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Travelfish forum usage guidelines - request for comment

Posted by somtam2000 on 3/1/2013 at 20:00 admin

Hi everyone,

As I mentioned in this thread, I've been rolling out a number of changes to the Travelfish.org forum. One of the changes that I'm making is adding a couple of moderators to help me keep on top of the forum and see that it runs smoothly. In the past I've just worked off a basic rule sheet, but now that we'll be having a more formalised moderating presence I thought it would be a good idea to put the following together so that everyone is aware of what is going on and why.

Most of the following is already common knowledge to regular members and we don't expect any of the following to really impact on the day to day running of the forum. The "warnings" section though is new, so you may want to give that a read.

So, this is a request for comment -- if anyone has any thoughts on any of the following, please post below so that we can take on board your input before formalising this onto the site proper (ie, once I finish coding the moderator section!)

A hat tip to travel forum FlyerTalk which has an amazingly comprehensive ruleset which I read carefully while considering our own document.



How to get the most out of the Travelfish forum

The Travelfish.org forum is a small community focused on helping other people get the most out of their travels to Southeast Asia. The forum is divided into a series of broad sections (Destinations, Before you leave etc) and sub-sections (Cambodia, Laos, Books, Travel Tech and so on) within each to make it easier for people to ask their questions in an area that will most likely deliver a useful answer.

We ask all members to maintain civility between one another and keep in mind the rules of the forum. The Travelfish.org forum is moderated, and members who are unable to maintain civility and participate while keeping to the rules may have their account disabled and posts removed.

Basically be polite, try to be helpful and if you don't have anything nice or constructive to say, please keep it to yourself.

The Travelfish.org forum has two primary purposes: to assist people planning a trip to Southeast Asia and to provide a focal point for the Travelfish.org community to converse and exchange ideas and thoughts on areas of mutual interest.

Please bear in mind that there is no one "right" way to travel and that you are under no obligation to answer any question. New members will often ask questions that have been asked (and answered) many times already; telling them to "Google it" is less helpful than perhaps pointing them to a page that has a previous discussion on the same topic.

The majority of Travelfish.org readers will never post on the forum but many will read it. The better your posts are, the more beneficial it will be to other readers.

While you can read the Travelfish.org forum to your heart's content without becoming a member, to post a question (or answer), you need to become a member. Membership is free and you can join here (link). We encourage you to familiarise yourself with the forum before posting a new question and try to post it in the correct section of the forum as it is more likely to get a useful answer that way. Existing members, please be kind to new members -- everyone was new once.

Signature links and messages can be set-up in the Member Profile section of Travelfish.org. Please be respectful of others in what you choose to display. In the case where the signature is a link to another website, we have the following general guidelines:

* Site linked to must be non-commercial.
* Personal travel blogs that contain a typical level of advertising are permitted.
* The linked text must not be some Search Engine Optimised junk -- for example "cheap flights to Vegas"
* Link text should not be all in caps.
* Do not try to embed images in the signature field.

The above are general guidelines only and we'll approach links on a case by base basis. The thinking behind allowing signature links is that it allows other readers to find out about you and your travels -- not as a means for you to try and flog Ugg boots or a hotel in Paris.

If your link is found to be unacceptable, it will be disabled in your profile. If you continue to post it in the body of your messages, your account will be disabled.

Profile images
Members are able to upload two profile images. Please keep them family-friendly -- no nudity thanks!

Please do try the search function (near the top of every page) to see if your question has already been asked, but if it hasn't (or if you'd really just like to ask it yourself) please go ahead and ask.

How to ask a good question
The best way to get a good answer is to ask a good question. Make the title of your question the, well, question and use the body of the question to expand, in as much detail as possible, what you are after. For example:

* If you are looking for an accommodation recommendation, mention what your budget is.
* If you have a visa question, note your nationality.
* If you're asking about where should you go, mention the time of year you are considering going as weather can influence the answer.
* If you're asking for general travel advice, note what your interests are.
* If you're asking about travelling with kids, note what age bracket they are in.

The more information you're able to give in a question, the better the chance you'll receive a well tailored answer.

Ask your question in the right place
There are many sub-sections in the Travelfish.org forum. Try and pick the right section to post your question. Questions pertinent to many countries, say for example a multi-country itinerary question, belong in the Southeast Asia forum -- not in each of the individual country forums.

Don't double post
Sometimes it can be tempting to post a question in multiple sections. Please do not do this. Pick one section that is the best fit and post there. Multiple posts will be deleted.

