An Open Email to Tom Otley

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This topic contains 14 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  Inquisitive 23 Feb 2010
at 15:07
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  • Anonymous

    SimonRowberry
    Participant

    Tom,

    As you are fully aware, there has been some pretty unpleasant material posted on this Forum over the last few days, and you’ve been busy deleting some of it. It seems to me that this material falls into two categories.

    Firstly, there is the genuinely unintended “gaffe.” This is often due to some of us forgetting that we have as wide a spectrum of readers and contributors as we do, from a diverse national, ethnic and cultural base. I think that the analyses made by Hess and Senator earlier this evening set this out very well. These posts are not intended to offend and are therefore very easy to forgive.

    However, there is a second group of comment which, it appears, is intended to be wholly provocative for all the wrong reasons. Such comments arise either through an unwillingness to accept that someone has the right to take a counter view or, increasingly, simply to irritate and elicit an equally negative response. This in turn leads to a spiral of decline in the thread, away from the topic in question and, obviously, away from the help and advice which was often being sought in the first place by the original poster.

    Such posts are often also related to the responder’s inability to accept criticism (no matter how constructive) of a particular brand/product that he/she has a particular liking for. This in turn is beginning to raise questions about the objectivity of the Forum. Indeed, one or two regular posters, whom I am in contact with outside the Forum, even raise the question of whether there is conscious product promotion/placement going on. The perceived lack of corrective action by BT in many cases also raises a suspicion that the magazine is either planting these views or, at the very least, seeking to display particular products in a particularly favourable light. Whilst I am sure that this is not true, you can understand how serious a matter it is when people can even suggest such conspiracies.

    This latter type of post (the deliberately provocative) is, it seems to me, increasing in regularity. Today I have seen two comments made by a single person which could cause offence to one particular race. I have also seen two very rational contributors almost falling out as a result. At the very least, such posts are insensitive. I myself have tried to help by sharing some observations, only to suffer an extremely uncalled for and snide post by the same person.

    We have also seen certain parties post extremely offensive posts, relating to contributors’ age, sex, gender, race, or other utterly irrelevant characteristics, only for the original post to be subsequently deleted by the originator, once the desired response (usually an equally rude, but justified, retort) has been secured. This then leaves the retort hanging in the air without a context, making the ‘victim’ of the original post look utterly foolish.

    We have also seen posts made which comment on the use of the English language, or pedantic and snide comments about punctuation, even when it is clear that the person who is being criticised’s has English as, at best, a second language.

    This is akin to the cowardly schoolchild who shouts out something offensive and then hides behind a tree or a wall to avoid retribution. Indeed, such behaviour is utterly cowardly and wholly inappropriate to a Forum such as this.

    You are fully aware that some months ago, a number of us ‘came out’ en bloc from behind our user names, so we could be held accountable for what we write. Whilst, in principle, I have no difficulty with people using pseudonyms, it is interesting that it is rarely, if ever, that inflamatory posts will be initiated by people using their real names. We have had this discussion before, and I understand your difficulty in limiting the use of screen names, and your reason for it. However, some solution must be found if the credibility of the Forum is to remain intact.

    A number of us feel that there are two sets of rules in operation here, depending on how ‘close’ one is perceived to be to the editorial side of the magazine. Whilst I am sure that this is not the case, an equitable and timely use of editorial action does need to be demonstrated in practice.

    I thought that we had moved on positively last year. However, it seems that we are now back to where we were a few months ago and it is a highly retrograde step for us all, collectively, to have taken. We’re here to help and advise each other, and to give opinions on products and services, without let or hindrance, and without any suggestion or suspicion (no matter how unfounded) that those opinions are given due to ANY form of inducement. Impartiality is out strength.

    However, we have the right to give those opinions without being abused by others who disagree, without having to read (at best) ‘insensitive’ adjectives which have no regard to the culture and origin of our fellow contributors, and without having to suffer personal insult.

    Yes, many of us respond in a similar (but I hope less offensive) manner; however, this is as a response, Tom, not as a stimulus.

    Please consider these thoughts and respond openly, as you wish.

    Regards,

    Simon


    Tim2sms
    Participant

    Hear hear.

    Some of the comments and venom expressed on the thread http://www.businesstraveller.com/discussion/topic/Which-Business-Class-Should-I-Choose today were very surprising, and IMHO, inappropriate.

    Time for Yellow cards?


