So long and thanks for all the fish

Many of our favourite regular posters have dropped off in the last year, in my opinion due to many of the changes here.

Who did you used to count on who you no longer see?

I miss Harold with his comprehensive knowledge, especially of places I didn't know.

I miss Lola, whose knowledge of Switzerland and walking was very deep and cheerfully given.

I miss Ansbach James who before he shipped home contributed tons of helpful weather information.

I miss Stuttgart Sarah whose point of view was always refreshing.

More than anybody I miss Kent, whose gentle encouragement and pleasant ways were the starting blocks for many here, including myself.

And I miss the rest of the ghosts.

Who do you miss?


Badges, schmadges. Post count? Bah! You could have my 8679 posts for all I care. The number means nothing. Now that the Helpline has been morphed into another outlet for Company people who haven't been there to quote how many triangles one place has over another there is no need for volunteers to spend years giving experience from personal knowledge.

There is more to Europe than the narrow paths trod by tour groups, no matter how well informed about their little trodden path they are.

Case in point - condemning Liege because Rick doesn't write about it in his book. By that logic 95% of Europe isn't worth seeing including most of Germany. If you're going to condemn a place you should have at least opened the door and looked inside.


  • = -

Don't forget your towel. If you want to survive out here, you've got to know where your towel is

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
5431 posts

I Am Not My Badge (needs music and more lyrics). I never minded the post count because it was easier to ignore than a badge icon.

I like this forum because it is different from others I have looked at (and never looked at twice). I've posted my gripes and misgivings elsewhere, so I won't do that again here. But I do miss the same people Nigel mentioned.

Nigel, I depend on you. Don't go.

Posted by Grier
Carmel, IN
1167 posts

I hope you don't go, Nigel. I don't know what the big deal with the badges is. I just ignore them. The colors and shapes aren't meaningful to me and the post counts have always been shown anyway. As for the RS staff contributing, it's just another voice to agree or disagree with or learn from.

I miss many of the people who have left too, especially Kent whose kind words helped to get me hooked on this forum.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

So long, jackass.

Prop the door open on your way out and make sure the batteries are full on the 'exit ' sign.

If you're still reading, back-channel me your phone number - - I've lost it again and we have a bit of unfinished business.

Posted by Gillie
Estes Park, CO, US
34 posts

How do the #2 and #3 posts appear without listing contributor?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Nige, Zoe, George, Grier, Ed, You.

Must be your machine.

Posted by Marbleskies
USA
591 posts

Change is constant and people make their own choices if they want to contribute. Who can accurately judge the sum of forum contributions is for better, or worse, as a result of the changes?

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5324 posts

Thank you Nigel. I too miss Kent, James, and Sarah. James was the breath of fresh air that took some of the stuffiness out of this forum. (ok, sometimes it was a typhoon, but it was a humorous typhoon) Plus he gave good travel info for families. Sarah gave us needed info about the Stuttgart area, since it isn't in the RS book and nice food info from all of her travels. Kent is Kent, and I think everyone misses his balanced viewpoints about pretty much everything.

The other two don't ring a bell with me at all, though I guess they should.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8658 posts

I didn't realize Kent left because of changes, and agree he was a very kind and encouraging poster( not saying others weren't good, just addressing "Kent" leaving because I think he had other reasons,, nothing to do with forum changes) .. but I wouldn't leave a forum because someone else left.. its not a club is it?
Nigel you give tons of great answers and people appreciate your help.. leaving would be the forums loss. I suggest you try and ride out the waves.. I have been posting on this and other forums for a decade almost.. and have seen migrations before.. but really just ride it out.. things always get better again.

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
2710 posts

Lola, an intelligent contributor, was the go-to for mountain advice. She'd hiked all the ranges and was off for more. Unfortunately, some people talked down to her, treating her like an idiot, while answering two different questions she had asked, so she said adios. She was a loss (as you would be too, Nigel).

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5619 posts

Agreed that Kent isn't absent because of the changes, but he is still sorely missed.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
1893 posts

Nigel, don't you dare leave! If you do, we'll have to add your name to the missing list and we wouldn't want that. I've only been posting on here a couple of years and don't remember all the names you mentioned, but too many have left already (for whatever reasons) and any more would leave big gaps in knowledge that we amateurs need. We need the voices of experience to counterbalance those who post like they are experts because they've been to Europe twice.

I agree with you about the badges and the RBers, it changes the feel of the forum - but I'll get used to it I'm sure, I'm already ignoring the badges. In fact I'm pretty good at just ignoring those I don't think have good advice to add, especially if I think it doesn't come from personal knowledge and experience.

Stick around 'old-timers', we need you!!!!

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10374 posts

Hey Nigel, I think I understand what that Liège post was about, and I don't think the staff poster was implying that because the Man doesn't include it in his guidebook that it isn't worth visiting (although you and I seem to both agree that there's good reason most people don't make Liège a vacation priority). As I understand it, when people pose a question on the forum, they now have the option of requesting a response from someone in the Home Office. Since Liège sits in the middle of a large gap in the RS literature, and the original poster probably requested an official RS response, she was probably just saying "Sorry, not our territory so I don't have anything I can contribute". I'd prefer that kind of honesty to doing what HeWhoShallNotBeNamed used to pull all the time, where he would just post something he found online and pretend he had first-hand experience. Probably the same situation on another post about Mannheim. The staffer has obviously never been to the area, and because the original poster probably requested a response, she had to write something... hence, the odd choice of recommending Baden-Baden for a daytrip, when Mannheim sits right across the river from Bad Dürkheim, and just down the road from Bad Kreuznach, Bad Homburg, Wiesbaden and another spa resort just to the south whose name I can't remember.

