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My Observations of the Problem with Chowhound

Bkeats | Sep 28, 201511:32 AM     223

Clearly the recent redesign of CH has been largely unpopular. Some have decided the changes are the final straw and have given up on the site while others have decided to soldier on. I have not been a fan of the changes but my participation was already dropping before.

Why was that? Well, the basic problem with Chowhound isn’t the layout of the site or the multiple changes that we’ve suffered through. The problem is that Chowhound is no longer the province of Chowhounds, but rather Chowhowlers.

I’m a relative newcomer. Only been here 10 years or so. When I started, people talked about food. Good food and where to find it and how to make it. Time and expense were often secondary considerations. Politics and manners and the dysfunctional family and friends were beside the point.

There were many people who selflessly shared their experiences, discoveries, knowledge, wit and wisdom. I learned a lot and ate very well in locations all over the world because of the help of fellow hounds. I did what I could to reciprocate.

But at some point in the not so distant past, things began to change. The community became larger. While some of the new members added marvelously to the site, too many others demonstrated a startlingly lack of interest in expanding their food frontiers or even discussing food. They came here looking for something else.

I felt this for the first time a few years back when I started a thread asking about a particular cooking technique. Someone who I had seen comment a lot in NAF weighs in with a post that in short was what kind of fool throws away that much money on something like that for cooking? That’s your contribution? Well I’ll tell you that kind of fool is called a hound. You’re just a howler.

I saw threads about food that people wouldn’t eat and cuisines they wouldn’t try. I’m all for arguing about authenticity even though none of us really know what that means. That shows a passion about food. But how in the world can anyone say that they don’t eat “XYZ” cuisine because they don’t like it and claim to be a Chowhound? Really??? You know everything about “XYZ” and have experienced it all and have written it off because there is nothing worthwhile eating? “Oh I once bit into a spicy red pepper that was hidden in a dish marked with 5 peppers and I burned my tongue and they wouldn’t comp my meal so I won’t ever go to a “XYZ” restaurant again.” That’s a howler not a hound.

My home “board” (tag now since boards are gone) is NYC. I’ve just gotten so tired of the posts that ask the basic equivalent of “I’m coming to NYC, where should I eat?” that I don’t even open them. I used to try and help but saw that few of these posters ever came back to share their experience or provide feedback. I’m not interested in being a recommendation service. Do a little research and ask a better question was what I would ask of the posters so CH can better help you. The snippy responses I got to that simple request were unbelievable. Howlers or maybe Yelpers.

Then all the effen threads about tipping and family and manners and minimum wage and hurt feelings because somebody did or did not eat/make/throw out something and other pissing in the wind which get 300+ comments. Gawd I wish those would go away. I’m guilty of having participated in some of them early on but I’ve seen that movie too many times and I walk by the marquee without looking in the window now. More howlers, no hounds in there.

So in my long winded way, I’ve come to realize that I miss many of the people who used to provide great insight into food with wisdom and wit. There used to be humor here too which has also gone. Some of the great contributors have passed on and others have just decided to pass on this site. Both are sorely missed.

I’m sure the new Chowhound will become a great success as it aggregates food data but it will lose its food wisdom. The hits will multiply and new users will find it but the community will fade I fear. For many of us who loved the discussions about food here, the changes have made it so much more difficult to continue as the format is not conducive to a conversation. The electronic equivalent of that new place that imagines itself to be so hip but with a thumping bass line that makes conversation impossible. Add the new format on top of the change in tone of the discussions and to me it’s clear that the old Chowhound has gone.

It seems the diaspora has already started. I think I will join the ranks of the mostly silent observers who will comment every now and then when moved to do so. I thank all of you who have helped me and I hope I helped a few of you in return.

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