A Brief Rant About Hotline Questions

I guess every 52er has a different reason for perusing/ spending time on the Hotline. (I am new to 52) and I 'do' the Hotline for 2 reasons. Primarily, I want to see if i can help someone. Secondarily, there are lots of things to learn from the many knowledgeable 52ers who are so generous with their time as to teach us valuable lessons and provide helpful information.

But i have a major problem that i need to rant about. It really disappoints me that a significant number of questions could be answered if the poster:
a) put their index finger to good use by simply clicking 'google'
b) learned to fill in the 'searchbox' at the top of every Hotline page (a Searchbox that has CATegories, no less, to make the search even easier.)

c) did a little homework before asking the question

As a perpetually curious person, incuding perpetually curious chef,I full well know what it's like to just not have time or energy to do homework before asking a question. In that case, I try to mea culpa (i.e. ask forgiveness)in my question intro.

Certainly you can say to me that we are free to answer or not answer Hotline questions- "It's a free country" and all that. Absolutely. Agreed. But it just disheartens me, makes me lose interest in trying to help, and lowers my general level of respect for more and more of the population of question posters.

End of rant. But how I wish there would be a permanent heading, under the FOOD52HOTLINE heading, that says this:
"Before posting your question, Have you tried using the Searchbox feature in the top righthand corner of this page?And don't forget Google !"

This is probably too harsh for most of you, but I would also add "We are a helpful group of chefs but you need to do some of your own homework as well!"

The kinds of irksome questions I'm referring to are like:
"What are dal?"
"What's a good recipe for rice pilaf?"
" At what temperature does water boil?"
" How many kinds of pizza toppings are there?"
"What can I use in place of buttermilk?"

Fortunately, there are tons of excellent valid questions on the Hotline, and it's wonderful to see the generous spirit and broad knowledge that our community has.
For that, I feel continually fortunate.

LeBec Fin


sheredel April 21, 2012
as a "novice" or like to think advanced "novice" have appreciated being able to ask a less sophisticated question, feel welcomed for asking and not looked down on for the ignorance. Sure hope we keep it that way here at Food52!
puttakka April 21, 2012
I stand by what I said Chef Ono. The rant itself is rude to all those people who have what you consider simple questions. But we are entitled to our opinions, aren't we? That's mine.
ChefOno April 21, 2012

Of course you are entitled to your opinion. You are not entitled to be rude when expressing it. Perceived rudeness never excuses an impolite response, that's basic etiquette. Three other posters said exactly the same thing you did yet managed to do so in an inoffensive manner. Let me put it another way: Would you tell your mother to "get a life"?
LucyS April 21, 2012
Le Bec Fin - Sorry I can't just reply directly to you. I understand completely what you are saying, and thanks for the kind words. The concern I was trying to raise was that if we start branding questions as lazy or too basic, people might start feeling too self-conscious to post something that they really need an answer to. The amount of talent on this site is amazing and can be intimidating! But it's also great that people can feel that they can ask almost anything and get a good answer. I guess I'd rather see a few questions that might seem lazy (though there might be different explanations or situations behind each) mixed in than risk losing that acceptance.
puttakka April 21, 2012
Le Bec Fin - get a life. If you don't want to answer "lazy" questions, ignore them and move on.
ChefOno April 21, 2012

That was rude and uncalled for. This entire thread, from rant to the various responses needed to be said. Minds have been changed, positions mellowed, good discussion. If you don't have anything polite to say, just be quiet and move on.
Panfusine April 21, 2012
I completely second ChefOno on this ( just too chicken to say it aloud first),
we did have a rather harsh string of posts some time ago that really left everyone with a bad aftertaste that none of us wants to go thru with again.
food discussions come up, there is a fabulous exchange of ideas & thoughts & opinions that gets shared that none of us want to dismiss in a brusque manner. Its part of this community.
LucyS April 20, 2012
I hope hotline never becomes a forum where I'm afraid to ask a question because I think people will lose respect for me. I like to think of myself as a decent cook, but I am much, much less experienced than most people here. But I love to cook and I want to learn from them, and it's great that they want to help. Sometimes it's very heartening to get an answer to an - albeit simple - question from someone you recognize. Yes, you can google it, but as others have mentioned the results are often contradictory and I trust Food52 users. If I'm spending a lot of time or money on something I'm cooking, I want some authority, and I feel like I can get this here even if the answer is obvious to some users.