Kent's been gone for at least a few years, so the recent changes probably had nothing to do with his absence.

And speaking of helpful people whose name contains the letters "KEN", what happened to our long-time poster from Vernon, Canada? The last I saw of him was a response to the recent rant that quickly got taken down.

James may have been banned for a little too much sarcasm, but I'm not sure. He probably didn't make any friends in the Home Office by always implying that their loyal customers are a bunch of unthinking sheep.

Sarah? No idea where she went.

Maybe some of these people stopped posting because... well, you know, they've taken that last trip up to them thar pearly gates. After all, RS, doesn't exactly attract the youngest demographic in the world.

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1915 posts

Oh, no, Nigel--- not you too! It is not going to be worth coming here any more. My usage has dropped way off, but still was checking England ( because I am going there soon) and General Europe now and then.

I sure hope Tom is wrong about the pearly gates for any of the missing people. I know Ken and Lola are alive and well! as I have seen Ken post recently and I exchange PM's with Lola. I can't check on James because he cannot be found here. But he is on tripadvisor so I will check there.

All of the above and others not mentioned are a loss to this forum. If we have to add Nigel too. . . .

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
7416 posts

Nigel, we Rick Steves' Europe staff have started out with an obligation to answer the questions when people check the box, including this one, just as we do by phone and email. Concise answers will be a necessary strategy, given the volume of questions.

Regarding Liege, I did simply say that I haven't been there, nor have several other people seated around me. I have recommended places where I have been and with advice from my colleagues. Users seem to appreciate a variety of responses in these matters of opinion.

This web site offers more resources for travelers than just the Travel Forum, and first-time travelers especially should know about those. Rick's opinions in his guidebooks are personal, qualified, tested, and frequently re-confirmed and have a very proper place in this Travel Forum. While I have enjoyed places outside of Rick's books, and will mention them, my experience of using Rick Steves' Europe guidebooks for extensive travels over the past 20 years is that they have never steered me wrong. Our goal is to help other Americans toward similarly successful trips.

Posted by Dick
Olympia, WA, USA
1121 posts

Plus, if we lost Nigel, who would respond to the queries about whether the water is safe to drink in Britain?

I'm relatively new to this community and my Europe experience is nowhere near many of yours, but I really appreciate the spirit here, the information, and the entertainment (intended and unintended). I try to add some value (not always with success). I don't appreciate the new format's country-specific divisions, though I can see their value to someone who is asking or looking for discussions about a specific place they're going. I think the RS people add value without stifling the discussion, and I think bringing them in on the OP's request gives OPs a channel into the RS operation, which is a high-quality one.

So I hope Nigel sticks around to defend Brit water and explain the post=Thatcher railway system. And maybe also to explain that last bit about the towel.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8275 posts

The towel thing is a quote from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the title of this post is the title of one of the other books in the series by Douglas Adams). Someone who "knows where their towel is" is someone who's got it all together.

Posted by Sarah
St. Louis, MO USA
1616 posts

I also miss those regulars' comments. I learned so much about the logistics of travel just by reading their posts.

It would be a shame if they left because they didn't want to deal with all the website changes, though their absence coming on the heels of the changes might just be coincidence. I'm guessing posters come and go in cycles here. I'm not a technology person by any means but I stuck around because of the community-minded feeling of this site and because I have complete faith in people here to help with nearly any travel question I could come up with.

Posted by Webmaster
Edmonds, WA, USA
310 posts

“Now that the Helpline has been morphed into another outlet for Company people who haven't been there to quote how many triangles one place has over another there is no need for volunteers to spend years giving experience from personal knowledge.”

Is this how you actually feel? Or are you quoting someone else? I can't quite tell since it seems like a non-sequiter from the first part of the post. Either way, I hope you understand that this notion is exactly what are avoiding. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have gone through the trouble to have the “chime in” checkbox added to ensure that we aren't butting in when we aren't wanted. It’s a filter to make sure that there is no concept of us taking over or anything like that. We've been very up front about how the community is the primary voice here. In fact, because we are routing more people to the forums instead of email, there will be more people asking questions, creating an even greater need for those volunteers who contribute from their experience and personal knowledge. I think you'll see once the dust settles that the only real change here is that more questions are being asked and there are a few new voices to answer these questions. We don't want it any other way.

Posted by Teresa
Seattle
551 posts

I'm hoping Nigel merely wanted to use a clever title for his post and that it's not a goodbye. Nigel CAN'T leave because he quite frequently makes me laugh. :) I also miss Kent, as well as anyone who posts here from overseas. Someone mentioned Ken in Vernon, and I miss him too. He responded to a post the other day, but he doesn't seem as active. I know he takes very careful notes when he travels, so his answers were usually very detailed and helpful.

Posted by Charlie
Honolulu/Seattle, HI/WA, USA
2080 posts

Kent in Canada - are you still awake - if not wake up and get posting - aloha

Posted by James E.
USA
3040 posts

Well, I will respond to the webmaster. I have seen the webmaster be consistent in being even handed while affording every inch of latitude that decency permits. I am pretty impressed. You don't want webmaster input, don't check the box. If you do check the box you just get an added layer of feedback to your question.

As for the mysteriously missing posters. Come on guys is it that hard to figure out? This is the RS forum; of course they have been kidnaped in groups of not more than 24 and are being held captive in a secret facility in Cinque Terre with one pair of shoes and backpack full of fast drying sink washable clothing.

I do have more information but I can only share it by PM to those with blue badges or higher. Or anyone can read it on the Bulgaria forum; which incidentally does exist to those with the proper clearance.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1718 posts

I'm a "let the changes happen and sort themselves out" kind of person, so haven't had a lot to say about all of this. I personally don't find that the official RS posters are out of line or intrusive.

