Food Nerd Approved - Discussion

Details and discussion about the FNA program
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LaPan
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Being relatively new here I want to throw this out:

Perhaps renewals aren't necessary. Maybe a list of past years winners who can be REMOVED by a vote of no confidence. Or something like that.

Because every year fewer (%wise) renewals will be available and just because they don't have numbers for nomination shouldn't mean they lose status. They should only lose status based on quality.

Just a thought for my new year. Carry on.
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Skillet Doux
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LaPan wrote:Perhaps renewals aren't necessary. Maybe a list of past years winners who can be REMOVED by a vote of no confidence. Or something like that.

Because every year fewer (%wise) renewals will be available and just because they don't have numbers for nomination shouldn't mean they lose status. They should only lose status based on quality.
It's a really good thought, LaPan, and one that's been struggled with elsewhere :-)

The reason I launched it like this was because of the difficulty renewals presented over at LTH. The first issue was that without some mechanism to remove entries on the list, it would start to get bloated and stale. So we're definitely in agreement that there has to be some way for restaurants on the list to come off, either in an active or passive manner.

For a while, LTH experimented with an active removal nomination, similar to what you describe. The problems with this were twofold, as I recall. The first was that it just felt like an unnecessarily nasty and negative public flogging. It's one thing to let something drop off that hasn't seen a lot of recent activity, for any number of reasons. It's another to start a thread and encourage people to enumerate all of the reasons that a place should be removed. It just felt... icky. Really icky. So for starters, it just seemed at odds with maintaining a positive vibe. Also, because it made people feel icky to come out and say, "This place shouldn't be on the list anymore," people were reluctant to suggest removal of restaurants that really should have been removed, so it didn't alleviate the bloated list problem as intended.

The current system over there is one of automatic renewal nomination, where inclusion on the list is for a set time, and at the end of that period, it's automatically up for renewal. The biggest problem with this, in my estimation, is that there's a tendency for many on a board like this to be nostalgic about old favorites, even if they haven't visited them in years and aren't aware of the fact that they've gone downhill. In other words, simply adding a +1 to an old favorite seems like too low a bar, I think.

Which brings us to our system here. The idea is that it's simple and flexible. It really does focus on what we've been most excited about over the past year. And there's nothing stopping anybody from going back to look at previous years. In a week or two, I'm going to reformat slightly so that all of that info is easily accessible. If a place really drops off in quality, no need to make a scene about it -- nobody will re-nominate it. Or if a place drops off one year because we kind of overlooked it, no worries... there's absolutely nothing stopping us from adding it back to the list next year. It ensures that the list stays fresh, and keeps the bar to inclusion just high enough so that renewals aren't difficult to obtain, but aren't simply rubber stamped as a matter of habit, either.

None of which is to say that I don't think we should consider changes if we feel the format as-is isn't working. But FYI, the current format was my attempt to alleviate the problems I've seen on another board with a system like the one you describe.
Dominic Armato
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LaPan
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I understand your point. However, then it is up to the rest of us here to report any changes. Not as in "take this off" but comments that the elder's can use when making determinations. Also, there should be people posting about going there more than one person once a year. No going on reputation, but on what's happening latest. We've all witnessed restaurants, cafés going down.

And, let me bring up another issue:

I've noticed quite a few of you have a personal relationship with some restaurants. And, when looking at some pictures (with that seemingly comfort level) and comparing those with the food I have been served as a normal customer nobody knows, there has been (at times) a big difference. Also, knowing what to order as opposed what they recommend (as in the China Magic Noodle House thing Garden) makes a huge difference. I know it's a hard one to police...
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Skillet Doux
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LaPan wrote:I understand your point. However, then it is up to the rest of us here to report any changes. Not as in "take this off" but comments that the elder's can use when making determinations.
It's up to everybody to do so. One of the great battles, IMO, is in reminding people -- hey, just because it's been on the list before, don't say "Oh, everybody knows this place," and stop writing about it. Even if it's just a short post, good or bad, take just a minute or two to give a little update. It's in people's nature to post less about places that aren't novel anymore, and I am way open to suggestions on any way to help with that, because personally speaking, it's one of the things that's most frustrating to me.
LaPan wrote:Also, there should be people posting about going there more than one person once a year. No going on reputation, but on what's happening latest. We've all witnessed restaurants, cafés going down.
Completely agreed. That said, because of the tendency for people to post less about places that have already been written about a lot, in the case of renewals I don't think it's unreasonable to set the bar a little differently than for new nominees. For a new nominee, I think there has to be a robust posting record over the previous year. For a renewal, I feel like I can overlook a somewhat lighter posting record over the year if there's big swell of support in the nomination thread itself. Now, there's no hard and fast rule about that, and every person on the panel makes his or her own determination as to where and how to draw that line. But it's certainly something we discussed.
I've noticed quite a few of you have a personal relationship with some restaurants. And, when looking at some pictures (with that seemingly comfort level) and comparing those with the food I have been served as a normal customer nobody knows, there has been (at times) a big difference. Also, knowing what to order as opposed what they recommend (as in the China Magic Noodle House thing Garden) makes a huge difference. I know it's a hard one to police...
This is, without question, a really difficult thing (though I'd be really, really curious to know what you got that didn't look anything like something you saw, since with almost all of these places, everybody here was a "normal" customer when we first discovered and started writing about it). I think the first key is that you noticed those relationships. They should be clear. That's why it's a firm policy of the site to disclose friendly connections you have with anyplace you post about. If you see a post where that isn't mentioned, a quick scroll up the thread should reveal one where that connection is made clear. And if it isn't, then I'm not being vigilant enough, but I've tried to be very careful about that and remind people when they need to disclose a relationship they have with someplace. If it isn't from reading the thread, then that's not okay. And I don't mean it in a gotcha way -- sometimes people forget, sometimes they don't make something as clear as they think they are -- but it is something we need to be cognizant of and (hopefully in a friendly manner) help to police each other on. But I also think it behooves those who don't have positive experiences, and suspect that it's for that reason, to simply post and say, hey, I went, and that's not what I got at all. There's a fine line between being a jerk and adding contrast, but I think we're all capable of walking it, and not getting bent out of shape when people do. What's more, the nomination threads have mostly been lovefests. And the support is wonderful, but personally speaking, I hope folks don't hesitate to take an adversarial position if they feel a nomination isn't merited (see LGO, last year). And my hope is that when that happens, we can put on the gloves, duke it out, and then step out of the ring and go out to eat together. But I still think that's different that starting nominations specifically for the purpose of kicking somebody off the list. One feels like good, honest discussion to me. The other seems needlessly nasty, when there's a perfectly good alternative -- letting a place that's fallen out of favor for whatever reason quietly drop off.

