Changes to TasteFresno

Posted by James Collier on Oct 25, 2011
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Remember this?

Of course you don't. That's what TasteFresno originally looked like. In 2006. When I first launched it. It's hard to believe that the site has been online for five years now.

The original ideas and intent focused on user-contributed reviews of local restaurants—really, I just wanted other people to tell me where to eat. But now that we're older, it's time to contemplate what every five year old thinks about: how to change the world what we want to be when we grow up. Not just what we want to be, what we want the community to be—with regards to food and food culture.

Welcome to the "Bread Basket"

Fresno County grows more produce than any other county in the country (source). We ship fresh fruits and veggies thousands of miles away, yet somehow we are (collectively) disconnected from what's growing here—take food insecurity (+40%) and obesity rates (65% of adults ages 18-64), for example. Another example of the disconnect: restaurant menus. How many can you list that feature locally-grown, seasonal produce?

I regularly travel outside of the area to "food destinations"—especially San Francisco and Oakland. Many of the trends found there, like the affinity for food trucks, have been present in the Central Valley for years, and several of the farmers at Bay Area markets are traveling from the valley to peddle their produce. Take Balakian Farms, for example:

That was shot at the Ferry Building Farmers Market in San Francisco earlier this summer. I've spotted several stands from farms in the valley, and I've talked with several farmers here who don't sell locally, because their product isn't valued as highly as it is elsewhere.

Call me selfish, but I want to taste the best of what's grown here…here! I want our community to embrace what we're growing—physically and culturally—to celebrate it, and to make others jealous by talking about it.

That's what we're going to do.

We've been reflecting on our first five years, and have mapped out several changes to better inform and engage the community—to tell stories of our farmers, chefs and families, and to share recipes that highlight what's local and in season—in hopes that we can start to close the divide, and get ourselves and others excited about what we have here.

We've identified areas for change:

More community, less "community"

We're fans of the internet. We have a business that has focused on online technologies. But over the last year and a half, it's become clear that the real value in having an online community is in our offline interactions—at potluck dinners, or taco throw downs, or dinners with the mayor, or an annual tri-tip competition.

To focus on these interactions, and to emphasize quality content, we're turning off the member-generated reviews and recipes. All content on the site will be preserved, but accounts will be disabled—you'll still see guest posts and featured contributors, and we'll have a process in place for sharing news, events, tips and more, but these will no longer be published automatically.

Authenticity

We've encouraged community members to create profiles and share real names on TasteFresno, but we've also allowed anonymous comments; we know it's a hassle to log in just to respond to someone's review, or recipe, or blog post. As with in-person conversations, though, people like knowing who they're talking to.

Starting next week, we're going to close the comment system that's been in place, opting instead to utilize Facebook's comment tools—this will offer convenience in posting without a TasteFresno account, as well as in sharing conversations on Facebook, all while removing anonymity. As with existing content, all previously-published comments will remain readable on the site.

Focus

This year has taught our entire team a valuable lesson in focus. We've spread ourselves across several projects (and projects within projects), and some days we spend more time on the technology of TasteFresno than the stories. (This is another reason we're disabling the "community" features.)

In the coming weeks, you'll see several features removed, and some functionality on the site simplified, as we move things around. You'll also see more in-depth content—we have a few new series we're excited to publish, for example. Once the dust settles, we'll freshen up the look of everything.

We've challenged ourselves to provide better content with more appetizing imagery, to tell more stories, to share more events, and to speak to more of the local food issues.

Acknowledgements

These changes are inspired by our community and our readers. We're grateful to live in such a unique place, to have experienced so many incredible flavors, and to have heard so many incredible stories. Each one leaves us with a craving for more.

We'd like to thank everyone who has contributed—in any way—to what TasteFresno is, has been, and will be.

Now, let's eat!

Comments

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J-anon (not verified)  |  Fri, 2011-10-28 01:33

Ive commenetd a few times, but absoluty refuse to comment with any website that uses Facebook based comment system. Please consider Disqus. I simply do not trust facebook to keep my internet commenting life and my social life separate.

 

Also, my biggest problem with this website is that when you scroll down the home page theres no "see older storys" option. Be nice if it could be easier to find that.

just a test image

James Collier  |  Fri, 2011-10-28 16:20

Thanks for the input, J-anon. It's not an ideal solution, but we feel the move to greater authenticity is needed. One thing that many don't know about Facebook comments - depending on how it's configured - is that users can log in with a few other accounts, as they can with Disqus and other tools. We'll include that.

As for the homepage, that's simple enough - I'll work on it over the weekend!

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J-anon (not verified)  |  Mon, 2011-10-31 22:06

I see you added "read more" at the bottom, thank you.

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Rion (not verified)  |  Fri, 2011-10-28 12:29

Glad to find your blog! My wife and I are dedicated foodies living in San Diego but moving back to Fresno in 2012. We have always surprised to see valley organic produce featured in the SD local farmers markets but when we visit family we can not find it featured in local restaurants. I see we are not alone in the surprise. 

We would love to be invloved in developing the foodie culture in Fresno and support you in your efforts. 

 

Keep up the posting!

just a test image

James Collier  |  Fri, 2011-10-28 16:21

Thank you, Rion! Looking forward to hearing more about your journey to Fresno.

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Veronica Stumpf (not verified)  |  Tue, 2011-11-01 10:06

In a short few months I have realized that Taste Fresno has been part of several movements both online and offline. I'm very thankful for this site and I am looking forward to the upcoming changes and series!


Have a lovely day in Fresno!