Chowing down with the hound. The Boston Globe's Joe Yonan spent two days with Chowhound's Alpha Dog Jim Leff and has this article to show for it and maybe an extra pound or two—by my count they sampled food from at least eleven different places. Great read, very inspiring, but be warned that you will probably be very hungry well before you get halfway through reading it. Make sure to have something tasty at hand!
On another note, one of the few non-food related things they discuss is Chowhound's money problems: "Since Leff doesn't sell advertising* or charge users, the site is regularly short on cash for server bills. The proceeds from two recent guidebooks, to New York City and San Francisco, helped, but a few months back Leff had to issue a plea for donations on the boards. He has plans to make the site more self-sufficient but won't say more."
As someone who's done design work and loves Chowhound, I have to say that I think a lot of their server issues could be addressed fairly easily if Leff was willing to rethink the way the site is set up. "On Chowhound's notoriously difficult-to-navigate website, there is a search function for those who don't want to scroll through the seemingly endless messages, but to Leff the scrolling is part of the magic. Searching is for people who want Chowhound to be Zagat: a reference rather than a celebration."
I understand how he feels but at the same time, as my friend Finn pointed out to me, Chowhound's Manhattan and Outer Borough pages are so long (posts at the bottom are up to three months old) and have such large filesizes (Manhattan currently weighs in at 4.1 MB, the size of a good length, high quality mp3) that we both frequently get bored before they finish loading on our broadband connections, or worse, they will sometimes just time out and stop loading. Chowhound gets over 800,000 visitors a month, just imagine how much bandwidth gets used up if even a fourth of them load the Manhattan page twice a week. And I know hundreds if not thousands of people must reload that page multiple times a day, every single weekday.
I was talking to a Chowhound-loving designer/programmer friend of mine almost a year ago about this and discovered that a Chowhound redesign was at the top of both our dream projects lists, maybe even pro bono. Someone please tell Jim Leff: we get the site, we'd treat it lovingly and do it justice!
This is incorrect: a few pages on the site do have Google ads. Tsk tsk, Mr Yonan.