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helpful vs. non helpful replies

I really don't understand the need for some posters to criticize a posters question / itinerary etc. I just read a post that gives zero helpful information. This post serves absolutely no purpose other than to criticize the OPs choice which Is already purchased and can't be changed. The only outcome of a post like that is that it will cause the OP to feel bad, and will probably prevent people from asking questions in the future.

If you have no new or valuable information to offer then please keep criticism to yourself.

Sorry for the rant. Just getting frustrated with a few posters on this forum.

Posted by
10284 posts

I understand your frustration, Jill, but that critique might help a future researcher avoid the same mistake.

One I often bite my checks over is people who buy tickets in-and-out of a city (Rome, Paris, Milan) which necessitates returning to Point A to depart the country when open-jaw would have saved time and (possibly) money in the long-run. Pointing out the false economy of such a purchase might help someone down the road. I don't think that is unfair criticism.

Of course even criticism can be phrased in a non-judgemental manner. That is worth striving for.

Posted by
3689 posts

Jill, I agree that no useful purpose is served by posters who only slam someone's definite or even contemplated plan(s). There is, however, constructive criticism in which one points out the downsides of a situation and then offers better alternatives and I'm assuming most of us don't have a problem with that. Probably 99% of the posters fall into the latter category. With regard to your feelings about posters who do nothing but belittle OP's inquiries, just remember the old Latin proverb "Non illigitima carborundum". I'll leave the translation up to you.

Posted by
1353 posts

Thanks for the amusing reminder TC:).

As someone on another thread suggested - I suppose it may be a cultural difference. And as mentioned above it could be helpful to future travelers to have a mistake like not buying open jaw tickets pointed out, but I do feel it could have been done a bit more diplomatically!

Posted by
22024 posts

But you also have remember this is an open forum and not a private discussion between two posters. And while the response may not be most useful to the OP, it might be very useful to someone else who is reading it for the first time or considering a similar itinerary, hotel, etc. There has to be a certain amount of give and take. I am not always pleased being told that I make a mistake but it could be helpful in the future.

Posted by
5773 posts

Jill, I agree. When someone asks a question on this forum they deserve to be treated respectfully and not belittled.

Sometimes, the answer for one traveler is not the same for another. We each have different values and travel priorities. I am sure that some would be scandalized by some of my travel choices why I might find some of theirs a bit strange.....

There is room to give alternatives or ideas, but I think it is an art. There are some key elements to an effective response.
1. Did I read the entire question from the original poster? What is he/she really asking for?
2. Did I read the previous responses so I know what others have said in response?

3. Is there something new that is useful or encouraging that I could add to what has already been said?

Perhaps you have seen the question about ATMS 10,000 times and inwardly cringe that someone else is asking about them yet again. However, they would not ask the question if they already knew the answer and didn't desire a thoughtful answer. Maybe it is the debate over carry on luggage and checked luggage, rail passes vs. advance purchase, roundtrip flights vs. multi-city. No matter what the topic, there is room for different ideas and thoughtful answers.

Posted by
2504 posts

I know what you mean Jill. Some people on this forum remind me of the older women from my first office job who would give nothing but mean-spirited and sarcastic answers to my timid questions. I vowed at the time that "when I grew up" I would never treat people like that - and I hope I haven't.

Posted by
2424 posts

I will admit that I am occasionally more acerbic than is really good. I have mellowed over time. Perhaps these somewhat non-helpful posters will do that as well. Sometimes they seem to be in-country folks who are a little techy about tourists doing touristic things. I believe that, when you are a tourist, doing the tourist sights is part of the deal.

Posted by
1822 posts

Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, you'll be a mile from them, and you'll have their shoes. - Jack Handey

Posted by
362 posts

I understand the OP's position completely. I don't know about you, but I have made posts on various travel boards that were absurd questions to some and not to others.

In my case, I'm not as well traveled as many others on this board. I am always still learning as I go.

For example, I do know what an open jaw ticket is. I book these frequently. BUT when I first started traveling, the concept was scary AND is not really available on major international airlines websites. If you look for 'open jaw' tickets on many carriers, there's no readily available answer.

I feel that each trip is a learning experience for me. I am thankful for that. I am more comfortable asking questions when people respond nicely to my query, but when I was first starting out in travel I didn't always know the 'correct' way of asking certain questions.

