There are these questions that just keep coming up again, and again, and again, and again, and again... Concerning the choice of rucksacks, visa for the Schengen zone, booking the Inca trail, vaccinations, to name just a few.
Although I don't really mind to answer them again, and again, and again, etc., I was thinking there may be better ways of handling them. For instance, a separate FAQ forum/page (with limited write rights, e.g. only mods) could be started where search links pointing to threads on FAQs are collected; but there are probably better ways that I cannot think of now.
Or am I just naive in thinking that people will actually consult such a FAQ section before posting the canonical questions for the n-th time, and would this make for a useless addition to the functionality of the forums?
Well, there is the packing list and people still keep asking what to pack... maybe if the FAQ were put in a more obvious place... it would get used?
People just like to get a personal touch to the answers. For them, it's the first time they've asked the question, and even though this first question might be the exact-same as for everyone else, if they get useful and friendly answers, they'll probably hang around and ask follow-up questions which are new, and maybe go on to help other travellers in turn.
I always take the attitude that if I personally am getting tired of answering a particular question, I'll just leave it be, and put it out of my mind altogether. I *know* someone else will come along to answer it. And this is actually a good thing, because that way newer members will be enticed into helping others, and experience the feelings of reward in doing that, and hopefully become regular members here.
That all is much better than the alternative, which is where a group of long-time members have seen it all and have all the answers, and are growing continuously more disgruntled at doing the same thing again and again, falling into a vicious circle that they can never get out of.
At the same time, sometimes a question I've answered a hundred times before is phrased just minutely different, and suddenly inspires me to write a much longer answer, to restructure the way I present my knowledge to become more useful. I like it when I'm in the mood to do that - it helps me continuously improve, rather than 'stagnate'.
It should also be noted that this attitude doesn't hold everywhere. On software development forums, where the main purpose of the forum is to let professionals share thoughts, newbie questions which are repeated again and again can be quite annoying and disruptive, and those newbies can totally be told the read the faq. However, here on travellerspoint, the main point of the forums is to help those new travellers. We, jaded oldbies, have done it all before and will gladly hop onto a plane with little or no planning. But that prospect is very daunting to someone who's new to it all, and so they especially need a place where they can get some understanding answers and advice, and they need that much more than a pointer to an impersonal FAQ. (Here's a post which I saw just after posting this reply which should beautifully illustrate the point.)
(For the record, the question by regular members about how to handle really frequently asked questions ... is a question I've seen asked - and have answered - a lot of times before on dozens of message boards. Even here on travellerspoint it's come up at least twice before that I've seen. Everything old is new again.)
[ Edit: Edited on Jan 17, 2008, at 10:11 AM by Sander ]
Well said, Sander! I agree with you completely and I know I have posted similar replies in other FAQ threads. Everyone's question is new for them. As you have pointed out so well, either post yet another reply to a question or ignore the thread as someone else will likely respond.
I have said this before (but bears repeating), I would prefer that a thread be ignored by anyone who is bored with the same questions over and over. I also prefer that comments, such as "Do a search because there are several threads about this topic" be avoided if no additional information is included. I see that in threads throughout my forums which is likely to cause a newbie to visit another website. I know, for myself anyway, that doing a quick search and posting a link to the results page takes about as much time as just telling someone to do it themselves.
FAQ pages have been discussed in several ways but they still don't contain that "personal touch" Sander mentioned. They are also quite time consuming to create. I would think creating wiki pages related to something like ruckksacks, etc would be easier and more user-friendly. If one doesn't want to write a complete response in a thread, a link to a wiki page would direct the member to useful information. Once there, they may just keep looking for more info on other topics about which they may have questions. Just a thought...
I must second Isa's very important sentiment: posting questions is a way to get new members active in the forums. There's nothing worse than being told to go and find it yourself (I finally left an ad forum that had that attitude), and I'm sure we all appreciate a nice, personalized response. It makes us feel special! So why not do the same, or simply skip it when we're not in the mood to answer.
I see it as being like the proverbial lady at the information booth: no matter how any times people ask you where the bathroom is, you just gotta smile and keep pointing.
Agree with the above posts, although I do think in some cases it would be possible to have some FAQs besides all the personal attention, certainly for new members.
But I don't think that when a new member asks the same question, you should provide them links to FAQs or structurally with other threads. Although a link to another thread on top of a personal question can be of some use.
Also, I think that FAQs in travel related business is much more difficult than the ones I use for example at websites of banks and other institutions/organisations. Answers usually are much longer about travelling compared to those others and also you can give important additional information which might be of some use to the traveller as well. That way giving him more things to think about. The answers of for example Sander and Aharrold are of very good quality because they are long, complete and with that extra finishing touch to start the thinking of a traveller.
But still, when in some cases it is possible it could be on the top of the specific forum, like the one Niels provided about maps in SA.
I like the responses to this question. It is inevitable that questions are repeated over and over again (no matter how obvious the FAQ!). And bear in mind that for every person who does ask the question, there are probably dozens of others who just read previous answers to the same question. So while it might feel like we're answering one person at a time - the reality is quite different.
That said, I do also think it is a good idea to write about these frequent questions in the guide. The Inca Trail for instance already has a pretty nice article, with some good information on booking it. Choosing bags, visas for the Schengen Zone, vaccinations are ALL good topics to include. At the top of each regional forum there is a stickied post linking to the guide. That would be a good place to link to such articles.
But like the others said, if a question arises that we have all seen before and a sense of frustration wells inside of you, then the best is to just ignore it and let someone else take care of it
Okay, I have one more comment to make on this issue. (Well, might not be my last... No promises...)
Peter has made a point of starting threads in almost all (if not all - haven't looked...) forums asking that people check the wiki before posting their questions. The CA/SA forum is a good example of members not necessarily doing that as their questions would have been answered had they ultimately checked. Doesn't matter. Let them ask - someone will answer the call.
Honestly, and this is just my personal opinion, if you know a particular area (and especially tired of answering certain questions about it) then check out the wiki pages and see where you can add your two cents worth of information. When a question arises - whammo - you can direct them to the appropriate pages. This combination of threads and wiki is great!!! It's should eliminate a need for FAQ pages and give members somewhere to point another member if they just don't feel like writing something over and over.
Is now leaves as it is dinner time and dinner is done. I may be back. Maybe now would be a good time to hide...
My point wasn't to propose a way of handling FAQs with the ultimate goal of making further asking redundant/annoying/unnecessary; far from it, my point was that quicker/easier access to existing answers to these FAQs could result in members asking more specific questions, and thus get feedback that is more useful to them in their particular situation. Plus, while answering FAQs again and again may certainly lead to new/better/more complete/updated information, the disappearance of older threads on the same topic into oblivion also means that a lot of existing information (contributed by members no longer active, for instance) goes to waste...
To phrase my original point differently, I just think the forums contain a wealth of valuable information that could benefit this community much more if presented/searchable/categorised in another way. What way, I'm not so sure about. Maybe a possibility to tag posts/threads would be an idea?
Ok, what kind of ways could we do better at presenting this information?
The forum search only goes back a year (largely to avoid people reading outdated answers and responding to REALLY old threads), so we *could* extend that back to the beginning of time instead.
Other than that, I'm not really sure how we could do this without cluttering the interface to such a degree that we would actually end up making it harder to find current topics!
Tagging has been brought up as an idea before, although that is quite dependent on the efforts of the people tagging them - I just think the search function works far better than tagging ever would be able to. An option might be to try and somehow geotag forum posts, which in turn could link the posts to photos nearby. But that would require a fairly significant constant effort, albeit one that is achievable.