I hope Ken comes back to post regularly. Somewhere in the old posts is a blog for Sarah from Stuttgart. Maybe someone should give her a nudge. James had seemed to be getting even more argumentative before his disappearance, so his absence may not be by choice. I'm glad Frank II still pops up now and then. And I can't believe it took so long before the "stinking badges" quote came up.

Posted by Sarah
United States
215 posts

You few, you experts, you valiant soldiers of misfortune, you ambassadors of hope and good cheer - please don't go! In a recent post someone said that Ken had left. I searched around and was so relieved that "Ken Vernon" hasn't left completely. Last year his suggestions about technical things improved my trip so very much. Nigel, although I can't take a RS tour to do it, (I was told by the actual RS company that if I needed help getting my suitcase from overhead I don't qualify for a RS tour), I'm planning a solo trip to London just for a theater week. Your posts rekindled an interest for me.

All of you, experienced voyagers or novice problem-solvers, thank you so much. You perform such a wonderful service.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
20955 posts

Nigel et al,

I really hope the title of this Thread was just a clever "attention getter", and not a genuine goodbye message. Your contributions here have always been invaluable and much appreciated.

Thank you to all those that were enquiring about my decreased presence here on the Forum. I can assure you that I'm still here, although I haven't been spending as much time lately posting for a variety of reasons. Now that spring is here and the weather has improved, my attention has shifted to things like renovations and other work that never seem to end. I've also been busy planning my own trip to Europe this fall, and I still have lots of work to do on that (must get flights booked this week!).

Regarding the ongoing debate about the changes to the Forum / Helpline, I'm now getting used to the new format and enjoying some of the improvements over the old version. The RS web team have done an exceptional job! The badges and the fact that RS staffers are now contributing don't bother me in the least. The badges are a very trivial thing, and I hardly even notice them anymore, especially since they don't change much from one day to the next. I also miss reading the posts from Kent, Lola, Harold and others. Hopefully they'll eventually return.

Cheers!

Posted by Sheron
Alta Loma, CA, USA
1223 posts

I hadn't realized that Kent was no longer contributing to this forum until you pointed it out Nigel. I, too, am sorry that Kent is no longer active on the Helpline. I always enjoyed his comments and advice. I'm glad to see Ken is still around; he is always very courteous and goes out of his way to give helpful and constructive advice. Nigel, I always enjoy your advice as well so please don't leave the Helpline.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
4819 posts

I just looked at the list of Pacific Northwest Kent's postings. His last posting was more than a year ago, so his departure cannot be blamed on the recent revamp. I too miss him sorely.

Nigel, please, please clarify your intentions.

Posted by Thomas
Vienna, Austria
516 posts

I'm just posting to see what kind of a badge I get!
I do recall some rip-roaring fun exchanges in the past. But we must all change with the times, I guess. Still, I hope that something happens to again raise the "interesting" factor of the message board... or at least the "that's wierd" factor. Happy Springtime, yea olde regulars.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Rugged good looks is an automatic five -grand bonus. Broads don't qualify.

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1671 posts

If rugged good looks is five grand bonus I think we need to deduct this from Ed's account!

Posted by Rosalyn
Berkeley
1380 posts

One of the things I actually like about the changes is that they seem to have discouraged contributions from a certain poster - - - I won't name names - - - who was more interested in attacking what he perceived as others' politics than in offering advice Good riddance! Unfortunately, it now appears that another with the same first name is stepping in to lace his postings with incoherent political attacks.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
3842 posts

I would not "condemn Liege" although it is not highly recommended or omitted by RS,... just still haven't gotten around actually to visiting the place after all the trips, except transfering at the train station. . Liege is still on my list, not off of it. .

Posted by VS
Palo Alto, CA, United States
677 posts

I guess a lot of people come and go for reasons of their own. Maybe others have inside information about why some have left, I don't know. I do not find any of the changes to be negative at all, and the badges are kind of cool. The thing that does make me sometimes want to throw in the towel is when someone posts a question, and a few of those responding feel the need to question or even mock the manner in which the question was asked. Or pounce on specific word choices in asking questions. Also sometimes we need to learn to be more tolerant of those who are not experienced travelers. They are going to ask some clueless questions, but we should encourage the new folks. We were all clueless once. Overall though, this is one of the most constructive message boards, especially among those that are anonymous, that I have encountered on the web. I think this board is a very valuable service to the travel community.

Posted by Diane
Ottawa
1177 posts

I found the changes a bit rocky at first, but the techie team handled it all well ultimately, in my books.

People come and go all the time. It's the nature of online communities. Jobs, travels, illness, family, etc., all impact on the comings and goings of the participants far more than anything else, IMO.

I know that my own presence here over the years has been cyclical, with these past few weeks coming soon to a close of a 'busy' cycle. I like it here and will be back when my 'down' cycle (travel & summer) will have passed. How else can I avoid housework, deadlines, and such? ;-)

If this thread is indeed a goodbye, Nigel, then I'll miss you too. I really enjoyed reading your posts and have benefited from your advice in the past, so thank you as well.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
5431 posts

What if Nigel didn't intend his original post as a goodbye, but after all the eulogies felt compelled to go? Here's hoping he comes back.

