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David Ford's Profile

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'Hound Favoritism

That the Chowhound community is so inclusive today, ten years later, is due in no small part to you, Jim, and the quality of your character. As the founder and principle architect of Chowhound, you could easily sit, as you say, up on a hill and shout down your precepts from On High. But you don't. Matter of fact, I have never seen even a hint of pomposity from you in the nearly 3 years I have been posting here.

You are blessed with rare qualities of taste and refinement, Jim. You are a true gentleman, and I raise my glass to you today for all the good that you do.

And thank you for Chowhound.

Sep 25, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Automatic thread collapsing

I agree with Robert on the addition of a graphical tree somewhere in the mix. This would really help.

Sep 24, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Option to view by user

Expanding on the "following long threads" and "identifying posts by user" theme, consider the following.

Imagine clicking into a thread. Make it a long one. And imagine, by glancing at the Who's Talking list, seeing that one of your favorite posters is participating in this thread.

Now imagine clicking on that user's name in the Who's Talking list and voila! All posts in that thread by that user remain expanded, while all others collapse.

Would this not be a powerful tool enabling us to "chew" through some of these long threads without missing kew chowtips by our favorite posters?

Also, how about a number in parentheses next to each name in the Who's Talking list representing the number of posts by that user in the current thread? That would help too.

What do you think?

Sep 24, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Automatic thread collapsing

Hello Chowhound Engineering,

First, thanks for all the hard work on our behalf. And thanks for including us in the process. We are some lucky 'hounds, indeed!

All right, I like the automatic thread collapsing. And I can see it being a useful tool under certain circumstances. However, consider the case (especially with a very long thread) where a person clicks on a topic and opens that thread. And then, due to any variety of factors, they are unable to finish reading all of the posts in that thread before logging off. Now, when they return later, all of the posts will appear collapsed.

Now I know that all they must do to view the collapsed threads is to simply click on "Expand All" to do so, but that does not deal with their situation adequately. All they wanted to do was to continue where they left off, but they are now prevented from doing so.

Please consider this case as you continue to refine this feature.

And thanks again!

David

Sep 24, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

OK, *Why* has CNET take a step backwards?

Thank you for that, PJ. Coming from you, it means a lot.

Although my use of Chowhound has diminished quite a bit in recent months due to frustrations with many of the current design elements, I'm still here. And from time to time, I am checking back.

With that, I look forward to the results of your Fall rebuild, and respectfully bid my regards to you and your hard-working design team.

Sep 17, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Minor Suggestion for my Chow

Hello Chowhound Team,

I have a suggestion for the My Recent Posts list on our my Chow page that I think may be of benefit to all.

I have been using the My Recent Posts list to "follow" the conversations some of my favorite 'hounds have been having on the boards. Sort of like a modified form of tracking, but anonymous and with the added context of the full thread.

Here is the thing. The list provides the 10 most current threads the user has participated in -- which is great and I appreciate -- but does nothing to acknowledge when that user returns to one of the older threads and re-posts for the second, third or higher occasion. In other words, the My Recent Posts list is set to "Date Started" for its default view.

With this in mind, I'm hoping that it would not be too much to ask for you to either modify the default view of the list or at least offer an option to list by "Latest Reply", in a similar fashion that we have access to on the board pages. In this way, one would be able to use the list more fully to track the given user's posting record, and therefore more easily follow them in this way.

Thanks,
David

P.S. Hot Posts is awesome! Thanks for bringing it back -- better and more usable than before. :-)

Jul 14, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Do you like the current interface?

See, that is EXACTLY what I have been imagining! No big deal, right? Just mimic the old site but clean up/replace cycles creating unnecessary bandwidth overhead. Offer it as an optional view for those preferring to read threads that way. We don't need to see the whole board in tree form -- just one thread at a time. Just a perfect, simple hierarchial tree for each thread. Think of as a road map.

At least I *think* it is (what I have been imagining, that is). You may have lost me somewhere between AJAX and viewport. :-)

Still, it sounds like *you* know what you are talking about, so I am encouraged.

Jul 14, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Do you like the current interface?

These are some really interesting ideas, hatless.

With your RoR background, I would love to see some mockups. And I'm sure the development team would only stand to benefit from such an effort.

As you can find the time, perhaps?

I wish that I could. But alas, I am only able to theorize concerning what it could (or should) look like once completed. English, after all, is the only language that I speak.

But you speak Rails! And a picture is worth a thousand words. :-)

Something to consider, I hope.

David

Jul 13, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Italics, Underline and Bold

Here are the conventions that I have used when no style options are available:

To _underline_ something, bracket the word or phrase with underscore characters.

