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I contribute to several stackexchange sites (under another name). I have been amazed at the civility and the amount of expertise available compared to other collaborative platforms elsewhere on the web. But this particular site is clearly the least friendly of the bunch.

I have the feeling that some people would rather “police” Travel SE instead of steering newcomers in the right direction or creating a positive environment. For example, if a question is borderline, it will rather be closed or criticized with a commanding tone rather than trying to construe it in a way that makes useful answers possible. There also seems to be some difficult-to-understand restrictions on what can be addressed here.

The amount of rudeness is higher than average and I encountered several disturbing political comments (like the one that made me subscribe in the first place).

Reputation also feels more arbitrary than on other sites, people apparently don't upvote answers that are useful or correct but that they don't personally need or somehow displeases them. Consequently, it's more of a popularity contest than a reward for providing useful material.

Am I the only one to experience it this way? What can be done about all this?

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    Well, I came to meta, trying to figure out if others have experienced the rather raw-welcome to Travel.SE and clearly I am not the first one. Q1 posted... too broad many questions. Q1 split into 2, now both questions on hold and still not worthy of answer. Even after over 2yrs spent on SE, every now and then you run into a group, which forces you to learn about it's nuances. Not unexpected, but yeah, a little bit first-question friendliness may not hurt. Some of the more tolerant groups, offer answer to at least a part of question, while flagging how to improve question! – icarus74 Jul 7 '13 at 2:50
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Sad that you would feel that way. There are several reasons why this happens:

  • Travel-SE is much more discussion-y than other SE sites, and while we allow some degree of lenience in what questions are allowed, not all travel-related questions are suitable for the format -- I hope you can agree with that. I also concur with you that what is on-topic and what is not is a bit blurry and for me personally it's more of a "feeling" what is a good question for Travel-SE and what is not. It very much boils down to judging on case-by-case whether to allow certain questions or not. We do have some fairly rigid guidelines (no immigration/expat questions), asking for recommendations is also frowned upon, but allowed in certain circumstances.

  • Commenting on the politics -- that, unfortunately, has happened more than a few times here. Just now I had to delete multiple offensive posts by new users targeting certain cultural and religious group. You have to recognize that people here come from all over the world, and guess what -- it turns out stuff happens differently over there (which for many of us is the main reason to travel). People react differently, joke differently, comment differently and perceive events, people and religion differently. Users try to be tolerant as much as possible, but all of us still have prejudice, whether we realize it or not.

What you (and I, and everybody else can do about it):

  • Practice what you preach. If you allow me to paraphrase JFK: "Ask not what your Travel-SE can do for you -- ask what you can do for your Travel-SE". If you (and I don't mean "you" in particular) would like to have a nice and friendly environment for people to ask and answer travel-related questions, what are you doing to achieve it?

    • Do you edit questions, titles, tags, with the help of the user to clarify what they are after?

    • Do you post a comment to point them to the FAQ if their question is not up to par with what is accepted here?

    • Do you encourage them in a comment, upvote their post (if it's good), do you make them feel welcome?

  • Don't fight back. I know, somebody's wrong on the internet. One of the keys to successful communication with people different from you is not to thrust one's opinion on the others at all times. Just let it go. You've seen probably enough pointless discussions on Travel-SE and other network sites, and the internet in general. Imagine what would happen if one side decides to drop it in the middle and call it a day. The whole conversation afterwards won't even happen! You don't have to win every single discussion you participate in. Even if the other side is wrong. I am myself rather argumentative and logical, and learned that people just don't want to be told, argued with or persuaded. Just let it go -- you'll feel much better for it. Moreover, sometimes, things don't quite look the same way for different people, particularly when we talk about culture, languages, religion and travel. Respect the opinion of others.

  • Be nice. Mark already said everything that needs to be said on this, so I'll defer to his post.

In essence, it's the responsibility of everybody to evaluate and police their own behavior first and foremost, and then proceed to judge the others. If you want to get to know our regular users, of course you are free to drop in chat, where it seems everything besides travel is on-topic :-)


On voting, it's the responsibility of each user, and there's little to do about it. Downvoting is supposed to be done to posts you think are bad, not that you disagree with. You probably know already what it feels to be downvoted for no particular reason from other SE sites. What you can do? Well -- relax! Do you really, really care if the number attached to your name is big (for some value of "big"? Do you really think that small rep makes you an outcast, or on the contrary -- a lot of rep makes you a better person? It's not a popularity contest unless you think of it as a popularity contest. Just ignore it and help the next person looking for an answer to their travel question.

