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A rebuttal & explanation

Posted by BruceMoon on 18/8/2009 at 12:03

I’ve returned from a week away. Unlike Stuart, I let my electronics to go rest while I’m away. From the responses on my original ‘Robust dialogue’ post, several have had their little dummy spit. I also note that Stuart ‘locked’ the post some 4 days ago.

From some of the content, it appears passion has over-ruled logic. And, I’d like to present my view in greater detail to afford clarity.

- - -

One of the attributes of communication is that when reading language, most interpret according to their own criteria. Thus, it’s easy for the reader to imaginate whatever they want (to adopt a term used by the semiotician Fiske).

It is clear from the ‘Robust dialogue’ post that several are grinding the axe rather than chopping wood. And, in hindsight they appear to be imaginating what they want to hold dear.

In my comments here, I’ll refer to the ‘Robust dialogue’ post as if I was adding to it (even though it’s a new post).

- - -

As site ‘designer’ and moderator, Stuart has considerably greater power than contributors. But, unless people involve themselves in Travelfish, that ‘power’ is meaningless. The very fact of Travelfish as an ongoing site requires all of us. So, as a web ‘community’ we all have a stake in Travelfish.

As a source of revenue Stuart needs as many contributions as possible. This places a different slant on the term all of us, community. Because of this, Stuart also needs to adapt Travelfish to reflect contributor sentiments and so (potentially) enhance contributions.

Recently, contributors suggested to Stuart to adapt the Travelfish site to include a ‘Culture & Politics’ thread. Stuart positively responded. That the engagement was actually occurring provided Stuart with the ‘evidence’ needed to make the thread. Put simply, we, the contributors were already exercising a capacity to engage in that form of discourse and Stuart could see the merit to separate.

This exemplar indicates that we, the contributors fashion the fact of Travelfish. Our contributions are merely undertaken within a structure provided by Stuart.

- - -

It is clear from his two contributions to the ‘post’ that Stuart recognises his use of power needs to be limited, and his capacity to ‘guide’ needs to be fashioned in a way that encourages contribution rather than limits involvement. As he initially wrote, he has a capacity to emasculate, but would rather he didn’t need to exercise it.

- - -

I arrived at Travelfish while undertaking my own travel research. I both enjoy contributing, and using my knowledge to assist others enhance their travel experience. That said, I consider myself one of the we, the contributors of Travelfish. And, because of this, if I can help enhance Travelfish, I will put my tuppence in.

As a source of knowledge, it is the capacity of contributors to offer advice that makes (or breaks) Travelfish as a travellers’ reference. That said, the relevance of Travelfish is enhanced to a prospective traveller where there is minimal clutter &/or irrelevant ‘advice’. As several have come to know, I spent time in the tertiary educational sector. From this experience, I know that nothing diminishes the standing of an advice source more than lack of clarity (ie. unhelpful responses for a question). From the view that questions with unhelpful responses diminish the appeal to ‘newbie’ Travelfish readers, I believe that the 'newbie' questioner ought also be ‘serious’ with the way they approach the task of asking a question. I also believe that the Travelfish structure - and we, the contributors - ought be encouraging prospective newbie travellers coming to Travelfish to read through the various ‘knowledges’ here within Travelfish to ascertain answers before they ask for advice.

I also believe that the selective or passive response (by some) also undermines Travelfish in that an unanswered question becomes clutter. I have written elsewhere that I believe ‘newbie’ questioners ought be framing their question to show that they have undertaken research to enhance their ‘position’, and in so doing will thereby largely be able to focus the question parameters. Given this, response focus and clarity is enhanced; and thereby also elevates the standing of Travelfish.

- - -

Stuart wrote ”You're equally welcome to the site regardless of little planning you've done”. This may enhance patronisation (and temporarily, revenue base), but it effectively diminishes the long term appeal for content quality.

- - -

In part, I had written it is my view that the various contributions are based on a view to enhance the experience of the (prospective) traveller.

Stuart responded with:

BruceMoon's view of what constitutes constructive participation in Travelfish is considerably at odds to mine.

