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Food forums versus food blogs


Jon Tseng
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Evening all.

Just been ruminating recently on how the rise of food blogs has impacted food forums such as eGullet et al. There has undoubtedly been an impact but I'm unclear what it has been.

Some observations (in no apparent order).

Apologies if there is already a thread on this and I've missed it. If there is pls merge.

** Food blogs mean less content for food forums. This is the simple observation that in the days before food blogs were mainstream, I assume most of the user generated content on them would have had to have been posted onto a food forum like eG if the authors wanted to present it to the wider world.

** Food blogs have grown the market for internet food writing. Food forums tend to be more niche / specialist / geeky (call it what you will). Food blogs (or blogs in general) are a more mainstream form of media.

** Food blog authors can (sometimes) provide welcome new blood to food forums. There is a symbiotic relationship here - often food bloggers post content (or partial content) on food forums in order to promote and drive traffic to their blogs. However while some don't add more beyond this (a practice I disapprove of), others also contribute to the forums they post on. Many of the enthusiastic new board members I have observed on eG and other boards have come from the food blogger community.

** Food blogs are not food forums. Just to make that point before someone else does. Yes they are different things - obviously food forums more interactive. But there are overlaps in form and function.

** Food blogs mean the online food community is more fragmented. I think this is the biggest negative impact - previously internet food content was driven and centralised on the big food forum sites because there as no other outlet. Now food blogs and linking to other blogs etc provide alternative venues for that content. I think this diminishes the centrality of the food forum in the ecosystem, although as I noted the ecosystem itself has been grown by the explosion in blogs and blog readership.

** People are more likely to be passive participants in food blogs. i.e. just readers. This is sort of a truism given what I noted earlier that food forums are more interactive. And the counter argument to this would be that are also innumerable lurkers on food forums too...

Any thoughts welcome.

J

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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** Food blogs mean less content for food forums. This is the simple observation that in the days before food blogs were mainstream, I assume most of the user generated content on them would have had to have been posted onto a food forum like eG if the authors wanted to present it to the wider world.

Possibly, although I think the forums still provide a better interactive space in which to post. If you post as a blog, you lack the feedback (and corrections) that come back freely to you.

Consider the forums as an effective form of fact checking, or of peer review. Heck, several of the senior members freely use the forum for gathering material for commercial purposes. I think that, as long as they stay open to a reasonably wide variety of input, the forums like eGullet will stay relevant. It's only when they try to constrain the material too tightly that they run the risk of failure (which only means that the bulk of the readers will go elsewhere. What's it cost to keep a site up?)

** Food blogs have grown the market for internet food writing. Food forums tend to be more niche / specialist / geeky (call it what you will). Food blogs (or blogs in general) are a more mainstream form of media.

I wouldn't say that they've "grown the market". That would imply a commercial element. I believe the blogs have opened up a unique form of expression for a lot of people, but it runs the risk of providing a stage for monologues, rather than dialogues.

The trend towards geekiness in the forums is of their own doing. To distinguish themselves from the blogs, they grow more restrictive, and in so doing, drive more people to blogging, in response to which, they have to distinguish the forum from the blogs, and so become more restrictive.....

** Food blog authors can (sometimes) provide welcome new blood to food forums. There is a symbiotic relationship here - often food bloggers post content (or partial content) on food forums in order to promote and drive traffic to their blogs.  However while some don't add more beyond this (a practice I disapprove of), others also contribute to the forums they post on. Many of the enthusiastic new board members I have observed on eG and other boards have come from the food blogger community.

When they do come aboard, I quite agree. But I'm observing most of the traffic going the otehr way, with more people spending less time in the forums, and more time on their own sites, cross referencing each other. That's not a bad thing, but it does lead to smaller networks (and to the fragmentation you talk about).

The "partial content" item may or may not be driven from the food blogger side. Many of the forums (eGullet included) have extremely rigid rules on what can and cannot be discussed (food topics only, for example), so I can understand that some bloggers would post abridged versions of their material in order to comply with the restrictions of the forum, and then post the richer, more entertaining version in a linked site.

** Food blogs mean the online food community is more fragmented. I think this is the biggest negative impact - previously internet food content was driven and centralised on the big food forum sites because there as no other outlet. Now food blogs and linking to other blogs etc provide alternative venues for that content. I think this diminishes the centrality of the food forum in the ecosystem, although as I noted the ecosystem itself has been grown by the explosion in blogs and blog readership.

