Saturday, April 23, 2005

How I Got Banned from Chowhound

I have been a big found of Chowhound since reading about it in a New Yorker article by Calvin Trillin a few years ago. I love everything about Chowhound, from the clunky site itself to the broader ethos of "Chowhounding".

Well, almost everything.

One of the site's rules forbids mentioning establishments in their "ban list", a list composed of eateries that engaged, or were perceived to have engaged in some type of shilling on the Chowhound site - i.e., restaurant insiders and/or affiliates posting biased reviews in an attempt to get some free marketing.

One of the restaurants in this list is Franny's, a terrific brick oven pizzeria right near my home. Apparently, someone from the restaurant fucked up when the place first opened and now they are part of the shit list. This sucks for both Franny's and anyone that wants to discuss Franny's on Chowhound. Now, people still do discuss Franny's (and other verboten restaurants), but as soon the thread is discovered, the volunteer Chowhound cops take it down.

I was pretty surprised one day last year to find this in my inbox,

"It's especially out of bounds ... to urge other participants to defy Chowhound policy and make our work more difficult and aggravating than it already is ... we urge you to find (or start) one run more to your liking by a team less deserving of your snide disrespect and vandalism. You're no longer welcome at"


I'm not sure what's better - the disingenuous recommendation that I start my own food site, or being accused of vandalism.

It's just a message board people. Lighten the fuck up.


At 4:10 AM, Blogger admin said...

How did you "urge other participants to defy Chowhound policy"?

At 4:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cope. It's only Franny's, and Franny's is only pizza. Great pizza, but still only pizza.

At 6:02 PM, Blogger Muk said...

Oh, I like Franny's, but not enough to care about their censorship from Chowhound.

This post was more a gripe about the Chowhound site, specifically their moderation policies and staff.


At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had the same problem in posting about Franny's. I think the chowhound policy is ridiculous and makes them seem like assholes. I like the site but have the strong feeling that Jim Leff is an insufferable self-righteous prick.

At 5:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I can't believe you got banned! That email from them is harsh. FWIW, I really enjoyed all your comments, especially on Prospect Heights eateries. I hope you to continue talking about food on your blog.

At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Chowhound ban is almost totally meaningless. Just start posting under a new name. They won't be able to tell that you're the same person they banned, unless you give yourself up in some obvious way.

It is ironic that they are so quick-on-the-trigger to ban people, and yet have no way to effectively enforce the edict. They'd be much better off letting these people continue to post, so that they'd at least know whom they're doing business with.

At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you familiar with the concept of how IP works ?

At 6:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm presuming the last comment is in response to my observation that a Chowhound ban is totally meaningless.

Yes, of course I am familiar with how IP works. I am referring to what occurs in practice on Chowhound, not what we know is theoretically possible.

At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

so . . . give us the gorey details of your Vandalism. How indeed did you "urge others to defy CH policy"? You are now going to get a bit of traffic via Eater/Curbed so SPILL!

I'm not so sure La Villa is banned - I just read posts about Anthony's that reference it.

I rather liked the anti-shill policy. That is, when I thought it was just the loser restaurants that used shills . . .

At 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, anonymous - I dug up the exact post which caused my excommunication and here it is below. I'll admit I was a dick, but still contend that the punishment did not fit the crime.

Did I mention that they used one of my many helpful prior posts in their book? Where's the thanks for that? Assholes.


Message Subject: Re(1): When is this "place that can't be named" crap gonna end?

I say just keep on posting, but make things snappy. One of the beneficial things about Chowhound's lack of resources and primitive technology is that it will take them a while to catch on.

I'm sure they even agree that the rules on banning are pretty crude, but if you've been around long enough you'll see that they are not really interested in discussing it.

Anyhoo, thanks for the post. Very helpful!


At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a moderator myself -- not on CH, but elsewhere. I never ban someone until they've first received a warning, and defied it. Moreover, I nearly always provide a way for them to eventually return.

CH mgmt would say that they are far too busy to be issuing warnings and second chances. They would probably also say that they have more than enough happy customers, and that the site is better off if a few malcontents are permanently gone.

I can see some merit in their viewpoint (they probably ARE rather busy), but on the whole they're far too rigid, and some of their rules are just plain dumb. I also suspect that many of these banned people are coming back under new identities, which they are not able to detect. There's no way of knowing how often this happens, but there's no doubt it DOES happen.

At 11:40 PM, Blogger ChristianZ said...

Funny how so many people are recognizing how awful Chowhound is and the irredeemable stupidity of the people that run it. I have my own post here: and am starting to add links there to other blog posts by people who have similar complaints. There's really not much to Chowhound anyways. It's only as good as the comments people leave there and pretty soon most people will realize they shouldn't be leaving their comments there.


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