What's going on here?


(Caroline Freisen) #1

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.


How should we deal with product recommendations and mentions?
#2

It’'s kind of ironic to start a thread likely to incite passionate discussion of CH instead of leading by example and just discussing food and cooking, isn’t it?

What will you be cooking/eating today?


(John Hartley) #3

I understand what you’re saying, Caroline. However, it’s the nature of these matters that the old country/job/partner/website is discussed, particularly when the leaving has not been a happy one. Things will settle down in a few days when all that can be said has been said.

Let us not forget that we have not left Chowhound but Chowhiund has left us.

As for dinner - macaroni cheese with courgettes & bacon. A 1985 Delia Smith recipe that we’ve been doing since then.


(Caroline Freisen) #4

I’d like to add a clarification! (Sheesh, Caroline, why didn’t you make this clear the first time!)

  1. In NO way am I suggesting that this group needs PAID moderators!

  2. What I’m hoping for is that some self examination by all of us may help us avoid the pitfalls of other (past and present) “break-off” groups from Chowhound that have totally failed because being banned by CH was the only true cohesive factor. So it’s a plea from me because I REALLY DO want to find a comfortable home where I can kick back and participat and enjoy good company while we talk about food and food experiences. No harm intended!

For dinner tonight? I’m thinking! I’m thinking! Around 4:00pm, I’ll probably jump up and surprise myself. But for now, I’m REALLY ticked at myself because SOMEONE pushed some grass fed ground Kobe beef behind a bunch of jars in the fridge, and i forgot about it (Kobe beef makes the very best grass fed hamburgers of all of the grass fed beeves available!) and I had to throw it out because it stunk! Like a skunk!!! 'Can we say “Ticked off!”?


#5

I don’t think that’s a risk here. I think most of us self deported, some were warned, suspended or banned, but not for having been chronic bad seeds.

I’m really enjoying the balance here thus far. Feeling really hopeful.


(Biscy) #6

So since this isn’t CH and we don’t have to dance by their rules, tell us the banned members you speak of, and how you know. The mods made it clear they didn’t discuss who or if they banned someone for an offense, so you must have some inside skinny, or part of the broken “politics” you are deriding


(John Hartley) #7

No inside information needed. Several people banned by Chowhound, or threatened with a ban, have posted about their experience either here or on Food Talk Central.


#8

That other site is dead to me, and not because I was ever banned, though I did receive plenty of emails from the mods. I came here hoping The Hungry Onion will take the place of that other site, not to read about or talk about the other site. There’s plenty of that on that other site’s site talk “community” and when I want a dose of schadenfreude that’s where I’ll go. For now I’m striving to reach the acceptance stage, allow that other site rest in peace and start fresh here.


#9

I think the CH grumbling will settle down. At this point most of us feel jilted. After years of settling down for a good daily chat with other food folks we no longer feel welcome (for whatever reason). The end of any passionate relationship usually involves a period of rehashing the wrongs that were done. It is what it is and hopefully we can accept the loss and move on.

The faster we create a welcoming, sharing environment the better chance of moving past it and attracting new people.

Creating good content is key! (I’ve been trying but no longer seem to be able to start a topic - can only reply). If all we are doing is whining the whole thing will wither away.


#10

Each of them has commented on having been banned, suspended and/or warned, in various places online or in private communications. It’s up to them to share that with you again, if you’ve missed it, not me.

Others, me included, have had posts deleted frequently without any warning or reason offered. No mentions of this site or other are permitted, nor are requests in a thread asking folks to email me (they take those down, no warning to me) or even mention of the East Bay article naming the alternative groups.


(For the Horde!) #11

Why do you say that? I have seen minimal stone throwing at Chowhound. There are few comments here and there, but by far most of the conversations are not focusing on Chowhound hating.

Ok. That is concerning, but I guess we need to take it one step at a time. I mean. We cannot ban people just because they were banned from Chowhound. I don’t know if there is any solution to this.


(John Hartley) #12

There is no solution to that, Chem. Well, not as such. Some folk will have been banned/suspended because they have been dissenters over the CH revamp. Some other folk will have been banned over time for transgressions that we would probably agree they richly deserved banning. I can think of a couple in that category. And, of course, they are unlikely to disclose their “offence”. All we can do is regard a new contributor as having a clean slate here.


(For the Horde!) #13

So true. I think that is good enough. Caroline has a point that we probably should keep a watchful eye. On the other hand, I don’t think we should be slapping everyone’s hand – especially at this stage.


(Biscy) #14

Thanks there, Stoney…I found it, “duh” on a couple of those bans:


(Kathy Ramsey) #15

How many of you remember Jim Leff’s long rule? I’M NOT CONDONING the current situation, but who among you were the victims of Jim Leff’s scorched earth policy? I remember that it was not even okay to mention cookbook signings at bookstores. Why? No one ever explained that absurdity to me. And post-Leff, the SFBA board at least has had grave issues for a long time for me, most notably with frequent posters who somehow feel some ownership over the content and lord it over everyone else. I’m glad to get out of there mainly for that reason.


#16

Caroline’s concern is valid, but most likely a fleeting one. weez hopes…

it’s just human nature - many people put a lot of effort into the site - and got ah, err, how one p.c. say… disappointed? they would like to vent - I understand that. frankly I lurk a bunch on a site before even thinking about “becoming invested.”

I don’t hold that moderators should be paid employees who do not participate. but moderators need clear instructions - and as a representative of the site, they really must demonstrate the absolute best net-citizen behavior; there be times a moderator must plain ole stifle themself.

chefstalk.com had episodes where moderators would engage in public dares and banter: “yeah, ban that SOB” and “yeah, delete those posts” - things went down the tubes pretty quick, the site admin/owner sent out an email asking “what’s wrong” - apparently he got quite an earful - the site has never recovered.

discusscooking.com is another site that has a not-to-be-envied-reputation for squirrelly moderator/admin behavior. activity there is frequently in marked decline - especially after a staff’s public thrashing - people just stop posting waiting to see where the other shoe is going to fall.

there are admin/moderator behaviors that will kill member participation in a keystroke.


#17

EXACTLY!

Ever been around a company during/after a mass layoff? yep, lots of bitching about the company and the a-hole managers.

Ever gone out with a friend after their relationship fizzled? Yep – you’ll know about every skid mark ever left in every pair of underwear.

It’s human nature to blow steam via the bitch-and-moan valve. This too shall pass.


(For the Horde!) #18

Four letter words! Four letter words! Ok, technically it is not a “4” letter words. :smiley:

just kidding.


#19

I think the keyword here, may be “gratuitous.”

Of course, finding consensus on the definition is a whole 'nuther thang. Just ask Senator Rosewater.


#20

Really not sure where you’re seeing all of this “stone throwing”, C1.