To *italicize* something, bracket the word or phrase with asterisk characters.

Finally, to BOLD something, use all capitals. Use this one judiciously, however, since it is generally accepted that to post in all capitals is likened to SHOUTING, and can be quite offensive to many regular users.

I hope this helps!

Jul 13, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Question About Replying - Then Backing Up

Very resourceful solution, DQ! The epitome of a quick and dirty fix. I must admit, I have been guilty of "buffer loading" for various reasons in the past (just not this one -- yet), and must say that I agree with you *wholeheartedly* with respect to your stated danger. More than a few times have I promised myself "never, EVER again" after writing over some valuable tidbit that I had intended to paste somewhere.

Jul 11, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Question About Replying - Then Backing Up

Hi Laurie,

I know it may sound like a lot of work, but when I can see that a post is going to be any more that a few lines in length, I have learned to treat is as I would a formal letter or composition. And, as I do in cases of that nature, I open a new document in my word processor and compose the whole piece there. Then, when I am done, I "copy and paste" the contents into the waiting reply field in Chowhound.

That way, I can work on it at my own leisure -- even taking breaks to surf Chowhound while I do! Or if need be, back up the contents and shut down my computer if I am called away. All while preserving my "post in progress" until it's ready for prime time!

I hope this helps.

David

Jul 11, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Custom PM System

All of your e-mail benefits could obviously continue. People would still be free to post whatever e-mail account they wished on their my Chow page.

Privacy would not be a concern since it would be understood that the PM system would only be a semi-private channel. Again, the focus would be 3 part: (1) taking some of the load off the board as far as "Thank you" (and other semi-private) messages would be concerned, (2) offering a way to invite a fellow 'hound (or 'hounds) to a chowfest, and (3) providing a semi-private channel to swap (fully) private e-mail addresses for all the rest. For people such as yourself with privacy concerns, your PM would need never contain anything more than a free web-mail address of your own choosing. It would be up to the recipient of your PM to respond. Poof! Privacy concern gone. :-)

Some people will never post an e-mail address on their my Chow page either due to privacy concerns, lack of technical facility or, as in my case, a strong desire to keep my life simple, and free of "throwaway" e-mail addresses and the extra resources they require to maintain. Many of these people will never know what they are missing until shown. A hybrid PM system such as I have described would provide a safe way for these users to "connect" to the community in an extra way and then move forward at their own speed. This PM system would also benefit all those, like yourself, who prefer using their free web-mail (thank you very much) by giving them access to this large pool of people who, again, will never post an e-mail address to their my Chow page.

As far as the increased workload on the Chowhound Team concern, keep in mind that this would serve to reduce certain types of frivolous posts to the boards. So it could conceivably serve to *reduce* their workload there. So, depending on how much work was required to monitor the PM system, the net result could be negligible. Or who knows? Maybe even less!

Jul 10, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Etiquette/changing topics and saying "thank you"?

David's reply to limster:

I just added a new topic for the discussion of this issue.

http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

See you there!

Jul 10, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Custom PM System

How about the implementation of a PM (Personal Message) system specially tuned to the unique needs of the Chowhound community? Such an implementation would include an open policy such that each message would be "reviewed" by the Chowhound Team to insure that it is not depriving the public boards of their rightful access to chow. Plus, there could be a limit on the number of replies to (1) make it easier for the Chowhound Team to manage, and (2) serve to discourage the use of the system for "chit chat". The PM system that I envision would be focused mainly on passing along special "Thank you" (and other semi-private) messages, setting up chowhound get-togethers and trading e-mail addresses for all the rest.

Jul 10, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Etiquette/changing topics and saying "thank you"?

David's reply to limster:

How about an implementation of a PM system specially tuned to the unique needs of the Chowhound community? Such an implementation would include an open policy that each message would be "reviewed" by the Chowhound Team to insure that it is not depriving the public boards of their rightful access to chow tips. Plus, there could be a limit on the number of replies to (1) make it easier for the Chowhound Team to manage, and (2) serve to discourage the use of the system for general "chit chat". The PM system that I envision would be focused mainly on passing along special "Thank you" messages, setting up chowhound get-togethers and trading e-mail addresses for all the rest.

Jul 10, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Etiquette/changing topics and saying "thank you"?

Hi krissywats,

I agree with you that with the old board one could easily post a final "Thank you" message by appending " -- Thank you!" in the subject line. I did it many times and *liked* it. And if the person to whom it was directed chose to click on it, they would (sometimes) be happily surprised to find that it contained some extra-special chow tip as a token of my appreciation for their help.

