Kinder, gentler answers to questions

Am I the only only who finds that we are getting off the track when answering questions on this site. Someone asks a simple question and it lately has become a "rant" about who is right, who is wrong and the posts getting into politics and who has traveled more, etc. There have even been some comments about "you Americans", "the French"' etc. Let's stick to the topic, please. If I was a new poster and saw some responses, I might not come back.

Posted by James
Frisco, NV
1810 posts

Well put. We all need to take care, me included. I want to keep this place positive. There is plenty of good where we don't need to be negative. Thank you Gail.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

Heartily agree. Oddly, most of the extended rants that drifted into all sorts of unrelated topics never satisfied Godwin's law.

Posted by lisa
akron, ohio
98 posts

Thanks for bringing this topic up Gail. It is why I have stayed away from this web site for quite awhile now.

Posted by Warren
Castlegar, BC, Canada
173 posts

What I find annoying are stock answers that qualify "you should really get a guide book and do some research". This helpline IS the research, along with the internet and of course guide books and any other info I could assimilate.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

The answers to posters asking questions are imo, are 95% of the time unfailingly polite and often very helpful. It's regulars who argue amongst ourselves most of the time, which shouldn't affect how the original questioner feels, and is a common feature of literally every internet message board in existence. As long as people are following the rules of the board, I don't see the problem. And really, if people find this board hostile, they haven't spend a lot of time in the rest of the Internet.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

I hear you, but what an unbelievably vanilla and boring place this would be if everyone were exactly alike with respect to their contributions, where everyone is "gentle and kind". And since everyone's not "gentle and kind" in the real world, it's unlikely everyone would be that way here. Even when strong opinions are shared about something barely or not at all related to the original topic, the exchanges are mostly polite enough IMHO. I may totally disagree with someone, but I usually end up learning something new when I read from another's perspective. And some of this stuff is just plain funnier than all get out. Yes, I've seen replies where some regulars jump all over a newbie and probably make them feel stupid for even asking such a novice question, but that really is the exception and not the rule. And, yes, we could all probably try to adhere a tad more closely to the guidelines. Still, most folks with strong views are not behaving so badly as to warrant complete banishment from the island, and most of these folks actually do make valuable contributions. The flip side of this issue is that some people are simply thin skinned and easily offended.

Posted by BG
Albany, CA, USA
1410 posts

Once in a while I read a weird reply, but generally I think the postings on the Traveler's Helpline are just fine.

Posted by JB
Redding, CA, USA
1568 posts

Agree with Gail. Many posters need to realize this is a "Travelers Helpline".

Posted by Rik
Vicenza, Italy
702 posts

Man, you Americans are so whiny. You're worse than the French. Kidding...kidding...

Posted by Liz
Malaga, Malaga, Spain
410 posts

What I find occasionally annoying is those who feel the need to criticize another's choice, be it timing, place or whatever. Others then chime in. I try hard to just answer the question unless the poster has specifically asked for an opinion.

Posted by Kim
Paris
544 posts

True but Warren, sometimes people don't see to have done any research before posting here and apparently expect the helpline to prepare them for every single element of their trip. I think it's often good advice when folks guide these questioners toward a guidebook. I'm with BG (and Gail the OP too).

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

For those wishing to mud wrestle on the Helpline, hopefully all are willing participants and don't drag others into the fray.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2612 posts

Gail... couldn't agree more... and if you aren't 'gentle and kind' in real life, then at least be polite and not rude.
And for some people... this is their first research... they do not need a reprimand... we are not teachers here and the new posters are not our students. If anyone ever leaves this site because they were treated rudely by someone here, we should be ashamed. Just because there are other worse sites out on the internet is no excuse. Seriously people, if you do not have anything positive to say to a poster or cannot be helpful then just stay quiet and let those people who want to help respond.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7684 posts

But it is unrealistic for someone to expect us to "write a guidebook" when they ask a question like, "I have 10 days to see Europe. Where should I go?" It shouldn't be considered out of line to guide them (politely) toward giving a little more detail so that we can give better answers.