No matter how good at cooking or baking or whatever you are, there is always going to be someone else out there who is better than you. Sometimes I'm going to ask questions that other users think are unnecessary or stupid, and sometimes they will, like you, not want to help. I'm sorry if that bothers you, or makes you lose respect for me, but so be it. Personally, I would hate to see this forum become somewhere where people are too embarrassed by their lack of experience to ask for help.
LeBec F. April 21, 2012
Lucy, i am the OP of this thread and I completely agree with you. i don't think this forum will ever turn away people with questions.Just to reiterate what i said at the beginning, i 'do' the hotline to a) help people and b) learn. I was very specific about the kinds of questions i was ranting about. Things like 'what is dal?' and 'at what temp does water boil?' ; lazy questions. I bet you never ask questions like that. And I, like you, am thrilled to be part of a community that is so helpful and generous with their time and knowledge on the 52 Hotline.The way to have what we want is to share what we have.
ellenl April 20, 2012
I have always learned so much from the hotline.
Amanda H. April 20, 2012
Hotline was designed to be a resource and help line for cooks of all levels. We remember those days when we were just starting out in the kitchen and didn't know simple things like how much water to put in the bottom of a double boiler, and how great it was when someone could kindly help us out. We thought it would be great to give every cook a chance to have their cooking questions answered by a person, and one with more experience. That's the most powerful way to get more people in the kitchen, which is our mission here at Food52.

We also wanted expert cooks to have both a place to share their knowledge and to ask more sophisticated questions and receive answers by peers who were equally savvy cooks.

We love that Hotline has grown into a rich and varied daily conversation. We don't think of it as a forum (forums tend to become balkanized or inert, and we don't want this), we actually see it as a problem solving service and wonderful way of building community. When someone helps you out with a cooking problem, you connect with that person in a meaningful way.

We would like to note that, yes, there are some joke questions that come in, but that's bound to happen with a service that is so open. No need to answer them -- in fact, if you don't it's more helpful to us because when a question isn't answered in 15 minutes, the Food52 staff receives an email with the question and link, so we can see that it's a joke question or spam and can go in and delete it.

We have lots of plans for Hotline, many of which should solve some of the issues raised here. Repeat questions, for instance. We're working on a way to bring up previously asked questions (and similar questions) as you ask your new question. And we're planning to divide Hotline into topic areas so you can follow specific topics -- like bread baking, preserving, etc -- that interest you.

What we ask for here is for everyone to be generous with each other and patient with us. Thanks so much!
LeBec F. April 20, 2012
wow, those plans sound terrific! particularly the dividing of Hotline into topic areas. And I'm so glad you told us about the 'after 15 minutes and no answer, a flag goes up to the staff so they can see if the question is spam.' That information would be so great as a subheading- to remind 52ers. (Otherwise, people who haven't read this thread- will not know, and others may forget.)
What do you think of the subheading ideas some of us have suggested, amanda? (similar in spirit and concept to the subheading info on the recipe submittal page)?
TheFritschKitchen April 20, 2012
I don't want to add to much to the conversation here, as I think both sides have had their say. However, with regards to the more simple questions, sometimes google doesn't work. It will give you too many results which often contradict each other. With the choice between googling and hoping to be lucky with the results vs. asking our wonderful community, I believe the answer is obvious. Plus, I think we're all missing an important part, all questions open a discussion! When you answer my simple question, I can reply - maybe question further, or ask additional advice. It's like calling your mom and asking "what temperature do I roast chicken at again?" You trust her. Type that into google and see how many *different* answers you get!
TheFritschKitchen April 20, 2012
A simple maybe even irksome question I've called and asked my own mother at least 4 times.
Panfusine April 20, 2012
beautifully stated.. The hotline definitely has a 'calling mommy to ask her' aspect about it & that makes the experience personal!
drbabs April 20, 2012
As someone who both asks and answers questions, I have to plead guilty to asking questions without searching. (last week's question about a stain on my clothes--i was desperate! And I read the site almost every day and didn't remember that question being asked before! Sorry!) Hotline is fabulous--I learn so much--and I love how we all support each other as part of a community--that really shows up here. So I would hate it if there were caveats. Sometimes the most fun threads are the random ones like what are you making for dinner tonight, or what weird food combinations do you like. The group was generous to share a love of books when I asked for book ideas--how many of you didn't find a book that you wanted to read from that thread? I guess what I'm saying is that you're free to bypass any questions you don't want to read or answer, but I'd hate for the editors of the website to start censoring questions or pushing people away from the site. That really isn't in the spirit of what I think of as the community. Also, there are always new ideas from questions that have been asked before, and sometimes conversations just go off into interesting threads that have little to do with the original question. To me, that is what is so fun about this site. And what gets me to look at it every day. So thank you, Le Bec Fin, for posting such an interesting and thought-provoking question.
ChefOno April 20, 2012

Not much to add to what's already been intelligently discussed except perhaps this:

SKK, I think I understand where you're coming from but I enjoy the threads that are only peripherally related to food. Judging from the number of comments, others must find them interesting as well. Right now 4 out of 5 topics in the Popular Questions box are not directly food related.