Travelfish is a travel planning site and community that aims to help other travellers plan and enjoy their holiday in Southeast Asia.

On Stuart’s second sentence, we appear to agree.

Regarding Stuart’s first sentence, other than to assert three attributes for respectful behaviour (and later reinforce only one), Stuart did not articulate his view on constructive participation.

Nevertheless, the term constructive participation appears to have been (partly) articulated by we, the contributors (or, at least several).

Skimonkey, you indicated ”however, what your talking about here is changing human nature”. Yes, that IS what I’m talking about. Students in my classes in third year knew my expectations of them to undertake research were quite different than when they were in first year. Human behaviour can and does change if the parameters to which they participate are well articulated, reasonable, and (occasionally) reinforced. The transitional change from agrarian farmers to post-modernist society is testament to this fact.

Skimonkey, you indicated ”How can a standard be set for a resonable question, what parameters could be applied accross such a diverse range???”.

I would simply say two attributes. One, instead of a plethora of various ‘sticky’ posts at the commencement of a thread, there be just one. That one would read Welcome, please read this first (and be in red), and within the post, it would FIRST list the various components as an index . For example, on top would be “how to make a post”, second could be “guide to contribution civility”, and third could be “a message to commercial operators”, and so on. And, each index item would ‘link’ to the applicable section.

In the first (“how to make a post”) there could be references about how to use the [color=blueSearch Travelfish box, how to find places to visit (eg. Searching towns/places in Countries), how to identify ‘attractions’, 'accommodations’, etc., etc.. In other words, use the Travelfish knowledge base as a research tool (which it is).

And, under the ‘Add New Post’ there would be a reminder to the potential questioner to ensure they have read “how to make a post”.

And, for ‘Add Your Reply’, the ‘newbie’ would be reminded that if they seek to ask a question, rather than add their question to a post, they actually make a new post.

I could go on...

SBE, it’s not often I've seen you as fired up as in that post.

In part, it appears you have jumped on a bandwagon of criticism; initially undertaken by a gutless clown. And, support for that criticism appears central to your vitriol there.

1. Systematic comment, criticism and denigration of other people's ideas and opinions AKA "robust debate". Your use of ‘denigration’ as invective coupled to an all-embracing sweep of all contributions belittles any apparent virtue; if there was any.

2. Newbies being prevented from asking any questions on the forum until they'd done their homework. Again, an idea corrupted by the addition of an unrelated word; here prevented.

3. Newbies who've been let in then having their sweated-over itineraries picked to pieces and being called namby pambies if they object to being talked down to by experts like Bruce Moon. Here, you conflate two ideas to make an irrelevant whole. I suggest your contributions are no more or less ‘expert’ than mine. The tenor of talked down to suggests you hold a more positive view about your own contributions than you do about mine. The fact is that some who have spent time researching their itineraries ask for feedback - which according to Wikipedia means critical assessment on information produced - but really want advice or guidance. If they get upset at feedback when they’ve asked for it sobeit.

4. Getting called a "gutless clown" if your "robust debate" happens to be aimed at Bruce Moon rather than a newbie.. In case you don’t know, a gutless clown is an Australian idiom attributed to a person that uses another venue/audience to try and undermine their (perceived) opponent. You know that ‘type’, smiles to your face and stabs you in the back elsewhere. As an aside, and in case you wondered, from your performance I’d not have ascribed that term to you.

- - -

Given that I’ve made the effort to respond, I’m clearly not going to p***-off into the ether as the great chief gutless clown would want.

I will take on board some of the criticism, valid or otherwise.

I’m not comfortable with the approach of ‘if the question appears dumb, don’t answer. Please accept my view that questions with zero answers suggest that replies are hit’n’miss. The alternative is that the lack of a reply is to be interpreted as meaning something. And, if there is to be an interpretation, better it is found in/on Travelfish than to lose newbie members.


#1 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

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Posted by angfonz on 20/8/2009 at 20:01

"Newbies being prevented from asking any questions on the forum until they'd done their homework."

