More Changes in the Wind

We have more additions and adjustments coming soon in our Rick Steves Travel Forum. These changes are not yet implemented, but will likely be available later this week. Let's dive right in.

Here at RS HQ, we get lots of people emailing our on-staff travel advisors directly, asking the same sorts of questions that folks who come to our forums are asking and answering. So we thought, why don't we encourage these folks to just visit our already-lively forums to ask their questions? So we're going to start encouraging our many one-off emailers to participate in the forums. As such, when invited by the OP (original poster), Rick's on-staff travel advisors are also going to offer Rick's perspectives in addition to their own.

How will you know when a Rick Steves travel advisor adds a post? We believe in full transparency as we have no agenda here other than to give people the best travel advice and encourage travel. We also believe that you, our community of intelligent travelers, also shouldn't be overshadowed by any sort of marker highlighting our own posts. We are introducing a new badging system… you may see similar systems on other forums. New contributors won't have a badge to start. As you give more replies, you'll get a badge and your badge will change as you reach posting milestones: a green badge for someone with 500 to 1,000 posts, light blue for 1,000 – 2,499 posts, yellow for 2,500 – 4,999 posts, and a dark blue badge for over 5,000 posts. Rick's travel staff will have their own badge so that they can be easily identified.

We feel that these changes will boost popularity in our Travel Forum and give our community a greater voice with the public and their travel questions, as well as recognize the excellent contributions of our many long-time posters, without whom we would not have the awesome forums we have today. We hope that Rick's travel staff can be helpful with their own contributions and give Rick's take on travel questions when called upon to do so. Make no mistake; the primary voice in the Rick Steves Travel Forum is your own.

More Forum Improvements!

Invitations: Before you submit a new topic, check the "chime in" checkbox and your question will receive an answer from Rick's travel staff within two business days, usually faster. We won't chime in if you don't ask us to.

Topic Aggregation by User: See all your past posting activity in one place! Or find that helpful reply that So-n-so gave. Go to any profile, including your own, to find a link that allows you to view all topics to which that person has contributed.

Better Navigation: We're adding a sidebar listing of all other categories in our forum. Your feedback has been taken into consideration, so now you will be able to move from category to category with greater ease.

Optional Email Notifications for the OP: We are building the feature (back) in so that when a topic you started receives a post in reply, you will get an email notification. EDIT: This feature is defaulting to OFF for existing members. New members beginning 3/27/14 will have this defaulting to ON. You can turn this feature on or off in your profile.

Improved Reading: We are tightening up the design of each post and fixing the visual delineation between paragraphs of text in your posts. This should mean less empty white space and less scrolling while improving the readability of your posts.

Auto-Locking Old Topics: You've asked for this for years to stop "zombie threads" and this is one of many things our new forum makes possible that was always impossible in the ol' Helpline.

More Tweaks: We've adjusted forum posts in search returns and our "Explore Europe" pages, spam protection, and some administrative features to help make everything a smoother experience for you. You'll also return to the page you were on when you click to sign in.

Let us know in a post below if you have any comments, concerns, or joyous yelps.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Way to go, you guys!

Wait a minute . . . . does the badge color diminish if we disagree with the Edmunds crowd?

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
13079 posts

Actually I was going to suggest a unique badge for Ed.
Another change might be to just drop the "Review" section completely. Just as many question are being asked there as on the travel form. Either no one reads or fails to understand the purpose of that section. I think the idea is good but it is not working in present format.

Posted by Webmaster
Edmonds, WA, USA
327 posts

I forgot one...

Clicked links will have a color change so that you can determine the difference between topics you have read and topics you haven't read yet. This design change will only be available in the forums and not the rest of the site.

Posted by Webmaster
Edmonds, WA, USA
327 posts

"does the badge color diminish if we disagree with the Edmunds crowd?"

There are no demerits for disagreeing with car salesmen. Edmunds.com :p

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
2173 posts

WOW! Way to go guys, good work! Eagerly looking forward to seeing the new enhancements.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5482 posts

Hooray!!! What a way to make the forum users happy. Thank you from the bottoms of our little warm hearts.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

I only skimmed the list the first time. Now I've studied it.

  1. You've coughed up everything that was asked for that had a lick of merit.

  2. The badge business might not work so well:

a. There's going to be people like What'sHisName that post junk for not more than fame/post count.

b. My stupid posts above upped my count but added nothing that helps, but still would have moved me incrementally up.

c. Somebody's Post 3 often has more merit and accuracy than my Post 5329.

Posted by Gretchen
Andover, MA, USA
430 posts

THANK YOU Andrew, Kate (and other team members)!

I appreciate that you are putting in the stuff we need/want!!!! You are always willing to listen to us and we thank you.

I do have a question though: will we be able to see our old posts on topics that have since been locked? Or, can we just see our old posts back, say, 6 months or so?

THANKS again!!!!

Posted by Webmaster
Edmonds, WA, USA
327 posts

Gretchen,
All posts and topics will still be available for viewing. Locking them just means that you can't add a new post... except for me because I'm omnipotent. :)

Posted by Webmaster
Edmonds, WA, USA
327 posts

"You've coughed up everything that was asked for that had a lick of merit."
.
Huzzah!
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"The badge business might not work so well:
a. There's going to be people like What'sHisName that post junk for not more than fame/post count."
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If that is a thing, people would already do that due to our uncommon display of your post count.
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"b. My stupid posts above upped my count but added nothing that helps, but still would have moved me incrementally up."
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You've already 'earned' the highest badge we're going to give, though we may consider giving you your own pink posy badge.
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"c. Somebody's Post 3 often has more merit and accuracy than my Post 5329."
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We've known that about you for years. It's OK. We still love you.
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More seriously, we understand that a badging system can't be perfect, but that's why the tiers are so broad. It's more of a general recognition for your time spent helping others. We also want to make sure that the badge used to identify Rick's travel staff doesn't dominate the responses given by the rest of the community.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
12338 posts

ohsywowsie!!!

whodathunkit?

wowsi wowsi wowsie!!!

and all the things I was going to mention this week are mentioned, especially recently the topic just mentioned about the reviews. Goodness gracious but there are so few real reviews and almost all are questions.

Everything else is much appreciated.

Question - how old before old becomes locked?

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3266 posts

Wow... I was actually going to start a post the other day titled "Are we all happy now?" The biggest plus for me is the All Topics... that is the only place I go anymore...makes so much sense, but now with the posts that I have read being highlighted :)))Yeah... makes my time much more efficient.

I think Ed deserves the 'one of a kind' badge:)

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
12338 posts

Can Lee's badge be in the shape of the outline of

  • Edit

a DB train?


Oh, and on a more serious note - can we have a spam zap button? And can reported spam disappear until you can review it and perhaps raise it from the dead?


and about all those people using the England section when they are talking about getting all around the UK?

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
6046 posts

Sounds great so far!

One other thing: it seems like there are more duplicate replies tha before. Once a response post has been added to the thread, can you make the Add Reply option disappear?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Similar to Zoe.

If you edit a post days or hours later (stupidity, grammar, spelling) the system bumps it to the top as though it were a new post although nothing important has been added. It didn't work that way under the old system.

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
3318 posts

The new features all sound great.

I've also noted what Ed mentioned. Sometimes the "last update" is inconsistent with the date of the last post in a thread. That is, rather than showing the maxdate of the individual posts, there is a last update at the thread level that displays. For example, when spam replies get deleted, the thread last update reflects the date of the delete and floats to the top of the list.

Posted by Teresa
Seattle
592 posts

"Clicked links will have a color change so that you can determine the difference between topics you have read and topics you haven't read yet."

THANK YOU!!!

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

Well done & thanks! I would only 2nd the request to have a quick report spam button.
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Also love the Pink Posy for Ed. :)

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
5401 posts

Susan - thank you for my morning LOL

Webmaster, now I am in love with you.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
6046 posts

Chani, ten bucks says Webmaster is blushing.

Posted by Diane
Ottawa
1194 posts

Thank you Andrew and Kate! These are really helpful and appreciated improvements.

The only thing I'm not sure about is the elimination of paragraph breaks. I think it's what you refer to as eliminating 'white' or 'empty' space.

I will have to start using James' trick of a period, in order to organize a post in a more readable format, if we no longer get to use a line break to separate points that we are making.

Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! For all the rest!

BTW, I had already noticed the limit of posts for the blast docs spammers.... Way to go!!!! Here's hoping that this will be such a wasted or time consuming effort on their part, that they find some other sets of forums to haunt.
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I think that Ed's should definitely be pink - he's earned his stand-out status it in so many ways... ;-)
He is not shy at being no-nonsense when someone's plan is just plain silly. I like his brevity and he does make me chuckle. It often amazes me how much ground he's covered, and the things he has done, and how willing he is to add very useful feedback to such a huge variety of posts. I highly respect his opinion, even when it doesn't reflect my own or when I think that he's being a bit cranky.
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On the topic of badges and having staffers respond to posts:
Please have the staffers' ID be standardized, not just with a badge. They should have the additional info of location, to also be a clear indication of their function as a staffer. A newbie will not grasp right away the significance of the staffer badge. So, if staffer 'Tanya from Edmonds' or 'Tanya from RS' gets known around these parts as the (other) expert on trains and Rail passes specifically, and a newbie confuses a regular with a staffer, then it will be easy for any of us to chime in and post that maybe 'Tanya from Edmonds' will be along shortly to better address the OP. I've seen a few newbies confuse us all for staffers and another rare few really get their noses out of joint with the advice given... so this will help keep the finger pointed in the right direction, he, he.

