I take a leave

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Aug 18th, 2005, 02:13 PM
  #1
bwanamitch
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I take a leave

Well, yesterday I saw here some provocative postings by someone called worldtraveller99. Even if I couldn't sympathize with what he/she was telling, there were at least some points that IMO were discussable. Some members of this forum responded in a friendly way, some in a more ironic or sarcastic way.

I hadn't the impression that the speech in this discussion dropped below a level that justifies deletion of those postings - postings by worldtraveller99 but also by well-known Fodorites like tashak, napamatt and myself. On the contrary, I believe that by deleting those postings the Fodor's moderators unconsciously prove one of worldtraveller99's theses, that this forum appears to be indeed 'a narrow world'.

I, for my part, am very sensitive when it comes to censorship of free speech (could have something to do with the history of my home country, Germany), and I begin to feel uncomfortable at this place.

Hence I will leave this forum for some time.

Mitch
 
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Aug 18th, 2005, 02:22 PM
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Did they really delete postings? I'm surprised.

I hadn't followed the discussion that closely, although I had a few choice words for worldtraveller that I decided to keep to myself.

I am very sorry to hear that you're taking a leave. Wouldn't you consider continuing to post (when it's convenient and/or interesting to you, of course), and continuing to speak your mind?

Your knowledge and opinions greatly enhance this board.

If you do decide to stay away for a while (not forever!), please do enjoy your next trip to Africa.

p.s. Love your safari portal site, by the way.
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Aug 18th, 2005, 02:52 PM
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"Your knowledge and opinions greatly enhance this board."

I second Leely's comment.

Mitch, a point to consider: that one defends free speech by continuing to speak out.

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Aug 18th, 2005, 02:53 PM
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Mitch,

Sorry to see your decision to take a leave. I, too, have been frustrated in the past by the censorship that sometimes occurs on this forum. However, not even I am innocent of requesting that Fodors remove a thread, which I have done once in my nearly four years on the forum.

I do believe that there are some people on the forum that are, unfortunately, all too quick to request that Fodors remove a thread, but who am I to judge since I did this on one occasion, as well.

So, is the censoring coming from Fodors or is the censoring coming at the persuasion of Fodorites?

While you may not like censorship, at least 99% of the time you may count on free speech. By not participating, not only do you not have free speech, but you have NO speech. That is the way I look at it.

So, please reconsider your decision. You are a true asset to this forum and will be missed should you leave.

I would urge other Fodorites to think twice before they urge Fodors to remove a thread. There are many of us, Mitch and I included, that really believe censorship is an unforgivable act. I am not at all familiar with the thread that Mitch is referring to, but if it is enough to prompt Mitch's departure from the board, then I am thinking that the thread likely deserved to stay.

To the Fodor's administrators, it would be nice to receive an explanation when a thread is removed. I believe we have earned this.
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Aug 18th, 2005, 03:39 PM
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I usually at least check this forum and/or post on it about once a day and somehow I missed whatever worldtraveller99's post was, which may be a blessing if it was that bad...regardless, if whatever it was resulted in bwanamitch declining to participate here any more then I am very very sad to hear it indeed. And I would hope that either Fodors and/or bwanamitch would both reconsider.
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Aug 18th, 2005, 03:50 PM
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This is such a fine line to cross.presumably, Bwanamitch has followed through and left the forum,, to it's detriment for sure.

But I would make the case that this isn't necessarily a case of free speech because this isn't a publically funded or governmentally run website (I may loose my ACLU cred for this....) at the end of the day. Fodors.com is run by a private company, Fodors who exercises their right to edit the forums as they see fit to be in line with their internal company objectives and proceedures. Whether we agree with their judgement or not, this is not tax-payer funded so at the end of the day it's not unlike that line your parents used to give you about "while your living under our roof you must abide by our rules.. when you get your own place you can make the rules"
Fortunately, I don't recall once paying any access fees to use Fodors.com.
Of course the downside is that it could become too stagnated to be of any value.. which is a legit concern.. the one thing I can say about that is, that I have been posting here since 1999 and before they edited the site at all.. some of the boards (I am thinking of Europe) resembled not so much travel info boards as a bunch of 6th graders and with weird political agendas trying to out insult each other in extremely brutal ways..with a bunch of vicious trolls thrown in for good measure..
To devils advocate this however, one mans inappropriate soap box is another mans mantra.. so I guess it just depends.
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Aug 18th, 2005, 03:53 PM
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I send a rather long email to the editors about this early this morning. I am also disturbed by the application of the rules very strictly to individuals (even ones with a long history of positive contributions, like bwanamitch & napamatt) while very rude and derogatory comments from new posters are allowed to stand.
There simply was nothing very outrageous in these posts that were removed. I was sarcastic, yes, but much less rude, I thought, than the new poster who immediately went on the attack against a long-time community member with a very real problem.

