We want to take a moment to discuss some of the recent concerns raised on Site Talk and start to let you know more about our future goals for Chowhound.
Chowhound has been worked on by dozens of employees over the years, and our current team is a mix of veterans of the site and brand-new employees. All of us have a love of food. We’ve all chosen to come on board because of the great success the site has seen in the last few years, specifically because of Chowhound’s continued growth and its great potential for growth in the years to come. It may not be obvious to a user who visits specific boards, but the site is larger than ever. 2014 has been a banner year, and November was the largest month in the history of the site. That success sets us up to make some long overdue improvements that we hope will grow Chowhound for new audiences and make the site more interesting and useful to our large group of core users.
In our time here, we’ve done a great deal of reading through old threads to understand the history of the site, from its pre-acquisition days through to more recent changes. We’ve taken stock of past decisions made by the site’s leadership, both good and bad. Just like you, we’ve cringed at some changes, like the loss of restaurant data that you worked hard to curate. Moving forward, we’ll have those lessons in mind as we look to define the future of the site.
We know that change can be tough, but the performance of the site has not kept up with the quality of the conversations created here every day. We want to build out the breadth of topics that can be discussed, while preserving the sense of community that has always made Chowhound special. We want to expand on the limited set of locations currently supported, without splintering the discussion too far. And we want to greatly improve the speed and usability of the site, especially on popular posts that slow down significantly under the weight of hundreds of replies.
Our site is currently split between two brands, Chow and Chowhound, which has confused new users for a long time now. Chowhound is our top priority. It is unique in the world of food in that it touches all corners, from tips on great restaurants to deep discussion on home cooking and food hobbies. In both size and quality, Chowhound stands alone and we believe the changes we’re planning in 2015 will raise the profile of the community even further.
We absolutely value your suggestions for improvement, even in areas where we may disagree as to the best solution to a problem. We won’t always be able to implement your ideas, but we’ll be more proactive about letting you know when we can’t reasonably make them happen. We have lots of work ahead, and we’ll try to be more transparent in our plans as we progress.
In that spirit of honesty, we want to greatly improve the tone of conversations between users and staff. We have thick skins, but over the years here, resentment has clearly grown. While many frustrations remain from decisions made years before our time here, we’d like a clean slate to discuss the site as it exists today. It can be frustrating to be a dedicated user of a site and feel that your concerns are not being heard, and we want to improve that.
Chowhound is uniquely unfiltered in many ways, especially on Site Talk, where we do our best to find a balance between providing support and allowing open feedback. First and foremost, Site Talk is intended to be a useful resource. In the near future, we intend to clean up some older threads that have outdated information and may confuse new or longtime users alike. We’ll maintain older posts that are still accurate and helpful.
Going forward, we will do our best to communicate when we lock a thread. We’ll always try to do so when the discussion wanders too far off topic, especially if it attacks users or staff. Since moderated comments are no longer visible to you, it may not always be clear why a thread has been locked, but we promise not to abuse that tool. Moderation will continue to be important to the success of the site, as it has been since the beginning. Under Marssy’s leadership, our team of moderators have a common goal to create a safe environment for food lovers. This includes both longtime users and new users who don’t know the community well (or perhaps not at all).
At times, it’s a very tough task. In the last year, we’ve greatly scaled back on moderation. Yes, believe it or not, we’re moderating the site with a much lighter hand than ever before! This has included allowing users who disclose their business interests to join the discussion, whereas previously their contributions would be removed immediately. There was a lot of uproar over the change, but our team has continued to guard against spamming and shilling and we feel the net change to the community has been minimal. We are confident that our moderation policy is working well, and we’ll continue to improve and clarify it over time to encourage high-quality, entertaining conversations.
Personal attacks will always be strictly forbidden. Our moderators do their very best to keep the discussion on-topic and friendly. While you may not always agree with those decisions, your concerns can be discussed individually, via email. We ask that you flag posts and comments you feel are inappropriate. The moderation team will handle those issues privately and will not discuss them with other users.
We’re committed to working towards consistency in our moderation, which will make the site better. We love our users. We’re continually impressed by the wealth of knowledge shared on Chowhound and we’re ever grateful for your continued support, especially those who have been with the site for so long. We hope to reward your loyalty over the coming year with a great number of product improvements, so please keep tuned to this space and we’ll do our very best to over-communicate new features and be open to constructive feedback.
We know you’ll have many more specific questions, which we’ll respond to here or let you know that we will contact you directly via email.
The Chowhound Team
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