Anyone who participates on discussion boards knows that there are rules the posters must follow. You can’t provoke others, or make offensive posts. Religious, sexual and overtly political topics are often off-limits. Many places make sure that all discussions stay on topic. When a poster violates the forum’s rules, that post is deleted. If the poster is a recidivist offender, he or she is eventually banished from the forum.
It seems that one particular food discussion board, Chowhound, has become notoriously arbitrary in how it polices its board. In fact, I posted the following earlier today in response to a question about Triangle restaurants that could handle a business dinner for 14:
You could give Jujube in Chapel Hill a try. They have an area off to the side that would work. The upstairs of Piedmont could work well. If you want to go to Raleigh, Fins has a nice private room and a semi-private room. You really won’t have any problems finding a decent place. An in Cary is a very nice restaurant. As said before, it really depends on what you’re looking for.
Pretty benign, right? I was simply making recommendations on places I know pretty well. Nothing earth-shattering by any means. However, within seconds of posting, I receive this email:
Hi Varmint, you’ve been sent the following by a Chowhound moderator:
We are not currently accepting postings about Jujube. Please refrain from posting further about this place while we investigate a problem with some postings about this restaurant.
The Chowhound Team
So I picked up the phone and called Charlie Deal, the owner of Jujube, who told me that this has been going on for months. Deal, who posts at Chowhound, eGullet and other forums under the user name “detlefchef”, has no idea why discussion of his restaurant has been banned. Anyone who even mentions “Jujube” in the discussion will have his post deleted. Individuals have even posted questions on the Chowhound “Site Talk” forum, asking why the ban, but those posts get deleted, too. What’s the big conspiracy? Is Charlie Deal a mass murderer who lures people to his restaurant for their final demise? Is Jujube a front for the Russian mob? Are those shiitake mushrooms he serves laced with psilocybin? It’s got to be something that serious, because Chowhound doesn’t want us talking about Jujube.
Some posts get through, as a search of Chowhound indicates that Jujube was mentioned as recently as September 29th, so I really haven’t a clue which posts are targeted by the Chowhound moderators.
Banning discussions of particular restaurants is nothing new on Chowhound, as the blog Eater frequently reports. And they have banned a lot of users for being restaurant shills (often unfounded). But to institute a complete ban of all discussion of a restaurant — a well-respected chef-owned restaurant — without letting anyone know the reasons why is peculiar at best, and downright tyrannical and paranoid at worst.
Of course, I have a solution: let’s just call the restaurant something else – our own code word for Jujube. That’s what I did as a follow-up, calling it “Voldemort”, the restaurant that shan’t be named.