As for the 'chime in' function, if I understand correctly, this is something the OP will need to activate with the original post starting a thread? I'm not sure that newbies will grasp this concept as well. Can there be a way for a regular poster to request a 'chime in' on another's post? Rail passes questions being a common example that immediately comes to mind.

Posted by kate
Rick Steves' Europe
52 posts

Diane, really good points! I think what das Webmaster meant by the paragraph breaks is that now when you hit the "enter" key twice, you'll be able to start a new paragraph as opposed to doing a work-around, so your paragraphs will actually be delineated in comments.
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I like your thoughts about standardizing usernames for staffers. Our badge will be round with a little "RS" on it (yours will be square and color-coded, with a symbol), so it will be pretty clear, but you're right... would be nice to do something like, "Kate at Rick Steves" or something.
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Unfortunately the only time you can flag one of us to chime in is when you start a new post, not when you add a reply. However, feel free to email us if you see a question pop up in a thread that you think we should jump in on!
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We are so glad that you all are as jazzed about the coming changes as we are. Personally I'm really excited for the badging and the fact that we can now view ALL posts by a community member. That's going to be so cool.
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Thanks again, everyone, for your patience and good humor as we iron out these bumps with our new system. We're pleased to be able to fix things AND make awesome enhancements to make this forum even better.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3733 posts

Thank you Kate and Andrew!

Any chance for a "Like" button?

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8860 posts

Sounds like some great changes. I like the one where you can click on someones name and topics they have contributed to, I will use that one alot as it helps you figure out if a person has same views as you( ie,, they complain about the food in Italy.. but then you find out they hated the food in France and Germany too... maybe they are pickier then you) .
I also think the idea of staff participating is great.. some people do come on here asking questions that staff would do best at..
I have never cared for post counts or badges because they don't really mean that much.. other then if someone comes on and raves about a certain hotel or service and then you see they have only posted three times,, and each post you see( which now you can see by clicking on their names) is only about the same hotel or service.. I personally would be distrustful of their recommendation then. Sometimes a large post counts only mean someone has posted here for 10 years.. and has a lot of free time( guilty).

Posted by Webmaster
Edmonds, WA, USA
327 posts

"Question - how old before old becomes locked?"

Answer: 6 months from the inception of the topic or two months since the last post, whichever is longer.
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"Any chance for a "Like" button?"

Maybe in another release at a later time. Would this "like" button be for sharing with social media or is it to show the popularity of a post within a topic on our forums? One is much easier to build than the other. :)
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Joyous yelp! - Nancy gets it.
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"Sometimes a large post counts only mean someone has posted here for 10 years.. and has a lot of free time (guilty)"

We would like to note that Pat has admitted her guilt and is sentenced to 10 more years.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
4383 posts

This sounds really great. I think that the like button is an, "I agree" button. It would be good if you could see who agreed. If all of us agree with Ed's posts..... :)

Pam

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1673 posts

I love that the webmaster is monitoring this site. There have been a couple of posters this year who have been inappropriate and she took care of it promptly. Now if she can only do the same with Ed, LOL.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3733 posts

"Would this "like" button be for sharing with social media or is it to show the popularity of a post within a topic on our forums? One is much easier to build than the other. :)"
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The "Like" or "I agree" button would be to show the popularity of a post within a topic on our forums.

Posted by Grier
Carmel, IN
1173 posts

I'd love to see a Like button as in I Agree. Please don't connect to social media.

Posted by Gretchen
Andover, MA, USA
430 posts

I 'like' Grier and Susan's posts...

;)

Thanks again Andrew and Kate. I am VERY excited to see all the new fun stuff!!! :)

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
22015 posts

Andrew & Kate,

The changes sound great, and provide some functions I've never thought of. I suspect you're going to be making some of the other travel forums jealous! Thank you for your hard work and expertise!

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8860 posts

I like the "like" button idea too.. but not connected to facebook,, just for posts here.

Posted by Diane
Ottawa
1194 posts

Like buttons leave me indifferent.

Occasionally, a piece of advice or info in a post is inaccurate. It doesn't take long for someone to come along and correct that info. Just a few days ago, I had made a mistake and another poster came along and corrected the outdated info that I gave. This is how we truly balance each other's input.

So much of the advice given here is subjective - take the Cinque Terre vs. the Amalfi Coast question. Personally, I would recommend the latter. Many would recommend the CQ. All the like button would do is show the popularity of one over the other... and, ultimately, what for??

IMO, it's more a tool for self-gratification than anything else, both for the poster and for the person hitting the button. They're also a righteous activity for the 'politically correct' or 'socially correct' or 'anti-clique' or 'pro-clique' or 'red-socks-only-on-Tuesdays' posses to engage in.

If we do eventually end up with 'Like' buttons, please don't include a thumbs-down/no-vote/dislike button - they are very counter-productive and bullies appreciate them - especially in combination with being able to search all past posts linked to their intended target. Imagine if this tool had been available to the lady who was around here a few short weeks ago and was eventually banned?

Posted by Dawn
Denver, CO
432 posts

Is the Search function still a work in progress? I tried searching on "Cinque Terre" and got ZERO forum results. I really miss the working search function - I used it all the time when planning our vacations!! I'm using a PC and Chrome.

Thanks for all the other changes!

Posted by Roy
East Alabama
1033 posts

Number of posts does not matter, quality of posts does. Sometimes they are the same. Sometimes not. But, since a couple of resident trolls (in my opinion) have moved on, I trust nearly all the thousands-posters on this website to give good advice. The other websites are more of a mixed bag.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
12338 posts

Can't we all have pink? Ed is not completely unique you know. OK, well, yes he is, more unique than most - and I know. But he can't collar the world production of pink...

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
2173 posts

If they give out pink ones I'm sure you'll get one Nigel. But only Ed gets posies on his.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
12338 posts

Looks nice, generally. What happened to Ed's pink posies?

More importantly, Kate and Andrew did you know that the new right hand column of "related" has trodden on and truncated the post date?

That's on a NC10Plus netbook running Chrome under Windows 7 Starter.

Posted by Diane
Ottawa
1194 posts

Nice!

I'm finding that the color of the thread titles that I've already read is very faded and extremely difficult to read. Would not going darker than normal be better to spot the threads that we have already read? I really don't think that the greying out works, it's just too light for me to be able to read!

Posted by Webmaster
Edmonds, WA, USA
327 posts

"More importantly, Kate and Andrew did you know that the new right hand column of "related" has trodden on and truncated the post date?"
Try making your screen wider or narrower. The entire forum, like our new website, is responsive in its design. This means the layout adjusts depending on your screen size. Yes, narrower can even be helpful because it will kick the navigation column off the screen (accessible behind the button in the header). This can create a bit more space for what needs to be displayed on the forum category pages. Try changing your screen width. You'll find the right display that works for you.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10651 posts

When I first saw that star (not having previously read this thread), I thought I was flagged for misbehavior, or something. Oh, now I get it.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3733 posts

Frank's Post the other day... "Another change might be to just drop the "Review" section completely. Just as many question are being asked there as on the travel form. Either no one reads or fails to understand the purpose of that section. I think the idea is good but it is not working in present format."

I agree with Frank and notice that the Review Section (for France anyway) is still mostly all questions. Can you delete all the questions there? If not, then there isn't much point in having that section.

Thank you!

Posted by Webmaster
Edmonds, WA, USA
327 posts

Keith,
I wouldn't say that we are defensive. I'd say that we are sensitive to our many contributors here. With this sort of change, it would only be too easy for some to think that we are intending to dominate replies with 'the right answer' thereby replacing the community of travelers here. That is not what we want at all as there is no 'right answer' to many travel questions and we want our community to continue to be the primary voice. Framing a change such as this must be worded carefully in order to be successful, and I think that's what you're picking up on. I'll send you a PM in response to your other comments.

Posted by Toni
Charlotte, NC, USA
3060 posts

I think the newer changes are great! But instead of calling it a 'like' button, PLEASE call it something such as "I agree". Like is too ubiquitous and has no meaning appropriate for this forum. Thanks for all that the RS staff does.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3266 posts

Have to agree with Diane about the like button... seems a little silly to me....popularity contest...Rome vs. Florence?
I think people can simply write that they agree and why, or just not respond if they have nothing to add.

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Love the RS staff posting:)

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1972 posts

I like the staff posting but do NOT like the stars for everyone else. It makes it appear that some people are more important or more authoritative than others. It was better to just have the total post count and let people draw whatever conclusions they choose.

Am I jealous of the gold stars? Maybe. But really what it does is discourage me from answering questions, as it appears my answers are not as good as others. Maybe other "low count" posters feel this way too?

Posted by Kathleen
Reston, VA, USA
514 posts

I think the badges are fun! I have never thought of myself as competitive but I'm already wondering how many more posts I need before I "graduate".

Trying for a line break here...it worked!

One thing that has happened with the new format is that the poster's badge and information now trails down in a long skinny column on the left before the actual post begins. At least that's how it looks on my iPhone4.

But overall this site keeps getting better. Thanks to Kate and Andrew for your hard work!

