Or at least, are the U.S. Regional Food Forums on egullet not even worth bothering with any longer?
Egullet was the first food forum I discovered, when I was just a “baby foodie.” This was, oh, maybe around 6 years ago, as I recall. I was just starting to date my sweetie at the time and we were eating out a lot, whereas before then I had mostly been cooking at home except for the very occasional restaurant splurge. Hence, I wanted to learn more about the restaurant offerings in Philly and how to best experience them.
At the time I found the forums at egullet quite educational, if intimidating. There was certainly, at least on the Pennsylvania boards, a highly active membership, albeit one that seemed very closed and “cliquish.” There were obviously Big Name Contributors there whose opinions were given the greatest merit, who commented primarily amongst themselves, who praised up certain chefs the highest and pretty much ignored all others. I know after a while I felt most comfortable just sitting back and not posting much at all, because when I did I felt my reviews/comments were largely met with silence or snarky comments that left an impression of “who is THIS person and why should HER opinion matter?” Maybe that was just me, but after years in media fandom I knew – and still know – a cliquish atmosphere when I see it.
So I found and started spending time on Chowhound’s Philly board instead, which I found a much more welcoming atmosphere. Sure there were still certain highly active posters, but it didn’t seem like their opinions were given higher weight or validity than others. I didn’t get that snobbish feeling that I did on egullet. If I was visiting a city and posted on another regional forum there for tips, I got fast and detailed responses. I stopped visiting egullet almost entirely, and indeed, it seemed as though I wasn’t the only one. Regular postings seemed to be dwindling quickly on the local boards. When I revisited egullet this morning for the first time in ages, I found a number of regional threads I’d posted in not updated since 2009-2010. The Pennsylvania dining forum only had 6 active threads since the beginning of April, which is pretty sad considering how vibrant Philly’s dining scene is. And forget New Jersey – today I updated the only thread in the entire New Jersey Dining Forum active since March.
So, what is it? Am I not seeing where all the activity on egullet still is? Or have people, like me, felt intimidated (or bored) out of there into private blogs, Chowhound, Yelp, Urbanspoon and elsewhere? Again, I won’t say I didn’t learn quite a bit from hanging around on egullet for a time. I never would have learned about certain wonderful chefs, like Shola Olunloyo, and had the chance to experience their culinary creations. And I’m not saying that other forums like Chowhound don’t have their special favorites Who Can Do No Wrong, and restaurants which are constantly hyped and promoted which, sometimes, I go and wonder what any and all of the fuss is about. But egullet just became a place I hardly felt comfortable participating in based on the attitudes so prevalent there…and I get the impression I am very much not alone in this experience.