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create a better community on this site!

I want to make an appeal to the users of this site; both new members and ones that often contribute. What I observe is that many people join, post a basic question and then are never heard from again. Others are regular contributors but often give short set answers that tend to be discouraging.  One reason might be that it gets tiring to so often repeat the same basic stuff. 

How does one find a job for an English speaker in Germany? Answer: it’s tough, learn German. While this is true it is also rather obvious and not very enlightening. I think people are hoping for more specific advice. One way is to give more specific information about one’s qualifications and purpose when asking a question. For people responding, yes, the same questions get asked over and over. But it is like finding a needle in a haystack for a new person here to find the appropriate threads. If one has answered a similar question in detail on another thread, it is much easier to find it on your own timeline and post a link to the thread rather than have someone search the site for it!

Another thing is that there is always a lot more information out there that no single person will have experienced. I often think; oh, never heard of such a thing in Germany. And then I Google it and find that things exist that I had no clue about. And yes, Google is amazing which leads to the question why people don’t just google themselves before asking on this site? Some might not think of it or are clueless about how to frame the search criteria to get a good answer.  Our knowledge as expats can be helpfully in answering questions directly or having the insight of what to look for at Google. It might sound like an extra effort but it actually saves time. I’ve often found a site I could recommend that gives a more complete answer than I would have been able to manage even after an hour’s worth of effort. Directing people to already existing resources in the internet is often the most time effective strategy.

What I find most disappointing is the 1 question members.  It would be really nice to see more people follow up and tell how things worked out. It encourages people to hear that one CAN succeed in navigating the jungle of getting a visa or finding a job. Even if one doesn’t become a regular contributor, it is nice to give something back and help out the next person in a similar situation. This is what community is all about! Give something back. And if one did not get a useful answer here then it might be all the more reason to be the one to answer that question for the next person since nobody else on the site was able or willing.

It seems 95 % of the answers on the German forum are from a handful of contributors. But often there will be a question from someone in India or the Philippines looking to immigrate to Germany. I’ve lived a while in Germany and have traveled in both India and the Philippines yet as an American I cannot know what it is like to deal with Indian or Philippian officials to facilitate a move or a marriage to a German. This is when Indians and Filipinos residing in Germany can best answer the questions. Yes, this does happen on occasion but not nearly enough.  India and the Philippines are just examples. It can mean a lot to someone to get an answer from someone from the same country, and through direct messaging, in the local language!

Another subject is scammers. Plenty of people find this site and try to use it to find ”sponsorship” or to lead people on that they are interested in a relationship. This is easy to report and usually dealt with rather quickly. Some questions that get posted on the forum sound questionable. It is appropriate to point out the inconsistencies or questionable things without insult or making outright accusations. The best solution is to stay factual and give the rules of how things work rather than trying to decide oneself if the person actually fulfills the requirements.  Often things that sound strange can be problem of misinterpretation. People posting here are often not native English speakers. Or they might have misunderstood a situation. Best to clarify the situation before accusing one of being a scammer.  Even if someone is a scammer, the factual information given in response to a question might be helpful to others with legitimate intentions.  As far as I see it, asking questions is (nearly) always OK-  asking for funding with sob stories or using the site for meeting a mate is clearly forbidden anyway, just report it.

Hi TominStuttgart,

I have sticked your topic on the forum for better visibility.

All the best,
Bhavna

TominStuttgart, some of the members here are apparently getting paid to add content to the site, stir up conversations, keep things neat. The site's owner has the right to slam them for not doing a good enough job.

But then there's the rest of visitors, who don't work for expat.com, it's not their life mission to improve a "community". They have absolutely no moral or any other obligation to improve things and the owners should already be very thankful to them for opening up the site at all, and generating income through the ads.

As someone who has been participating in online forums for more than a decade, I'm finding your first two points naive.

atomheart :

TominStuttgart, some of the members here are apparently getting paid to add content to the site, stir up conversations, keep things neat. The site's owner has the right to slam them for not doing a good enough job.