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
3318 posts

Webmaster, I'm noticing some anomalies with the time on my display (iOS on Ipad). Sometimes posts show my local time (EDT). Sometimes they are 3 hours earlier (PDT). Sometimes they are 1 hour earlier. This is on the "All Topics" view. I see local time if I select one of the country forums.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3733 posts

I don't like post counts. I wish we didn't have them at all. My post to a thread is not more valid than anyone else's, no matter how many posts we have or don't have.

I do want a "Like" button... I don't see it the way Diane and Terry kathryn do... they aren't self-righteous or a popularity contest for me... So many times I agree with someone but don't want to write a post (upping my post count) just to say "I agree with (pick a name)." That seems really dumb to me. If I have more to add, it makes sense, but often times I don't have more to add and it seems silly just to say "I agree." I do it fairly often because we don't have a "Like" button, but I'd much rather click a "Like" button instead.

Or, if someone writes something really funny I'd like to just click on a "Like" button... not then write a post saying "(pick a name) that was really funny." I do it occasionally because that person made me laugh and I appreciate it but I'd rather click a "Like" button to say it.

I don't like popularity, self-righteous, I'm right you're wrong stuff at my age.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8860 posts

Ok so now see all the stars and triangles.. but have no idea what they mean.. get they are tied in with post counts.. but if this was your first time on the forum wouldn't you just think they were pretty little avatars?

Posted by Roy
East Alabama
1033 posts

In an earlier post, I said I trust a lot of the thousands-posters. Actually, number of posts has nothing to do with it. Good information does, however, and that applies to a lot of people here, regardless of count and even when I would do things a different way.

Posted by Ilja
Seattle
2040 posts

Number of posts tells us about quantity but not quality of contributions. I also noticed that certain contributors have more double enters of one post than others and it counts as two posts. It sometimes happens to each of us, then we should delete one of those two identical ones.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
6046 posts

Please, no "Like" button. One of the best features of this forum is the consistently thoughtful replies, including those that disagree with previous posts. "Like" button is just unnecessary, in my opinion. I appreciate people's comments, but what are we tabulating/voting on with buttons?

I am also less enchanted with the post count badges than I thought I would be (a gold star for the highest count level? Really?). They seem to divide the community into grade levels rather than encourage its unity.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3733 posts

If a poster answers the often asked "where should I stay in Paris", for instance, and responds with "my favorite areas to stay in Paris are the 4th, 5th and 6th" and I agree with them, I can just click a "Like" button. Without it, if I agree, I now post after them saying "I agree with Pat/Andrea, I like the 4th, 5th and 6th too." What's the value in repeating a previous post? I see lots and lots of posts like that... people that agree and just repeat what has already been said 10 times. My favorites are the multiple posts that say the exact same thing as though they were saying it first. I think it's a waste of space. Just my opinion... : )

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
5401 posts

I like everything that Zoe just wrote. I really don't understand the "like" concept. If I think good information or advice has been given and I have nothing to add, I just go on to the next post. We aren't here to convince people that we know best, we are just here to give options for the reader to consider.

Now I'm going to reinstate my notification status. Thanks for all the improvements!

Posted by Roy
East Alabama
1033 posts

I just hit the 770 mark, and this post will make it 771. If I copy/paste this post 4,229 times, I can become a brigadier (one-star) general. ; > )

Posted by Wil
IJzendijke, The Netherlands
545 posts

I like Zoe’s response, don’t need and “like” a buton for to say that!
Roy - I’m getting this kind of competitive thinking too :-)

Posted by Diane
Ottawa
1194 posts

- "What's the value in repeating a previous post? I see lots and lots of posts like that... people that agree and just repeat what has already been said 10 times."

Why add the extra 10 times?? The answer to this is not an "Agree" button, it's restraint.

I'm with Chani and Zoe on this one. If I read that the OP's question has been answered, there seems to be a good balance of replies, and I have nothing to add to the discussion, then I move on to another thread.

Posted by Ilja
Seattle
2040 posts

I absolutely agree with Zoe, Susan, Chani, Roy, Wil, Diane, George and many others with similar opinion. As I already said: the number of posts tell us only about quantity of contributions. If I absolutely want the golden star I could have it quite soon. Just double post now and then and contribute to almost everything even if the question was already fully answered. But God forbid I am not suggesting that people who have the golden star did it this way. Some contributors have been on this forum for a long time or are more devoted or have more time or know more.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8467 posts

I was here way back when Kent first broke the 1000 post mark, and it was a big deal. For the most part, the higher-number posters were here then, too, so it's just been increasing as time has gone by.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
12338 posts

I thought that the clock problem was sorted out last night as it wandered around to several different zones but then settled back to local time.

This morning (UK time) it was all over the shop again, but has again settled down. It may get more fun over the weekend again as Europe changes to Summertime (GMT+1 in UK, GMT+2 in Europe) on Sunday morning.

My seatbelt is fastened!!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
12338 posts

Of all the recent changes,

I'm not particularly chuffed with the badges system. I don't really get it. You know my suspicious nature. It seems to me a back door to allow RS staffers (one so far) to post.

That also seems a risk that RS is taking. I don't mind if 2 people have a difference of opinion on two reasonable ways to do things, but I do feel uncomfortable having to fact correct somebody offering an answer with the RS POV.

It seems to me that come on with a RS badge the answer has to be correct. It would be helpful if somebody answering on behalf of RS were to have read the Helpline for some time and understand the conventional wisdom here which has usually come from several years of specialist knowledge.

"Chiming in" to an existing discussion may well be helpful, or answering if it has been a couple of days since asked and unanswered, but chiming in before the volunteer helpers here have a chance to pitch in has 2 big downsides, IMHO. If the person answering for RS makes an oopsie it makes RS look less, well, ? And if the volunteers rock up to see an oopsie it makes them in a difficult place if they are RS supporters. I just think it makes it too easy for the RS knockers.

I hope it works out....

So, just a couple of things to think about.... what do the rest of you think?

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
12338 posts

I miss Kent.

I miss some of the recent departures, too. Let's hope that some of the dear ones see the new changes and come back for another go....

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8860 posts

I will tell you one reason I like the post counts. On TA right now there is a thread .. the OP had a negative experience using a certain tour company.
The thread is old but gets pulled up every now and then,, usually by posters who did a ""google search" and want to contribute to the thread. What has been noted is how many "one time, first time, and last time" posts by people who come on an defend the company.
I personally am distrustful of one time posters who appear and only come on a forum to comment on ONE thing.. a commercial enterprise of some sort.. and post a glowing review or firm rebuttal of any criticism. If however they have been posting on various topics then of course I tend to believe their posts to be genuine opinions.. even if I don't agree with their view. IE: "such and such hotel in Paris is wonderful" .. one time post containing only a glowing report about the hotel .. Do I trust that ? Or do I trust a poster who comes on and says.. "loved our hotel, the Louvre was too overwhelming.. had a great dinner at La Coupole, didn't realize we'd walk so much" ,, it may just be me.. but I do trust someone who has more opinions then "use such and such tour company .. they were great" but mention NOTHING else.

I don't really see the need for stars or rainbow symbols.. I agree some of us ( me) do have more free time to post so obviously will have more posts.. especially if we have been around for years.. it doesn't make our input more valuable then someone with 50 posts.

I also don't see why it bothers some that folks sometimes chime in on a topic that has been answered.. some folks enjoy the discussion , and get excited and just want to say " hey .. I loved that place /activity" too.. for many of us discussing our favorite places is just plain fun. The forum is supposed to be fun too.. not just for fact checking .
Someone could ask about the hours of Eiffel Tower. I could just post a link to the official website,,but I like discussing options they may have for their visit..

Posted by Roy
East Alabama
1033 posts

"...but I do feel uncomfortable having to fact correct somebody offering an answer with the RS POV."

If this refers to the Nothing To Declare thread, the OP returned to confirm that the RS writer interpreted his question correctly and therefore gave correct advice.

Posted by ckpatchett
Florida
28 posts

While we've been following RS shows and used his guidebooks for years, I'm new on this particular forum board. I've tried it previously but found the navigation awkward. I'm excited to hear about these changes and anxious to try it out. I'm more reticent on boards than in speech, so I'm not likely to get any kind of badge, at least not for years :) But I'll be asking lots of questions about our upcoming fall trip.

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
800 posts

If we get a Like or Agree or Thumbs Up button, will we get a Dislike, or Disagree or Thumbs Down button too???

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
1151 posts

As Diane said, "I'm with Chani and Zoe on this one. If I read that the OP's question has been answered, there seems to be a good balance of replies, and I have nothing to add to the discussion, then I move on to another thread." I agree. The exception is when there are an adequate number of answers, but there is one important detail they have all left out. Then I do post.

Posted by Kathi
Portland,Oregon
84 posts

What about an "agree" or "like" button. Many times I agree with the comment, but that's not worthy of a post. How many times do you need to read ,"I agree, buy merino wool socks", hit the button and voilá! 27 agrees may help the poster.

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
800 posts

I have been gone for several days, so I don't know exactly when all these new enhancements were implemented. I've just had a good look-around and everything looks just SUPER! Well Done Kate, Andrew and the rest of your IT team.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
1151 posts

The one time I think it helps the OP for several Helpliners to post "I agree" is when the OP is a travel newbie, and they ask a question like, "At which London sight should I spend an afternoon; the London Dungeon, or the British Museum?" If they get one person saying "The British Museum", they may think that is just that person's preference (which I guess is true). If they then get five more people saying, "I agree. The British Museum is great; the London Dungeon is a waste of time and money." they will know that that's the general consensus around here, and it will help them to decide. Several people confirming that it is good advice ("I agree") gives the OP more confidence that the first Helpliner was right.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

On the other hand, if seventy- three of the respondents are lemmings and vote for Spot X because it's guidebook-touted (but don't know that Spot Y exists), the couple of suckers that suggest Y look like feral idiots.