You see, krissywats, I'm a person who likes to say "Thank you", too -- and for all the reasons that you do. I believe that common courtesy is *very* important. I also understand that when someone receives a "Thank you" after having gone out of their way to do something nice for someone else, it makes them feel good. And that it helps them to feel as though they have connected in some way with that person.

Also like you, I believe that a restaurant's ambience is as much a part of a good meal as the food. I love good food, but I also love to eat good food in a beautiful space -- and with nice people around me.

However, while -- for me -- the food and the ambience are a connected set of experiences, I have learned that there are others around me who just do not care. And although -- again, for me -- to spend time delving into a discussion of a particular restaurant's ambience is a perfectly legitimate part of sharing that restaruant's chowly merits, I have learned that there are others (some of them running this board) who want to know of nothing "but the chow". And, out of respect for those with differing views than mine on this subject (and to avoid being deleted), I have learned to take my discussions of ambience to the "Not About Food" board, where the moderators of this public message board say that discussions of this nature belong.

With respect to the "Thank you" issue, to be perfectly honest, before reading the discussion between you and Melanie -- and reading some of Melanie's points concerning the same -- I had not really thought much about it. As I said, with the old interface we could tuck a nice little " -- Thank you!" at the end of the existing subject line and get the point across without obligating anyone to click on it unless they wanted to see the contents of what amounted to a private message. Well, those days are over and we cannot do that now. And for all those who would still like to connect in this personal way, another set of tools now must be utilized.

So what's the answer? Can there be an answer?

Yes, I believe there can be an answer. Why? Because that's my nature -- to believe. I believe there can and will be an answer. And I believe it will be an answer that will include everyone.

Is the answer to post "Thank you" messages on the public message board? No. I don't believe that it is. And as much as I would like to endorse this, I just can't. Too many people would be negatively affected to justify the benefits gained by a relative few. I really think we can do better.

Is the answer to send a "Thank you" message through a PM system, as you have earlier suggested? That sounds better. I think we should more fully explore the idea of PM-based communications with the Chowhound Team.

Do I have any additional ideas of my own? No. My idea would have been to use a PM system, as well.

Other ideas? Let's hear 'em!

Sincerely,
David

P.S. If there is to be a continuation of this discussion, then I suggest it be given its own topic name. In this way, it stands to receive the widest range of quality responses. And, in the end, this will give the Chowhound Team the best data to work with as they consider their options.

Jul 10, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Changing Topics, Etc.

Unlimited edits by the OP are currently allowed for both the topic and body of a post with no time restrictions. There is no 15 minute restriction on either.

Jul 09, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Etiquette/changing topics and saying "thank you"?

To Sherri, krissywats and all those in favor of ending threads with hugs and kisses all the way around; you are obviously free to do so. You have your own reasons, and you seem convinced that you are right for having them.

And I respect you for it.

However, consider this. When you are speaking to anyone in this forum, you are speaking to all of us. I believe this is the gist of what Melanie was trying to get across. If you were in a private chat room, and the person you were chatting with shared something nice with you, then it would be a natural thing for you to thank them. And then they would acknowledge your thanks. And then you would feel nice. All perfectly appropriate.

But in a forum such as this, there is a much wider audience. When one person shares something nice with another person, we are all listening in. And when that person says "Thank you" to the other person, we are *still* listening in.

You can probably guess where I am going with this. That's right, the old "what if everyone did it" routine! But seriously, it's a valid point here. And seriously, consider the implications if EVERYONE who received something nice from someone else said "Thank you" to the person they received it from. Two-thirds of Chowhound's content would be represented by "Thank you" posts! And, considering the kind of volume that Chowhound generates in a given day, week or month, that would be a whole lot of "Thank you" posts.

It is also a whole lot of reading. But not just reading for the intended recipient of the "Thank you" post; reading for all of us.

Sending a "Thank you" message using a PM system? Great!

Doing the same through e-mail? Super!

But not on a public message board. Sending a "Thank you" message is a private communication. And private communications should be reserved for private channels.

Thanks,
David

Jul 09, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

This is new site is not working well for me

hatless, you are *such* a showoff.

Now, BACK TO THE CHOW!

Er, I mean site talk. :-)

Jul 09, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Boards Rollover List Gone!

I am generally not in favor of mouseovers simply because they can generate "false" launches; and this is no exception And it only gets worse as they grow in number.

One shouldn't have to move their mouse as if they are negotiating a mine field each time they want to execute a simple desktop function. If one is traversing the screen; headed to a particular x, y coordinate to click on a function, then one should not be required to "steer around" certain portions of the screen because they contain mouseovers! We should be able to choose where and when to apply a "click" function with our mouse pointer; not have it chosen for us with a mouseover.