Posted by Lia
Columbus, USA
59 posts

Regarding the earlier comment about RS and demographics, I have a 23 year old daughter who loves the Rick Steves travel guides. The books are her first choices for trip planning. Her travel photos always have a picture or two of an RS guidebook being held up in front of some landmark. I'm not sure if the blog format used here is consistent with her 'always-connected' lifestyle. In fact, she's so busy with grad school that I don't see her having the time to come back and check on a question she posted a day or two before. Just wanted to comment that in my limited experience the kind of information that RS delivers is very relevant to gen X'ers.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
1893 posts

@Ed, "Rugged good looks is an automatic five -grand bonus. Broads don't qualify."

I'm shocked! Who'd a thunk you were a closet MCP? ☺ Maybe some of the 'broads' on here have rugged good looks too.

Posted by Andrea
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
593 posts

Well I don't have a badge and I've been hanging around for years and years! Darn! I just choose not to post very often because unless I have recent and relevant experience, I don't comment.

I will add one reason I haven't been visiting much is because I don't have a trip to Europe on my horizon. Austerity came late to our household, compared to others. Sometimes I just don't want to read all about the excitement others are having putting together their dream trips.

The changes to the Helpline are not encouraging me either.

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3994 posts

42? Now that's a Deep Thought...and I always liked Level 42. I thought the number of the counting shall be 3? Oh wait, wrong movie reference...

And for you, Karen ;-). You're welcome.

I, also, subscribe to the James/Frisco theory. You gotta take quick-drying clothes, Peeps, and make sure your passport always has a substantial amount of time remaining on it in case you can make a break for it. Footloose and Fancy Free. If y'all are reading this, I suggest Switzerland...(we have people there)...

I wasn't around here for much of the last two years while tending to family business, and (I hope you enjoyed the break, because) I've been dipping my toes into the waters a lot lately. It feels good to be back 'in the swing', although some of The Changes have been quite the headache...but they are slowly working themselves out, so I'll continue to be patient.

(I was really counting on my rugged good looks...sigh...)

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Me a pig? Well, I used to be. Departed Nige probably heard the long version one night sitting around with Legendary Bill but here's the abbreviated version.

. I came up mucking about in flying machines in a less than friendly environment.
. The polite dude who spoke at my retirement said I had more flight time, more combat flight time, and had flown more military aircraft of more nations than anybody then in the business. I suspect his peons skewed the data.
. You couldn't go out and do your best - - you had to prevail.
. I watched everybody else and would concede that some were almost as good as I, but none quite met the mark.
. Legendary Bill is one of the most decorated aviators in the world. I could outfly him with my eyes closed.
. I set a few records that might still stand.
. I knew that on my worst day I was better than anybody else, but had still screwed up royally.
. It was a guy's world - - no wimmins allowed. Thank you. Stay the hell away.

Then came a long period where every once in a while I flew with this damn broad. Any airplane, any environment - - i wasn't qualified to carry her friggin lipstick. I didn't have the eyes, hands, or brain to keep up with her. Embarrassing. Humbling. The only consolation was that, when she eventually hatched a kid, I gained a god daughter.

End of abbreviated pig story.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

Ed must be an alias for Chet Nagle…too many similar stories. :)

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Nagel's an old fart with a gift for twisting minor facts and accomplishments into super-human exploits.

He prides himself on being a naval aviator with daring-do during the missile crisis - - he actually flew S-2s way out to sea snooping around for submarines with a thermos and box lunch in his lap. Unsaid was that you don't get S-2s if you come out of flight school with high marks.

It must be something in the water at the Naval Academy. Ollie North is a pretty good talking head too. The standing joke used to be: ' Who's Ollie P's best press agent?' . . . . . . . . 'Ollie himself.'

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

I think you’re right. I spent a couple of hours with him one evening two years ago - he seemed more accomplished than Howard Hughes, Queen Elizabeth, Dwight Eisenhower, Stephen Hawking, Chuck Yeager, and Donald Trump combined. Hats off to his service, nevertheless.

And to answer the question of the original poster, Ottawa Norm was one of the most cheerful and knowledgeable of all contributors, especially on all things Spain. He’s been absent a few years now, I believe. And who doesn't miss James? Things really got boring when he left.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
1893 posts

It was a joke Ed! Sheesh. I learned one thing though, nobody will ever accuse you of hiding your light under a barrel.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3661 posts

Surprised by some of the Ansbach James fans here... I was not one of them. I do not miss his nasty, hate-filled posts.

Re: something Rosalyn wrote.. I don't know what "other" James you're referring to, but Frisco James is a great addition to the Helpline imo.

I miss Kent and Norm very much. And I really, really hope Nigel is not leaving. He's a true gem in my book.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1718 posts

I don't think Nigel was planning on leaving, but now we've all given our goodbye speeches and handed him his belongings, so he may feel he has to slink away! I was once fired like that- I had no idea I was quitting until it was done.

Them

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10374 posts

I admit, James' posts got a little too negative and unnecessarily political after he moved back to the US. But I always enjoyed his posts from Ansbach. He provided a nice bit of perspective from outside the RS world, even if he could sometimes lack a little bit of tact.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5324 posts

Ansbach James added much needed spice to the sometimes blandness of this forum. I miss his contributions immensely, as he was funny, witty, and knew what he was talking about. If he bothered anyone, there was probably a reason for it, as he knew which buttons to push. We aren't even on the same political page either, but we could still discuss things as adults and his comments made me think about things or look at stuff from a different side.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
4343 posts

I've been away from the action (not through choice) for the last while and today upon returning I feel as if someone moved all the furniture in the house and all my friends and family are wearing fancy new clothes. I hope to get used to it all very soon. Being Nigel-less will be difficult but seeing Ed being less terse, even verbose, is interesting and fun.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

Posted by Ed
The sucker came back.
Crap!

You really didn't think he could stay away??? I was certain he followed the whole thread - only the mods know for sure!