The majority might carry the day out of ignorance.

What the heck is the London Dungeon, anyway?

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
6046 posts

To be clear, I don't mind the post count but I am not that fond of the badge categories.

Like buttons: if you agree, say so or move on. If you disagree, say so or move on.

I notice that a couple of RS staff posts contain pitches for RS products. It seems unnecessay. The unpaid volunteers who pitch for RS products, or others, is different than a response from a staffer. If staffers are really travel-savvy, they know there are other products that could suit the poster's needs, too. Let us make the recommendations on what to buy, RS is good at providing the products.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1750 posts

I don't much care if there's a like/agree button, but it some instances it may be useful. Jane says her bank teller insists that debit info gets stolen all the time in Europe, and she should take traveler's checks, and what do we think about that, anyway? A few people will jump on that quickly and give her better info, and a lot of us will feel we have nothing better to add and will move on without comment. So Jane sees three responses from cyber space, but Judy the bank teller is really nice and is not charging her for those travelers's checks, so that's what she does. If she'd seen an additional 73 "agrees" added to the replies, she may think twice.
.
I was never a Girl Scout, and never got badges. I was a Campfire Girl, and we got beads for good deeds. Could I have wooden beads?

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5482 posts

No Karen. You will not get wooden beads. You only get a badge and you will learn to live with it and like it. I was a Girl Scout and we only got badges for accomplishments. We will think of one for you, as we have all weekend.

I feel duped though. Ed was promised a pink badge with a posy on it. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Was this a false promise? I was going to ask for something in a deep shade of purple, but now, when I see Ed didn't get his special purty badge, I know I would just be chasing a wild dream.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
1151 posts

Ed, the London Dungeon is a tourist attraction in London. It has employees dressed in Halloween type costumes (executioner, etc.) with fake blood smeared on them, standing outside the entrance to "the Dungeon" urging customers to come in. Heads impaled on spikes, a torture chamber, they talk about Jack The Ripper, the Black Death, and some executions. They have some kind of a Disney-type ride. My grandkids (teenagers) insisted on going. Waste of time and money IMHO, but some kids may enjoy it. Located now near County Hall and the London Eye, but they used to be on Tooley Street, London Bridge. I guess I shouldn't be so negative, but there are so many things to do in London that are better than this.

And Ed, I know you'd rather spend your day at the British Museum instead of the London Dungeon, so you would be one of the Helpliners telling the newby to go to the British Museum. All of us "lemmings" can go together to spend the day at the British Museum. Hands down, one of the very best places to visit in London.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8467 posts

@Nigel, I feel the same way about the appearance of RS staffer posts, particularly if they are the first responses on a thread. To me, it also kind of makes it feel as though the volunteers' answers aren't "necessary" if there is already an "official" answer. Are all of the staffers that are providing answers doing so out of personal experience, as the volunteers (should) do? There are people here with decades of personal knowledge of an area, and it would be shame to have that knowledge disregarded if it disagreed with something a staffer posted. And the problem of contradicting or correcting something they said could be an issue.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
5401 posts

Someone asked a question about train access at Madrid airport. I answered based on my memory of my experience a year ago. Then one of the RS staffers contradicted what I wrote based on that staffer's knowledge of how things are done in other European countries. IMHO - irresponsible. Thanks for letting me vent.

Posted by Diane
Ottawa
1194 posts

I just disagreed with one of the RS munchkins regarding a post on Ireland (re itinerary from Cork) - same beef.

Nigel rightly mentioned the risk taken by RS in having staffers directly respond on this forum. Staffers now represent the 'voice' of Rick Steves here. The quality of the responses displayed in this forum by those posters with the official badge will reflect back on RS. I'm already beginning to distinguish between RS-badged posters who are 'knowledgeable staffers' and those who are just 'RS munchkins'.

Posted by Ilja
Seattle
2040 posts

I don't mind RS staffers on this Forum. I don't know for sure but I think they answer questions here in their time off, not as a part of their job. So in that case they are volunteers like us. I think our main purpose is to help fellow travelers. The more of us the better for them. I don't think it's worse for us when RS staffers joined us here. It looks like there are hints of that in several posts. Everybody can make a mistake even R.S. staffer. If I see a mistake I don't have any problem to (politely) bring attention to it, does not matter if it's one of us true volunteers or R.S. staffer. Erare humanum est.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
2173 posts

I'm going to vent here too. Regarding the RS staffers joining in on the forum, I have to agree with Nigel, Nancy, Chani, and Diane. What I've seen so far has been: contradictory to some knowledgeable posters (and possibly wrong info); reiterating what a volunteer has already said, as if to give it the RS blessing; pushing RS recommended sights,hotels,etc (maybe they want to catch a poster who hasn't read the guidebooks?). So far I don't think it's improving the forum any.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
12338 posts

It would be helpful if Kate or Andrew were to clarify the role and scope of the RS badged contributors. Some here have suggested that they just happen to be RS employees and are posting here in their own spare time; and that they get the RS badge to let us know that their words are wise because they are immersed in the RS soup all day.

I don't think that is likely to be the case. It seems to me that they are 9-5ers who are tasked on a revolving basis to put forth the RS words of wisdom. Are the two or three who we have so far the total or is it a different person each day? It might be helpful to have our new guests (hosts?) in the room introduce themselves - sort of like we mostly all did a year or two ago in response to a question - and give their credentials, countries or regions of experience, maybe what they do at RS.

A bit of clarity please, Andrew and Kate (not you 2, I think we know a bit about the two of you, but if you want to...). Thanks

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
5401 posts

When a volunteer posts something, I take (or leave) it as one tourist to another. I would give a great deal more weight to the information that someone with an RS badge writes, assuming that the person is as knowledgeable as an RS guide or guide book. From what I've read here, it becomes apparent that this is a false assumption. I think that the RS badge should not be used if the person writing is just voicing a personal opinion or making an educated (?) guess.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
1151 posts

Regarding the RS staffers joining in on the forum, I have to agree with Nigel, Nancy, Nancy (both Nancys), Chani, and Diane. Maybe there's just no need for us Helpliners to contribute anymore, if RS staff are on-call for travel advice here.

Posted by Roy
East Alabama
1033 posts

Some here do not welcome postings by RS staff. Having followed this site for a while, I am used to the back and forth as the yellow and blue stars state and defend their positions against anyone with a different idea or way of doing things. That is more often against each other than newcomers, however. But I suspect that a newcomer reading this thread would leave with the impression that old-timers resent the intrusion on their turf. On the other hand, someone coming over from TA for the first time would likely think that this is the most civil bunch they have ever seen.

Posted by Ilja
Seattle
2040 posts

I don't care about colors of stars, triangles etc. As I previously said it is just about quantity. What I care is quality of the answer. Being on this Forum for a long time (even my # postings says otherwise) and also being a frequent traveler I think I developed a good instinct for a quality answer. And also there are many other ways to verify. And I don't feel intimidated by the presence of R.S. staffers on this Forum, just the other way, I welcome it. We have something to learn from them and I don't doubt they have something to learn from many of us.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

With my complete lack of tact, I'll go off the deep end: The round-badge posts are stinking grim and an abysmal failure.

The posts seem to come from a bunch of greenhorns, maybe even tin horns. Examples:
. Caen Car Rentals - - missed misconception in question that bus service from Ouistreham ends at five - - implied that AE was the only way to rent a car
. German Customs - - missed implication of what passing through the green passage implies and gave a flippant answer
. Toledo Vegetarian - - touted a guidebook restaurant and didn't mention that all-veggie grub is available on just about any menu in town - - also classified the entire country as being 'ham-centric'
. Istanbul Tours - - lame reply involving 'ask the innkeeper'
Madrid Airport - - generalization based on another nation

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours flipping through the posts by the round-badgers. There was, of course, a lot of corporate mentions which probably comes with the territory. What struck me as odd were all the 'in all my years of European travel . . . ' (Really? How many days were actually involved in all those years? and 'On my recent/last trip to Podunkville . . . (Really? How many times do you need to go to Podunkville before you've had enough of it?) that somehow seemed contrived to convey a personal bit of authenticity. There also were a bunch of responses that didn't quite seem to hit the mark - - that didn't quite pass the personal experience smell test - - but I figured I was being suspiciously nit-picky and quit.

If they're posting on their own time, they need to take the badge off, but I suspect that's not the case.

If they're posting on company time, they need to keep their fingers shut unless they're darn sure of accuracy from vast and repeated personal experience.

I suspect the problem is with the 'chime in' feature. Somebody's got to say something. Whether the something comes from the company mantra, Mr. Steves' personal philosophy, the quidebooks, or quick internet research doesn't seem to matter. The fact that the answer misses the target (or didn't even see the target), skips the broader implications, or neglects the lurkers doesn't seem to matter either.