This touches upon the relevance of the forums. The concept should be to engage people in discussions of issues, and to build a community, a confrerie (sorry if that sounds sexist). But, that being said, if there's no fun to be had, then, like a cockroach cadre exposed to the harsh fluorescent kitchen lighting, the audience will disperse. The problem then is one of devolution, a rigid, sophisticated skeletal structure of communications falling away to a mass of single-celled organisms (but I do like the cockroach simile better).

Perhaps what we are seeing is the end of universality? Consider the "good old days" when a university education meant that you could learn "everything". Okay, that was a few hundred years ago......but maybe what we have been seeing of late is the evolution of a new system, without a centre?

** People are more likely to be passive participants in food blogs. i.e. just readers.  This is sort of a truism given what I noted earlier that food forums are more interactive. And the counter argument to this would be that are also innumerable lurkers on food forums too...

As you say, it's a truism. Blogging is monologuing, while a forum, if handled properly is either an active discussion, or a story-telling session with a rowdy audience. Both are worth the efforts that go into them. Blogging, to me, still seems like a voice in the wilderness. Some may catch and keep your attention, but they're rare beasts indeed.

And, as for the lurkers.....it's a thing of joy when they are lured out in the forums. I don't think you'll ever accomplish that in blogs (stalkers, yes.....)

Good topic, Jon

:smile:

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold... " William Butler Yeats' The Second Coming, published in 1921.

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I think these are largely valid points. Certainly the various megadiscussion sites have lost a certain amount of the leading-edge currency they had 5 years ago.

I also believe that the first online discussion forum that figures out a way to aggregate participating blogs from a wide variety of platforms in a seamless way that manages to preserve the individuality and control of the blogs for the bloggers, makes it convenient for participants to find, view and comment on a large number of blogs that interest them, and which also preserves the "start a thread and have a group discussion" aspect of the megadiscussion forums, will stand a very good chance of becoming or remaining the "next big thing." This is, of course, largely a technological matter.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

--

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.....

I also believe that the first online discussion forum that figures out a way to aggregate participating blogs from a wide variety of platforms in a seamless way that manages to preserve the individuality and control of the blogs for the bloggers, makes it convenient for participants to find, view and comment on a large number of blogs that interest them, and which also preserves the "start a thread and have a group discussion" aspect of the megadiscussion forums, will stand a very good chance of becoming or remaining the "next big thing."  This is, of course, largely a  technological matter.

The bringing together of food websites was a founding concept of eGullet.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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I also believe that the first online discussion forum that figures out a way to aggregate participating blogs from a wide variety of platforms in a seamless way that manages to preserve the individuality and control of the blogs for the bloggers, makes it convenient for participants to find, view and comment on a large number of blogs that interest them, and which also preserves the "start a thread and have a group discussion" aspect of the megadiscussion forums, will stand a very good chance of becoming or remaining the "next big thing."  This is, of course, largely a  technological matter.

The bringing together of food websites was a founding concept of eGullet.

Oh yes, you're right. I'd completely forgotten that! http://web.archive.org/web/20010806023705/...ww.egullet.com/

I suppose at the time all the individual affiliate sites were like analogous to individual blogs. I guess the analogy is that over time eGullet consolidated many of the old affiliate websites (e.g. Andy Lynes old site or fat-guy.com).

I think it would be harder to achieve that now - the whole point of blogs and the blogosphere is that its led to fragmentation of internet food discussion. It has achieved this by structurally lowering the barriers to entry for setting up a website.

I think ultimately blogs mean that megaforums get a smaller slice of the pie, although of course the pie itself may be larger.

J

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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While I certainly can agree with all of your assertions, my experience is that neither the forums nor blogs can be whitewashed quite that nicely. When I first arrived at eG I was seeking a resource of knowledge. There has definitely proven true, but I also discovered a community as a nice side perk.

When I started my blog it was to have an outlet without inhibition. I find it nearly impossible to discuss a meal without relating to the context within which it is set. But in some forums that is what you are expected to do. I also participate in forums such as foodieblogroll, that seek to be the convergence point for all bloggers, but have zero moderation (that I have seen-and in that instance I've yet to see a need for any moderation). Both forum and blog have their role, and depending on my mood and the placement of the moon, that will dictate to me which outlet I am seeking.

The grail that I've been seeking in my little niche is a site that becomes the convergence of related blogs/twitters/facebooks, etc. In essence this idea creates a page of summary blurbs that you can 'click to read more,' but allows for evolving technology and allows for self-regulated content.

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I also believe that the first online discussion forum that figures out a way to aggregate participating blogs from a wide variety of platforms in a seamless way that manages to preserve the individuality and control of the blogs for the bloggers, makes it convenient for participants to find, view and comment on a large number of blogs that interest them, and which also preserves the "start a thread and have a group discussion" aspect of the megadiscussion forums, will stand a very good chance of becoming or remaining the "next big thing."  This is, of course, largely a  technological matter.

