind of interpersonal dynamics.
But what about the other side? The side that we, as participants, sit on? It has to be assumed that “we,” as a collective Chowhound community, all had valuable knowledge and experience with food or we wouldn’t have hung around to read what others had to say. And this is where the unpaid moderators (over the years) have been part of the problem. There is something in human nature that makes many of us reach for power. It’s also true that in human nature, the less power we have, the more we want it. So some moderators let personal grudges influence their decisions. BUT…!!! What about people who were banned, and then ended up EMPOWERING those moderators by playing the game by those bad moderator’s rules and begging, sitting, barking on demand, for the Milkbone of readmission to Chowhound? After which, they were marked! Fodder for the ultimate POWER GAME of unpaid, untrained moderators who are rolling in the BIG bucks for companies such as Chowhound/CBS, with roots that trace clear back to America On Line.
Anyway, my point in this very long post is to express my deepest hopes that Hungry Onion does NOT decay into that same kind of group dynamic all over again. Having been banned on Chowhound is NOT a desirable “cohesive factor” for a food discussion group that wants to thrive and grow. There have been other “Chowbanned” groups before this (several, in fact) that have failed simply because being banned by Chowhound was their primary point of bonding.
So this is a sales pitch from me that we ban together over our experience, enjoyment, and knowledge of food, as well as over this fabulous opportunity to learn (without Cordon Bleu tuition!) provided by Sampson.