I don't suspect that RS Inc has the manpower or the inclination to pass their posts through a committee to scan for possible glitches. I also suspect that the answers don't come from the IT crowd, but maybe from someone in the 'tour and travel directorate' that's either the 'dude for the day' or the 'area/country expert'. Whatever it is, it isn't working. From what I've seen in pictures of the RS assemblage, there aren't enough people, even if they were all on the road all the time - - and all free-floating instead of following a tour/research path - - to match the combined knowledge of all of you guys. (Some of your twisted damn opinions are a bunch of grins, but it's readily apparent that they're are just opinions. Mine, on the other hand, should be taken as gospel.)

The problem is that us peons can make mistakes and be slapped silly. Edicts from on high have to be dead accurate and above reproach; they're not, not by a long shot. The round-badge program is detracting from the corporate image due to its sloppiness.

Like Nige, I'm loath to go against them publicly because of the disharmony it would cause.

Unfortunately, they've become a bunch of 'HWSNBNs with a Badge'. Some things are right, some almost right, and some ludicrous. When you look at the entire body of work, there are sufficient discrepancies to distrust the entirety. My new amusement is looking for holes in round-badge posts which shouldn't have to be, but I find too many to quit. It's an anti-HWSNBN addiction.

As with The Banished One, there may well come the day, if the trend continues, when the guns are lowered and a broadside fired. That will really suck. The badges need to go away, round and square. The 'chime in' needs to go away.

Posted by Diane
Ottawa
1194 posts

I don't have an issue at all with staffers posting per se... that can actually be a welcomed addition, IMO.

The issue I was highlighting is the variability in the quality of the responses that I have seen so far. One RS-badged poster is very clearly better sourced in her knowledge. Another one, the one I had labelled a "RS munchkin", is notably less well-seasoned/informed. Ed gave very good examples of this in his post, as I was typing this.

I'm dating myself (yet again), when I say that I use the term "RS munchkin" in a loose adaption of its use in gamer circles. In this instance: a staffer, probably young, gung-ho and fairly new to the game. One that has been assigned to post and post he/she does, re-hashing common and general advice with no real depth or discernment.

This variability will have an impact, as these RS-badged staffers officially represent Rick Steves and his organization. All I'm saying is to please reign in the "munchkins", they will do more damage than good.

Depth is was we (the general posters) represent, independent of the "badges"...

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Andrew:

Please note that I kept my big yap shut during the whole revamp except for one short, pointed post about classic / all topics and rode the system until you guys got it magnificently sorted out. This new twist is a mess, however.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
22015 posts

I've been following the ongoing heated debate here regarding having the RS staffers contribute to the Helpline (and other recent changes). Many of you have made some really good points. As always I really enjoyed reading Ed's perspective.

At this point, I don't see a problem with having staffers contribute as I'm sure they'll also be able to offer some good advice. Many of the RS people are very well travelled, both with RS and on their own so they undoubtedly have a good range of travel experience to share. I can well understand that there may be some reticence in disagreeing with opinions from RS staffers or offer conflicting advice to theirs, and hopefully those that choose to do that won't incur the wrath of the RS organization. As with any advice posted here, it's always the reader's choice whether to follow it or ignore it.

Hopefully the staffers will also try to be neutral when suggesting travel products or whatever. If a RS product is the best solution for a poster's question, I don't see a problem with them suggesting that. However, if there's a competing product that may be slightly better, I do hope they'll mention that also. I'm very pleased that the web team chose to identify the staffers when they made these changes, rather than having them just sign on anonymously under their own names. IMO, that shows an honest and ethical approach.

Bottom line for me - at this point I'm just taking a neutral "wait & see" approach to see how this works out.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2379 posts

I don't think conflict of interest would be an issue in terms of RS-staff responses. As long as they are clearly identified with their badge, in a transparent way, they would be a welcome addition.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5482 posts

Raise your hand if you have ever disagreed with the advice or facts found in a Rick Steves book as being inaccurate? Right. So why then do you expect the employees to be perfect in their advice? Sheesh! The first time I read the Frankfurt section in the Germany book, I was appalled at all the incorrect information. I sent corrections to the editor and they did update the book the following year. This is just one city in one country.

When this was first proposed, I had understood that the RS staff was only going to post answers on threads that had not received any answers. Seems this fell by the wayside.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10651 posts

I also noticed a few sketchy postings from the HQ-badged responders (example, Salzburg is not 3.5 hours from Garmisch-Partenkirchen by car). And yes, that's a big part of what got HIM banned- giving answers that depended more on knowledge of the complete works of RS than on the reality on which that corpus is based.

By way of another example, here's what I see as the problem. My mother worked for a time booking package vacations in the Carribean. As part of her job, she had at one time or another visited just about every resort that her company partnered with. Hence, she knew these resorts inside out, and could answer plenty of questions based on first-hand experience. But if the destination wasn't covered by her company, then her knowledge and experience with alternatives was meager. I see the RS-badged responders as perhaps having the same limitations. How well do they know the Europe that extends beyond the limits of what the company offers? Although there's plenty of questions that pop on this website that could be answered straight out of the RS literature, more than half of the posters are asking for a little more. They want personal feedback, knowledge of the "inner curve" (as Frank so named it), or recommendations for stuff that sits in the vast hinterlands between the Canonical RS recommendations. Based on the responses I've seen so far, I'm sorry, but I don't think they're up to it.

Posted by ckpatchett
Florida
28 posts

Well, here's another post to add to my numbers. Only, what? 492 before I get my own badge!

I do agree with what Rebecca said about the agree button. I like the idea. I would appreciate knowing that there was general agreement without having to read through a bunch of posters to get the same impression. If you disagree, post. (Oh, BTW, would we get another number on our post count for hitting "like"?)

As for the RS posters, I plan to take them with the same attitude I take all such advice--Trust, but verify!

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
6046 posts

Here's an idea: how about putting some of the RS Badgers to work deleting or locking zombie threads? Deleting or locking old threads was something the Web staff mentioned would be done, but I still find zombies lurching through the forum.

Posted by Roy
East Alabama
1033 posts

"I can well understand that there may be some reticence in disagreeing with opinions from RS staffers or offer conflicting advice…"

I can see the reticence out in force in this thread. With veteran posters claiming the high ground and aiming their cannon at them, are the RS staffers willing to ride through the valley of death? OK, so that's a bit over the top, but that's the image I get from reading this thread. I think the RS staffers are willing, at least some of them, but they better be ready for initiation by fire.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
12338 posts

They're not badgers, they're munchkins. Come on guys, one expression or another.

Badgers have been recently (poorly and ineffectively) culled in parts of England; and they make good shaving brushes. The shaving brushes were decades before the cull, BTW

;-}}

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
2173 posts

New subject - please, please, please can we get the old zombie threads locked to new postings!

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Update: Somebody with a round badge hasn't been to Legoland, Denmark. And I had to think back twenty-five years to give a half-tailed description. Grrrrr!

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
3145 posts

It sounds good. Will there be weekend coverage? I would like that.

Posted by kate
Rick Steves' Europe
52 posts

Hey everyone -

Thanks for posting your thoughts about the inclusion of Rick Steves staff members in the forums. I've read all of them, and Nigel is right (again), we should clarify some things. I'm wondering if perhaps there isn't some miscommunication on our end about what to expect here.

1) It was never the intent for RS staffers to only answer posts with no replies. When you post a new topic, there's an "I want an RS staffer to chime in" box that you can click. If you click that box, and ONLY if you click that box, that topic appears in a queue for RS staffers to answer. They only jump into posts when asked.

2) An answer from an RS staffer is never, ever the final word on a subject. These aren't meant to be thread-killers. Rather, they're meant to add to the conversation, and please please disagree with them if needed! We are all learning here, and like someone brought up with the guidebook misinformation being corrected based on user feedback, this is a similar thing. If we're wrong, please tell us! It will only help make the content on the website, in the books, etc. more accurate and awesome. I can understand the hesitation with disagreeing, but please know that the "round-badger" will really appreciate being corrected.

3) The "round-badger" (I'll call our staff RBers from now on, I think...) is not meant to replace anyone, goodness knows. One of the reasons for the new badging system in general is to let newcomers know that beyond an RS staff member, high-posters who help monitor and moderate these forums are travel experts at the same level as us, and a newcomer knows that they can trust, for example, Chani's expertise just as much as they can trust someone who actually works for Rick Steves. It also helps them identify folks who are doing the volunteer moderation work as well as giving travel advice.

But the RBers are here to, like the webmaster said in the original post, chime in when asked just like they do over email. Right now we get a TON of one-off emails asking for travel advice of the same kind already being discussed here. So we're starting to drive these folks to the forum instead of having them just relying on us to answer their travel questions (you'll see a new page pop up, linked to from the footer, that more explicitly encourages people to go to the forum to ask a question). However, since they're clearly writing into our offices to ask us these questions, we thought we'd still be available to them if they'd like, hence the "chime in" idea.

I hope that clears things up a little? And yes, the people answering these questions have long histories of European travel... you can't get hired on for these roles without a wide variety and a rich history of travel. So they are very well-traveled, but they're also human and make mistakes. Please try to feel comfortable with correcting them when you need to, engage with them on the forums, and discuss. We want you to engage with us, otherwise we would have just had an RBer Q&A section separate from these forums. They're excited to be here, and excited to hear from all of you.