Besides, this one had a serious problem. When your mouseover brought up the board list, the bottom portion was not visible. And it could not be brought up by scrolling *because it was launched with a mouseover*! Now that a click-based launch has been implemented, however, scrolling to reach the bottom portion is possible.

Jul 08, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Changing Topics, Etc.

Is it possible that in giving users the ability to change the topics of their threads indefinitely (or at all) after posting, the door is opened for some serious problems if left unchecked?

For example, let's say that user Aaa starts a thread with the topic "LA Sushi" containing a query for recommended sushi restaurants in Los Angeles. As the responses come in, the discussion begins to focus on two LA area sushi restaurants in particular (Sushi Yin and Sushi Yang, for the purposes of this discussion) and the relative merits of each. 72 hours passes. The OP (Original Poster), deciding that he would like to see a little more of a discussion of these two restaurants, changes the topic to "Sushi Yin or Sushi Yang?".

Innocent enough? Or not?

Consider that this post was viewed 200 times during the first 72 hours before the OP changed the topic. That's 200 people who may be interested in returning to view this thread later because the topic interested them. But now that topic no longer exists! And that would be bad.

The same thing goes for giving users the ability to edit their posts. I mean, all this is undoubtedly great for the OP, but is it not conceivable that in the long run, it could be doing a disservice to the board?

As an alternative, I suggest doing away with timed edits (or any edits, for that matter) after the post is made. Go back to the old system of giving users a way to view their posts in final form before committing to posting them.

Then, if a user notices a serious problem with his or her post (or topic), then let there be a channel to "submit" a change request to someone on the Chowhound Team. And if the change is deemed beneficial, then it would be executed.

Would this not be better for all concerned?

David

Jul 08, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

link back to board??

You can also use your browser's back button from anywhere in the post!

So many choices. :-)

Jul 08, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

IF there are rules for posts, they're too well hidden.

Hi Etnier,

Scroll all the way up to the top of the page and float your mouse pointer over "Getting Started", in the maroon bar and to the right. In a few seconds, you will see three choices appear underneath. These are Etiquette, Manifesto and FAQ. I believe Etiquette may have what you are looking for. When the list appears, scroll down and click on it.

I hope this helps!

David

Jul 08, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Do you like the current interface?

With all due respect, Linda, your idea to bookmark one's favorite threads in a way such that one is enabled to more easily return to them without searching may not be speaking to the gist of prpjam's complaint. While your suggestion does offer a legitimate method of tracking a given thread for recent activity, it offers nothing in the way of providing easier navigation among posts (and sub-posts) *within* those threads. This is where I believe the issue lies.

If I may be so bold, the source of prpjam's frustration is the way the current interface all but disables the user's (previous) ability to follow the myriad (and multiple levels) of side "conversations" that naturally occur within a moderately active thread. These side conversations -- where many people join in and offer their opinions and responses to the given topic (and each other) -- are part of what makes online communities such as this one so compelling.

An example of a side conversation would be this. Let's say that user Aaa starts a new thread. Next, users Bbb, Ccc and Ddd all post responses to user Aaa. In this way, three people have responded to the OP (Original Poster), yet there is still only *one* conversation going on. And the subject of the conversation is that of the OP. OK, now let's say that user Eee posts a response to user Bbb. By doing this, user Eee has just introduced the first side conversation to this thread! And since it is only one level removed from the pool of responses to the OP, it is a level 1 side conversation (and a level 2 sub-post). Finally, the subject of the conversation is that of user Bbb (or, to be more specific, the substance contained in user Bbb's original response to the OP).

See how complicated things can get in describing a level 2 thread with only *four* responses containing *one* side conversation? Now imagine more. Many, many more. This is why a means is needed to "chart" the courses of these side conversations in a way such that readers and participants alike are enabled to both read and post in the correct order.

And in this way, the relationships between them are preserved! The old interface provided for this beautifully. Never mind all of its shortcomings; this is where the old interface really shined. Never mind that it was a backend maintenance nightmare. Never mind that certain other visual elements and processes were in dire need of repair. Let's remember what it *did* do -- and do well!

But if the proper *value* of these relationships is not demonstrated through the interface, and users are allowed to break the discipline of posting (and reading) without observing the correct order in each "branch" of sub-posts, then it is the fault of the interface -- not the user. A properly designed interface should encourage the proper execution of events. It should serve to *instruct* the user on a subtle, intuitive level.

This is a current (glaring) weakness contained in the new interface. Yes, the new software *behind* that interface is far superior to the old software in numerous respects. And I am thrilled that the new team is so obviously talented. I am also encouraged that they are showing a genuine desire to respond to the very special needs of this very special community.