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
755 posts

I agree that some people ask questions here and it is obvious they haven't really done a lick of research yet, but according to Welcome to the Helpline - prior research is not a requirement to ask a question. This Helpline may be their first stab at doing research.
If you are annoyed by those questions, ignore them and move on to a different thread. I see no good in berating a newbie, or anyone else, about their question and/or their lack of preparation. There are plenty of regulars here who are happy to post the same helpful advice on how to get started,etc etc, over and over again (or maybe they copy/paste) but they are, usually, very polite and helpful about it. Thanks, Gail, for ackowleging the elephant.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2531 posts

Thanks, Gail. And Sarah, thanks for the reminder - I sometimes marvel at how unhostile this site is. I also think it's okay to remind ourselves that sometimes other posters have adequately answered a question from an OP and we don't all have to answer every post. Bickering can be done by Private Message, leaving the rest of us out of it.

Posted by Kathleen
Bolton
88 posts

I know I'd be more apt to post here if certain old timers were a bit more, um, gentle in their responses. Less attitude please. As it is, I now rely on travel agents and people I know to get information instead of this Helpline.

Posted by Tom
Chicago
2876 posts

In the world of internet forums, I think the Rick Steves Helpline is - by far - the most polite.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2531 posts

I stayed away from this forum for a while when one of my first posts elicited some grumpy responses from people with thousands of posts. I guess after a while people feel a little proprietary about the forum, and I think sometimes posted responses, like email in general, can be interpreted more harshly than it might be intended (although some remarks are hardly ambiguous).

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

There's nothing wrong with letting the travel agent do all the work on preparing the trip as long as that agent has proven to be a competent one or, at least, one that meets your satisfaction. I don't use a travel agent anymore, I'm too picky.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

you guys do realize no one can reach through the computer screen, grab you, and force you to participate in a conflict, right? if you don't want to argue, step away from the keyboard. some of us enjoy lively debate. and it's worth again differentiating between heated (yet civil!) disagreements between regulars versus being mean to newbies, which almost never happens here.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2395 posts

There have been a few inappropriate posts lately, but they are pretty rare here. My biggest peeve here is people that answer a thread without reading the previous posts. They tend to regurgitate the same simple answer provided 3-6 times already, dreg up a 4 month old post or miss that the OP came back with an update or a "thank you, got what I needed so stop posting in my thread..."

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7829 posts

I have seen it go both ways, I have seen posters, usually newbies , post a question , but when they get answers they don't like they get really huffy and feel insulted. I am not into whiney types, so if you ask if its too much to see 5 countries in 10 days, then yes, you might get an answer like " yes its too much, sit down and rethink your plan" Also when someone comes on a site ( not this one in particular it doesn't seem to get this type as often as some forums) and post something like " hated Italy all Italians are pushy" or " hated Paris all the food is overrated and over priced" ( and I have seen posts where they say the people smell or are all mean , etc , really stupid posts frankly) nthen as far as I am concerned you've called open season on getting some blunt replies back at you.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

This is called the Helpline, not the "debate line." On occasion I have been a little snarky. Now, I just skip those questions that annoy me or when I have nothing helpful to contribute. There is at least one helpline contributer who takes my answers and elaborates to make my suggestions more useful and exact. I love it. I don't have the patience or interest to provide the details of websites and addresses. There are others who respond with what I consider to be wrong info. I don't argue, since I could easily be wrong and I just hope that the OP will check out all info received. I don't consider helpline answers to be the right info all the time. BTW, I think that directing "newbies" to travel books can be helpful.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7829 posts

Ralpy, I went back and read my three replies on the Icelandic air thread, and yup, there was NOTHING wrong with them . I started out sympathsizing , and explaining, and tried, as many did to help OP put issue in context. Her reactions and comments did not warrant a soft and softer approach. she "yelled" she ranted, and she refused to see anyones point ( I thought my point that her actual problem was with Orbitz not informing her of Icelandic airs meal policy was the problem, not nessesarily Icelandics air policy of not giving out a free meal) .
So, yup, totally stand by my posts there .

