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Something I have only encountered on Travel@SE of all the SE sites I'm writing on, is the retaliation downvotes and personal vendettas. My answers are always downvoted when I mention Israel, and are almost always downvoted when I comment on mistakes of specific other users ([redacted])

I wonder if there's something the moderators and the SE folks should be doing about it, because when you get answers like this, or like this, or like this, the same people who downvote my perfectly correct answers, write either exactly the same, or promote illegal activities.

To me it looks like Travel@SE is severely biased, and is not reliable, which is a pity because other SE sites are very informative and generally helpful.

Currently, if anyone asks me, I would not advise joining this site and ask questions, as it is very likely that the high-rep posters will respond with incorrect answers, and following their advice may land one in jail in various countries.

I believe that is not the intention.

As to Israel, it hurts me, as a Jewish person, to see the [redacted] on this site ([redacted], who themselves complained that no-one likes them), are prevailing. It is upsetting that a person that claims without any shame that a country "doesn't exist" and promotes destruction and murder is not banned here, but rather encouraged to spread his hatred. I know this is not a political site. I would suggest the moderators reminding the Arabs not to use it as such.


In his answer here (also undeservingly downvoted), Andrew mentioned the Eurovision contest (see the edit history to read that part). Well, those of you who live in Europe know that most of the votes will be predictable, regardless of the actual performances. You'll see Finland voting for Estonia, Sweden for Norway, Greece for Cyprus, and Italy for Malta. You're likely to see Russia voting for Ukraine, Georgia voting for Armenia etc. You're also likely not to see Turkey voting for Greece, France voting for the UK, or Russia (or Israel) voting for Germany.

Reading that answer again reminded me of that, and also made me think of the parallels here. Many times I see upvotes and downvotes not related at all to the content, but to who wrote it.

I do think this should be actively discouraged, and I haven't seen it on any of the other SE sites I've been active at.

closed as not constructive by Ankur Banerjee Aug 30 '12 at 8:50

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locked by Ankur Banerjee Aug 30 '12 at 9:05

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    Firstly, thanks for writing this without any personal insults - I'd have found that difficult to do. Although I'd point out that I don't think anyone's actively encouraged spreading of hatred....will write more in an answer. – Mark Mayo Aug 30 '12 at 0:26
  • I think I covered most of it below. While I fully understand your concerns about political comments/voting etc, I'd hope there's no real personal vendettas, people can leave that to digg or youtube comments :/ – Mark Mayo Aug 30 '12 at 1:02
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    Vendettas are not exclusive to Travel.SE, unfortunately. There are even scripts in place to detect them as fraudulent voting (one of many posts on meta.SE) – Jonas Aug 30 '12 at 1:56
  • @Jonas glad to hear (about the script, that is, not about the fact that its a wide-spread phenomenon). – littleadv Aug 30 '12 at 5:57
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    I have no idea whether I've ever voted you down before because there's only one or two names here I can associate with writing styles in my head and all the rest I think of as "the Internet". But this time I voted you down for the "terrorist supporters" remark, at which point I almost stopped reading and closed the tab. I can assure you none of my Georgian friends would vote for Armenia though - not even the half-Armenian one! (-; – hippietrail Aug 30 '12 at 7:14
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    Actually no you don't. Not all Arabs are terrorists, that's racial profiling. I have some good friends of that demographic. I got targeted by some guys in South America - does that make all Latin Americans terrorists? (rhetorical - the answer is no). We're here to talk travel, not to call people names. – Mark Mayo Aug 30 '12 at 8:36
  • @littleadv I have absolutely no issues with you discussing whether there is a personal vendetta against you or whether it is political etc. The reason why I am closing this question is because you by calling Halabi a "terrorist sympathizer" you launched a personal attack. You're going against the first rule of StackExchange: Be Nice. There's a civilised way of bringing it up, and an uncivilised way of doing it and you crossed that line. Consider this your warning. If you launch personal attacks again, it will result in a suspension. – Ankur Banerjee Aug 30 '12 at 8:56
  • @littleadv Moreover, downvoting exists for a reason. It's when people think your answer is incorrect and they're free to do it. I've been downvoted too, I'm sure everyone has. Get over it. – Ankur Banerjee Aug 30 '12 at 8:58
  • Figures. Instead of dealing with the problem - lets all kick the ass of the one raising it. Not that I'm surprised.... – littleadv Aug 30 '12 at 8:58
  • Actually we're dealing with it. We're shutting down this, and have created this post instead after an hour of discussions in the SE mod chat room. – Mark Mayo Aug 30 '12 at 9:03
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I normally don't reply to posts like this (preferring to stick to the Travel side of things!), but given that I've been specifically called out here I can't help by reply.

littladv - here's the thing. I don't know you from a bar of soap. I don't say that as a bad thing - I could say the same thing about the vast majority of Travel.SE members.

I'm not someone that really looks at profiles, or keeps track of who has asked or answered which questions (or even which types of questions) - in fact in most cases I don't even look at the username of who has made a post/answer.