It's ironic that you would make such a thoughtful and thought provoking contribution earlier in this thread and then declare you've had it with just this sort of question. I hope you'll reconsider.
SKK April 19, 2012
A couple of things this question has me realize and want to underscore. The first is Hotline is about food questions, not voting and gathering agreement on opinions. Seems like when the conversation goes in the gather agreement direction things the conversations become polarized. Second, the questions are designed to be around food questions not web-site, philosophical issues. Am annoyed with myself I got sucked in 3 times this past week! Food for me from here on out.
mainecook61 April 19, 2012
I find the Hotline much less interesting than it once was. There are simply too many questions to wade through. Whatever one feels about simplistic or repetitious questions, the upshot is that thoughtful responders will understandably grow weary of answering the same questions and stop regularly following the Hotline.
ellenl April 19, 2012
I totally agree with your rant. Also, since the re-design of this site--over a yr. ago, it has been a mess and rarely functions properly. Don't know why they haven't dumped the whole thing and gone back to the way it was with some expansion--or just done it over again. And some people are just not too bright, whatever the topic or field. Being a novice is easily distinguished from being not too bright.
ATG117 April 19, 2012
Yes, some answers can be easily googled. But sometimes people are coming here for the answers because they know they can trust certain people's hotline answers. That is the case for me. If someone has consistently posts recipes I like and if I believe they are experts in the kitchen, I want an answer from them. I can find a chocolate chip cookie recipe by simply searching for it here or somewhere else, but perhaps I want to see what the cooks I know virtually like best. It's similar to going to a trusted cite for information on anything else. Why would we want people to go to chowhound or yelp instead of hoping they learn to value and use the food52 community? That is what this cite is about I think. That is not to say that there are no questions that almost everyone would consider silly, but I think belittling answers in general is contrary to what we do here. If someone is bothered by certain questions, he or she should ignore them.
Brain H. April 19, 2012
As we used to say in medical school: ""No question is too dumb to ask". Of course that's not true. There is such a thing as a really dumb question. But I would urge everyone to exercise patience and grace, and remember what it was like to be a novice in the kitchen. Since I am always trying new things, I often feel like a novice and I so appreciate my friends at Food52 helping me out.
jwlucas April 19, 2012
If someone asks a question that you consider ignorant, ignore it. Not everyone is at the same skill level here, and there's no need to weigh in on every post.
MTMitchell April 19, 2012
I'm sure I've asked questions on the Hotline that would bug the purists but I've really appreciated and learned from people's help and patience. Here's the deal -- I'm a person who really likes to cook at home. It's a hobby that I truly enjoy. But because I'm not in a position to make my hobby my full-time pursuit or career, I rely on others' strengths, experiences, and wisdom to help me improve or get new ideas or understand why things work in certain recipes and not others. Yes, google et al can be great resources...but they're also overwhelming at times. I guess I'd be sad to see the Hotline become a forum just for the people who have more experience than I or for people who have the great good fortune of being able to spend more time cooking and creating than I can, and I'd be sad to be cut off from learning from their experiences. Also... We all have our strengths and areas of expertise. I welcome the opportunity to share the aspects of my full time job that I'm good at with people who want to learn about it. I got the same vibe from the Hotline and I'd at least be sorry to see that change.
creamtea April 19, 2012
Agree with PhillipBrandon. Even an experienced can re-learn something. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. One can always improve his or her omelet or poached egg....or learn new tricks of the trade.
Louisa April 19, 2012
Sometimes tags are so broad that when you ask a specific question on a topic you get tons of pages. Who wants to sort through all that? Also it's good to get fresh answers from new 52ers. I work at the library and believe me we get lots of questions over and over, but when you can help someone out from whatever level they're at, they are so appreciative. Food52 is a great data base. People come here because they know they'll get quality answers and advice. And this is a compliment to our community.
usuba D. April 19, 2012
I tend to speak my mind . . . maybe that is why as a younger person I was asked not to return to some pubs I frequented . . . got in a few rows and had a few bloody noses. I blame my ranting not on individuals, but rather the system that has numbed all those I directed my comments. Again I say that this society has become so disconnected from there food that they have no idea where it comes from or what is take to produce it. I think Darina Allen of Ballymaloe has it correct to require all students to work in the garden before they go to the kitchen. I took some people from a top organic food company to visit a slaughter plant to see the humane system of killing livestock. As we left one of the people was crying. I asked why (like I couldn't guess) and was surprised to have that person say to me that they did not realise that the animals got killed! It all brings home my point. I just hope that none of you go to the same pub I do.
PhillipBrandon April 19, 2012
I understand that being a long-time user of anything can make one feel exasperated by people less experienced than yourself, but I'd like to defend people's right to come here to ask a question rather than searching the archives or Googling for themselves. That low bar of entry is what sets this site apart from any number of other resources. Anyone can come here ask a question, and get a timely response from someone who knows–or at least thinks they know–the answer.