I'm new here, but I like this joint and plan on sticking around. Hopefully its okay for me to shoot out some input on the above topic.

Travelfish has a search function. Many forums have posting requirements that say things like "Dont ask questions that have already been answered." Even so, I feel like implementing this sort of thing with a forum like TF would be the complete wrong way to go.

As the years go by, things change. Anyone who has spent any time in SE Asia knows that it moves particularly fast there. Roads wash out, tours move in and ruin places, Siem Reap turns into Disneyland etc. Questions need to be asked and asked again 6 months later because ****, things change. Every time I go back to Jakarta or Bali (I grew up in Indonesia) the place has changed, and I'm there several times a year.

So yeah, I'm okay with asking questions that have been asked before.

#2 angfonz has been a member since 7/7/2009. Posts: 36

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Posted by somsai on 20/8/2009 at 20:11

I read most of the post.

I answer questions or scroll on by. If someone can find the answer by searching provide a link if you like. Personaly sometimes people ask the darndest questions that sometimes seem rediculous but on reflection make me think a lot.

All questions welcome, keeps people from being shy of asking.

#3 somsai has been a member since 1/3/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 566
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Posted by hokasch on 20/8/2009 at 23:06

To extended the "Welcome" sticky with more general advise/help/guidelines for those new to online forums is a good idea, imho.

This should of course not come in a tone that implies "learn this rules and obey, or you will be picked on by the allmighty crowd".

More like providing ressources for those who want to look into. I think that many people are just not used to online forums, and are generally willing to learn how to use them more efficent.

Some points, in my personal opinion, wood be nice to add:

- a hint on how to use the search function, and an encouragement to use it
- extra site/post explaining tags (bbs/html, don't know what you use here)
- some tips about "smart" posting, to increase the possibility to get an answer (Thread title, right forum, one-question-per-thread, try not to go off-topic too much, etc)
- an encouragement to follow-up / post your experience with the subject asked about when you are back

I think this would not be problematic in terms of interfering with general "policies" in place. It is work, though.

Another step would be to bundle the most-asked questions in a FAQ sticky, which would link to ressources on travelfish and/or dedicated threads. I have not been active in the forums, so I do not know if there even is need for this.

(I did not read your original post, bruce, since I could not find a link to it)

#4 hokasch has been a member since 24/12/2008. Posts: 45

Posted by KazAussie on 21/8/2009 at 14:53

As much as I appreciate this board the search feature leaves a lot to be desired. I tried searching beaches december and it ended up as an "or" search, that is anything with the word beaches or the word december.

I guess what I am saying is that I usually look for an answer first by going to the "country" part of the board, then have a look through the forum and finally ask the question.

The main problem for those that haven't travelled in a particular country is that they often don't know where the towns are located. So how do I know to look in Hoi An? or Chau Doc when I first start the planning.

This is where the forum has been invaluable and I really appreciate it when someone adds a link.



#5 KazAussie has been a member since 18/7/2009. Posts: 221

Posted by spikybrain on 21/8/2009 at 15:05

OP you need to get out a bit more.

Kaz i just searched for beaches december and got this as the #1 reesult:

Not spot on, but pretty good I thought.

Hoi An is in Vietanm, pick country from top then the box on left. wfm

#6 spikybrain has been a member since 21/8/2009. Posts: 20

Posted by KazAussie on 21/8/2009 at 19:11

Sorry spiky ... just saw your other post, obviously you are in the "ugly" tourist category, "get out there and drink and fornicate" shouldn't have bothered replying

#7 KazAussie has been a member since 18/7/2009. Posts: 221

Posted by wanderingcat on 22/8/2009 at 11:38

you can Google for 'beaches+december+travelfish' (using your example), then pick out results that have the travelfish site URL. they'll usually be the first few hits, & Google will display an option for 'show more results from' that you can click on.

if you don't mind typing more, then just input:
' beach+december' into Google.
only results from the travelfish site will be displayed.

#8 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730
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