Sam, this is genius.

There just needs to be a plug-in for the blog software to give the user an easy way to repost a blog entry to a forum.

Upon a cursory search, I could not find anything like this in existence.

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I don't think you want to re-post the blog entry to the forum so much as you want to be able to pull the blog entry and somehow display the content incorporated into the megadiscussion site in a reasonably organic way that also preserves the individuality and graphics of the blog. You would want to make it possible for people to comment on the blogs using the same login that they used to post to the forums.

--

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  • 2 years later...

Afternoon all.

I thought I'd resurrect this topic.

----------------------

What prompted this is that I've come back more regularly to eG after a while out and noticed postings are way down. A few years back using the Recent Active Content function was unusable as there were just too many new posts every day. Now there tends to be maybe two pages every day of new posts. It seemed clear to me numbers are way down.

That's sort of surprised me given that in the past there has always been a steady stream of new users. I'm sure internet usage has continued to rise over the last few years, even though its perhaps reaching some level of saturation. Certainly it hasn't dropped.

So the questions which has been puzzling me is "where have all the foodies gone". I wondered if they have simply gone to other food boards but I can't really see anywhere else which has massively ramped in presence in the last few years (Chowhound I guess remains popular but its very hard to follow). Perhaps people have gone to regional fora.

The conclusion I'm reaching I think whats happened is peoples behaviour is changing and they are getting their internet foodie fix much more from blogs now and presumably from Twitter. I simply can't see where everyone could have gone otherwise.

Hence my thinking about this issue which I raised a couple of years back. I suspect my original conclusions are coming true, although more dramatically than I expected at the time:

I think it would be harder to achieve that now - the whole point of blogs and the blogosphere is that its led to fragmentation of internet food discussion. It has achieved this by structurally lowering the barriers to entry for setting up a website.

I think ultimately blogs mean that megaforums get a smaller slice of the pie, although of course the pie itself may be larger.

----------------------

So I thought I'd throw in some more random thoughts into the discussion. I'd be interested in hearing what people think.

*** This may be a natural outcome from the democratisation of online foodie-ism: We used to be all very nichey and specialised. If I think back to what fine dining was like before the interweb came along, I think it would have been much more exclusive (this is my conjecture). Now blogs and twitter make it much more accessible. This changes the target market and the nature of the industry.

Perhaps the shift from food fora to blogs and twitter reflects this. Much like video gaming has moved away from the hardcore PS3 generation to casual angry birds gamers on their mobile phones.

*** I think there is less utility in new online foodie-ism: This expands on a point I made two years ago. A blog is more passive, its much less interactive than a food forum. Similarly on Twitter theres a very hard limit on how much content you can get in there. Surely the experience is less richer? But then again it seems to be more popular.

*** New online foodie-ism is more accessible: Perhaps this is why reason why its more popular. Clearly Twitter has an immediacy that online food forums don't have. Similarly blogs are more functionally limited but more accessible - no need to register and lurk and be scared you'll be flamed and pluck up the courage to post. Less rough and tumble in this work.

*** Whither Facebook? Facebook seems to have had limited intrusion into this world at the moment. This seems slightly strange as its pretty ubiquitous and there is ample ability to create Facebook pages and discussion groups. Sure people post pics of meals and stuff but often its more linking to their blog. I'm curious why Facebook hasn't gotten a bigger part of the online discussion. Then again maybe it has?

*** Bad news for online food forums: I worry that the communities like this one increasingly feel like web 1.0 dinosaurs, no longer leading the online debate. Becoming a diminishing talking shop. At least on the UK boards I normally freqeuent there are a handful of regular posters. Out of what 6 million people in London? 60 million in the UK? Something feels very wrong about this. There are dozens of Londoners willing to take the time and effort to set up their own food blogs, but only a handful willing to participate in online forums. Strange.

*** Fragmentation? I guess my conclusion a couple of years ago was that we have significant fragmentation in the online community. I guess thats sort of true (people aren't using online hubs like eGullet) but also not true (people are more closely networked twittering and retweeting, but the network is less tight and controlled).

*** Fora have not adjusted well to the shift: Looking at the original discussions on this thread there was some chat about harnessing the power of blogs, but I don't think much has come of it. And bear in mind I don't think thats a fault specifically of eG - I guess no one from forum land strikes me as having adjusted well. The point of interaction with a blog is still the naked "heres my write up of xyz... see this post on my blog for more details). I don't see a point of interaction with Twitter. Maybe there are practical reasons for this (being locked into proprietary Invision software makes it harder to change quickly?)