We're all at different rungs on the ladder. But I hope we're all committed to helping each other.

Posted by
5697 posts

However ... Not all the responses you will get to questions in Europe will be phrased in the most PC language, even when the person is trying to be helpful. So maybe this is an opportunity to learn to respond to information rather than feeling rebuffed by style.

Posted by
5733 posts

In real life, and at work, you meet a variety of personalities and temperaments. It is helpful to get used to that. It's not entirely fair to expect an internet forum to be a warm, fuzzy space that is "safe" for delicate sensibilities. The lack of "affect" in typed text makes it a little worse.

Consider the phrase, "It isn't personal, it's just [travel] business."

I don't agree with the word "unhelpful" for sharp, or critical-sounding replies. You could say "disappointing" or "insensitively composed", or "too critical." But they can still be, literally, helpful.

There is a difference between brusque and cruel. The latter is vanishingly rare on this board.

Posted by
1353 posts

Tim - the post that prompted me to start this thread really was only a criticism. It offered Zero helpful information.

Posted by
1718 posts

Almost all the responses to my inexperienced traveler questions have been helpful and I thank everyone for that. Some were not as kind as others but I put my sensitivity aside, shrugged those off and gleaned the useful, pertinent information. However when I received one comment that I thought was out of line and especially unkind, I pm'd that person and told her/him that she/he was out of line and I didn't appreciate the comment. Disputing it on a public forum would serve no purpose.

I'm sure that long-time posters have seen the same questions many times. Your experience is invaluable to newbie and inexperienced travelers. Please consider the vast range of traveling experience of people posting on the forum and answer the inquiry accordingly. If someone has already bought plane tickets you don't agree with, answer his/her inquiry but don't criticize because it helps no one. The plane tickets aren't going to change and the question is probably about something else - itinerary, transportation, etc. - that can be changed.

Before posting a question, reread what you wrote just to be sure 1) it makes sense and 2) is detailed enough to be answered. When answering, reread what you wrote to be sure 1) it answers the question/concern and 2) it's helpful, not hyper-critical. Sometimes the threads get long and the question and answers get lost in the maze.

Posted by
6889 posts

helpful vs. non helpful replies

First, I want to say that I think you mean well, but this seems misguided to me. Who is the ultimate arbiter of what's "helpful" or "non-helpful"? Respondents have free rein to write what they like, and It's in the eye of the beholder to make their own interpretations. At the very least, shouldn't the OP decide what info to take in and what to disregard? I also assume they can stand up for themselves if they feel slighted (a private PM could go a long way in doing that). Despite the tone of the other thread, I'd be hard pressed to say there was "zero" useful info there - there were links to towns and other ideas tossed out that had merit and offered alternatives. So who is right when two (and likely more) people see things differently? Moreover, doesn't it matter more to the OP than either one of us? I think this subtle effort to shut down or shame unpopular or un-liked responses is in itself a disservice, as well as paternalistic.

The objective marker of someone's response is whether it adheres to the posted rules of the forum, not whether someone (else) likes it or thinks it's good/bad or helpful/unhelpful. We all tacitly agree to the community guidelines whenever we post, so it's a common value that's shared by everyone (and hopefully understood uniformly by everyone). I think groupthink is much worse than tolerating or trying to understand responses we don't like. If I believe some response doesn't adhere to the rules of the forum, I report it to the Webmaster. He has no problem removing clearly rude text as part of a post, especially when directed to first time posters. Also, if a thread becomes too coarse, he can also jump in and smooth out the edges. That has the advantage of preserving useful info from a post and removing small pieces that may do more harm than good - but the point is, I'll leave it to him to make the call since he's the enforcer of the forum's community guidelines. Trying to independently judge other people's posts and putting them into "good" and "bad" buckets also risks that your own posts may soon be subjected to the same criticism from someone else on the forum.

Posted by
4806 posts

Private messages can sometimes be the best way to address an issue although occasionally you might receive something as constructive as the following that I once received:

"You are rude and nasty."

I know I can be sarcastic at times but I thought the sender was being a bit hyperbolic, not that I lost any sleep over it.

Being a frequent visitor to many forums I have to say that this is by far the politest and respectful of them.

Posted by
8293 posts

Thank you, Agnes. Very thoughtful and well reasoned post. Wish I could express myself as well.