People who don't know the basics can often be overwhelmed by the responses that come up using a blind google search. They don't know what to trust, or sometimes, what information they should be looking for. Here we can provide help and answers based on experience and intuition, and they can depend on answers being basically reliable (or at the very least 'in good faith' which is more than can be said for the internet at large.)

Forums that become overly tetchy when guests (or newly joined members) re-post previously answered questions have always bothered me. It puts obstacles between you and your answer in what should be a welcoming community. "You haven't done enough research to even ASK that question!" is not a helpful response to anyone.

I feel as though people who are interested enough to thoroughly research the background and multiple sources of an issue (like many of us who enjoy answering questions here) are not really the same people who come here looking for a quick answer. And those of us who are the curious-minded sort, who like to seek out and fully understand answers on our own, shouldn't disparage or belittle other people who just come here looking for help.

That's exactly what this sort of q&a is for, filling in other peoples weaknesses with your own strengths and vice-versa.

I also find that I am able to learn something reading the answers to even some of the simplest questions. 52ers manage to come up with detailed and informed answers which enlighten me to nuances of the issue at hand that I had never considered, and I feel more knowledgeable for it.

I really don't want to raise a white wall around this community. I'm willing to entertain the idea of that everyone who comes here is sincerely looking for help. And I'd like to offer it to them.
Reiney April 19, 2012
(Sorry, that should read @usuba dashi - apparently my Mac doesn't speak culinary Japanese)
Reiney April 19, 2012
There are two issues raised here
- frustration with people asking questions that have been answered before
- frustration with people asking what is perceived by some to be a "dumb" question

As for the first issue, it's a common problem that forums face. Most regular participants deal with it by copying the URL of a previous string of responses, thereby (subtly) training the person asking to do a bit of homework. Reminding people to search Google would take the user away from the Food52 site, which would be contrary to the site's objectives. Certainly there are technological advances that could be made to make search smarter, but all in good time.

It's important to be mindful that there are also variations specific to an individual's circumstance as well.

As for the second issue, I'd be disappointed if this forum intimidated more novice cooks from asking questions that were perceived by "elites" to be too simple. And, we can't all be experts on everything.

Encouraging everyone to deepen their understanding of cooking _no matter what their starting point_ will help everyone eat better, to @usuba dash's concern.
AntoniaJames April 19, 2012
I'm probably guilty of having asked a question that's already been "asked and answered". But i would note that until the search function is able to search all of the text of the questions and not just the tags, we are at the mercy of the people who post questions to tag them intelligently. If one doesn't use a search term that's been tagged, one won't see the prior threads. I agree though about the overload of mind-numbing, uninteresting questions. Sometimes I try to help out on questions that seem inane, but there have been days and even weeks when I have participated in the Hotline rarely if at all, for precisely the reasons noted by LBF. Also, I respectfully suggest that for many basic factual questions that require no judgment or experience, the person asking will get a better answer, much more quickly, searching Google, Wiki or Chowhound. ;o)
usuba D. April 19, 2012
Thank you for ranting. . . . I am amazed on how disconnected people have become from their food and where & how it comes to them. I have to constantly bite my lips and not respond to half the questions & comments made. What has happened to our society? Have we forgotten one of the most important moments of the day. . . Has it become so unimportant that we treat it like just another chore? When will they bring home economics back to school for all genders to learn? Throw away all of your stupid kitchen gadgets. Learn how to cook again and bring your family together to make it THE most important time of the day. 90% of the questions asked are on the Internet. You don't need to waste your time asking them here. Where do you think they responders get their answers? Sorry if I offend anyone, but it is how I feel. I most go now . . Time to show my three year old granddaughter how to make pizza dough for tomorrow night dinner . . Just as I taught her mother.
JLouw April 19, 2012
I don't think you are being fair here. My understanding of the app is that you can ask any question pertaining to cooking and if someone can help then they will. Ignore the "dumb" ones.

