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Removal of reader reviews

Posted by somtam2000 on 17/12/2014 at 06:47 admin

Hi everyone,

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we've removed the ability for reader reviews to be added to the destination, accommodation, food and sights sections of the site. What has already been submitted will remain displayed on the site till next early year when we launch the redesigned site, at which time they will all be removed entirely from the public site.

So, before anything else, thank you to everyone who, over the years, has made the time to submit reviews and updates.

Why are we doing this? Two primary reasons:

a) Very few real Travelfish members actually added reviews (Thankyou though to those who did!)

b) Spammers and especially (again) Vietnamese-based businesses have become a major hassle and time sink entering reviews that we don't consider to be legitimate. Each one takes quite a while to determine if it is valid or not, and this is time we would much prefer to be investing in other areas of the site.

In place of the reviews people will be encouraged to contact us directly (via email) to let us know of any updates they feel should be reflected in the Travelfish review.

So just to clarify, this has nothing to do with the reviews written by Travelfish researchers, it is still business as usual in that regard.

Thanks again to those who have contributed in this regard, and if you have any questions at all about this, let me know.

Cheers

Stuart

#1 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,003
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Posted by caseyprich on 17/12/2014 at 06:55

Kind of cuts out one of the fun parts about returning from a trip to post some thoughts about the locations. I also found those reviews the most helpful in making decisions about where to go. I think the site is loosing an important part of what made it useful and fun.

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Posted by DLuek on 17/12/2014 at 08:16 TF writer

I agree with Casey. Some guesthouses have loads of reviews that are really helpful and often point out things that researchers miss. On the other hand, I'm not the one dealing with the headache of sifting out the spam. But seems it will make TF less interactive, less of a community.

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Posted by MADMAC on 17/12/2014 at 08:44

I don't know if it's technically possible, but if you could have an upgraded status, then guys who've been posting here a long time could gain said access to provide reviews. Just a thought.

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Posted by over7seas on 17/12/2014 at 14:10

I agree with MADMAC that it would be good if your longterm members or members who have to pass a verification process could continue to add reviews. I have visited your site SO many times and have specifically enjoyed added value comments.. The verification process could even be that people have to donate a dollar by Paypal for example. That should significantly reduce the spammers, shouldn't it? And it would add coins to your coffers AND people would probably be happy to do this for the service the site provides. Also actually it would remind us all that running a popular site like this does take time and lots of working hours.

What do you think?

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Posted by somtam2000 on 17/12/2014 at 17:41 admin

Hi all,

Thanks for the feedback - particularly Casey who I know has entered a bunch of reviews over the years.

We used to get a lot more reviews than we do now -- the bulk dropped off around 2009/2010 when TripAdvisor's coverage out here gathered a lot more properties and there was a big shift to Facebook -- but yes legit reviews still trickle in.

A third reason, which I should have mentioned up top, but neglected to, relates to this drop off.

Yes some places have many reviews, but if you take a look at two of the most reviewed places we have -- the D&D Inn on Khao San and Tohko Beach on Phi Phi, you'll see neither has received a new review in years (four and five years respectively) -- yet in that period D&D has been updated twice by a Travelfish writer (me then David) and Tohko Beach three times (me, David then Lana) -- so the "official" review is more up to date (and arguably useful - I hope!) than reader reviews from years ago.

On the other hand, take New Bungalows on Ko Jum that David reviewed earlier this year and then Tezza added a review to yesterday. Tezza found it to be somewhat unfriendly (compared to David's experience), the squat loo was gone (at least in the bungalow Tezza had) and thought it was a bit overpriced. This is perhaps useful to readers -- and if reviews were coming in regularly like this we wouldn't be turning them off.

But, well, they're not and I'm not really sure why that is the case. Perhaps it is because we have a "staff" review for every place (as does say Lonely Planet or Rough Guides, who don't publish reader reviews) and people are happy to rely on that Vs say a dedicated reader review site like TripAdvisor where it is all about the reviews, but to be honest I don't know.