Posted by
504 posts

I would think that the ultimate arbiter of helpful vs not helpful is the person who asked the question. I don't know how many times I've posted a online, trying to ask a very specific question and even head off extraneous comments by emphasizing the details I wanted to know--only to have someone reply that I shouldn't be doing anything like that and giving me advice that I said I wasn't looking for.

If you think it's helpful to tell other readers about something, start your own thread. Don't hijack someone's question for that purpose.

--Dav

Posted by
2738 posts

Jill,
The people you’re referencing will never see themselves. Sadly, you’re wasting your time. I understand completely what you’re saying. There are posters offering ZERO advice, just criticism.

Posted by
1272 posts

I'd say the hardest thing on an online message board is that we don't know each other's personalities. So, sometimes our sense of humor or sarcasm doesn't come across well. If I"m making dinner plans with a close friend and he suggests a place that is a pain in the butt to get to by public transit and it is the middle of a bitter cold winter, then I can respond in a way that I wouldn't to a complete stranger. So, sometimes when we see insane itineraries , it's easy to jump in and be considered not helpful. That's very easy to do when we see the London on Monday, Paris for Tuesday, and Amsterdam Wednesday type of plans that are so common from new travelers. I do think linking to previous threads is a great way to encourage newcomers to spend some time reading the forum before jumping in with multiple new posts of common questions, but I do try to help, even with the oft repeated questions.

Posted by
11450 posts

Amsorry to side step but

Aquarmaeinesteph- most airlines do not list "open jaw "tickets , you need to click on "multi destination " for open jaw.

Posted by
16883 posts

If you find a reply rude or inappropriate, please report it to the webmaster using the "Report" link.

Posted by
504 posts

Thank you for that, Laura. However, I don't think "rude or inappropriate" is the issue here. It's more along the lines of someone posts a message such as "I want to do X. How do I deal with Y detail?" and then someone else posts, "You shouldn't do X. Z is much, much better."

--Dav

Posted by
2738 posts

Dav,

I was told by a poster, who is still active on the Helpline, that I my renting a car was due to my being too lazy not to learn the train schedules. Not x is better than z.

Posted by
8542 posts

I think people who start a thread to ask a question would help themselves if they used the Search function on this site, or used Google, first. It would help them get an answer quickly and would cut down on the very occasional unfriendly response.

I think the vast, overwhelming, majority of people on this site are extremely patient and very generous with their time trying to help a stranger have a good trip.

Posted by
11981 posts

THINK:
Is it true?
Is it helpful?
Is it inspiring?
Is it necessary?
Is it kind?

I totally disagree with trying to see London, Paris, Rome, Greece and Russia in the same trip. Itineraries are personal choices. When I open an itinerary thread that resembles that, I go back to forum without commenting lest I write something that isn't helpful or kind.

I am pretty hard on some cities. I'll tell people if I don't like a place and why because I appreciate that on reviews. Many times criticism I read relates to something I'm not concerned about, other times it's important and good to know. Someone who is about to spend a lot of money going somewhere they haven't been should get honest opinions but not personal criticism.

Posted by
13875 posts

I was told by a poster, who is still active on the Helpline, that I my
renting a car was due to my being too lazy not to learn the train
schedules.

I've just seen a thread where the poster - who very clearly does NOT want to drive and isn't considering doing so - was advised that renting a car would help them get over their "silly" and "irrational" fear. They're also being told that there are ways they can drink wine along the way - one of the reasons they're choosing not to drive - without feeling intoxicated and so still get behind the wheel; they should read up on those.

LOL, I came over here to bite my tongue bloody and review the reminders from ya'll about being nice.

Posted by
21526 posts

Kathy, I agree with you that there is nothing remotely funny about drinking and driving, but by the time that response was posted the OP had decided renting a car probably makes sense. Which is true in this case; staying in an agriturismo without a car is just not a good plan unless you want to spend all your time at the agriturismo.

New posters often come to the board asking for help with itineraries that pretty much guarantee a seriously sub-optimal vacation. If none of us ever said "Trying to see Spain + Italy + Greece in 12 days is not a good plan; here's why...", we would not be doing them any favors. I count it as a victory when a newbie listens to similar advice coming from multiple posters and modifies his/her plans. To me, pointing out logistical flaws is quite different from beating someone up about specific destination choices.

