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I understand that the private beta for any SE proposal is important to set the direction for the community, and therefore the initial batch of questions needs to be selected carefully. I agree that questions that ask for 'lists of places to see' or 'what is the best place in X for Y' may not be suitable as they are quite subjective, and often have answers elsewhere.

Having said that, I think we need to be a bit less restrictive of the kind of questions that can be asked. For instance:

Is it cheaper to mail a small package to Germany from Turkey, Bulgaria, or Romania?

I think this questions such as these should be allowed because a) it is specific b) does not easily have a Google-able answer c) it is related to travel. (There's a discussion going on already in the comments section of the question.)

Travel SE should not be about just about asking questions about the physical act of getting from point A to B as the Keep travel headed in the right direction OP seems to imply in saying "People that know about flying, miles, award points, hotels, etc."

If I had to ask...

Is there any Thai cooking class in 1000-1500 baht range near Khao San Road in Bangkok?

...you could argue this is not specifically about travelling to a destination and might be better off in Cooking SE. But the point is that 'hardcore travellers' who could answer this question will be here, in Travel SE, and not there.

Travelling is about experiences, and not just transportation and border control formalities. As long as specific questions are asked, a broader range of questions should be allowed. Before we open for public beta, I think we as a community need to decide what's off-topic, and what's not, to put in the FAQ.

Edit: To clarify, I started this discussion because the previous 'Keep travel headed in the right direction' seems to imply there's an agreement about the 'right' direction. During the definition stage of Travel.SE, most of the example questions voted off-topic were 'best' or 'list' ones. There hasn't been much discussion on related topics such as 'What phone operator do I use' etc type of questions.

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    It would help to know what the moderators have in mind for this site. Right now, I see people are trying to get what they feel are relevant questions asked, only to get them closed 'because it's outside the scope defined in FAQ' by moderators - when the FAQ itself doesn't have much to say on this. – Ankur Banerjee Jun 27 '11 at 19:29
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    I agree. I know there are the votes for on-topic and off-topic in the site proposal, but now that we've been hacking at the site for a few days it might be good to think up some new examples of each so that we can examine what is our current focus and what we might want to adjust it to? – hippietrail Jun 27 '11 at 19:30
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    Well to be fair, writing the FAQ is one of jobs during the Beta too so we should be more thinking about how to shape it than actually referring to it at this early stage. – hippietrail Jun 27 '11 at 19:31
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    Seems like this is a reply to "Keep travel headed in the right direction.", so it should probably have been posted there. – victoriah Jun 27 '11 at 20:59
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    @victoriah: The other discussion has an implicit assumption in saying that Travel.SE should head in the 'right direction'. This discussion is on what that 'right direction' should be and a well-defined scope in FAQ. – Ankur Banerjee Jun 27 '11 at 21:29
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I agree.

With regards to the postage question: How is it significantly different from and unrelated to questions regarding customs/import/export fees or transporting and shipping luggage and other items? Mail is just another item, and this problem only arises for travellers. If I stay at home in Canada I cannot bring a package to another country and mail it. It is solely a problem faced by travellers, and best answered by travellers.

To summarize my opinion:

  • Questions about travel (transportation methods, customs requirements, etc.) are on-topic.
  • Questions about traveller's problems (how to get by without knowing the local language, what to do if detained at customs, the postage question, etc.) are on-topic.
  • Questions having nothing to do with travel (how to canoe, what country has the nicest people, do you like pizza) are off-topic.

The third category holds even if the person is travelling in order to canoe, meet nice people, or eat pizza. They're still not about travelling. The second category should not be confused with or lumped in together with the third category!

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I don't agree.

Like I said in the other thread, if you allow people to ask questions about something just because they happen to have travelled there to do it, the site will be open to questions on just about anything.

A question about which country of [list] has the cheapest postage has nothing to do with travelling.

If you allow that, then questions like "I'm going to be travelling through France and Germany, which place will be cheapest to pick up some new running shoes?" will also be valid. Actually, we have had a question like that (sleeping bags iirc).

I think that if a local, with no experience of travelling, who has never stepped foot on a plane/train/boat in their life, or stayed in a hotel or any place outside of their hometown could answer your question, your question probably has nothing at all to do with travelling.

Allowing people to ask about whatever just because "I'm travelling in order to go there and do it" is wrong, because Travel.SE should not be a general knowledge question site. I don't know, do we want this SE to have a focus or not? I don't believe that allowing questions outside the scope of 'travel' will result in a focused SE.

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    Running shoes are not travel related. Camping gear is travel related. Postage rates is a topic in all the major travel guides and something I've had to deal with both as a traveller and in the tourism & hospitality industry at home. – hippietrail Jun 27 '11 at 22:08
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    @hippietrail: I think you said it best yourself when you said: "Actually I do see that it's actually related more to internationalness than travel now that I think about it, which does probably make it off topic." – victoriah Jun 27 '11 at 22:44
  • Well I've kept thinking about it since then as I view it from different angles but I decided not to delete my older comments in favour of leaving my whole thought process there for everybody to see. – hippietrail Jun 27 '11 at 22:46
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As a general commonsense rule of thumb, I think any topic/field/area (not always specific questions) that is covered by the acknowledged experts in travel, print travel guides, should be on-topic. If info of a certain nature is typically covered by guides such as Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Footprints, Routard, Frommers, Let's Go, etc, have information then we should seriously consider regarding it as travel-related.

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    I'm very leery of trying to define the site's focus in terms of external publications. I think you are on the right track in what you are generally getting at, but I think you've proposed a really bad metric for it. For example, many travel magazines also contain articles on things popular with travelers, but more on-topic elsewhere such as cycling, running, food, passing time on trains, photography and so on. – HedgeMage Jun 28 '11 at 3:01
  • @HedgeMage: I'm not familiar with travel magazines and I've weened myself of guidebooks because it's more of an adventure travelling without one, with wikitravel there as a backup. If I had a guidebook handy I would've listed the sections instead... maybe I can find some though... – hippietrail Jun 28 '11 at 5:29
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    And if those publications change their conventions? Or if someone who wants to participate on the site isn't familiar with them? Using an external point of reference to define a site's scope is bad policy, regardless of the reference. I find it ironic that you suggested this when you yourself aren't up-to-date on what they contain. You've illustrated the problem with using an external reference perfectly. – HedgeMage Jun 28 '11 at 17:54
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    @HedgeMage: I think you're taking it far too literally. Think of it more as a rule of thumb or general guide. Currently we are closing all sorts of things that are commonly covered in all travel guides. – hippietrail Jun 28 '11 at 17:58

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