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
12566 posts

Where??? I haven't seen him. It is a ghost. I think he is truly gone and for a valid reason.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Belgium. He's hiding out. Under a box.

Talking about London rail to Brussels.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3661 posts

Oh thank goodness!

Ed, you must read most every post on this forum to have caught that!

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10374 posts

Or, he just clicked on Nigel's name and used the option to display all the threads in which Nigel has ever participated...

...which I'm guessing, this feature only goes back to the year 2007. That's listed as the oldest thread I participated in, and I'm pretty sure I was posting before that. And pretty sure that my first ever post was not about Serbia.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
11396 posts

Perhaps uncloaking for a short while ... Romulans aren't all bad.

I've been asked to clarify, so I will.

Andrew - yes, I really do, and the example I gave was a real one. One of the RS staffers did actually answer a query with something like, Rick gives that choice 2 stars and the other one 3 stars so go to the 3 stars.

For the members of the Helpline - I intend at the moment to be a semi-active semi-lurker. I will read or skim some threads, pay little attention to spammers, and chime in when I see obvious errors of fact. I may pipe up in areas where I have specialist knowledge, or where I may be able to clarify difficult points. Although I have traveled extensively in Europe and England I will probably not answer routine questions where our RS staffers will answer - unless they get it wrong.

On reflection I am pleased that the RBers will do so much of the work I have done for so long.

So, like the exotic Romulans, I cloak. Set phasers to stun.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3096 posts

I really fail to see what the drama is all about....let's presume... I am a new traveler... I have seen RS videos on every travel channel... I go to any book store and in the travel section there are dozens of RS books.... I listen to the radio and hear the RS chats....I go to the RS website and ask a question and should request not to hear from the RS staffers when that is available and instead choose to take the word of someone I have never heard of before with no credentials (except the badge and crazy post number)??? I think any beginning traveler would like as much info as they can get and that includes the people who work for the owner of this website....Yes, there might be occasion where they are incorrect in an answer and I am sure will be reprimanded immediately... but much of what is argued here is opinion on which place is the best to visit. If posters want to leave because of that I am confused...after all... we don't pay to run this website ..RS does and I am happy that it is made available.

I think most travelers take all the information and are quite capable of processing it themselves and making a choice that works for their trip.... I hate to see people leave the site with lots of information to share and have appreciated all the info I have received and used.

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
2710 posts

I'm not sure if I agree with everything Tk because not all questions are asking for opinions. Nigel, and others who have extensive experience in one area or another (Russ on the Rhine, Jo in Germany, the skiers in OB, the Rome people, Roberto for all of Italy), are able to give well-rounded answers that can go beyond what's in the book and offer choices. The staff give straight-from-the-book answers, but for new posters (IMHO), these book answers carry the most credibility because they come from RS Staff. If I were new to the forum, I would attribute more credibility to a "certified" person than someone posting out of the blue. This makes some on the Forum, who as Nigel says have given a lot of time, feel redundant. Case in point: over on France Reviews, someone asked about picnics and buying food because she will be staying near Gare du Nord in the 5th. The staffer answered only that there were no RS recommended hotels at Gare du Nord, but didn't address the 5th arrondisement mix up. The next couple of answers didn't mention it either, and one even gave more geographically incorrect info. Finally a regular came along and pointed out that the Gare du Nord wasn't in the 5th.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

Bets - that happens whether a reply is from a RS staffer or not - eventually it gets sorted out. That is the value of many voices.

This process is very new and as times goes on I am sure the RS staff will figure out how their responses best fit here to be the most value to users of the forum. RS books and tools do not have the only answer to any question and certainly not the answer to every question. Give them time to sort out when it is appropriate to answer with "RS does not have any info on your question but we are certain some one here can answer it" or "we have nothing on that specific place, thing, etc but here are some similar ones listed in RS xxxxx book" or such similar answers.

While I understand that having a round badge should denote some sort of expertise I also believe the posters who check the chime in box are asking for a "WWRD" (What Would Rick Do) answer. They are fortunate to get not only that plus they receive the collective knowledge of the fine folks here.

Like most things this is a work in progress - give it time.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
828 posts

The number of posts associated with responders does not reflect the quality nor value of same (a painstakingly detailed high quality response counts the same as brief remarks dis/agreeing with a prior post).

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
4069 posts

I agree with TK that eventually i t will work out. The Rick Steves Staff have already responded to a question about Ullapool Scotland and the northwest where they comment that Rick doesn't cover it in his books, but that the ideas suggested here are fine. I went on and suggested my favorite guide book. At some point they will get daring/confident enough to suggest the competition. When they do that more people will come here for advice. This is what I tell my sales staff. If you can't meet the professor's needs with one of our books and know who can, tell them. That prof will be more likely to come to you with a question for the next new course he or she ends up teaching. Miracle on 34th Street really wasn't that far off.

Pam

Posted by Karen
Santa Rosa, CA
736 posts

It's been interesting watching this thread evolve with many different opinions and feedback. In response to terry katheryn's comment, I think back to 2010 when I first discovered the RS helpline while planning my 2011 trip to Italy. One of my first questions was "were we crazy to drive from Germany to Italy", and responses from helpline contributors varied widely (as we can all imagine- the train vs. car topic). Since I didn't "know" contributors like I do 4 years later, I wanted RS travel consultants direct advice and decided to pay $75 for a RS consulting session, which confirmed much of what I'd been reading on the help line, and validated the group of experienced travelers contributing to this forum. Part of doing travel research is listening to advice, filtering it to your own travel style and situation, and then making one's own decisions. This helpline and RS books and been a huge part of making our last two trips to Italy AWESOME!!