Posted by
1978 posts

I agree with some of what is being said.
However, the thing that slightly irritates me are the people who go to all the bother of posting a question; then other people answer helpfully, and the OP never comes back to thank them or comment.
Information is free, granted; but when people take time to answer you, you should at least do them the courtesy of a quick acknowledgement.
My rant over !

Posted by
10284 posts

S Jackson, I agree with you! So few do come back that I count it a marvel when they do! Especially with intelligent follow-on questions or an acknowledgment that the "heard" the advice.

Posted by
2504 posts

I occasionally receive messages from OP's thanking me for my responses. Hopefully, other OP's are doing that and the rest of us just don't see their acknowledgements.

Posted by
13875 posts

but by the time that response was posted the OP had decided renting a
car probably makes sense. Which is true in this case; staying in an
agriturismo without a car is just not a good plan unless you want to
spend all your time at the agriturismo.

Yes, I saw that too, although Plan A was to use private drivers everywhere (at significant expense but to each his own). Still, there wasn't any need to tell them that their concerns were "silly" or "irrational"? Anyway, someone else has put in the what-for regarding driving under the influence. Oh my.

Editing to add: I see that some posts on that thread have since been removed.

Posted by
1848 posts

I continue to be impressed with how gracious the majority of posters are, especially those who have been part of the forum long enough to help with same questions ad infinitum. I agree that the "search" function is a helpful tool, but only if you know how to use it. Maybe there is somewhere on the site that gives tips on how to get the best results and I've missed it, but I get frustrated with it. My most recent search was for Amsterdam hotels. If I just put in "Amsterdam hotels", most of the posts that popped up on the first page were more than 5 years old - not helpful. Tonight I decided to see what would happen if I put in "where to stay in Amsterdam". Those responses started with the most recent ones - much more helpful. But, a new poster might not know how to keep digging.

Posted by
21526 posts

I usually use Google's search function, including "ricksteves.com" and perhaps "forum" in the search. I have not had good luck with the one on this website.

Posted by
337 posts

Richard...about the shoes....did you confirm they were the best walking shoes for your trip before you started your walk?

Posted by
1878 posts

I don't think there is anything wrong with giving someone a heads up if what they are doing is misguided in some way. For example, if someone is planning ten one night stays in a row. Or picking up a car in Scotland and dropping it in Hungary (before they book the flight, they might like to know that the drop fees will be huge). Or staying in London for ten days and planning on renting a car for getting around the city. As long as you say it in a nice way, that is.

Posted by
21526 posts

Or spending "3 months" or more than 90 days in an undefined or known-to-be-problematic part of of Europe without any indication they know about the Schengen Zone limit.

Posted by
971 posts

S Jackson I agree. a simple thank you can go a long way. I tend to scout the OPs profiles and if they have previously posted several questions, but not any replies I don't bother to answer. As a local i probably reply to half of the posts on the Denmark forum, but I also don't tend to answer the generic "What are the top sights in Copenhagen" or "we are going to Denmark, what should we see?". My answer would be to get a guide book or do your own damn research, but that would be rude, so I don't bother.

Posted by
1978 posts

Posters could say "Thank you in advance for your help." when they pose their question.
That would cover it.

Posted by
6543 posts

S. Jackson, I have noticed several posts recently that do include that advance thank you at the end of their questions. It's a good way of letting the forum members know that you appreciate the time they take to respond even if you don't agree with or use their advice.

Posted by
2308 posts

I recently got a PM from a forum member telling me my response was not helpful. Not from the OP mind you, but another forum member. I was told it was their personal opinion that my post was not helpful to the OP. I agree with Agnes above. Comments can be read many different ways and you don’t have to go around giving your opinion on people’s posts. If it doesn’t violate guidelines, move on.

Posted by
1172 posts

I agree that what one person might find useful is going to be different than what others may find useful or of value

That being said, I think most of us can agree on those replies that feel like they are just meant to make the OP feel dumb or somehow less wordly because they may not have travelled much before or been on boards such as these ones. Those are the replies that I have no use for.... there is absolutely no need to make someone feel dumb, bad or inferior... if this is the type of response you are going to give ( and let's face it, you know you are), then back out of the post please.