But this needs to be fixed. And, given the already prolific track record of this amazing team, I find it almost inconceivable that most (if not *all*) of the technical concerns that I have tried to address in this and other posts on the subject are either on the table or being dealt with as I write.

If this is the case, then *thanks in advance*, Chowhound Team! If not, then I hope that this latest installment of my thinking on the subject is being well received and considered.

See what I mean, Linda?

David

Jul 08, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Continuing the discussion

"Just to create this post, I've been scrolling up and down to figure out the right place to hit the reply button. That means that I've had to reread the content three times, which is clearly inefficient from a UI perspective."

Thank you, divirtual, for this very clearly stated point. So true.

David

Jul 05, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Continuing the discussion

In a recent installment of the ongoing interface discussion, the following post was made at the end of the current "5 generation" limit in the software. Because of this, I was prevented from responding to what I thought was a very eloquent commentary on this very important issue.

For all who are interested, here is a link to that original discussion:

http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

The poster's screen name is divirtual, and he is replying to a post by Chimayo Joe.

But before you click, be advised that you will not be able to respond to this post. The reason, again, is because the software will not allow any more than 5 generations of replies in any given thread. And this post was made at the end of that limit.

Otherwise, to continue the discussion here, I present to you the following inspired words:

(originally posted by divirtual

)

"I'm a webmaster with a site that has both threaded and flat views, as selectable, and have to say that I find this new interface to be totally confusing.

Just to create this post, I've been scrolling up and down to figure out the right place to hit the reply button. That means that I've had to reread the content three times, which is clearly inefficient from a UI perspective.

I'm disappointed with the RSS function so far -- I've actually just done a review comparing RSS Bandit, GreatNews, RSSOwl and FeedReader. It's actually possible to create a threaded view in some packages -- it's hidden as a background function in RSS Bandit -- but it's really inobvious to the casual user.

In the old format (which I agree was unsustainable), I used to be able to use Plucker to download the message to my Palm TX. (It's a huge file, and I guess an artifact now, if I haven't erased it). This was a function of the software being simpler HTML. I'd like to be able to continue to read this content on my Palm, but am pretty pessimistic about that.

I tend to use tabbed views in Thunderbird, and in the old interface would find an interesting post, and open all of the threads in a separate tab. I can still kind of do that, but the feeling is entirely different.

This is my first post on the new web site, and I'm disappointed to say that it's now about technology and not about food. I hope that you'll be able to straighten this out -- but also wonder why the technical group seemed to have reinvented the wheel, rather than using a standard open source package and extending it. That would be a community approach, rather than going out on your own, and having to do all of the support yourself."

Jul 05, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Technical interface considerations (long)

How very nice of you to say, silence9! Thank you. And I agree. It seems as though others are showing more of an interest in exploring this issue. I view this as a very positive development, indeed.

And, with time, I believe we will see even more.

Thanks again for the very nice words.

David

Jul 05, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Technical interface considerations (long)

Thanks for the reply, Jim.

"I'm wondering if it might help at least a little to remove the generic reply box below each thread, which encourages scattershot reply to anything one sees (with no preservation of threading) and breaks the discipline/habit of always hitting the reply button to the posting you want to reply to (which does preserve thread relationships)."

That would be a good beginning. I would be in favor or that.

Regarding the rest, it sounds like you guys are on it. Good to hear.

If you will kindly indulge me one final thought in passing, it would be to consider that the success of Chowhound's first 9 years was due in large measure to the threading paradigm that was implemented at the outset. Yes, it was a bandwidth hog. And certain other visual elements and processes cried out to be fixed, as well. But nowhere among them was the dominant theme of the closed thread, hierarchial text based interface. That interface helped build a community. And we all owe a debt of gratitude to the minds that were behind it.

There was hidden genius in the old design that I rarely hear talked about. Sadly, much of it was not evident to me until I found myself without suddenly without it. And now I just want it back.

In the meantime, keep up the great work. It does not go unnoticed.

David

Jul 02, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

A simple way to track anonymously

Hi Dave,

I am referring to your browser's bookmark function.

David

Jul 02, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk

Tracking people should be more private

Hey all,

Great news! I stumbled onto a way to track your favorite posters -- just like many of us would like to -- with complete anonymity!

In the interest of maintaining the continuity of the Chowhound website (being that this falls into the category of a "tip"), however, this is more appropriately discussed on the User Help board. So I posted it there.

Here is the link:

http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

Click on over and get ready to track your heart out!

David

Jul 02, 2006
David Ford in Site Talk