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    Thanks for your feedback and good advice! Just a little more to try to explain what I meant regarding the reputation: I never experienced or witnessed unexplained downvotes on CrossValidated (stats SE), you really have to provide seriously flawed advice and you will always get thoughtful commentary. It just feels more constructive, even if you don't want to pay too much attention to your reputation. – Relaxed Jun 14 '13 at 23:00
  • @Annoyed: yeah, I observed similar behaviour on TeX-SE; I think one of the reasons is that these sites (and others) have inherently more objectively-answered questions, and personal experience doesn't amount to much. It's exactly the opposite on Travel-SE -- a lot of the questions just don't quite have a single, objectively-verified answer. Add to that some legal, political or religious differences, and then you start to see the picture. Hopefully, all that won't detract you from participating on the site, I assure you we all mean well :-) – mindcorrosive Jun 14 '13 at 23:15
  • "Sad that you would feel that way" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-apology_apology – Andrew Grimm Jun 16 '13 at 10:56
  • he was apologising? I thought he was helping. – Mark Mayo Jun 17 '13 at 4:13
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I was going to add this as a comment on @mindcorrosive's post, but it got too long.

You can also respond to comments people have made on new users' questions if you feel they're too harsh. Sometimes there are second-language people who don't realise their tone sounds terse, or an English speaker who doesn't realise their joking tone didn't come across. I've probably written the "Welcome to Travel.SE. Unfortunately your question doesn't quite meet the guidelines in our [faq]..." speech a couple of hundred times, and sometimes if you're in a hurry, one needs to be cautious not to come off as too terse.

Join the [chat]. It's sometimes controversial, but on the whole people in there often discuss questions under debate as to whether it's off topic, or needs editing etc, and it can help to improve the help if others are there to weigh in.

Something I've done a bit more of lately is to edit a newbie's question to improve it, and then just leave a comment welcoming them and saying 'I tweaked your question to bring it in line with our [faq] - hope the meaning is still there, and welcome' or something along those lines. I figure that helps prevent them getting closed or downvoted, but it is important not to change their question. If it's really off-topic or just wrong or whatever, we shouldn't turn it into a different question just to make it on topic.

I think the new close votes reasons coming in look a lot more friendly. "Not constructive" or "not a real question" always felt a bit harsh, and it'll be nice to see ones like "I didn't really understand your meaning" - it's kinder :)

[edit] as for the rep thing, I've got the most on the site, and for anyone wondering - nothing special comes of it, it's just a number :) That's why I'm always happy to throw bounties on unanswered questions - I don't need the rep (one you've passed the levels for privileges it really doesn't matter any more) , and if it helps get a valid question answered, that's awesome. Saying that I am competitive, and in the early days when VMAtm was the highest, I was trying to get ahead, I'll admit. But that's a good reason to have rep - if it encourages people to go for more, or to get a badge by helping out on something (editing, voting etc) then all the better.

As for offensive stuff, it's difficult when what's fine in one culture isn't in another. Firstly, there are rules on the site - the whole network in fact, about what questions can contain, and so posts that violate that - be it spam, swearing, offensive imagery, racism, or worse will often get voted to oblivion (and yes, we've had all of those). And the joy is that even if you meet all those rules, there's still stuff that will upset - there've been questions about travelling to Israel which have upset people who refuse to accept Israel as a country, or who consider someone's questions on prostitutes / sex / co-ed facilities to be crude or offensive, when to them it's a valid reason for travel (and the fact is, there are people who travel for these things). As a result, they might not want a discussion but want to vote it down / close vote as a protest, I guess.

Compare this with say, sqa.stackexchange - every single questions is either on topic (software quality assurance) or at worst is not constructive ("I want to learn to test, how should I?"). There's very little to get offended over, aside from maybe a geek argument over the best tool to use :)

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One of the major reasons for this site feeling "unfriendly" is the terminology used when closing questions; which, as mindcorrosive pointed out, is more common here as this is a very discussion-y site.

Stack Exchange is changing this. They are changing the wording of close reasons as well as how it's displayed to be more welcoming to newbies. Do read about the changes on the rationale they have used.

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