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Playground Politics in the Forums
I'm taking a break from my go-to hub topics to tackle an issue that I've noticed is a persistent problem on the HubPages forums. I love the HubPages forums, and I find them to be far more useful and fun than those on any of the other writing sites I belong to. The majority of hubbers that contribute are informative, supportive, and generally all around good folks! Unfortunately, there is a small but vocal minority that appear to find enjoyment in criticizing and insulting other hubbers.
I'm a relatively new hubber, and I've spent a considerable amount of time browsing the forums in search of answers to specific questions as well as general help on navigating the site and writing for the internet. In my browsing, I've run across some really nasty and rude responses to people who were legitimately seeking information or advice. This is not only counter-productive, but goes against the whole idea of an internet forum - a place where people gather to share information and ideas, ask questions, and learn from one another.
There Are No Stupid Questions
I see this scenario repeated over and over in forums and questions. Someone writes in, usually a newer member of the site, and asks a question. Instead of getting helpful advice as a response, they are chastised for not having already read X FAQ, help topic, or article.
The reality is that many newer members do have questions that are covered elsewhere. Even if they have already read the entire help section and FAQ, they are not as intimately familiar with them as those who have been with the site longer. If this is a topic that has already been covered, it makes far more sense to gently point this person towards the information, instead of yelling at them for "not having done their homework." It is easy to get lost with all of the information out there, especially in the beginning. Many times the questioner has already read the help topic, but have forgotten it, can't find it again, or simply need a better explanation.
Forums as an Educational Setting
I remember when I first started hubbing, I had a question regarding URL trackers and signups. I remembered reading the information somewhere, but couldn't seem to find it again. I spent half an hour searching, and just couldn't seem to find it again. All of my search results were getting other information, and going page by page through the help sections and FAQ wasn't helping either. It would have been so much easier to just ask my question in the forums, but I know I'd be yelled at for doing so. It is ridiculous that the actions of a vocal minority have the power to make new hubbers feel scared to use the valuable resource of questions and forums for fear of public ridicule.
No one likes to be made to feel dumb just because they have a question. Unfortunately, that's what the question trolls do. In an educational setting, this is not allowed. As the HubPages forums are also a learning community, there should be a similar approach. Educators often tell there students to not be shy about asking questions. Questions are how we learn, and how we are able to share our knowledge with others. The rule of thumb in education is that if one person has a question, chances are at least one other person has the same one, and in a positive learning environment, people will feel comfortable asking questions and attempting to learn from others.
Negativity and Closed-Mindedness
I've also seen people react vehemently because they had a difference in opinion over something very trivial. Um, isn't that the point of a forum? A place where people with different opinions and ideas can gather to discuss and share. Forums are quite honestly a lot less fun when everyone has the exact same opinion or take on something. Strings of replies saying "I agree," "Great point," "Good idea" and "Exactly right," are a waste of time to read. I come to forums to read the different takes and different information presented by each contributor. If I wanted just one person's opinion, I'd read a hub.
If we want the forums to be a place where people can glean interesting and relevant information on a variety of topics, we need to allow room for disagreement. We do not have to agree all the time, but we do need to treat others with different opinions with respect. In the end, those who make persistent negative comments only lose followers and readers. Whenever I run across these people, just like with question trolls, its an immediate unfollow. Not only that, but I tend to remember the name (a bad impression is sadly much longer-lasting than a good) and I will refuse to read any of their hubs in the future. Yes, I'm just one person, but I'm willing to bet there's a bunch of others out there who don't want to read hubs by people who seem to find enjoyment in yelling at other hubbers on the forums.
Why Kindness is the Best Policy
I recently asked a question regarding placement of Amazon capsules. I'd only ever gotten two clicks from my Amazon links, and I could never decide where to put them. I checked out the forums, but didn't really see anything too helpful. So I asked the question.
One lovely respondent suggested that I should "do my own work and look at hubs to see where they are placed." Um, I had, well before I asked the question. I actually spend a good amount of my time on HubPages looking at other people's hubs, both for enjoyment and to learn from them. Every hubber seemed to have their own style. And beyond that, I had no way of knowing which hubbers were successful, and which were just throwing them on with a hope and a prayer like I'd been doing. What I really wanted was to have a good discussion of where people thought was the best strategic placement. I also thought that plenty of people might have the same question, and it could possibly be helpful for others.
Other (much nicer) hubbers did weigh in. One hubbers answer was particularly helpful, and I wound up visiting her site. I quickly became a follower, and also found an excellent article on the Amazon affiliate program. Not only did I read the article, but I also rated it up, wrote a comment, and shared it. The not-so-nice chap that suggested I do my own work, well, I remembered the name, and will be sure to never read anything he has written again.
Don't Feed the Trolls
I realize that by writing this article, I am running the risk of feeding the forum trolls. I know that dignifying these malicious hubbers with any kind of response only eggs them on and makes the problem worse. But I'd really like to see the forums become a place where people can actually come together to learn from one another, rather than being shouted out of the room.
I love writing for HubPages. It's by far my favorite of all the sites I belong to. I'd like to see HubPages continue to attract diverse, intelligent, and talented writers. Yet when members of this community make a consistent point of insulting and demeaning newer hubbers, it only pushes people away from the site, which ultimately has a negative effect on the site's quality of membership, longevity, and overall success. Please, lets all do our part to make HupPages a great place not only to write, but to learn and connect with a supportive writing community.