P.S. In case you're wondering, yes, I am the web producer Rick mentioned in his most recent Facebook post. And I'm not proud. ;o)

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1673 posts

This is just my opinion about the badges, etc.
1. I feel like I am back in school where some kids received a gold star, remember them, and others did not because their essay wasn't long enough, etc. Just don't feel they add anything to the forum. As someone earlier said, it is quality, not quantity that counts.
2. I am sure the RS staff are very enthusiastic about adding to the forum but they are going overboard, in my opinion. I don't feel we need comments to some posting such as " we agree", " you have received some good advice" and "enjoy your trip" without adding anything else to the post. I sometimes feel as if big brother is watching.
3. I also thought the staff was really not going to be promoting buying their products but in some cases, this is not true.

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1673 posts

It appears Kate was typing her message while I was correcting mine so I would just like to add that it is nice to know she is reading what we are posting.

Posted by Webmaster
Edmonds, WA, USA
327 posts

Hi,
I can respond directly to Gail's post.

"2. I am sure the RS staff are very enthusiastic about adding to the forum but they are going overboard, in my opinion. I don't feel we need comments to some posting such as " we agree", " you have received some good advice" and "enjoy your trip" without adding anything else to the post. I sometimes feel as if big brother is watching."
-Keep in mind that we are effectively required to respond if someone checks the box indicating they want a member of Rick's staff to respond. If someone else has already given a great response that we can't improve upon, our best post is to recognize that the question has been answered.

"3. I also thought the staff was really not going to be promoting buying their products but in some cases, this is not true."
-As stated in the original post, "we have no agenda here other than to give people the best travel advice and encourage travel" and we aren't here to advertise. We will link to other web pages on our site for additional information (we've got tons) and we will reference that certain information comes from our guidebooks when a citation is appropriate. If we are telling you to buy the book or dropping links to our travel bags (the exception being if someone directly asks about our product), then that crosses a line and you can inform the webmaster about it.

Posted by Webmaster
Edmonds, WA, USA
327 posts

On a broader topic...

As far as the discussion about RS Staff being under fire from fact checking... or any sort of concept of "right" or "wrong," keep in mind a broader theme that you've seen me post about over the years here. This forum has never been about being right or wrong. This forum is about sharing your travel experience, opinions and advice. No one's opinion is better than anyone else's opinion. Anyone who thinks that their advice is wrote fact ends up not staying around our forums for very long. We welcome advice that is different from the advice of others as long as everyone remains respectful. Nothing has changed in this respect. So, please proceed with giving a post that gives different information than posts written by RS Staff. Their advice will be different from yours as yours will be different from theirs. As always, the right tone on our boards depends on whether or not you frame your response as your own differing information (good) or by condemning others advice in giving your own (bad).

For those that still feel uncertain or leery about responding to threads on which we have replied, I feel that I should repeat something I said in the original post:
Make no mistake; the primary voice in the Rick Steves Travel Forum is your own.

Regards,
RS Webmaster

Posted by Adam
Boston
2923 posts

It seems to me that if people ask for the staff to chime in (I would) and don't get it, some might feel not well taken care of even if the regulars here give them great advice.

If so, having a staff member corroborate information with a "that's right" or "Ed's got the goods" does not seem like such a bad thing.

I haven't seen any of this staff interaction, I guess I'm not hanging out with the right people!

Posted by Darcy
Lewiston, Idaho, USA
1408 posts

Dear Webmaster,
WOW! I went away for the weekend and returned to find all these changes! Magnificent job! Thanks SO much!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
12338 posts

Thanks for the clarity update both Andrew and Kate.

One thing you omitted to refer to was the question posted earlier about the RBers (to use Kate's term). There is confusion on this side of the fence as to whether the RBers are responding in their own time like any other contributor or if they are "on the clock" and responding as the "Voice of Rick" or at least the "Voice of ETBD".

Can I take it that in absence of anything contradictory it is the latter, and this is now part of their 9-5 job?

If so, does that now mean that RBers won't be seen outside of work hours, and especially that they won't be seen on weekends when the board really buzzes much more than during the week?

Posted by Roy
East Alabama
1033 posts

Gail, I also feel like I am back in high school. New kids come in and immediately the kids that have been together for years have to test their mettle. The badges probably make things worse by creating cliques and marking the new kids as targets. I take back my earlier comments about folks here being more civil than at TA; the last week or so, they have been worse. Things will settle down in time. If not, I will move on in search of a site where people treat one another with respect.

Posted by Webmaster
Edmonds, WA, USA
327 posts

Note to self: Roy has spoken heresy.
More seriously there, Roy, it's tough for me to gauge your personal experience, but if you find that individuals are out of line, we are always here to review and moderate situations. We know that badge systems aren't perfect, but we hope that our members here are all adults. Groupings of people will happen in any community and I think any perceived groups here expand beyond any one badge type.

Nigel, thanks for reminding me about that one as I wanted to respond to that too.
In the same way that it was (is?) part of our staff's 9-5 job to respond to emailed travel questions, it is part of their 9-5 job to respond to these forum questions. To explain something from the original post in different words, their comments are intended to reflect their own travel experience and advice in conjunction with Rick's advice. Just as it is whenever I make public comments on our forums, any comments by Rick's travel advisers are inherently a reflection of the company. However, anyone expecting or looking for "the official word" of the company should go to our published guidebooks as this is free personalized advice being given here (just like yours!). This is when I should give our usual caveat as seen in our Community Guidelines. We "...accept no responsibility for loss, injury, inconvenience, or bad pasta sustained by any person using the free advice received from Rick Steves Community members."

You asked about availability. Rick's travel advisers will primarily be commenting 9-5 on weekdays. Some Saturdays may be in the mix as we have our Travel Advisory staff on hand for our retail store that day. Our official stance is that we will respond within two business days, usually sooner, for any topic that has checked the "chime in" box.

I hope that answers your questions well. As usual, post more comments if there's anything more to be worked out.

Cheers,
RS Webmaster

Posted by ckpatchett
Florida
28 posts

You are doing a color change for topics we have read, is it possible to do something similar in our posting profile to let us know when someone else has posted to a thread we are interested in since the last time we posted on that thread? I've seen this on other boards.

Posted by Laura B
San Francisco
952 posts

Maybe it's because I'm more text-oriented than visual, but I don't notice the badges when I read answers. Sometimes look at number of posts but 30 or 30,000 is equally OK if the information is valid.

How about an original post date to flag zombies?

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8860 posts

Roy have you been on other forums.. many use badges or at least post counts on the sites.. its not a big deal.. it does not mean anyone is better then anyone( with my exception of not trusting one post wonders who appear only to tout a commercial enterprise be it tour, hotel, or restaurant) .. I think people are over thinking or over worrying really.

Just get on to the forums and have fun.. stop worrying about being "that kid back in highschool"..

Posted by Roy
East Alabama
1033 posts

Pat, my comments ware not about the badges. I do think the RS badges seem to be inciting some of the long-time regulars. Maybe I could have phrased things better or maybe not, but I was just asking the critics to quit trying to pick apart everything the RS staffers say and do. I am not asking them to ignore wrong information, but simply set the thread aside for a few minutes, then reread both the OP's question and the RS staffer's reply -- or anyone else's -- for accuracy before going off on a tangent that has little to do with either.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8860 posts

Roy sorry if i misunderstood.. I agree there do seem to be some knee jerk reactions to change.. I myself am one of those who has trouble with transitions.. but so far .. really I haven't seen a problem with the new set up.. There is no perfect forum.. but I think the RS has added some new features I quite like ( clicking on names! and jump to bottom) so I think we should all concentrate on just asking and answering questions and not over think the new features we don't like that much or think are not necessary. If an answer given by ANYONE is wrong or misleading it should be pointed out in the interest of accuracy.
On another forum I go on they have "DE"s Destination Experts,, they are not paid staffers,, but the designation "DE" does make some posters assume every answer they give is the best one.. and sometimes its not.. but other posters simply chime in and contradict them or offer a better answer. At some point a traveller has to make their own choices.. and reading any forum or guide book should just be a start to their solution... I always look up answers given to confirm them.. as much as I respect some posters and their advice.. things can change.. train routes, hotel owenership etc.. so anyone willing to jet off to another country and spend thousands of dollars should be responsible to do some due diligence.. Answers should never be taken as gospel. Especially on a travel forum where many answers are a matter of OPNION( ie " the best restaurant for mussels is" ) .

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

I think things are getting refined and will continue to improve.

Ex: The Guideline 7 violation regarding Copenhagen by a staffer has been chunked - - indicating that somebody's reading everything which surprises me.

Andrew and Kate have cleared the field on correcting or disagreeing with staff posts, factual or opinion.

Badges and post counts remain an abomination. Each post should stand on it's own merits without a perceived hierarchy of the responder. The staffers need to keep theirs for source clarity between staff and peons. I'd be happy if my badge were stripped and my post count permanently capped at eleven.

Now that it's clear that staff posts are not sacrosanct, most of the rest will sort itself out. I haven't noticed anybody 'picking apart' a staff post because of the source.

The final adjustment I think that can be made on staff posts is a clear statement that ' I haven't been there or done that, but here's some garbage I drug up that may possibly pertain and here's the source '. Optionally, there could a policy that they post only from personal experience and pass upon what they can't handle. There's still too much suspicious stuff that appears to be masquerading as personal experience but is way, way off. It can't be refuted by fact or opinion and a direct Have you even been there? can't help but be impolite.
EDIT
One more option could be a symbol indicating that the ' ETTBD staff acknowledges your request for a response but has no direct knowledge concerning you question. Hopefully someone in the forum will be of assistance.' Nobody can be expected to know everything.