Don't bump old threads
Please do check the date of the last reply on a post before you post to it. Chances are answering a hotel query from 2008 will be of limited use to the person who asked the question way back when.

Be respectful of others
As mentioned above, there is no "right" way to travel and everyone is entitled to travel in a manner that suits their tastes. Please be respectful of others and their priorities. Nobody's trip plan is "stupid", but if you think it is impractical due to time constraints, perhaps say that instead. Remember sarcasm in particular doesn't always come across as intended! If you feel you're unable to respond to a thread without denigrating another member, then please do not respond.

No personal email addresses or phone numbers please
Please do not post your (or another's) email address or phone number in any public forum. If you want people to contact you, use the private messaging facility to do so. Note this is not enabled by default, you need to enable it first. Personal email addresses and phone numbers posted to the forum will be deleted.

Link dropping
There are plenty of good reasons why links can and should be included in a forum post and if they add to the post you are making they are generally welcome.

However if the link is the main part of the post, for example "Hey check out my trip to Thailand at http://www.example.com" then the post will most likely be removed.

Promotional commercial links will always be removed.

Offensive language
The Travelfish.org forum uses a basic language filter to **** out crude language. We have members of all ages and backgrounds so please keep this in mind when posting on the forum. The list of filtered words is private, but you can probably guess many of them. If you think a word is probably on the list, please don't use it!

Posting extracts from other websites
If you post an extract from another website, for example a story from a news website, please do not post the entire story. Just post an extract with a link at the end so that readers can go to the original site to read the full story.

Discussions veering off-topic
At times discussions will float off topic. For instance a thread discussion about the best beach on Phuket may devolve into a discussion about corruption or over-development. Often case this happens with no involvement from the opening poster (who just wanted a beach recommendation and isn't overly concerned about the last 30 years of development on Patong), and in many cases, those carrying on the new tangent may be better off starting a new thread.

We realise this is a grey area and there is no hard and fast rule, but basically if you feel a conversation needs to be branched, just start a new thread, with an appropriate title and let the other participants in the branch know. This way the opening poster gets their answer and a new conversation thread sprouts to cover the different topic.

Private messaging
The Travelfish.org forum includes a very basic private messaging facility. Through this you can privately exchange messages with other Travelfish.org members. Private messaging is disabled by default. To enable it, you need to login, go to the Member Centre, click on Member Profile, then Edit Profile and make your profile "public" and enable "private messaging". Note that the other member you wish to communicate with must also have it enabled.

New additions sections
There is a "new additions" section for each country on the forum. These are intended for businesses such as hotels and restaurants to add a listing. There are detailed guidelines regarding this in each additions section. Post once and once only. Do not bump a thread. Multiple posts will be deleted. These sections are not intended for travel agents. Posts from travel agents will be deleted.

Limited license
While the poster owns the content they post to the Travelfish.org forum, please note that in posting to the forum the poster grants Travelfish.org the right to reproduce the content in any medium as Travelfish.org sees fit without notification or compensation. Travelfish.org has no obligation to remove or edit any post by a Travelfish.org member.

Who are the moderators?
The primary administrator of the Travelfish.org is somtam2000. He is assisted by volunteer moderators who are generally Travelfish.org members and are very familiar with how the site works. In some cases the moderators may be Travelfish.org writers. All moderators are identified as such on their profile.

What do the moderators do?
The moderators are able to use the forum just as anybody else is but have some additional responsibilities used to keep the forum running smoothly. They're able to delete individual posts along with complete threads and are also able to move topics to the correct forum and disable the account of members who violate the rules of the forum.

How to report a post
If you see a post you feel is unacceptable or has violated a rule for use of the forum, please click on the red "x" and we'll be notified of it immediately.

Commercial posts
Commercial posts of any type will be removed. The Travelfish.org forum is not a marketplace and any posts of this kind will be deleted. The Buy and Sell Motorbikes forum is now closed to new posts.

Discussions related to the Thai Royal Family
Due to the severe lese majeste laws related to Thai Royalty any discussion we believe to be even remotely disrespectful of them will be removed immediately.

Sex tourism related posts
Southeast Asia attracts its share of sex tourists -- the Travelfish.org forum is not the place to discuss either their endeavours nor establishments primarily catering to them.

Posts from Vietnam-based businesses
Vietnam-based businesses are not permitted to post on the Travelfish.org forum at all. All such posts will be deleted and the member accounts banned immediately.

In order to keep the Travelfish.org forum running smoothly, on some occasions especially recalcitrant members may need to have their account disabled. In some cases a member will be warned up to three times that their behaviour is unacceptable, in others the account will be disabled immediately.