Yes, as it turns out, I've down-voted two of your answers - which is interesting because I've only ever down-voted about 5 answers in my entire time using Travel.SE. I didn't realize that two of my down-votes had gone to you until I checked a short while ago, and I certainly didn't down-vote them because of you or who you were. I down-voted them because I believed that your answer was wrong, and what's more in both cases I left a comment to say that. For what it's worth, I've also answered the one and only question you've ever asked on Travel.SE, and you accepted my answer as the best.

To even imply that I've down-voted you because I've got some personal vendetta against you simply makes no sense, any more than it would make sense for me to have a personal vendetta against any other random person. I'm not going to comment on the claims you've made against others, because, well, I don't know them from a bar of soap either.

Yes, it appears that we've disagreed on a few questions (again, something I didn't realize until a few minutes ago) - but isn't that the nature of this type of site? I don't take any offense at the fact that you've claimed my answer is incorrect. I didn't take offense at the fact that your comment on my answer could be read to imply that I've illegally entered the US multiple times. I'm sorry if you take offense at me claiming your answers are incorrect, but I can assure you I'm only doing so as I believe it's in the best interest of the users of this site, and Travel.SE as a whole - not due to any personal vendetta against a users who's username I haven't even bothered to look at.

  • Well, I'm not sure how to take this rudeness... Is it supposed to be a good thing or a bad thing you being arrogant and rude and not even look at whom you're talking to? Is it how you're in the real life, too? A person talks to you, and if the same person talks to you again two days later you act as you've never talked to him before? I'm sorry, I was of a better opinion of you. – littleadv Aug 30 '12 at 5:55
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    I think most of us would see Doc's answer as a good thing. Downvoting on the basis of who you are would be considered 'prejudice'. Donwvoting on the basis of whether they believe the answer is right is what should be happening here. – DJClayworth Sep 10 '12 at 18:27
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I would not say anyone has been encouraged. Certain users (unnamed) are on their last warning - we prefer to try and just keep things civil and educate, rather than having to ban.

If you genuinely feel that a post is offensive, you can flag it. That's how this community (and all of stackexchange) chooses to do so. If enough offensive flags appear on an answer, it gets automatically deleted. If not, the downvotes come into effect - enough downvotes, I guess, may shame the person into deleting it (there's even a badge for deleting -3 answers). Not always though, and that's their right. It's about a community coming together to find the best answers, not censorship.

Saying that, there are and have been some times when a post has been over the top, ridiculously offensive - vulgar language, or even just insults and name calling. Many people (yourself included on one of those answers you link to) have had warnings about not doing this, and we'll sometimes delete them for this.

If there's a disagreement, it's stackexchange's protocol to take it to the chat room, not putting it in comments on the answers. That's not our (moderators choice) - it's Stackexchange's guidelines. Some being offensive in posts have not even realised they were doing so (language barrier) until they discussed it with us in the chat room.

The reason we say this is that this site has 3 part-time volunteer moderators. Fortuitously we're in reasonably different timezones, but we still can't spot every single answer, or comment. Things slip through. Hashing it out with others in the chat is often handy - there's usually someone in there - be it Doc, hippietrail, Roflcopterexception or another of the regulars. Failing that, you can flag it.

As for incorrect information, well, especially legal stuff (which is one reason we kept immigration stuff off topic), mods can't know every single thing. So then the community has to come into it. If someone disagrees with your answer, it sucks, but they may downvote it. Incidentally your one today on visas - @Doc explained in a comment why he thought it was wrong, which I spotted - which is why I asked either of you to provide sources - the only reliable way of settling what at that point were anecdotal statements. I do think more people providing sources would go a long way. Doc's updated his answer on that question, with sources, might be worth taking a look and see what you think?

As for Israel, I get serious tension any time I see a question involving that country, just because I get nervous it's going to kick off a flame session ;) As best as we can, we have to tread the line between censorship and preventing insults, hate messages or whatever. However, while we don't intentionally leave them up, we may miss some. Again, please flag them, or come into the chat to discuss, if you feel they're not being dealt with properly.

It's a travel website, and what this means is you're bound to have culture clashes, language barriers and more. Far more than you'll get on english.se, or programmers.se or fitness.se. So yes, there's probably more heated debates, but from some discussions in the chat, others prefer it over English.se for friendliness(!).

Similarly, English.se is not likely to be discussing legally dubious activities. And some people on travel may even do this unintentionally - laws change, so someone speaking anecdotally may have had a different experience - laws could be different when A went vs when B went. (one of the reasons I like citations).

Finally, with reference to the people you called out, I don't have the time right now to check everyone's history to determine if there's a downvote war, and I'm not inclined to start a witch hunt. One of the links you mentioned actually has a downvote where a user (none of the ones you mentioned) said it was him and his reason too.

SUMMARY

  • I do feel that politics causes problems way too often on here. What's the solution? Censorship? Outright banning of certain phrases? I don't know. We've been talking about having a townhall meeting, and this is probably going to need to be one of the topics. We've added it to the [faq], but funnily when people are worked up about something religious/political they seem to not usually stop to check the [faq] :(

  • Moderators are to try and keep things civil, but not to censor. It's a narrow line though.