    Bunnahabhain
    Participant

    As a former forum administrator albeit on both a much smaller and managed scale, sadly it’s not that simple, and it’s just a no win situation for Tom and the BT team as Nigel and I discussed when we met with Felicity and Mark last month. You want to allow freedom of expression while at the same time maintaining credibility and absence of offense / libel etc. One rule we had was that you must use your full name – but I had access to the member database (of about 2000) to verify that – a big difference from effectively the whole world who can register here. Ok BT has access to the email details required to register, but as Mark said in relation to a posting considered inappropriate, these can easily be spoofs. Even with a controlled, member-only system it’s not plain sailing – I had quite a hassle with a guy who insisted on calling himself toiletbrush and making inappropriate (in the context) posts even after a few gentle hints – took the grapevine of his boss unfortunately being my mate’s equivalent in the neighbouring site (the UK is a small country!) to get him to “come out” and accept his real name had to be there for all to see – predictably immediately reducing the number and ferocity of his posts. Never did find out what the excretory fascination was though!


    NTarrant
    Participant

    Thinking back to our meeting I wonder if there is perhaps a way which when people sign up they have to have a confirmation email to verify authentisity. This could then be backed up with odd emails every so often which they have to reply to within a few days to enable them to continue posting.

    I quite agree with Simon, there are people posting on this forum just to get a reaction with silly comments and sadly they do get the reaction from some, self included.


    JonathanCohen09
    Participant

    Hi Everyone,

    Simon, well put and I am looking forward to reading a response from Tom in due course and to read the views of other posters.

    I started the thread ‘Stop the rot, some time ago and for a while as you said, I thought that we had made some progress. The problem is and remains the fact the the culprits behind the types of posts you refer to never seem to be prepared to either apologise for or justify their actions.

    Until they do, I fear that we will continue to have the same problems from the usual suspects. I think that Tom and the BT team are in a very difficult position.

    Perhaps the BT team can look at the membership option that was mentioned some time towards the end of last year. It could be free but BT would be able to verify the information about members and only members could post on the forum. non members could only view it. If we did something like that then maybe we could get rid of the posters who spoil what is in the main a very useful source of valuable tips and information on a wide range of topics.

    Over to you Tom and the BT team!

    Safe travels,

    Jonathan


    Hess963
    Participant

    I agree what Simon has put very well and second it.

    It is time that such people who insult and make fun of other users deliberately be censored openly and warnend to stick to the rules or either be banned in contributing here. Tom and BT responsibles this is a very delicate situation now–it is about the sincerity and their real cause of this forum: let frequent travelllers share their personal experiences and opinions free from bashing and insulting one another or be a platform for a commercial use — full of praises of so called travellers who are paid by airline companies to write such nonsense and far from the real travelling experiences and views of paying pax.

    It is so obvious Tom that VK can go away with what he can comment here and his venom of comments are only taken out when they already have serve their purpose in poisoning the thread. This is a real sad and bad picture for this forum.

    It is now your word and decision in which direction all this will lead to—hopefully and sincerly in a more tolerable and friendly atmosphere–free from “verbal diarrhoea” of a certain person which has actually made this forum his platform to advertise his favourite airline so apparently that I have enough of it and honestly give me the impression of hating this airline rather than liking it.


    Binman62
    Participant

    It is hard to disagree with what has been said in previous posts, however I would take issue with any attempt to remove anonymity.

    I do not work for an airline but, like others, have decent enough contacts. My anonymity when posting does not protect me from the laws of the land and as such I must ensure that what is posted is not libelous or offensive.

    The BT team must also ensure that nothing is libelous or offensive and should take steps to remove posts that are. Warnings to ofenders and perhaps removal of access to persistent offenders could be considered.

    Robust debate can at times overstep the mark and efforts such as this forum are a good method of keeping things under control or indeed to bring things back on track simply by raising the issue. Care should be exercised however that in an effort not to offend, that we do not lose the right to robust and impassioned debate.

    We just need to take a look at the world around us to realise that in an effort to do good we often lose sight of what is right.


    SimonRowberry
    Participant

    Hello everyone.

    Firstly, many thanks to you all for your support. I thought long and hard before posting what I did. However, I felt that a Rubicon had been crossed today in terms of the tone and expression of some of the posts and the lack of common courtesy and respect, and that we have to make a collective effort to pull matters back to some form of normality (whatever that may be).

    I agree with virtually everything that has been said by others, and I do appreciate the difficulties of addressing this issue, believe me. We need to find some way to synthesise all the above points into some form of solution that is workable and able to be implemented by Tom et al.

    It is enlightening (but probably totally predictable) that the individuals whom have posted above are all examples of the vast majority of contributors, who are here for the right reasons and who work to help each other. That’s why the Forum exists, and almost everyone takes this positive attitude.

    i tried very hard not to personalise this issue, and I’ll attempt to continue in that vein. I will say, however, that the number of “pingers” on this site (i.e. the destructive elements) can, probably, be counted on the fingers of less than one hand. And of that extremely small minority, almost if not all of them often also make excellent contributions. That is when they are not looking to score points or be gratuitously and needlessly aggressive and/or offensive.