In the meantime, bwana, keep in touch...I think you have my email?
I am still hoping to get a response...but time is precious, and I'd rather spend my time doing things that don't disappear at a moments notice.
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Aug 18th, 2005, 04:02 PM
  #8
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Wow. At first I was surprised to learn that the censorship can take the shape of deleting certain posts within a thread. I thought that the entire thread was deleted as it was earlier today/yesterday when a vendor placed an inappropriate response. The innocent poster lost his/her entire post as a result. Now I learn that there can be selective censorship within a thread. Bwanamitch, I was disconcerted to learn that these selective posts--including yours--were deleted. But I have to tell you that now, having reviewed the "redacted" thread--I am absolutely OUTRAGED. Why?---because one of MY posts has been deleted also. (OK, I know that I need a sardonic smiley face at this moment but do not know how to do it.) Since I am most familiar with what I wrote, I can say with confidence that I did not write anything that violated the Fodor's rules. Can anyone tell me to whom to write a protest/appeal of this decision?

bwanamitch, I agree with what Leely, dsquared, and rocco have written --not only about your worth to the forum but about the larger issue of censorship.
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Aug 18th, 2005, 04:09 PM
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Apparently the editors have spent too long in Benidorm.

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Aug 18th, 2005, 04:12 PM
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napamatt,
email [email protected] with your comments!
And watch it--no smiley faces!
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Aug 18th, 2005, 04:15 PM
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After my post yesterday mentioning the town in Spain whose name is never to be uttered (a little like the Scottish play) was deleted, I noticed another on Mitch's Mombo thread was deleted. The reference to the Spanish town has become something of an in joke for myself and Mitch. While I could see that its intent was indeed a little sarcastic toward worldtraveller99 (and by the way who cares if you've visited 99 countries, for that matter who counts, presumably the handle will be worldtraveller103 in a couple of weeks as he ticks a couple more off), but the reference in the Mombo thread was perfectly innocent. The one posted above this in reference to the editors was not.

Tashak - your points re free speech are well made. This is indeed a free web site, which we contribute to, which enhances the Fodor's brand which increases the value of their company. Our participation, knowledge and experience makes this work. And if there is from time to time a sharp riposte to someone's posts, they are usually justified, as they were in this case.
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Aug 18th, 2005, 04:24 PM
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Thyra,

While it is true that Fodors may be a private company and has the right to make its own rules, obviously this forum serves a commercial purpose. Fodors does not just put this forum up for humanitarian purposes, but rather because in some way, shape or form, it creates income for Fodors.

So, we Fodorites, should have a voice in how the forum is run since without us there is no forum. Sure, other Fodorites will come along, but the board will surely be diluted and thus newbies to the forum will likely be less interested, causing an overall decline in the Fodors forums.

Fodors, thanks to its members, is an invaluable medium when it comes to African ecotourism, and I do recognize this fact. Trust me, I have looked high and wide, but there is no other forum that comes close to Fodors for travelers such as the majority of us participants who choose the luxury lodge/luxury camp route and have a sincere interest in conservation, photography, culture and more.

As a result, instead of boycotting Fodors, we should see how we may make Fodors more user friendly. I do believe that Fodors should not automatically kill a post when it receives a complaint, but rather take the time to investigate it further. I will add that I have been contacted by Fodors in the past, asking me to basically "cool it" after making some remarks that others took offensive. To Fodors credit, I do not believe that my particular post was deleted.
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Aug 18th, 2005, 04:34 PM
  #13
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Thyra:
I do not think the issue is whether this is protected "free speech" under the 1st amendment.

It IS censorship and it is worth raising the question about whether it has been applied fairly/appropriately. And if it has not, it is worth trying to do something about it.
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Aug 18th, 2005, 04:36 PM
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napamatt,
Just for the record, it was someone else who made the point about it being a commercial site, etc. Which of course, it is, and I do understand that Fodors has every right to exercise control on a sight run for it's commercial benefit.
But I didn't say that.
Actually, in my note to the editors, I said I was deeply disappointed that they chose to excise the posts of contributors with a longrecord of positive contributions to the community here, while they let stand posts from a new member who just signed up to post rude and derogatory posts. I also said that despite the rules about no commercial promotion, that is what the posts that were allowed to stand were. And they are particularly so when they are allowed to stand unanswered.