But then there's the rest of visitors, who don't work for expat.com, it's not their life mission to improve a "community". They have absolutely no moral or any other obligation to improve things and the owners should already be very thankful to them for opening up the site at all, and generating income through the ads.

As someone who has been participating in online forums for more than a decade, I'm finding your first two points naive.

If I may say so, I wholeheartedly believe Julien (founder of Expat.com) and the team are thankful to the members that keep this site going.  The ad income is what keeps this site free for members.  Would you prefer to pay for the services provided here?

With that said, the goal of the site, and the motto is, "share your expat experience".  It IS a community, and no there is not any obligation "to give back", but can you really deny that paying forward the help you receive here, to help others is unreasonable to consider or ask for?  A community's strength is based upon the contributions of it's members.  Most communities don't support those that only take from it, and not give back.

FYI, the only people "getting paid to add content to the site, stir up conversations, keep things neat" are the moderators and admins (with the red wrench icons on the avatars).

Romaniac

Instead of rummaging through my posts looking for answers I've already posted for another member with the same question. I have made an expat.com folder on my computer containing a growing list of answers from both myself and others who have made informative and factual replies.

I also keep an updated database of links to government or other sites that may be pertinent to the poster question.

Saves me a lot of time and the member gets the reply he or she deserves. At least I hope they do.

I have found that most of the posters take the time to say thanks for the help and it was just what they needed or it pointed them in the right direction. Others as you said simply disappear though knowing we made a real effort to provide help is a reward in itself.

It is seldom that I see outright disrespect on the posts from members and on the rare occasion that I have the moderators usually step in and calm things down. From my personal experience with this site and others either on the net, yahoo groups or Facebook groups, expat.com consistently stands out as one of the best sites for expats in all areas.

TeeJay

Atom heart, your response is surprising and very questionable. As someone who has experience on many forums for even longer than you, I find yours own post to be nonsensical.

The site is free and is focused on matters important to expats. Yes, sometimes people working for the site post things to bring up new conversations. Sometimes they are relevant subjects, sometimes not. But what is the problem with that? Nobody has to respond to a post that doesn’t interest them. And how would you know if “the owner slams them for not doing a good enough job”? Sounds like groundless and irrelevant speculation to me.

And nobody claimed other visitors have an obligation to contribute. Occasionally sharing does not entail something becoming a life mission. But it is exactly by doing so that people build a community and exchange of information. Even if your skepticism is correct and the site owners should be thankful for the contributed content, this has nothing to do with the quality of information shared or how helpful (or unhelpful) it can be. Even if the owners make some money, and why not, since it cost to keep such a site going, what has that got to do with anything?

Who cares if Facebook or other sites make money. We just want to use the service. As long as it works well then there is no problem. When it doesn’t work well or if our content and photos get used for other purposes, then it is questionable. All sites have to get financed somehow and I doubt that the owners of this site are making much profit as there are actually few ads.

I am concerned about giving constructive criticism to improve the site as a platform for information. I don’t see you adding anything factual or relevant, so you can gladly spend your time elsewhere. Like, if you really believe what you posted, then why are you even here? If I would see this site trying to charge for using it or bombarding its users with ads, especially ones not relevant to the subject, then I will be quick to say something about it. Seems some people can make anything out to be a conspiracy but your accusations seem to be unfounded.

atomheart :

some of the members here are apparently getting paid to add content to the site, stir up conversations, keep things neat. The site's owner has the right to slam them for not doing a good enough job.

The mod team and tech people are employees, but the people with light bulbs (see my avatar) do it because they were helped when they were new to the game and want to give something back.
The site's owner never 'slams' us as he'd never be that rude.

We don't get a penny.

Hope that clears up your misunderstanding.

As Fred mentioned, some of us here have been designated as advisors (like myself) or experts for certain countries. This is as recognition for giving useful, factual advice. I don't get paid anything. My purpose is to contribute to the expat community, nothing else. And I have no problem with a few ads paying for a free site.

