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What do you want to see in the writers' forum?

I’ve had a great response from my introduction blog post and it is obvious from the comments that Simonseeks is in need of a writers' forum! Here’s some of the suggestions that we’ve had:

Can we have an "Inbox" type facility under "My Simonseeks" where writers can interact with each other by virtue of private messages.” – Arif Kahn

I feel that occasionally the comments at the end of a guide going back and forth between writer/editor/guide reader spoil the look of and detract from the guide itself so another way of corresponding is welcomed.” – Suzanne Courtney

I am also one of those who are looking forward when writers can interact with each other and send private messages.” – Popi Papazoglou

I would love to get some more ideas on what features you would like to see in the writers' forum, for example:

  • Would you like the ability to send private messages as well as having a writers' forum?
  • Would you like the forum to be split up into separate groups e.g. amateurs and professionals?
  • Would you like to rate forum topics?

Let me know about your ideas in the comments below.

Looking forward to hearing from you!
 

Community comments (15)

I agree with Jon that response to queries is poor. There are endless technical problems with the site but they are never properly aknowledged. I suspect some would-be writers give up because they can't cope with the guide template. I also very much agree with all the comments about the need for a fair and transparent ranking system. The current one really messes with your head. I have just shot up about 100 places after submitting a new guide that hasn't actually been accepted yet - what's that all about?? As Kevin implies, what we'd really like is more money!

I'm also a bit concerned that the site is becoming harder to distinguish from the kind of stuff you see in the newspaper travel supplements. As I understood it originally, the USP of the site was that real people recommended real hotels etc they had really stayed at, in a way that cut through all the usual guidebook blather. The way the site is constructed means that there is a bias in favour of hotels etc which have websites that can be linked to directly, and I think this could tend to produce guides which recommend the same-old same-old, particularly in less developed parts of the world.

Hi Elaine,

Cathy has just uploaded your Cairo guide for you and it is now live on the site. I understand that you have had a number of technical problems when uploading guides but I can assure you that they have been acknowledged and are currently being looked into.

The ranking system is something that I am currently looking at so I will update you with any news on this.

With regards to the hotel recommendations there is no bias in favour of hotels that have websites. Writers can recommend any hotel they would like in the guide and if possible we will then try and link to that hotel through a provider or directly to the hotel’s website. We will then contact the recommended hotels to see if they would like to link to the guide from their site which helps to promote the writers’ guides.

Thanks,

Sally

I don't think you've quite understood what I meant by bias. I didn't mean the editors are biased, I mean the way the site is structured and presented gives more prominence to hotels with websites and photos to go in the "recommends" column. In my Cairo guide the Marriott has ended up looking more prominent than the hotel I actually stayed at, and more prominent than I originally intended it to be, just because it has an active web link with a long name which the editor inserted. I also feel there is a conflict between the urging to recommend more than one place to stay and the instructions to only recommend places you've actually stayed at. Personally I would far rather read a guide that only recommends one hotel but is really informative about it based on an actual stay than one that just lists a string of places.

With regard to the technical problems, I disagree that they are acknowledged. Messages to Report a Bug are explicitly not acknowledged, so no matter how much the bug is stopping you contributing to the site, no one will get back to you about it. Information about problems and the fact they've been solved, if they have, is usually buried in blogs so you have to hunt around to find it. For example, the information about the 45 minute time-out is about halfway down the very long introduction to the "problems" blog, where no one will see it before they start to write a guide for the first time. I've already said that I think this time-out is ridiculous - if there has been no keyboard activity for 45 mins, sure, fair enough, but not counting typing text as activity on the site is just weird. What the site needs is a person whose job it is to answer emails about technical problems, even if they're only problems because the writer has misunderstood the rules. It could be used by people who just read the guides as well as writers.

Elaine,

You have misunderstood me. I was not implying that writers should get more cash. The system in use is, I am quite sure, fair and accurate.

What I said was that, while revenues are rising, writing reviews is hard work for the financial reward currently on offer.

Personally, the money doesn't really interest me but I do want to feel valued as a loyal member of a team.

My gripe with the ranking system has always been that we writers work hard over time submitting reviews which, in most cases, score highly.

However, a so-called celebrity who writes, or puts their name, to a review instantly appears somewhere near the top of the ranking list. That is quite simply not right.

I don't think I misunderstood you. I was just agreeing with you that producing a decent review is a lot of work for the amount of financial reward, and that the site needs to compensate for this by making writers feel valued and nurtured. Like you, I am not very interested in the money, I just enjoy writing and want to tell people about places I love. It's only when I feel that writers are being treated dismissively that I start to reflect on the fact we don't get any money either .... I am in total agreement with you about the celebs.

Sally,

I hope, in your discussions about the ranking system you take on board what writers have been saying. I believe we should definitely have a ranking system as everyone, whether they admit it or not, aspires to climb the table.