I'm hoping they do reply.
A website is only as good as its participants, and with bwanamitch's departure, this takes a step down in quality. If you want to see what happens when there are no active members, take a look at the board at Frommers. Boring.
And frankly lots of posts that look like setups for commercial interests. For example:
"I'm thinking about a trip to Africa, and I've just found BeNAfrica. Their trips look great and they are half the price of the competition! Is this too good to be true?"
With answers like,
"It is true! They are absolutely the best in the world, and I've been all over the world."
"Actually, they are even better than that. And their CEO is the best too!"

If these are real posts...well, I'll eat my safari hat.

This place, by contrast, has real people with real information that provides a real draw to the website. And is, I think, an asset to Fodors.

I understand how Bwanamitch feels, because I pretty much feel the same way. I'm just waiting a bit for a response from the editors, which I do hope they will provide, before I reconsider other uses for the time spent posting here.
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Aug 19th, 2005, 01:47 AM
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I have often written to fodors asking for blatant advertising posts to be removed. I think in the years I have been here I have probably written only 3 or 4 times to ask for a particularly nasty post to be removed (such as the recent one where a warning on potential problems with an operator was wrapped up in venom about the MD's sexuality, accusations of racism, cheating and so forth). I do not apologise for asking for it to be removed, I think it was absolutely inappropriate and offensive.

However, I too have often found the application of "housekeeping" in the forums to be inconsistent at best and downright incomprehensible at worst. I have been posting on Fodors since 1998 (firstly on Europe, then also here) and it has always been thus.

Sometimes a moderator seems to be switched on and deletes only one or two particularly inappropriate posts within a long thread. One can see clearly in their actions the fact that they have knowledge of the regular posters, have read the thread carefully enough to be fair and are acting as fairly as they can. Other times a moderator seems to behave in an utterly lazy manner and simply either deletes the whole thread (meaning lots of relevant information is lost) or gets a bit power crazed and starts deleting posts right, left and centre.

On the other hand, I would not use the word censorship so much as commercial editing - this is not a "free speech" forum. It's a commercially owned service which the owners have a right to manage as they see fit, regardless of whether that's what we all might agree to be the best way or not!

Further, I very much doubt that Fodors get that much out of this site, financially. It supports and helps market their guide books to a certain extent, and they do sell banner advertising but... I doubt it's a big money maker. So I doubt they are spending big bucks on the staff who moderate it. So we can hardly expect careful, reasoned decisions from people who are probably, in the majority, temporary and low-paid staff.

Certainly, there have been incidents like this many times over the years (over in the Europe forum) and complaints to the editors have never, in my memory, resulted in any real change. Perhaps for a few weeks a little more care is taken but... not for long.

I missed the post from worldtraveller but when I glanced at the thread yesterday I saw that only their post had been deleted, the responses at that time remained. I guess further housekeeping was done after that.

What can I say? Mitch, I find it very sad that you would leave over something like this. It's frustrating sure, but this remains an excellent forum for discussion.

It's easy to set up an alternative arena, I could do it in 5 minutes and share the link with you all, but that community would soon stagnate without the volume of traffic (and therefore, newblook) that Fodors receives.

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Aug 19th, 2005, 05:08 AM
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That would be "new blood."

Kavey, still having trouble with keyboard - you really must have it looked at. ;-)

(just a little Friday humor.)
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Aug 19th, 2005, 05:09 AM
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Make that having trouble with YOUR keyboard. Guess I need to have mine checked out, too! ;-)
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Aug 19th, 2005, 05:44 AM
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Tashak

Apologies I meant Thyra, but typed Tashak. Mea culpa, a week in the Spanish town for me
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Aug 19th, 2005, 06:01 AM
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I am known in some parts as Typo Queen!
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Aug 19th, 2005, 06:34 AM
  #20
sandi
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Mitch -

Sorry to hear of your leave. Even I posted to that thread and called worldtraveller99 a troll! Oh, how terrible of me. And yesterday noticed that my post was itself removed from the thread.

Are my feelings hurt? How dare they? Have I left? Nope, still here!

Rather, let Fodor's do what they feel is their right to do. Or maybe one of their editor's has an itch they can't get to. Who knows.

On the other side is the information that remains which is beneficial to so many. And in this particular instance, the rest of us supported wanderlust123 in her troubled booking which came to a satisfactory conclusion.

Mitch, sleep on it, take some time, take a peek on occasion and do reconsider. Your input has been invaluable.
 
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