Normal members have their accounts disabled extremely infrequently. With the exception of spam and Vietnam-based businesses we have banned fewer than two dozen members in more than five years of operating the Travelfish.org forum.

Below are examples of activities that may result in a warning or in an account being disabled -- all of these rules pertain to both the public Travelfish.org forum and the private messaging system. This is not an exhaustive list and we reserve the right to disable any account we wish to.

In some cases a warning to a member is enough to bring matters back into line. Warnings are given publicly in the thread concerned and will be along the lines of "Membername X please stop Y behaviour. Please check our terms of use (links to this document). This is your first warning." We really don't expect to need to give out ANY second warnings!

Personal attacks
We encourage all members to be civil with one another. If you disagree with another member do so respectfully. Do not insult, abuse or otherwise harangue another member. If you feel you are on the receiving end of a personal attack -- DO NOT RESPOND -- instead contact a moderator. Travelfish.org members who are unable to control themselves will be warned three times. Three strikes and the account will be disabled.

Even in small communities not everybody sees eye to eye. Should you find yourself having persistent and disagreeable interactions with another member, please just "agree to disagree" and ignore each other. Members who insist on stalking another will be warned three times to stop it. Three strikes and the stalking account will be disabled.

Do not post private information about another member without their explicit permission. This includes, but is not limited to, their name, phone number and address. Please only use the member name when referring to another member. Exceptions to this rule are Somtam2000, the co-founder of the site -- you can call him Stuart if you want (but that's all! ). Also, if you're already familiar with a person this isn't a problem. We're aware this is a grey area, but members who continue to out another member after being warned will be warned twice more to stop it. Three strikes and the outing account will be disabled.

In some cases the activities warrant an immediate disabling of the account. Here are some examples. Note this list is not exhaustive.

Posts that we consider to be spam will be deleted and the account will be disabled immediately.

Use of multiple accounts
Where we believe multiple accounts are being used by a single person, all accounts concerned will be disabled.

Vietnam-based businesses
With the exception of hotels and restaurants posting in the Vietnam additions section of the forum, all accounts we believe to be associated with a Vietnam-based business will be disabled immediately.

Promotional and advertising posts
Posts that are primarily focused on promotions or advertising will be disabled. This often overlaps with spam mentioned above.

Publicly posting private message conversations
Any member who publicly posts a private message from the Travelfish.org private message system will have their account disabled immediately.

Once an account is disabled it will not be reinstated.

That's it! Thanks for reading this far :) Any feedback or thoughts on the above are much appreciated.


#1 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,065

Posted by travellingsarah on 3/1/2013 at 22:08 TF writer

Phew, I should have made a cuppa before reading that one! Very clear and comprehensive. I can't think of any other reasons for warnings other than those you've mentioned.

#2 travellingsarah has been a member since 23/3/2010. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 684

Posted by antoniamitchell on 4/1/2013 at 14:26

Hi Stuart,

The draft looks fairly comprehensive about acceptable use of the site. The only thing I've noticed is you don't seem to have any liability statements anywhere (neither in the above, nor did I see one in the T&Cs section when I joined the site). Might not be a bad idea to add one to the T&Cs, just in case.

Thanks for running the site - hugely useful and one of my main sources of travel inspiration!


#3 antoniamitchell has been a member since 13/5/2012. Posts: 566

Posted by busylizzy on 4/1/2013 at 23:10

I reviewed the rules of another forum that I've been involved in to look for other ideas that you may have missed - and can't come up with anything relevant. I think your list is comprehensive, succinct, easy to read, etc.

Now here's hoping that people actually read them and take notice! All good stuff, Somtam.

#4 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,152

Posted by somtam2000 on 5/1/2013 at 03:52 admin

Thanks for the comments (and for taking the time to read it!)

Antonia, we do have a liability thing (kind of) on the Terms of Use page but yes, a good idea to add it onto this as well -- thanks & glad to hear you're enjoying the site!


#5 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,065

Posted by caseyprich on 5/1/2013 at 05:14

* If you're asking about where should you go, mention the time of year you are considering going as weather can influence the answer.
* If you're asking for general travel advice, note what your interests are.

FANTASTIC! . . . if people read it.

#6 caseyprich has been a member since 3/3/2010. Location: China. Posts: 1,281

Posted by somtam2000 on 19/1/2013 at 22:13 admin

Thanks for the feedback. With a couple of minor amendments/clarifications, some suggested above, we've now formalised these guidelines here and they're also linked to from the various posting pages on the forum and membership page.

If you have any questions about them, let me know.

Cheers & thanks.

#7 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,065

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