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

I'll have to agree with Pat...I didn't see anything hostile or stern in her replies. That poster kept going on and on and probably blew an o-ring about nothing. But if she wanted to return with a blunt reply, fine.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Anytime opinions are involved - which includes pretty much everything on the internet - debate will break out. Because people have differing opinions. Sometimes people are just wrong with the info they are giving - which is a problem because if no one corrects that erroneous information, the travel newbie might end up making a costly travel mistake. Debate is a natural part of every message board. Provided the discussion sticks to the difference of opinion and not personal attacks, what's the problem? I think topics like this, and the travel snobs one, stir up more debate and drama than regular on-topic travel discussion. If the webmaster wants to remind us again to play nice, let them. Otherwise, topics like this are guaranteed to start debate, unlike "Should I do Versailles in Feburary?"

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8761 posts

there's no rule here to limit posts to twitter length there is one not to denigrate others' posts

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4771 posts

I will tip my hat to Nigel, for that very accurate observation in his post.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

Am I to assume that it's undesirable and wrong to be verbose?

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2531 posts

I think the moral of this thread is, assume nothing.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3314 posts

As a publishing type, I wouldn't suggest necessarily shortening posts, but rather, checking posts for clarity. It really can help if you apply those writing skill you got in high school. ; ) Long paragraphs can be dense and intimidating whether you're reading in your history textbook or on the Helpline. The new tools that the webmaster has provided can help. You can: Use Bullets when listing more than one thing. Break the text up into paragraphs when you presenting more than one idea. Use the link tool for useful websites such as The Ten Commandments of Internet Writing Use Bold, Italic and Underline to emphasize your points. And use the preview tool to make sure you use them correctly as they can be tricky. Okay, that was fun. ; ) Pam

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
1970 posts

Thanks Pam.
IMHO, the vast majority of people who respond to questions write clearly. And indeed, your formatting suggestions will certainly make it easier for everyone to read. On the other hand, some of the questions I see are as clear as mud because they haven't been thought through. People do themselves a disservice when the title doesn't match the actual posting, or it's a three pronged question, or a new question tags onto another person's post.

Posted by Will
Columbia, SC
315 posts

This reminds me of the Onion article, "Nation Shudders at Large Block of Uninterrupted Text."

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3511 posts

Thanks for the post, Gail. Part I Lately there have been several questions about non-European destinations. A response that says "it's not in Europe" is unnecessary - the poster knows it's not Europe uncalled-for - it's the webmaster's job to police the helpline, not ours uninformative - if you can't help, don't respond I recently started a "how many countries" thread and I was very impressed by how widely-traveled many of our regulars are. It's fair enough to ask for help here on a general forum

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3511 posts

Part II In my opinion, people are much more likely to be abrupt, or rude, or even insulting, when they are more removed from each other. In face-to-face encounters, strangers are almost invariably polite - and even close friends are usually careful about how they express themselves. On the phone, there is less restraint. On the internet, where you have no idea who the other person is and almost no chance of ever meeting her/him, restraint goes out the window and people's feelings do get hurt. Even friends often "say" hurtful or snarky things when they can't see or hear each other. On another travel forum, I have occasionally PM'ed a new poster to apologize for a regular's rudeness because I learned that rudeness has often turned someone away from that forum. Yes, sometimes the questions are not clear or the asker doesn't give enough information or asks a question that has been answered 47 times already that week, but if you are here to help, you can either answer helpfully or simply move on to the next thread. Criticizing isn't useful, even when it's fun.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2612 posts

Chani... did not sound like a 'rant' to me... just thoughtful observations. I try to make a conscious effort to never write anything in an email or a forum that I would feel uncomfortable saying to someone face-to-face... so... I tend to use backspace sometimes to erase what might be my first response :)
and yes, maybe some of us are too sensitive here, but I would rather be that way than a rude know-it-all.