  • As someone who feels Israel DOES exist, personally, I also dislike it when someone disagrees with that. But as long as they keep it civil, I have to respect their point of view. However, they have to respect mine too, and as this is a travel site, as long as you can go out and buy a train/bus/plane ticket to Israel, travellers are going to be asking about it.

  • I have good days and bad days on here too. This week I've had a new user commenting repeatedly that I should accept his answer with my bounty, in a rather...curt manner. The day lejohn started deleting everything he wrote was terrible. But other days you write a great right answer and make someone's day. And those are the days that make it worth it.

  • As a side note - when was the last time you took a look at HaLaBi's profile page? I cannot flag a profile as offensive, but his - would be the first to flag if I could. Take a look at your leisure. Now, I don't mind him personally, its the display of his rather extreme opinions that bothers me, and I would appreciate it taken care of. I don't think people would appreciate members with Nazi symbolic, and we probably wouldn't like people with KKK messages on their profiles. Why do we allow Arab terrorists to promote theirs? Beyond me. – littleadv Aug 30 '12 at 1:07
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    The first comment after that post which took me nearly an hour to write about people being civil is calling someone else a terrorist??? :/ You could suggest on the townhall meta post I've just created that political statements get removed from profiles. Assuming you're referring to the "I live in Saudi Arabia, waiting for Palestine to be free again to move there.. soon hopefully. " line? – Mark Mayo Aug 30 '12 at 1:14
  • Yes, and the shape of the State of Israel map wrapped in the Arab flag. This is the logo of Hamas, a known (and officially recognized by the US and other governments as such) terrorist organization. I'm sorry if calling the things as they are seems offensive to you, I'm not a "PC" person. When I see something - I call it by its name. – littleadv Aug 30 '12 at 1:19
  • Oh heck, hadn't spotted that! I have only little knowledge of the intricacies of Israel/Palestine politics - usually have to resort to Wiki, which seems to show a very different picture as the logo?? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamas - and for the flag: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_of_Hamas.svg ? – Mark Mayo Aug 30 '12 at 1:23
  • To be fair, many of the Nazi symbols were appropriated from places such as eastern religions. You will see swastikas all over Google Maps in certain countries indicated places of worship for instance. – hippietrail Aug 30 '12 at 8:21
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    Which reminds me, Godwin’s Law has been invoked on this thread. – hippietrail Aug 30 '12 at 8:30
  • "Last warning". Really? – Andrew Grimm Jul 24 '14 at 23:27
  • if you're quoting me, address it to the mods, I'm no longer a mod :) – Mark Mayo Jul 25 '14 at 8:17
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I am a bit reluctant here in responding. Personal issues should be resolved in the Chat, but since I am being accused, like Doc I feel I need to respond.

First of all, littleadv you are accusing people of down voting, something you can't know, since voting is anonymous. I tried to prove this by downvoting an answer, when in the comments you already accused me of down voting. Since you can't downvote twice, I thought this would have been enough proof for you that your accusation was wrong.

I ALWAYS explain why I downvote.

I don't know Littleadv and I am not aware of any personal vendetta. Issues appeared on a following question as a US citizen programmer what kinds of visa.... This is a question that I would consider a "grey" question. In its core it is more an expat question, but since the OP seems to use it as a way to fund his traveling, I let it be and not (contrary to you) vote for a closure. I even provided an answer. And that is where the issue escalated. You (Littleadv) disagreed. You think what the OP wants is impossible, I think it is possible with quite some creativity. In these cases I think the valid thing to do is to just let the answers be and let the votes do the talking. Both our answers were not good given the 0 points on both.

Then things escalated in What to do when you can't print..... You disagreed again with my answer. It is here where I downvoted to show that you were incorrect in accusing me of down voting on personal grounds. Unfortunately, this message did not arrive.

I am not aware of any other interaction with you. I think travel.se is a brilliant site and it has already helped me in finding answers. You have provided some very valuable answers so far, so I find it a pity that you feel the way you feel.

So in summary. Littleadv you mention me by name, which I think is wrong. The expat question is really not worth discussing since the question itself is not a brilliant one. And my answer on the boarding question was a genuine answer, hey it even got accepted as the answer.

So littleadv I can assure you that there is no personal vendetta against you on my part. You are in the top 20 when it comes to reputation, that should be enough prove that there is no personal vendetta towards you. In Dutch there is a saying "High trees get a lot of wind".

Please continue your valuable answers and questions.

  • Andra - the fact that incorrect and irresponsible answers get accepted doesn't make them good. It just make the site less valuable. I wouldn't take pride in that if I were you. Your trying to teach me a lesson is exactly the problem. You downvoted my answer not because it was bad, but to make a point about something totally irrelevant! That's exactly what I'm talking about! – littleadv Aug 30 '12 at 7:40
  • @Andra - I hope you undid you undo the downvote you were using to make a point? – Mark Mayo Aug 30 '12 at 8:24

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