Getting people involved:
I try to get the people in the Puerto Rico forum to provide a good testimonial of what it was like to move to PR. Some have done an excellent job and I continue to encourage them via private messaging to come back a few months later and tell their tale.

I also try to get locals (natives) that join us to participate more and explain to new members how to get things done in Puerto Rico.

I also try to get expats that are currently living in Puerto Rico, to meet the new comers when they come visit the island in search for getting a feeling of the island and or looking for a place to live. Typically this involved meeting at a bar/restaurant, or visiting the local expat at their home and getting a tour of the area where they live.

An Idea:
We could potentially create an FAQ per country / territory where we catalog the most common questions and answers to better serve our member but there are positives and negatives to that:
Positives:
1) One thread to look up almost all information previously posted
2) Reduced need to search thru thousands of posts

Negatives:
1) Somebody has to gather the info and update it which is time consuming, in my case I would not mind, but others may.
2) Less posting of questions and answers by members since a lot of what they need would likely be in the FAQ
3) The above would require the ability to modify (edit) the FAQ on a permanent basis to keep it up to date instead of letting erroneous material and outdated information remain.

Opinions?

Hi ReyP,
It is a good idea, except for one mechanism unique to this forum:
After about ca 48 min your post is locked and you can never edit that post again . Be it to update/extend a list, or correct spelling mistakes in retrospect, etc.

This makes a FAQ difficult to maintain because for example, a new visitor might have to read on FAQ page 4 that some things stated on page 3 was incorrect. Ideally a FAQ list should be up to date on page 1, whilst still be open from remarks to see its history.

Of course one can ask the moderators to edit a FAQ on your behalf , but that would explode their workload also.

Carpe Diem!  Have a go at it and see...

Experts (and probably advisors, too - what's the difference anyway?) can edit their posts indefinitely. So they could manage the FAQ. I assume it is quite a lot of work to write it from scratch, but keeping it up to date should be manageable - things don't change THAT fast.

As an advisor, I am currently tied to the same time as the regular members, I can not edit past a certain time. But the team has the power to do it and they could if they wanted provide it to the experts and advisers which would make this idea workable.

I think we're getting off topic here...and for those of us that are Experts/Expat Advisors, we should probably discuss site functionality in the appropriate forum ;)

TominStuttgart, you don't owe me any explanation, it's up to you how much you're willing to serve in exchange for recognition and a light bulb.  :D You should have stated that you're targeting your first point towards the "designated advisors" with the same ambitions as yours.

Re your other point with people with a single question that never come back, keep in mind that not everybody is looking for a community to hang out online with regularily, most of those people are here because they need information, they're trying to get that on different channels. They're going through big changes in their life, lot of things to sort out, it's more than normal than they forget about this site.

Atomhart, of course I owe you nothing! What I do is none of your business. I only mentioned it in the context that it is not expected that all people using this site become so involved.

But the whole point of the site is for expats to share information and help each other. And yes, some people have some occasional time to contribute rather than just ask for advice. Nothing wrong with giving back. If you don't agree or like this then I again have to ask why you are even on this site? Sounds like you might have some troublesome issues in your life, sorry if that is so but slagging people here won’t help. Sounds like you don't like this site – so maybe  go troll somewhere else please if you have nothing constructive to add.

Is it time for a "Atomheart and TominStuttgart whack each other with rubber chickens" contest? (The first to be unconscious loses.) I'll sponsor beer for the spectators!

Thank you, TominStuttgart!  I got my German citizenship a few years ago (b/c Mom and Grandparents were "invited to leave by Mr. Hitler" as my mom always said) and I am now VERY interested in relocating to Germany.

As I have no idea where to start - looking for a job, an apt, etc. - this site was a great find and an ACTIVE community would be immensely helpful.
So I, for one, really appreciate your comments.

Danke schoen!

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