That being said, we just returned from a trip to Costa Rica, and TA and other travel forums IMO just don't provide the same type of balanced and varied responses and lurking knowledge that one picks up on this site. And for the next six month's I'll continue absorb information for our Sept trip to Scotland.

Posted by David
Sacramento, CA, USA
297 posts

"One thing I have seen more of recently, and there's been 3 or 4 threads, is this secrecy thing - just saw it again on the Tuscany Agritourismo thread - "we'll only share after you attend 3 of our meetings" or "we only PM that info" or "we ain't posting it" - LIKE what's that. Now it may all be tongue-in-cheek to those that have been around a while"

Done tongue and check George to raise an interest in LOCAL RS meeting groups that meet and share information... (Sacramento, Atlanta, Denver, Washington DC,Kansas etc etc). I also know several Sacramento folks would quickly chime in via private message and take care of the original poster, and that did occur. 3 mandatory meetings....really, didn't seem odd to you???

Obviously on 2nd thought it was not a good idea with so many thin skinned whiners on this fourm so no need to worry- no such repeat from this end. I do take note that the OP didn't whine and was quickly taken care of...but just the usual supects of whiners came out whining...

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
2710 posts

I think Karen from Santa Rosa proves my point that answers from a RS Staff member carry more credibility for a new OP. She was new to the forum, asked a question, received many answers but still felt she needed to pay for a consultation which confirmed what others on line had already said. That said, I do hope Karen and Tk are right that it all shakes out and works to the benefit of all posters, old and new.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3096 posts

@Bets... we have to make it all work out...what would I do with my spare time if it doesn't ???:))
There are always a variety of answers and those of you who are great with details (not me) will make sure specific answers are corrected..no matter who makes the mistake.... can't we all just hold hands and be happy:))

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3096 posts

Yes, George... that would be my suggestion....to much wasted energy otherwise... I just spent the week babysitting a few of my grandkids (age 13, 4 and 20months) and that is what we did when the stress was too much...and we even made it through a night in a hotel and Disney...so see, it can all work out:)

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

and sing Kumbaya?

Too funny George - I've thought that so many times the past week or so!

Posted by Richard
Los Angeles
838 posts

The old board was dominated by regulars who were quite happy to make it their social hang out. People resist change and on the many forums I have frequented over the years any change in software is met with a Chicken Little hysteria that eventually dies out until the next change. Software becomes dated and needs to be upgraded but human nature likes the good ole days. No one person or group make or break an Internet forum and to think so of yourself is egocentric and narcissistic. Life goes on.

Posted by jturie
Valley Forge, PA
42 posts

Wow, is it me or has there been an increase in nastiness since the website changes? I lurked for a few months before signing up, so I didn't have a ton of time on the old website. Personally, I'm not all that enthralled with the new setup, but software gets old and needs to be replaced. It is a shame that old stuff got lost, but "it" happens.

I hope everyone calms down and continues dispensing the incredibly valuable advice (and...no, I'm not being sarcastic here FYI). I hate to see experienced folks disappear just because they don't like change.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1525 posts

I don't really consider myself to be one of the "regulars" despite the fact that between 2008 and 2012, I was on this site almost every day. After several consecutive years of taking the family to Europe or elsewhere during the summer, we elected to take a summer "off" and tour the eastern USA. When it came time to plan our upcoming trip to Ireland and Scotland this summer, I asked a couple of questions, got some good information in return, and I was done. The rest of the trip took care of itself.

Meanwhile it became obvious that the traffic level here was declining steadily. I even commented on that fact a couple of times only to be met with denial. Sure, the software changeover always irritates some people enough to leave, but the drop off in traffic started long before the changeover. I can only speculate as to why. Speaking for myself, I have become fed up with newer people who ask for help and then don't come back to respond to the responses they have been given. Note to those who ask questions; monitor the responses, thank the responders (if they were helpful) and ask followup questions. If you don't, they will all feel as if they have wasted their time.

And while this is unlikely to have been a main factor in the drop in traffic here, it is certain to have been some factor; How many of the "regulars" here, when inviting people into their home for a party, deliberately invite a token jerk to "spice things up"? No one? That's hardly surprising. If you did, you would eventually find people declining the invitations to your party. The jerk is still a jerk, even when he isn't a jerk TO YOU. Stop and think for a minute. Helpline questioners never need anything spiced up. They need sober, helpful, and yes, usually kind answers. The only people who need "spice" in their lives here are people who spend too much time here.

PS; count me among those who despise the little "badges" next to their names...

Posted by VS
Palo Alto, CA, United States
677 posts

The only down aide I see to the new arrangement is that if you just want to browse for interesting discussions, you have to click down through individual countries. So it's a bit more effort but not big a deal. I don't really expect folks to say thanks but if others do, then I may consider starting to do that myself. For me the thanks come when other folks in the community answer my question the next time. I think of all the stuff that you can get on the Internet for free, this board is one of the best. One thing that would be nice would be if everyone would post a subject header that is a descriptive and specific as is practical. That would encourage click throughs and give us browsers a better idea of whether we can help before we take the time to click.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5324 posts

Gee Randy, who got up on the wrong side of the bed today? Snarky much?