As for knowing what to order -- that's what the site's for, man! Collective knowledge! Read the thread :-)

I think I understand the underlying point of what you're getting at. It's really easy for things to get a little cliquish if we're not careful. And we need to do everything we can to avoid that. I think the biggest part of that is being as welcoming as possible to every person who delurks and starts posting, encourage them to come out and eat, encourage them to post. But I'm not sure that I see how changing dropping restaurants off the list from a passive to an active process helps that. If anything, I would think making it an active process would make it harder to remove something from the list, because somebody has to be willing to step up and make the case. Or perhaps I misunderstand what you mean.
Dominic Armato
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Skillet Doux
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One other note... I don't know who said it first, but we caused a minor tremor with all of the head bobbing when it came up. I don't think I'm speaking out of turn when I say that one thing all five panelists wished was different about this year's FNA nominations was that there was commentary from a broader group of people. As I mentioned elsewhere, nearly half of this year's nominees came from people who weren't on the board last year, and that's great. But there definitely was a "same crowd" feeling to a lot of the commentary, despite the fact that we have a pretty broad base of regular and semi-regular contributors now. I don't think anybody wants that to be the case, and if there's something anybody thinks we can do to encourage those folks to weigh in come FNA time, I'd really love to know, because I see no reason why each of those nomination threads shouldn't have comments from 20 or 30 people, both positive and negative.
Dominic Armato
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Skillet Doux
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Incidentally, one thought I've kind of tossed around in my head is possibly expanding the panel next year to include a couple of folks who -- at the time the panel meets -- are enthusiastic and involved, but relatively new additions to the board, as kind of a check against the older members getting stuck in the bubble, so to speak.
Dominic Armato
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BarbaraToombs
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LaPan wrote:Also, there should be people posting about going there more than one person once a year.
Exactly...which is why I ended up voting against my own nominee, Beckett's Table. There were just too few posts, and mostly by the same people. I really, really wish more people would get commenting...whether good or bad, new place or old place, just one line or a few paragraphs!!! That's what this "community" is supposed to be all about.
LaPan wrote:I've noticed quite a few of you have a personal relationship with some restaurants. And, when looking at some pictures (with that seemingly comfort level) and comparing those with the food I have been served as a normal customer nobody knows, there has been (at times) a big difference.
Like Dom said, these have largely been developed by going there, not knowing anyone or anything about the place, liking what I get, going back, start asking questions, talking to the chef, going back again, etc, etc. I met a few chefs from back in my days of working for a "lifestyle newspaper," where I had to interview a fair amount of them, and I've kept tabs on where they're going and what they're doing...but most of the relationships are purely based on just going to their place a lot and liking what I'm getting. Am really surprised you would have a different experience with the food whether you know the chef/staff or not...I've referred lots of people to my favorite places, and have never had a complaint. I would be curious to hear specifics, too. I admit I have been slightly disappointed at times when I've gone to a place and the chef isn't in house that day, and someone else is at the helm...sometimes it does show in terms of quality. But I don't think it has anything to do with whether I know the chef or not...it's just that the #2 or #3 person in charge doesn't quite do things the same!
LaPan wrote:Also, knowing what to order as opposed what they recommend (as in the China Magic Noodle House thing Garden) makes a huge difference.
Most definitely....and, as Skillet Doux points out, that is exactly one of the things this board helps with. In fact, when I went to Umami just yesterday, although I'd been there before, I perused the thread again, taking note of what was most recently ordered and what was liked. I saw someone say the spam add-on to the ramen was good -- something I would never have ordered had I just walked in unaware -- so I got it. And boy, was I glad I did! I use the threads as a resource all the time, and encourage my non-Food Nerd friends to check it out constantly (especially every time I get asked, "Hey...where's a good place to eat in Tucson/Flagstaff/etc").
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Skillet Doux
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Hey, all!

With apologies for the delay (some difficulty with the sticker order), certificates and stickers for 2014 FNA are all set to go. As before, the nominating member is first in line to make the presentation, so drop me a line and we can make arrangements to hand off the goods. If you'd prefer not to make the presentation for your nominee, no problem -- one of the panel members will be happy to do it for you. It's especially fun to plan a little lunch/gathering around a presentation, but it certainly isn't necessary. And especially considering the delay with the stickers, I think it best to get these out as soon as possible.

I'll drop all of the nominating members a PM as well.
Dominic Armato