In summary a bunch of thoughts. Not all of them pleasant reading for us. But the times have been a changing and will continue to change.

What do people think???

J

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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It is, by construction, substantially more difficult to post on a forum than it is to post on a blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter: I think this manages to be both a strength and a weakness of forums. If you want to post on a forum, at the very least you have to decide which forum to post in. If you are a knowledgeable forums denizen you will probably also want to search for related topics first, rather than simply starting a new one. Whereas if you want to post at Twitter, you just type your 140 characters and hit "Go." On mobile devices it's even easier, of course: the iPhone has "Tweet" buttons all over the place. Alas, there is no "Post on eG Forums" button (and there can't be... where would it get posted?). So forums force you to perform some categorization work that you don't have to do to post at Twitter. I think it makes forums more readable and in some sense more useful (depending on the use) than Twitter etc., but it means the volume is going down.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I think most net users look for pure entertainment, so a blog like Eater is more appealing. A little gossip... a little news...a food scandal.

eG requires some engagement.

I don't find Eater to be a blog; to me, it's more of a compiler, with occasional longer pieces.

I blog because I simply wanted something to call my own, much of which has no place here on eG. And I post on eG because I enjoy the interaction with all of the members here.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Sometimes there's just a changing of the guard on forums that effects traffic. Whether by design or happenstance, I don't know... but I think eGullet is morphing from playground to library to some extent. Most people are going to pop into the library only when they need the information available and then head for the playground the rest of the time.

I found eGullet at what I think was near the point where this swing was beginning to take place. There was a lot of posting going on, people we're enthusiastic about creating fun events within the forums, a lot of really cool interactions were taking place. Search for the "Supreme eGullet Pastry and Baking Challenges" for a good example of the sort of thing I'm talking about. Fun events that encouraged participation.

eGullet is an amazing source of information but it feels almost like it's becoming encyclopedic, lots of information but a bit down on the fun at times. A lot of the friendly banter that used to take place in discussions seems to be frowned upon and even moderated out unless it very directly relates to the topic at hand. That's a decidedly unnatural way for people to interact and discourages doing much more than ask question/receive answer/move along. Unfortunately, I'm well aware of what can happen with unfettered internet people so set boundaries become a necessary thing.

All of which is to say that I don't think blogs are killing the forum star, I think forums just have rises and declines at points along their timeline as a natural part of their existence. Some weather the declines and some don't. I think eGullet will be okay.

Edited by Tri2Cook (log)

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Whether by intent, happenstance or a combination of the two, eGullet has moved away from eating/dining and towards cooking/baking. There was a time when the NY dining section was one of the most active if not the most active forum within eGullet - at least a few posts an hour. Today I went to post a question about Shake Shack and it was the first post in NY dining in three days. Same with Philadelphia and probably the other regional forums. eGullet is no longer the place to go to keep up on what is happening in regional dining scenes.

For me, Twitter has replaced eGullet for Philadelphia and national dining news. I follow media, blogs, chefs, restaurants and eaters. I get the gist in 140 characters and usually can follow an embedded link if I want more information.

Twitter is not good for dialogue, a conversation. This is where eGullet shines. I think there was more ardor, more controversy, more rollick in the past. I miss the fervor. Becoming a Society has probably led to eGullet putting away its childish ways for more serious conversation. And at that, especially in cooking/baking, eGullet still excels.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

Twitter

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Whether by intent, happenstance or a combination of the two, eGullet has moved away from eating/dining and towards cooking/baking. There was a time when the NY dining section was one of the most active if not the most active forum within eGullet - at least a few posts an hour. Today I went to post a question about Shake Shack and it was the first post in NY dining in three days.

First off, thank you Jon Tseng, for bringing this up - you have articulated well observations that have piqued the minds of long-time members here, and surely other fora, I feel.

We now know upon the invention of forums, and blogs for that matter, the free-for-all that ensued caused growing pains that are well-noted all over the web. Newer venues like twitter and facebook, along with easy-to-build blog software further encourage those with a yen to speak their minds away from communities like eGullet, especially when some form of rule structure is imposed.

Regarding Mr. Moore's observation, the dining/restaurant posts will have a certain shelf life since restaurants come and go, rendering them, in time, practically valueless except to track a chef's resume, perhaps. But cooking chicken or baking cakes aren't subject to that dynamic, so the metamorphosis here from free-form yak-fest to library of culinary knowledge shows much foresight, I think.

And the decrease in volume may signal Tri2Cooks astute observation:

Most people are going to pop into the library only when they need the information available and then head for the playground the rest of the time.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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