I don't believe writers want to be split into groups such as professionals, enthusiasts and celebrities. All we have ever wanted is a fair system that doesn't automatically elevate a so-called celebrity just because he or she agrees to write, or have their name put to, a review.

A lot of travel professionals and enthusiasts have taken the site to heart and worked hard at producing quality reviews to support and nourish it as it grows. Personally, overall I believe the site is first class and I am proud to be associated with it.

However, I have noticed some very active writers early on in the sites infancy seem to have disappeared while other new writers have filled the void. Lets make sure we look after writers and show loyalty, after all, while revenues are rising, it's still a great deal of work for the reward on offer.

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for your comments. I can assure you that I've taken the writers feedback onboard when discussing the ranking system and I am looking at changing it so it rewards writers for their overall contribution to the site. We are still in discussions regarding the ranking system but I will update you with any changes.

Thanks again,

Sally

@Arif Khan @Jo Pitches @Kevin Hughes - thanks for all your ideas. I have been looking at private messaging this week and it is something that we will be introducing with the forum. With regards to the rankings this is something that we are currently discussing so I should be able to give you a better update on this by next week.

Thanks,

Sally

Better communication between Simonseeks and writers is at the top of my list. I have been writing professionally for many years, and response to queries here is dire in my experience.

Example: An offer to write a blog on travel photography (I am a press & travel photographer by profession, and tutor in photography at quite a high level) - not even acknowledged, which is rude and unprofessional.

Example: An observation that, on the `Destinations` page (http://www.simonseeks.com/travel-destinations), the map places Japan and Mongolia in Europe - ignored, still unchanged many months later.

Example: A recent question about why a blog was published when the editor clearly thought it sub-standard ( http://www.simonseeks.com/travel-guides/singapore-brief-sling-lion-city_...) was met with a petulant accusation about my `bad journalism,` followed by (petulant?) silence. My question still stands, still remains unanswered.

And I, clearly in common with many others, am frustrated about the way in which questions about how the ranking system operates are fobbed off. Yes,yes, obviously some of the determinants need to remain secret to prevent manipulation (although this rather begs the question of why Simonseeks think it's contributors are likely to defraud the system: can we not to be trusted?), but can't we at least know the basics?

Pure coincidence I'm sure, but the day after I enquired about the inclusion of the piece mentioned above, my ranking dropped from 13th to 39th...

Why not just dump the whole ranking system? What point does it serve?

Happy Easter!

Jon Ryan

Hi Jon,

I have spoken to one of the developers about changing the map on the destinations page, so this should be done soon.

I have also spoken to Jeanette and she has replied to your comment on the guide but the main purpose of these comments is for the community to approve or disapprove of the guide. Unfortunately the guide comments are not suitable for discussing topics at any length but hopefully the forum will solve this issue.

With regards to the offer to write a guest blog post, I can’t seem to find anything about that - however, it is something that we would be interested in. I will send you an email so we can discuss the details off the site.

Thanks,

Sally

Hi Jon,

I am currently looking into the queries you've mentioned and will get back to you soon.

With regards to the rankings, this is something that we are discussing at the moment so I should hopefully be able to give you an update by next week.

Thanks,

Sally

I am very much against splitting professional and amateur writers, although the ranking system discussed at length in previous blogs still irritates.

I would also like to be able to send private messages to other writers. When you spot a mistake or something that isn't factually correct in a review you don't want to have to share a comment with the whole community. All that does is annoy the writer and make the person pointing out the error look like he or she is trying to be smart. It would be much better to be able to contact the writer privately.

Further, we still can't contact editors for advice, or to disagree with a comment they have made or to make a suggestion. It would be so much better if we could contact editors without having to do so in an open forum.

Cheers,

Kevin.

Totally agree, Kevin.

It's important to be able to question things or make comments (both to writers and editors) without being deterred by the fear of unintentionally upsetting anyone and/or wondering how you'll come across to readers.

The ability to send private messages would allow a much greater degree of openness and honesty, but with tact and discretion.

Jo

http://twitter.com/MetalJo

I agree with Arif on all three points.

It might also be a good idea to have a forum section covering travel gear (equipment, clothing, cameras, etc), and maybe a 'buy & sell' section too?

Thanks,

Jo

http://twitter.com/MetalJo

Hi Sally,

1. Private messages and forums can co-exist. I would suggest enlarging the purview of 'Forums' to include even members who are not writers. Not all users of the site are writers and they can also contribute positively in forum discussions. More and more threads in the 'Forums' will encourage other users to join the Simonseeks community, in the process benefitting both themselves and the website.
Forums can be classified as 'General', 'Asia', 'Europe', 'North America', 'South America', 'Africa and Middle East' and 'Australia & New Zealand'. A thread can be started by any user of the site in appropriate forum depending on his/her query. Some members can be given the job of 'Moderators' to oversee the activities of the Forums.

2.I do not think splitting the forums into Amateurs and Professionals will serve any purpose.

3. There can be a provision for rating the forum threads and replies.

Cheers
Arif