What I do know, is that fewer and fewer real reviews are coming in while the fake and dodgy stuff continues to grow and personally I don't see the benefit of showing a reader a guest review from four years ago - especially if we've had a writer at the property in the intervening period.

Sure we could set it up so that only "approved" members could post - happy to discuss that further, but I'm not interested in making it fee based (as spammers and dodgy businesses will just pay) so how else?

Let me know what you think.

Cheers

#6 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,003
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Posted by caseyprich on 17/12/2014 at 21:44

Well, I'll admit that I'll be off the radar for reviews for awhile anyway, living back in the USA now. However, I must say that the reviews were always really helpful (along with the official post) on choosing some top notch locations. What if you based it on forum posts? Is there a way to unlock reviews when someone gets a certain number of forum posts - most spammers get caught before they reach a dozen I imagine.

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Posted by MADMAC on 17/12/2014 at 22:25

I don't know how difficult it would be - how many expats you have here. I like the site, enjoy contributing in small ways where I can. So if you have regulars who are expats, they could definitely help update locations for you and keep them current without having to send someone to those places. Am I the only one in this boat? Of course you have to factor in bang for the buck - is it worth the admin work it would take. And I can not answer that.

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Posted by busylizzy on 18/12/2014 at 02:48

I agree with MM - have a reviewer status so that regular trusted reviewers will get published automatically and thereby decrease your reviewing workload. But at the same time, you need to encourage travellers to post more often to keep the reviews fresh and up to date. Not sure what the answer to that is - maybe something just as simple as adding a reminder in the weekly emails, and maybe the occasional pop-up reminder (as much as I hate those!).

I think it will be a pity to lose them - but on the other hand, old reviews are quite meaningless. I tend to reply on Booking.com and Agoda.com to read recent reviews - and MAYBE Tripadvisor. I'm more suspicious of the legitimacy of the TripAdvisor reviews.... If TF reviews are current, and especially when my posters who I recognise, I take more notice.

Can you engage a volunteer moderator to review/publish the accom reviews maybe? And maybe then can actively follow up with posters who are currently travelling to send them PM reminders? Dunno.. just throwing ideas out there.

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Posted by exacto on 27/12/2014 at 16:55

I'll miss this opportunity to contribute. The reviews I've added over the years were how I feel I earned my place in the TF community. I'd love it if there were some threshold where after a certain number of posts (50 posts? 100 posts? 250 posts?) people gained the right to add reviews. Those reviews could then age off the site after a year or two years or whatever is appropriate.

Having said that, I have no idea how technically feasible that would be, and it sounds like the actual amount of reviews from long-time members is so low that it isn't a major source of information any more. As lizzy said, those reviews from people I recognize like casey and lizzy and MADMAC and DLuek mean quite a bit more to me than from a new or random person.

Best wishes and Happy New Year.

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Posted by busylizzy on 27/12/2014 at 22:51

Exacto raises a good point that I didn't think to mention - posting reviews IS our way to contribute to the site, and is what drove me make reviews. I get a lot of out of the site and like the idea of somehow giving back (aside from shouting you a beer as I come through Bali!).

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Posted by busylizzy on 28/12/2014 at 18:45

To anyone participating in or following this discussion.... Somtam sends his apologies for not responding to our comments. Unfortunately the WiFi connection doesn't quite reach the hammock of his current abode, which is somewhere in the semi remote islands of Indonesia - where he is supposed to be on holiday (and just maybe doing a bit of research for our benefit).

He will follow up on this discussion when the beer runs low and he returns to civilisation...maybe in a weeks time.

#12 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152
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Posted by somtam2000 on 13/1/2015 at 22:27 admin

Sorry for the late reply all and thinks BusyLizzy for that COMPLETELY FICTIONAL suggestion I was in a hammock. No chance of that whatsoever!

The challenge with tying reviews to some other manner of participation in the site (say forum posts) is that a lot of the people who have made a lot of reviews in the past, never used the forum. This is also the case with people who often comment on the various feature stories, they also often don't use the forum.

Another issue is that when a Travelfish member used to add a review to say Joe's Shabby Guesthouse, that review just stayed on the profile page for Joe's Shabby Guesthouse -- so for anyone else to actually see it, they needed to go look at Joe's Shabby Guesthouse profile page. So every review was an island so to speak.