Posted by Jenny
Bothell, WA
52 posts

I didn't even know this forum existed until I began planning my trip to GB about a year ago. I've been watching and reading about all places ETBD since the mid-90s and used Rick's books as a baseline for my planning. For the details of my itinerary I have been so happy to have the advice of Nigel, Ed, Pam and others--experienced travelers who aren't in the travel business. Plus I'm too cheap to pay $50-75 for a planning session at ETBD, even though it's only about 15 minutes from my house. I don't always want to stay in the places Rick goes or do the things he does. I get suggestions from lots of people and places, then decide what works best for me. Someone standing in a long line for a Paseo sandwich in Seattle (yes, they're that good) told me about a FarmStay in the Lakes District. A fellow kayaker told us about places in Anglesey and Skye and so on. The more info the better. Please, long-term posters--know that you are appreciated! Jenny

Posted by Roy
East Alabama
976 posts

Randy made some good, snark-free points. And so have a host of others, some of whom offer differing views. This is probably a wasted request, but please don't copy/paste quotes to make a counter point.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8275 posts

Sometimes you need to include a quote, on a long thread like this, to indicate which post you are referring to. Don't need all of the back and forth, but you do sometimes need a starting point.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3661 posts

I didn't read anything snarky in Randy's post. In fact, I agree with pretty much everything he said.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
1893 posts

@Nancy, I may be wrong but I think Roy was referring to posters who copy and past articles and quotes from other sources to support their points rather than using their own words. I don't think he was referring to quoting a line in a prior post that you want to respond to.

@Roy, correct me if I misunderstood your statement.

Posted by Roy
East Alabama
976 posts

I think it is good to use a quote for accuracy and to help people get oriented to your remarks. I do that, myself. But a lot of times, quotes get pulled out of context and then used unfairly to support a counterargument. That's not to say we should not state a different opinion if we disagree. There is too much of the straw-man approach on here already, and I did not want to see this thread moving in that direction. Fortunately, so far at least, it did not.

Posted by Charles
Austin, Texas, USA
325 posts

As you can tell I do not post much. However, I find it sort of comical to see all of these "old timers" or fancy badge / high post people getting all upset over this new travel forum. Sort of reminds me of what happens in the corporate / business world. Things change, business evolves and those who can't get left behind. Get over it. People like me who come in and out of this forum look for advice on particular topics and are happy to get it. Where I can I try and contribute when I know an answer to someone elses question. However, despite my many trips to Europe, I would never presume to know more than the RS staff or chastise someone who has never been to Europe because they do not know as much as me. That is sort of the reason they are asking the question on this forum in the first place.

Posted by Christy
Macon, GA, USA
129 posts

So many on this forum( Vernon, Toni, Roberto and others that I can not recall the names), have helped me plan our trips (3) and have given me the "inside scoop", so to speak. I have noticed, recently , I don't get as many responses for my questions and the forum does not seem quite as personable and positive as it once was.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3096 posts

@Christy... what heading are you posting under that you are not getting many responses? With all the new 'headings' there are so many that lots of people don't have time to peruse them all. I have found that going to "All Topics" allows me to see all of the new posts in a really concise way without doing the headings. It is actually so much better to see currents posts, but not everyone does that. If you don't get answers, just repost in the General Europe category. Most people look there.

Posted by stan
Kansas City
685 posts

I have been a long time lurker, more frequent poster recently. It seems to me that with the option to request an official response from an RS staffer to a post, people who drop in to ask a question, are expecting a response as a service from RS, not an opening to a conversation with fellow travelers. Rightly or wrongly, the character of the forum changes.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

@Stan
The check box reads:

" I'd like a member of Rick Steves' travel staff to chime in on this topic."

Chiming in I think conveys that the RS Staff person will just be adding to the conversation - not the be all end all answer.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
11396 posts

I have had chats with several various folk, and am now happy to return with a bit more regularity.

I'm especially happy to see back one of the special contributors who I have missed.

I hope one or two of the others will give it a try too.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
8658 posts

Charles you say you would" never presume to know more than the RS staff" and I am sorry to hear that.. as I know some posters here definitely do know more on a specific topic then an RS staffer who maybe has been there twice and simply quotes a page number in the guide to look up .

We have some posters who have LIVED in a place for months or years.. and you expect their advice to be inferior to a staffer who may have visited the area for a few weeks.. really? Thats what I call being "sheeplike" following without questioning just because.

Perhaps when RS starts including Hawaii on the forums you may change your tune.. since you will then be one who does in fact know more then the staff on some questions.

Posted by James
288 posts

Some people pose a question and then don't even have the decency to come back and acknowledge that they have read the replies. Makes you wonder why we bother to try and provide help and advice!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
11396 posts

oh thee of the strange six wheeled pink car avatar, didst thou not look back 4 posts before thine for one of my several replies before attacking me?

Posted by Christy
Macon, GA, USA
129 posts

@ Terry kathryn.... Most recently I think that I posted in the England forum a few times..(which is my current trip, leaving in 2 weeks, YAY!) It has been a while now.. I don't need quite as much help as I did the first 2 trips but it just seemed like there was not as many responses. Thanks for the general Europe suggestion.. I will try that in the future, as we are going back to Italy in October. Overall, I still think this is a great forum!

Posted by Karen
Santa Rosa, CA
736 posts

fab1- Since the automated responses to posted questions have not worked since last fall, a new poster may not even know they received a response or responses. Without that feature, one would have to remember which link they posted the question and scroll through what could be pages, looking for their post. Not everyone is a regular. I know I'm guilty of not responding with a thank you due to this reason. Now that automated responses are an option, you may see things change.

Posted by James
288 posts

Karen - I hope things do change. One way of quickly coming back to any 'active' forum is to set up a Bookmarks Folder & mark it Temp. Then, when people post a query, they simply Bookmark it and save to 'Temp' thus making it easy to find. If the responses go on for several pages - just note the last one read.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5324 posts

All you have to do is click on your name and it shows you what threads and posts you have made. Easy Peasy now.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
6007 posts

Thank you for your kind words, Nigel (and Bets).

