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Create guidelines?

I was just thinking (see my other recent post) about newbies and accidentally chasing folks off and such and that got me to wonder.
Should we consider putter together some sort of basic how to guidelines for newbies?
Not about travel but about how to ask questions in a manor that provides the forum members with enough info to form a correct answer.
As I said elsewhere the right answer to a 40 year old that walks 10 miles a day at home has no kids on the trip and hates museums is not the right answer to and 80 year old art lover traveling with her 20 year old grand daughter who is an art major.
So perhaps some sort of guidelines would help?

In one of my other hobbies (miniature model trains) we have something called “givens and druthers”
Where it asks what interests a hobbiest in a series of questions usually with a sliding scale.

So an example of this in this forum would be something like
How much walking can you do. 1(none) - 10 (I run marathons )
Museums? 1(not if I can possibly avoid it). - 10.(everyday all day)

We could ask perhaps half a dozen questions. Include asking how many nights spent in Europe or how many days not counting the day you land and the day you leave.
The newbies could copy this into the beginning of their question and we ALL would be happier.
Add a few common things such as count nights not days to the guidelines And then we could Stick this guideline to the top and hopefully everyone will have a better experience.

And being as a lot of us are stuck inside being board perhaps now is the time to work this kind of thing out?

Not sure how much help this would have been for me as I just sat back and read the forum for a few months before I started posting here so I had a basic understanding before I started posting. But even then I was not as clear as I could have been.
For instance the fact that I love to drive around and just drive though the countryside and see how people live and that my father was going with me and he does better with car travel was lost in my early posts and as a result I got the usual don’t drive replies. So a way to pass on a few basic likes/dislikes and other general info to the forum would have been useful.

The problem is as a novice to travel and this forum you often don’t know what is import info to pass on when asking someone to give you advice. So hopefully we can find a way to be short and sweet but still get the basic info/questions asked.

Well let me know what you think.

Posted by
6321 posts

Sadly, I don't think any newbie will read them prior to posting, so it will be a lost cause. They don't even read the community guidelines. Or search the forum first (although, admittedly, the search function is underwhelming and one is better off searching with Google).

It has been so long since I began posting here that I don't remember what kind of "tips" were given when one sets up their profile for the first time. Any kind of guidelines or tips should be displayed to someone before their very first post, either as a pop-up or an explanation they should read before signing up.

Posted by
5287 posts

Agreeing with Agnes. Most people on any forum don't read the guidelines before making a post, or do a Search. I dont think most people consider coming here as joining a group as much as accessing a reference library, and once they got their answer, they're done.

Posted by
3503 posts

douglas, your suggestions bring up some interesting and valid points. Although, with the car travel example, some folks (askers and responders) are fine driving where traffic goes on the right side of the road, but not on the UK’s left side, and that could influence responses. So for different countries or other situations, a poster’s regular preferences might change. But others’ might remain constant. If a flood of answers (which might have taken a lot of people a lot of time) make wrong assumptions, or take off in a wrong direction, it would help if the poster followed up to provide more specifics about their plans, interests, mode of travel, and what they’re used to or expect. Being prescreened, or getting everyone’s vitals on every post might not be within the scope of this forum. So not everyone may get optimal responses. Otherwise, I’ll need to update my age settings each year . . . 😊

Posted by
4107 posts

I think many of the new posters are spam, which is why they don’t return any comments. Anybody with any common sense knows that you cannot visit 10 locations in 12 days anywhere in the world, for example, but that’s the kind of thing that is being posted.

Also, the answers to some posts could easily be answered by using Google (eg “how do I get to Chartwell”? Answer. Look on the National Trust website), which is going to be more accurate than the reminiscences of posters.

Posted by
2824 posts

From my experience as a former forum admin elsewhere, newbies rarely bother reading instructions, unless you create a gatekeeping function preventing them from posting (let's say, until they have been in the forum for 1 month) without previous moderator approval.

However, given that most people come to the forum to ask one or two specific travel questions, and not to linger around for months/years, the trouble setting up such as system is probably not worth the labor costs. After all, this is a commercial forum for a tour provider, not a crowdsourced travel community where everyone is pretty much volunteering time to admin, organize, moderate etc.

Posted by
261 posts

You bring up some valid points Douglas. Most recently I had my sister and B I L join us in Hawaii. I warned them to start walking to prepare for their visit. Much to my dismay, my sister could not walk more than a block or 2. Mind you, my wife an I are not in the best of shape but we can walk pretty much all day. It would have been better if I had known this up front. Regarding driving versus taking the train; we prefer to drive when visiting the places we have seen in Europe. Too many people pile on about train travel even when a person says they prefer to drive. As for newbies reading guidelines or suggestions, well, that would be like asking people to read directions before putting together a piece of furniture from Ikea :)

Posted by
1040 posts

I agree with Jennifer, although the odd spammer does put in some effort and is rewarded with many replies.

Posted by
415 posts

A certain entitlement or superiority floating in the thread but certainly no ill will. Remember this is a social media arm of a well established business. Your input and the tenor of that input is important to you and useful to RS. You/we take the forum seriously but I think it’s obvious that many who may be intimidated by doing an on line search simply see this as doing a google search where you get a more personal response and then move on.

Sometimes a person passing through gets great advice or direction here, sometimes no response but lots of questions and judgement passing as advice. Then there are the regulars with thousands of posts who sometimes appoint themselves as judge rather than advisor. After all you/we refer to the “newbies” often.

Mellow out and use the tool, be helpful and don’t expect or crave acknowledgment. My wife and I discovered RS Guides almost 20 years ago and those books are the real nugget. These forums are an interesting secondary source but not something to create a sub bureaucracy with qualifications and expectations.

Posted by
6142 posts

Most of your suggestions are already there on the page Using the Rick Steves' Travel Forum.

Getting new posters to actually pay attention to the advice in the section "Tips For Using the Forum" on this page is another story. That section covers a lot of good information about how to get the best answers to your question by including necessary information.

Posted by
1400 posts

I've copy and pasted part of my answer from the OP's other question because I thought it's relevant for this question as well.

I don't mind broad based questions and replying with a broad based answer. For me, they key is how you answer. I see nothing wrong with a question like what should I see in London. I'll happily give 2 or 3 of my favourite things but also explain *why** I liked them. That's how conversations and research start. For me at least, this forum isn't about having my research done for me, it's the jumping point to begin my own. While I've received (and hopefully given) some valuable information, I'm not taking much from this site as a golden nugget without following up with my own research to make sure it's right for me.*

Posted by
2854 posts

I think many of the new posters are spam,

I disagree with that. Maybe underinformed, or even clueless, but not spammers (not counting the actual spam, which seems to be prevalent on the weekends).
As to the original question, I don't think it's worth the trouble to set up such a system and monitor it.

Posted by
537 posts

I fully agree with Jennifer above. Not Spam in that sense but trolls. You can tell by their use of English, a few words (American vs British) not quite right and their “question”. It is clearly designed to get a number of long winded responses....and they almost never return nor comment further. With vpns so easy to do.

But there is a much bigger bull in the china shop. He goes by the name of Rick Steves. How many of you have spent time with or talked to Rick? Have you seen how Rick reacts when folks ask him questions at travel shows or PBS appearances? His attitude is pretty much no dumb questions. I’ve seen (heard) him tell people at trade shows to go to his (this) forum to ask questions; and don’t be afraid about their lack of knowing what they do not know. The last thing you are going to do is get Rick to tell his webmaster to set up mandatory training, procedures etc before members of the public ask a question. Simply not going to happen.

The best rule- don’t like a question, skip it and move on.