ADDITIONAL EDIT

The same result could be achieved by sending the poster a canned pm of similar wording rather than placing the annotation in the forum - - keeping the system a bit neater and uncluttered by what would appear to be repeated self-damning admissions to the casual users unaware of the knowledge base.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
1151 posts

"There's still too much suspicious stuff that appears to be masquerading as personal experience but is way, way off. It can't be refuted by fact or opinion and a direct Have you even been there? can't help but be impolite. "

Ed, if you feel that way about a person's post, I think you should ask, "Have you even been there?" To say it can't help but be impolite; well, sometimes impolite things are said around here. To soften the question, you could ask "Have you even been there, or have you just researched it?" Sometimes people will admit they haven't been there, but say they have just researched it for their upcoming trip. I don't think those people are Pretenders, I think they might honestly think that's being helpful. I think you should ask, Ed, because you have every right to know.

"suspicious stuff that appears to be masquerading as personal experience but is way, way off. It can't be refuted by fact " Can you give an example? Or which forum "it" appears on? Because I haven't noticed it.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

I've read every thread's posting since mid-day. The tone and technique appears to have changed. Rehashing would serve no purpose. If things continue in this vein I will have no more suggestions for improvement. If they don't, only Andrew will know my thoughts.

George: They're right more than ninety-nine percent of the time for Pete's sake. On the other hand, my visa flub ranks right up there with the time I muffed Schiphol twelve hours after I'd passed through it for the gazillionth time which competes with the time I declared San Remo to be an independent nation.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
5401 posts

From Ed: One more option could be a symbol indicating that the ' ETTBD staff acknowledges your request for a response but has no direct knowledge concerning you question. Hopefully someone in the forum will be of assistance.' Nobody can be expected to know everything.
ADDITIONAL EDIT
The same result could be achieved by sending the poster a canned pm of similar wording rather than placing the annotation in the forum - - keeping the system a bit neater and uncluttered by what would appear to be repeated self-damning admissions to the casual users unaware of the knowledge base.

I think those are terrific suggestions, especially the second one.

REbecca - it may not sound rude to the regulars, but it can sound at least unfriendly (and off-putting) to the OP who is not a frequent reader of these forums. It comes across as a challenge and especially when it's directed at the "official person" who was asked by the OP to "chime in" it can rankle.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10651 posts

"Can you give an example? Or which forum "it" appears on? Because I haven't noticed it."

A few examples, the one's I've seen are in the Germany, Belgium and transportation forums. Stating that it takes 3.5 hours to drive from Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Salzburg. Not knowing the difference in ticketing and sales procedures between Deutsche Bahn and NMBS. Recommending Trier as a base to explore the Rhine. Recommending Baden-Baden for a spa treatment destination from Mannheim when there's at least 6 spa resorts closer. Not so much that these are right or wrong answers (well, the Salzburg question, maybe), but they reveal a basic lack of familiarity with the places they're writing about.

I'm not criticizing the staff responses, because unlike some members of the general public who have at times willingly chosen to post information that's not rooted in personal experience (some of you know who I'm talking about here), they have to provide an answer if the original poster requests it. But I will disagree if the response seems particularly weak, or flat out wrong. I know there's probably a lot of travel experience concentrated in that Edmonds home office, but it likely reflects mostly the relatively restricted territory covered in the company's products. So, is it a good idea to require a company response if someone posts a question about, oh, Oldenburg or Groningen for example, when probably nobody in the organization has ever visited anywhere near such towns? Well, I'm not the owner or stakeholder in any fashion, so that's not something for me to decide.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

I have read this thread as well as followed Nigel's swan song. I just don't get it.

  • The RB's have acknowledged on several occasions the value of the people who post here and the tremendous contribution we make of our combined experience & knowledge. What more do you want??
    .

  • Are the RB's LESS valuable than we are?? I should say not. Many people come here BECAUSE they are comfortable with the style of travel that RS has shared with us all for so many years. I would encourage the sharing of ALL points of view.
    .

  • Post counts, badges - whatever - pay attention to them or do not pay attention to them - no one will force you to read ONLY the posts by certain badge holders - move on. Sometimes it is an easy way to see someone promoting their own service - Use so & so tour it is the best! - this is their first post. For me there there is some value to post count.
    .

  • Are the RB's not human? Is any one of us perfect in the information we share? I think not. If you have information that is contradictory to that given by a RB'er by all means post it - I am certain they will welcome the correction as I believe their intention is NOT to give readers bad info.
    .

  • Clearly people do not do change well at all - in most any situation. This is all new for everyone - including the RB'ers so why not cut them some slack and give it a while to sort things out. I believe they all have taken the criticism & negativity with grace & dignity.
    .

  • If Nigel wants to pick up his toys and not play anymore because he does not like the changes that's his prerogative. His contributions will be missed but the community will carry-on fine without him.
    .

  • Just my 2 ¢

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10651 posts

"Are the RB's LESS valuable than we are?? I should say not. Many people come here BECAUSE they are comfortable with the style of travel that RS has shared with us all for so many years. I would encourage the sharing of ALL points of view."

Once again... I can't speak for Ed or Nigel, but it's not so much a matter of a difference of opinion, it's that by requiring an RB (what does that stand for, anyway?) response upon request, there's inevitably going to be questions that lie outside the scope of their experience. For example I have nothing I can add to a question about Spain, Greece, or Hungary because I've never visited these countries (amongst many others!). I could look something up on Google or Wikipedia and post that information, but the shallowness of my response will be obvious to people who actually have experience in those destinations. Or, because I know I have nothing to contribute, I can simply choose to write nothing. But when you require an official staff response upon request in those situations, the RB doesn't have that choice. They have to write something, and in a few occassions, the poor quality of the response shows. Once again, those of us who've waisted too much time on this website for too long know EXACTLY how bad this forum can get when posters just regurgitate stuff they found online without using the filter of experience to put the information in the proper context. Most of those willful trolls have been rightfully banished. I'd just hate to see the same thing happen again, because even though I post a lot on this website (probably too much), I also read and learn a lot. I have no problem with RBs posting. I just would prefer that the same sort of informal gentleman's agreement that has always governed behavior on this forum would apply to their postings as well. I'm not blaming them... if requested, they have to post. I just think the Helpline would be better if they had some more autonomy in deciding if their experience is relevant or not to the topic on hand.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

@Tom - As the RB's have stated they only chime-in when the person who has asked the question requests an answer from a RS staff member. I don't believe they should ignore the request. It seemed to me in the responses I read the RB'ers were very open about referencing one of RS's books in their answer. It is a START - that certainly does NOT preclude you, me nor anyone else here from replying as well and adding new, different and/or even contrasting information. My understanding is the RB'ers responses are just that a START, NOT the definitive answer to a question.
.

Like I said - this is new and there will undoubtedly be some missteps along the way. Can the RB'ers not be forgiven for making a mistake or or not supplying the BEST answer all the time. Their purpose here is not to replace anyone but to add to.
.

Why not give it a reasonable amount of time to work out any kinks instead of condemning it so early on?
.

Really what do you have to lose?

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
5401 posts

It does feel like the RB's have jumped in feet first into the deep end and some of them are floundering. Kind of makes me wonder what kind of advice they were giving folks via email until now.

I hope that like the latest changes to the revamp, based in good part on the feedback from the "regulars" on the helpline, the RB's responses will improve in the near future. Now that our Great Leader (and the new love of my life, the Webmeister) has spoken, I will feel free to PM the RB's and tell them when they're wrong. Let's see what happens.

Hey, we shouldn't be going through a divorce, just getting used to a new home.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
6046 posts

Chani, I tried PMing an RBer yesterday and couldn't.

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1673 posts

I sent a RB staff person a PM yesterday and had a response today so,just try again, it should work.

Posted by andi
franktown, colorado
315 posts

Christi, I absolutely agree with everything you said and you said it much more eloquently than I could. You can see by the number of my posts just how new to this forum I am! So, nothing new to say; just a "like" and a thank you for doing my writing for me! But one more post........

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
1151 posts

Chani at 2:23 AM: I should have clarified. I did not mean that the RB's should be quizzed ,"Have you really been there?" Yes, that would rankle. And be totally rude. I meant we should feel free to ask an ordinary poster that question, one of us, the general public. When I said to Ed, "You should ask because you have every right to know." I meant that we all have a right to know, and to ask, because we will be taking their advice when we travel, and if it's bogus, it could ruin or have an effect on someone's trip.

I must have missed a posting by Nigel saying he was leaving, because now it's been removed. (Christi at 10:37 AM) I haven't been up on things because I was notified earlier the condo I live in burned. Can't go there; building roped off. Sitting in a Panera Bread. Posting here takes my mind off of it for a few minutes. :(

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1673 posts

Wow Rebecca, good luck in getting back to your home, what you are going through makes what we are posting about seem so small.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3733 posts

Rebecca, I sent you a pm... I am so sorry for what you're going through.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8860 posts

wow Rebecca sorry to hear about your condo!! Sure puts things in perspective( all this grumping here)

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8860 posts

i want my badge removed.. since it seems to make those people with badges targets of attack.. like George saying people with badges are" putting themselves on higher pedestals then they deserve". Baloney and mean spirited to refer to those with badges that way in 99% of cases.