    That, in many ways is what is so disappointing about the current situation. I don’t think that any individual is wholly negative, by any means. It just seems that there are some rather large egos out there that can’t control themselves at times. Considering that these are people who claim to be in such a corporate position as to be able to fly F or J, it suggests to me that either they have been extremely lucky in business, or that they are actually working for the industry and “placing” their products (so to speak) through the Forum, or, bluntly, that they are Walter Mitty-type fantasists who are nothing at all as they claim to be.

    I make this statement simply because their interpersonal and communications skills are clearly painfully weak, and this begs the question as to how they can actually be in the position they claim to be, and therefore able travel as they do. As I say, this observation relates to perhaps two or three contributors only. Jokes about actually being check-in clerks are EDI are made only slightly tongue-in-cheek.

    What I find sad is that we should be having this debate at all. I have found, particularly over the last year or so, that the advice I have received from contributors has been invaluable. It has certainly saved me tens of thousands of pounds. I am sure that many, many other contributors have also experienced the same positive results from the Forum. Our collectiveness of purpose and our willingness to share ideas, views and experience is our strength. It is most certainly NOT about anyone’s race, age, first language, politics, ability to spell or punctuate, or any other factor. These are utterly irrelevant to this Forum.

    It’s clear that many of you feel the way that I do. I look forward to hearing Tom’s response in due course. I do, also, accept that there are practical difficulties attached to all possible solutions and that these must also be addressed in some way, if at all possible.

    Kindest regards,

    Simon


    Tom Otley
    Keymaster

    Hi Simon, and everyone else who has commented on this thread. Thank you for taking the trouble to do so

    I’ve been travelling all day and just arrived in the U.S. so I don’t know what’s been deleted by the team and what hasn’t.

    We have no favouites on the forum, and try to apply standards as fairly as we can, but obviously we don’t get it right all the time. I’d like to say we don’t get annoyed/ frustrated by the constant accusations of bias towards certain companies and individuals but we’re only human, and we do.

    We have tried to correct this misconception, yet as you know, when previously we have entered the forum to rebut the accusations, the level of professional and personal vituperation convinced me it wasn’t a good idea. Feedback is invaluable, but perhaps less so when it’s spraypainted all over the front wall of your business, and the staff don’t deserve it.

    We remove libelous posts (of course) and have banned several posters, but there’s nothing stopping people from giving false email addresses and then re-registering and some have done so, I think.

    As for censuring people openly – would that work? We email genuine contributors at times to discuss their posts, and have deleted posts from them as well. We also receive emails from many of you and reply to them. There’s nothing hidden in any of this, we just try and make the forum work as best we can.

    The user profile pages should go live sometime next week, but it won’t particularly address the concerns expressed here.

    If you have suggestions – bullet points or otherwise as to how we can improve, please make them and we’ll consider them and try and implement, depending on cost, of course. I should emphasise that we are a small publishing company, not News Corp. We do the best with the resources we have, but all advice will be listened to carefully.

    Thanks again

    Tom


    Binman62
    Participant

    It is hard to disagree with what has been said in previous posts, however I would take issue with any attempt to remove anonymity.

    I do not work for an airline but, like others, have decent enough contacts. My anonymity when posting does not protect me from the laws of the land and as such I must ensure that what is posted is not libelous or offensive.

    The BT team must also ensure that nothing is libelous or offensive and should take steps to remove posts that are. Warnings to offenders and perhaps removal of access to persistent offenders could be considered.

    Robust debate can at times overstep the mark and efforts such as this forum are a good method of keeping things under control or indeed to bring things back on track simply by raising the issue. Care should be exercised however that in an effort not to offend, that we do not lose the right to robust and impassioned debate.

    We just need to take a look at the world around us to realise that in an effort to do good we often lose sight of what is right.


    Binman62
    Participant

    Tom “”””*****The user profile pages should go live sometime next week, but it won’t particularly address the concerns expressed here.*****””””

    What exactly does this mean?

    What information will be available to view and by whom?


    Tom Otley
    Keymaster

    Hi Binman62- not sure why we keep getting repeated posts from you – may be a glitch in the software so I’ll have that checked. A bit wary about deleting posts on this thread, for obvious reasons.

    The profile pages mean that on your account page you have the choice of displaying more information about yourself (or nothing). So if you choose, you can have displayed your past 5/10 comments on stories, forum posts and seatplans flight reviews (assuming you have made any) as well as some words of description about yourself.


    binabdulaziz
    Participant

    I agree with the message Mr Hess sended.

    Mr Vintage Krug is disrespectful sometimes.


    Inquisitive
    Participant

    A few suggestions – i) of late for many headers, the discussion threads goes sideways – site administrator could delete those or request for a new thread., ii) the time limit of a thread – could be limited to 15 days or a month max. If someone want bash BA and SQ, could start a new thread instead of commenting on an old one, iii) a limit per contributor could be imposed per thread (say max 2) – this forum provides valuable info and sharing of experience – that could be done with one posting and the limit will stop unnecessary argument.

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