Voted the Best Reply!

susan G. April 19, 2012
No question is too simple if the questioner wants to learn.
SKK April 19, 2012
I am with susan g, seajambon and aj on this one. And I have learned a lot from simple questions. I truly appreciate the answers that come from food52 because I trust them. And if I have another question or something isn't clear I can follow up and get a response.

When I first started on this site I was a little righteous about a question, as in I said to myself 'that person should know the answer to that'. Turns out that person was 9 years old and truly wanted to learn.

I have since stopped judging questions as well as answers. I have appreciated giving a wrong answer to a question about marmalade - really a dumb answer - and no one ranted at me just graciously put in the correction.

SeaJambon April 19, 2012
Well, I guess I'd make a call for folks being as generous in spirit and understanding as they are with their recipes and knowledge. This site serves cooks of all abilities -- from the novice (questions like -- paraphrasing, but "recommendations for basic, introductory, cookbooks") to the expert. I agree that sometimes I see questions that hit me with a big fat "really??" (and those do seem to disproportionately come from Whole Foods). And then there's the good intent but challenged capabilities --like me yesterday asking about sunchokes and indicating that I'd already searched for recipes with no success. In this case, it was just that I mistyped sunchokes as sunchockes when doing my search. So, maybe we could all be generous in spirit, and just quickly scroll by the questions that cause us to pause, screw up our face and ask "really??"

BTW, I TOTALLY appreciate everyone's help with my many questions; this group has made a HUGE difference to me! Dare I say, even going so far as to save lives by correcting a home canning mistake I made?? Generosity of spirit; kindness to ourselves and others -- that's what makes a great community!
Sadassa_Ulna April 19, 2012
Devil's advocate.... in some situations, I think people are testing the system, especially when the questions come from "Whole Foods Customers" who are probably at a kiosk and just trying out the Hotline to see if they get a response. Sometimes kids post questions.
That said there are repeat questions all the time, probably because people either didn't do a search at all or they did but the search "tags" didn't bring up a match.
Panfusine April 19, 2012
There's a disconnect between replies from whole foods & Food 52.. If someone asks a qn here, it correctly shows up as XYZ from food52.com asked the question.. If you are logged in on the whole foods site and reply to the question from there, irrespective of what your ID name is on the WFM cooking site, it ALWAYS shows up here on food52 as 'a whole Foods customer'.. I doubt whether most of the whole foods customers are typing away on Ipads in kiosks at the store.
Panfusine April 19, 2012
I think that issue has been fixed.. Just replied via twitter & don't see it here as a qn.
Panfusine April 19, 2012
Nope, the issue persists, My reply to this thread popped up as a question.. Just scroll down the list..'Re le bec fin's....'
Panfusine April 19, 2012
Totally with you on the rant..&I'm pretty sure, I've been guilty of having asked qns like these in the past as well. & then the answer hits you as your finger moves away from the 'answer' button..

There is also a bug I noticed, that any reply you send via the twitter feed shows up as a question on the hotline page here. Hence there has been a wave of some really weird sounding questions that are most probably answers to a question, only we have no clue which question that is.
LeBec F. April 19, 2012
pf, maybe send that twitter info to the editors?there seem to have been alot of technical glitches w/ 52 in recent wks. people not getting the emails through their member pages; people getting blocked out of their member page or 52 in general; and now this. headaches for us and the 52techies alike.
LeBec F. April 19, 2012
krusher that is!
LeBec F. April 19, 2012
whew! thank you krushner!
krusher April 19, 2012
I totally agree with the brief rant. I love food52 but this is the weak link. I like the idea of a challenge/reminder before posting a question just as is done before posting recipes about correctly citing where the recipe comes from. These remind us all not to insult each other's intelligence and to participate respectfully in the terrific community sharing on this site.
pierino April 20, 2012
Le Bec you should have been here The Gadget Guy, British invasion of about a year ago. Apparently this is a television program in England that unbeknownst to the editors plugged our Hotline (which at the time was Food Pickle). Well, we got slammed with trolls and absolutely idiot questions like, "How do u cook a stake?" "Why do you ask? Do you need to kill a vampire?" I finally lost it and went off on some of them.
I agree with your Google comment. An answer I always cringe at reading is "I Googled this for you". Personally I prefer to read answers from the responder's own expertise. It's that expertise that has made this a strong community. That expertise has helped me on more than one occasion, as for example my recent kimchi question which produced a useful discussion and clarified what I needed to know.
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