George when you earn a badge with that mean all of a sudden your answers suck and you are stuck up.. isn't that kind of what you are saying by making blanket statements and judgements on those with badges.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8860 posts

Christi I thought your post was pretty good.. and agree with most of it.

I also think some people need to get over the changes.. its getting a bit high school here with some folks worrying and stressing over things.

As I have said.. when you go on ANY forum to get answers you should still do your own research to back up the information. .

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10651 posts

Pat, I wouldn't mind having both my post count and gold star removed either. It means nothing more than I've been around longer than most and that I waste too much time on this website. As we've seen from certain banned posters in the past, counts mean nothing if the quality of those posts is garbage. I contribute here because I want to, not to get some kind of reward that's really nothing more than a few lines of computer code. The last thing I want is for that star to be perceived as some kind of status symbol or mark of a clique.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1750 posts

Well, I want a pedestal. Not one of those stuck-up classical Greek ones. I want a brightly colored circus pedestal with stripes.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8860 posts

Well just reading back on this thread I see only one poster with a yellow star badge who definitely does not seem to like the RS staffers chiming in.. and only one or two others with other badges that seem a bit leery of the change. So I think blanket statements should be avoided.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5482 posts

Karen, when you come to Frankfurt, I have a spare pedestal stored on my balcony that I don't need anymore, that I can give you. It has rhinestones on it, so hope that is ok.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10651 posts

I didn't read anyone fundamentally objecting to RS staff posting. It's just that their responses should be held to the same standard as all the other posters- if you provide information, it's implicit that you have some kind of first-hand experience, or at least, the filter of experience to know if the information you looked up is relevant.

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
1489 posts

Please come back Nigel. You've helped me tremendously over the years! I've earned a "badge" by trying to give helpful advice when I've recently returned from a trip and have specific knowledge of that particular place. The accuracy in advice I've receivedfrom the RS posters has been absolutely priceless. Thanks all! I like the new formats/changes. None of it offends me, not the RBers, the Gold/Navy Stars or even the green arrows.

Thanks Webmaster for all the hard work!

Posted by Kristen
Chicago
620 posts

I'm still a newbie here. But in the short amount of time I have spent on the website, I already recognize people's names, posting styles, who posts more and (to some extent) who tends to give more specific advice on certain countries. I think, to the repeat forum visitors, the badges shouldn't make a difference. Everyone figures out whose posts they tend to agree with, who makes them laugh, who makes them roll their eyes, etc. The badges won't change that. For the one time visitors-maybe they will see the badges as a hierarchy. But if they are one time visitors, who cares? If they are going to read one person's advice, shut off the computer, and think they have it all figured out...well that's their problem.

I do think the badges make the forums more visually appealing. It sort of breaks up the posts like bullet points. Adds some color to the page. But I am weird that way.

Posted by Sharon
TX
515 posts

I appreciate the updates and changes, Webmaster. To badge or not to badge, hmmm. I don't mind them. Doesn't bother me that I'm just barely green. Won't make me post frivolously just to get another badge. And I will continue to appreciate those with more travel experience. Badge doesn't change that. Jealous of a badge? Really? And did I read correctly that Nigel's signed off? What did I miss? Because of the badges or other changes?

So very sorry to read of your distress, Rebecca!

I miss Kent.

On a travel note, still looking forward to our August cruise of the British Isles. Anyone have advice of what not to miss at our Kirkwall, Orkney stop?

Posted by Charles
Austin, Texas, USA
325 posts

I use this from time to time and always get good information from everyone to my questions. On occasion people ask questions that I have answers to because I was just there. I think it is up to us to figure out if the information we are getting applies to the question we asked. This is a very good resource of information and I hope to be able to use it more in the future. Thanks!!

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
4383 posts

When you go to Kirkwall, it is definitely worth it to go to the Ring of Brogdar, the Stones of Stenness and Maeshowe. Take a tour, rent a car, whatever, they are worth it. In the town, don't miss out on the cathedral. Also, quite near the cathedral are the Bishops and Earl's Palaces. And, if you like jewelry, slip into the Sheila Fleet shop and check out the jewelry. Orkney has been quite the hot bed of jewelry design over the past few years. Here's another who I've not seen before Celina Rupp, and another Alison Moore. Of course the granddaddy of them all was Ortak which sadly went into bankruptcy and recently closed. So sad. This is tough on a community as small as Kirkwall. More articles here.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Pam got the highlights.

Brodgar is the 'see at any cost'.

Helgi's is the best pub. It's the only white building on the front and it's straight across the road from the center of the little fishing harbor - - a right turn where I think you'd come off of the cruise ship pier and fifty yards west.

Posted by Sarah
United States
220 posts

Thanks to you both, and the computer person/people who made the changes a reality. Way to think outside of the backpack!
While it is true that without all of the great information from the website in general and the forum specifically I might keep going to Europe anyway, it is also true that I might not.

Posted by ckpatchett
Florida
28 posts

I have a technical question that I really can't find another forum place to ask. If I am interested in a thread and read it today, is there any way to come back to it tomorrow and know where I left off reading so I don't have to go through it all again--as in this one, a very long thread?

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

For this thread it would be more like an "epicmark" ;)

Posted by H J
LaGrange, Ga, USA
1138 posts

TO ckpatchett , above

Short answer: NO!!!!

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
5401 posts

To see what's new on a thread, I usually just hit "End" on my keyboard and go straight to the bottom. Then I scroll up to where I think I've left off, or look at the dates and go back to the date/time (more-or-less) that I was last here. That works well if you come regularly.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5482 posts

If you write an answer on the thread that interests you, then all you have to do after you sign in, is look on your profile where it says "Threads or Posts you have participated in". Click on that and you can find your post.

Posted by ckpatchett
Florida
28 posts

But then, Ms Jo, you have to write something on every post you want to keep track of. Hmmmmm. At least it would get me to a badge quicker :)

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5482 posts

I have the overview bookmarked, so when the page opens, I always begin here and because I know what topics interest me, it isn't hard to find them. There are only about 4-5 categories that I usually look at: General, Germany, Trip Reports Transportation, and then whatever randomly sounds fun to read. Alternatively, if there is another poster that I enjoy reading what they have to say, I can go to threads I know they post on, and click on their name to find their other posts.

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
9256 posts

I've been away from Europe and this site for a few years. But European travel is back in the picture, and so I logged on. And didn't recognize the Site, remembering as I do the old days of the Helpline, when we still had to "bump the pseudo-stickies."
The best thing for me was seeing so many of you, my old Helpline Fellow Travelers, still here.
I continue, as in the old days, to be amazed and impressed by each of you here who share your experience and knowledge.

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
800 posts

Hi Kent - Welcome back.!! Your ears must have been burning!!!! You've been mentioned a lot lately....but only the very nicest things were said. . Some of us had feared the worst - what a relief to see you alive and kicking! Nigel especially will be happy to see you.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5693 posts

It's so nice to see you posting Kent. You have been greatly missed here by many of us.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
12338 posts

The Helpline will benefit in so many ways by Kent's return.

I'm a happy chappie.

Welcome back old mate....

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5482 posts

Thrilled to see Kent back on the Forum. Welcome back! We have missed you tremendously.

Posted by BG
SF Bay Area, USA
1578 posts

Yay Kent! finally..... some sanity.

Posted by Carroll
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
1471 posts

What a great way to end the week. I'm looking forward to laughing a lot more now that Kent has returned. Welcome back!

Posted by Doug
Portlandia
3313 posts

Kent! Welcome back!

We have missed you. You'll see some changes but there are a number of great people here who have joined in the last couple of years. I don't post very often but continue to read it frequently. I think you'll feel right back at home.

Best,

Doug

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3733 posts

Welcome back Kent!!! It's a Miracle!! SO, so glad you're back. Missed you so much.

Posted by Charlie
Honolulu/Seattle, HI/WA, USA
2151 posts

I just went to the General Europe travel section and I see that the number of replies is not shown to someones post. I find it very helpful as I do not choose to contribute to someones post who already has a gazillion replies.
What happened? Can it be put back on? aloha charlie

Posted by Dave
Ventura, CA, USA
1074 posts

Charlie, I have noticed the counter to be inaccurate (but visible) on a few threads lately. Hopefully they'll catch up.

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
3318 posts

Charlie, I see the counter, but now I have to scroll to see date or number of posts.

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
800 posts

Maybe it's an issue related to certain browsers. It all looks normal on my screen this morning.

I see we have all those robo-posts to purchase fake passports and IDs AGAIN. I wish we could get some part-time weekend moderators with delete authority.

Posted by Dave
Ventura, CA, USA
1074 posts

Regarding weekend monitors, I do see that the posts of a particular person from yesterday have been erased. So there is some weekend moderation happening.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
2173 posts

I am viewing on a large screen computer and I also see an issue on the "General Europe" forum. The spacing or font is 'off' on that one forum but not on any of the others, which leads me to believe it's something on the website not how it's being viewed.

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
9256 posts

Whether there is weekend monitoring of the Forum used to be (and may still be) a Top Secret issue at ETBD. However, given the large number of fake passport posts on weekends, it seems unlikely that there is weekend monitoring by anyone with deleting authority.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

I am using Chrome and as of yesterday the last post date column only shows the first two numbers - some how the formatting was changed.

Posted by Karen
Santa Rosa, CA
764 posts

Also on Chrome, in General Europe only see topic and name, no date or number of posts. What happened?