So, after mulling this over (not in a hammock!) what we're considering doing is changing how the reader reviews work. What will happen is that at the end of Joe's Shabby Guesthouse profile page, they'll be a link reading something like "Add your review to Shabby's" but that link will take the reader to the main Travelfish forum to add a review (so if Shabby's is in Thailand, it would go in the Thailand forum etc). So the reviews will sit in the forum, rather than on the individual accommodation page.

This means in situations where there is a difference of opinion (say on the recent comments re Ko Bubu in Thailand) others will see the review for Shabby's and may (a) feel they agree or disagree and add their own thoughts, or (b) find out about a place they're never heard of. It also gives people who write reviews more exposure to the forum -- which may lead to them using the forum as well.

Lastly this also gives us a central point for spam and fake review handling, which would be very useful for us.

Any thoughts or pros or cons of this approach?

Cheers
Stuart

@caseyprich - great - I can block all China traffic again now that you're out of there ;-)

#13 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,003
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Posted by busylizzy on 14/1/2015 at 04:00

Hry Somtam - so you finally made it back to work?! OK, I confess I may have enhanced the truth a bit..but surely you can't deny that there was SOME hammock time?!

Anyhow - as far as your proposed suggestion goes....I understand how it works from your point of view (spam management, etc) - but I am not in favour of it from a traveller/reader perspective:

1. The positive that I see is that it may encourage more people to write reviews if they are appearing on the front page as discussion threads. Someone posts about Joe's Shabby Guesthouse, and it prompts me to add my two cents worth on my stay there. Or it reminds me that I really enjoyed the place next door and should add a review.

2. What I don't like is that the information will now become spread around the site - something I thought that you were trying to avoid with the site redesign. If Tammy Traveller wants to make a review, she will follow the link and a new thread is created. There may be subsequent posts int that thread with varying viewpoints. Them Tommy Traveller comes along a few weeks/months later, and also wants to make a review. I assume that when he clicks the link, a new thread is created, rather than linking to Tammy's post, right? So that means there would be multiple streams of discussions making it harder to quickly see whether a place is worth considering unless you can keep the link permanent once the first post is made..

3. The reviews would clutter up the forum home page (unless you intend to suppress them from the home page - in which case the benefits that I mentioned in #1 wouldn't apply..

My two cents worth! (Written while killing time in Kuta while waiting for my flight to Sumbawa so that I can go lay in my own hammock!)

#14 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152
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Posted by somtam2000 on 14/1/2015 at 07:00 admin

Just to clarify, once a thread is created for a property, that will be the only one. So for eg:

Tammy reads about Lizzy's Hammock Paradiso on Travelfish and decides she wants to add a review. Clicks on link at bottom of the profile page for LHP and is taken to an add review page. She adds the review and it is posted in the Indonesia section of the forum.

Other TF readers then see the review as they would any other new post on the forum and can add comments as they wish, as they would for any other thread.

Johnny reads about Lizzy's Hammock Paradiso on Travelfish and sees at the end of the review a link reading "Read guest reviews (1) for LHP" clicks on it and is taken to the same thread so would see the existing conversation and can add if they wish.

So If Johnny wants to add a review, it would be added to the thread started by Tammy. - Johnny wouldn't be starting a new one.

Does that make sense?

Disclosure: Above was not written from a hammock, but air-con and very bad TV (Alien Vs Predator) is present.

#15 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,003
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Posted by busylizzy on 14/1/2015 at 07:36

Ok, that makes perfect sense and addresses that concern. :-)

Can't wait to get out of scuzzy Kuta to my own hammock. Unfortunate Wings Air are messing about with my plans and at last-minute cancelled the Lombok to Sumbawa leg. Now I'll be hauling my pack overland now..so much for looking for the quick and easy option. :-(

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Posted by somtam2000 on 14/1/2015 at 19:09 admin

Oh you should head up to those snorkelling islands I mentioned north of Labuan Lombok - let me know if you need the details.

#17 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,003
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