I did indeed resign in early November, right after returning from a month in Venice. I posted what I intended as helpful advice about smartphone use and was immediately criticized by one of the "regulars", not for the first time. So I quit and spend my time on other travel boards like Tripadvisor, which I find more welcoming (and useful). But I log in here now and then to check for private messages with questions about Switzerland or the Dolomites, which I still get from time to time.

And now when I log in I see a nifty gold star by my name. What's with that?

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
11396 posts

Oh Lola, It is just SO good to hear from you.

Don't you know just how much you have been missed and your so wise and knowledgeable guidance on those things you know so well.

People who have joined since your departure can have no idea of your information about walking in the Swiss mountains, and hikes in general.

We would all benefit from having that again, so I really hope your visit isn't a fleeting one.

We have Kent back now and would love for you to be here too.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5619 posts

What Nigel said! It's nice to see you posting again Lola.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3661 posts

Lola, ditto Nigel and Andrea... it would be so good to have you back, you have been missed!

Posted by Cyn
Wheat Ridge, CO, USA
1166 posts

Hi Lola- gold stars and other symbols were recently added by the Webmaster to indicate people who had contributed a certain quantity of posts. You had already reached the gold star, 5000+ post level. Throw in some blue moons, green clovers, and pink hearts and you'll have a bowl of Lucky Charms :-)

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
8851 posts

Welcome back, Lola! Your insights have been missed.
The site has been "renovated" since you left us. The differences you're noticing, including the badges, are explained in the "how to use the forum" section.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3096 posts

Lola. Hope you will decide to stay . I really hate when some of the nicest and helpful people leave due to the rude and ignorant actions of a few . Maybe we can get rid of them instead:))

Posted by Ginger
TX
210 posts

I agree with Susan about the nasty lists by that particular James. I was reading these boards for years before signing up. Hated his stupid comments.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
5324 posts

Be kind with your words there, Ginger. Some of us are friends with James. There is no need to insult people who aren't in the room to participate. It isn't very classy.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8275 posts

Anspach James was one of my friends, too. He often had a lot of great information to add. But he was also sometimes sarcastic, which some took as nastiness. I miss him, too.

Posted by Ginger
TX
210 posts

Jo, please take your advice as well. Your tone isn't always kind. I've been reading these boards for years before diving in. I know more than you think.

That particular James was downright nasty. Being friends helps you to not see what he was like. I personally choose my friends who are nice to all...not just to those who they're friends with.

But to each his own.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1718 posts

How else should Ms. Jo speak up and defend someone? She did the right thing. I also miss James from Anspach. I didn't always agree with him, but he had a lot of info, and he was often funny.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
12837 posts

"There is no need to insult people who aren't in the room to participate. It isn't very classy. "

James did that all the time. Glad you think it wasn't very classy.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10374 posts

"Being friends helps you to not see what he was like" How was he like, then, since as far as I know, the only person in this conversation who ever met James in person is Jo? I would think she's probably in the best position out of all of us to assess his character, not realatively anonymous posters drawing broad conclusions based on what he wrote. Did you actually meet him in real life?

James got a little too bitter towards the end (perhaps he missed living in Germany?), but his comments were usually spot-on, especially when deflating some of the pie-in-the-sky pretensions that at times can populate this website. Even if you didn't like the style of what he wrote, he was still volunteering his time to share his knowledge... and his knowledge went pretty deep, deeper than 95% of the people who contribute to this website. I'm somewhat disappointed that I never met the guy in person, since our time in Germany overlapped by about two years. By all accounts, he's a very fun person to be around.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

One of James' most princely attributes was that he did not suffer fools.

Which would account for some people not liking him.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
20955 posts

Not that it makes a difference now, but I had no problem with the comments that James posted nor did I find them offensive. His remarks were usually interesting and informative, and I miss his participation here.

Posted by Roy
East Alabama
976 posts

A conversation:

Weary Traveler: Old man, this town looks kinda nice. I might just want to stay here a while. But what are the people like?

Old Man: We got all kinds. What were they like where you came from?

WT: Back there, they were the biggest bunch of fools I ever saw?

OM: Son, you might as well keep moving on; they’re just like that here.

.

Later, a second traveler comes along and also stops the old man.

Happy Traveler: Pardon me mister, this town looks kinda nice. I might just want to stay a while. What are the people like?

OM: We got all kinds. What were they like where you came from?

HT: Most were really great and I really hated to leave.

OM: Son, you'll like it here; they’re just like that here.

Posted by Ginger
TX
210 posts

Lola, I was a long time lurker and only joined recently.

You were instrumental in helping me to decide where to go in Switzerland, though I hadn't asked you :-)

Kandersteg is a gem!! Only had one day there, but we want to go back for a longer stay, and I want to try more of the hikes and areas you mentioned. Do you have a document with hikes in Switzerland, Austria and Germany?

I want to do a hut to hut hike next year, but this is still new to me, so I would value your thoughts.

Thank you for mentioning Kandersteg.

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
6007 posts

Thank you, Ginger. It always very nice to get positive feedback.

We have not hiked hut to hut in Switzerland; we have always stayed in small villages and done day hikes from there. But I do know a bit about it. If you post any specific questions in the Switzerland forum I will see and answer them there.

If you are looking for another area with great hiking, we like the Aletschgletscher area ( Europe's longest glacier) staying at Bettmeralp and hiking from there.

Www.bettmeralp.ch for photos

One thing I have long wanted to do is the two-day guided walk from the Jungfraujoch down across the Konkordiaplatz and the glacier to Fiescheralp, a few kilometers from Bettmeralp. You overnight in a mountaineer's hut and traverse some incredible scenery. You are roped and wear crampons for safety on the glacier, and the guide knows the best route.