Frustrated with edits to your submissions?

We know that many AO contributors devote a lot of effort and care to writing great entries and sourcing quality photos. Have any of you contributors found yourselves frustrated by unnecessary edits?

My last few submissions have received edits which were small but, in my opinion, destructive. I’m talking about, for example, a needless rearrangement of words in a sentence which makes it less interesting or accurate. Or removal of an engaging detail. Or adding another wiki/CC photo nearly identical to a photo that I already provided. I’ve even seen changes which introduce a flaw of grammar, usage, or (worst of all) fact where none existed previously.

I’m not talking about error corrections, nor adjustments to match AO’s house style - these edits aren’t fixing any problem at all - instead, they are more like acts of needless tinkering or benign vandalism. It’s almost as if the editors have a quota to fill - “you must make 3 edits to every submission before it is published.” Lately, my excitement at seeing I’ve had an article published is quickly followed by disappointment when I see what the editors have done to it.

Are there any other contributors encountering this frustration? Especially when (I’m sorry, but it must be noted) there are so many entries which really do have issues that need fixing?

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@johnmonahan We certainly do apologize for any inconvenience or issues our editorial process has caused. We truly aim to make sure submissions uphold journalistic principles. Would you be able to provide links to the particular entries in question so I can give them a look? We are also open to rearranging any part of a entry if the author submits an edit or request for a change. We truly apologize for this and will keep this in mind going forward.

Too much political lunacy.

A few months ago I noticed a location that was marked as “a stub”. It’s a place I lived near in high school and college and spent lots of time around, especially during a particular historical event that impacted the location.

I’m also an historian by education and a researcher by employment, so I was excited to be able to bring my skills and knowledge to the site. I spent several hours crafting edits to this particular location, making sure that I had links and reference sources. I provided information about the mythology of the site, the historical significance of the site, and more recent events that made it a national news item. I was careful to link and footnote every source, as is my habit as a professional researcher.

When the email came back that my edits had been accepted I was so excited to go see the article. When I clicked through, exactly one half of one sentence I wrote was incorporated into the location. It’s still marked as “a stub” today, with none of the information I provided on the article.

So yeah. Frustrated is putting it lightly. Why bother to spend the time to provide information, to properly footnote it, and to be thorough. Clearly it doesn’t matter.

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I’ve experienced all of this also, but my biggest annoyance is how distant and corporate they got these days.
Back in the day you could discuss with an editor and get actual replies, now they politely tell you to suck it if you try to save a declined place. “Decisions are final.” and the sort. Except that they are not, and I managed to get like 5 declined places published after resubmitting them a month or two later, and some that got declined go published when others submitted them.
Which shows how arbitrary the decisions can be. I just wish that a more open and direct way of contact would exist where they would be willing to discuss more.

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Hey @CoolCrab we truly hope these sentiments do not come across in our responses as we truly try to be responsive to all emails or forum requests, and our sincerest apologies if they did. We are constantly evolving our responses and better ways to help contributors know exactly what we are looking for, a process we are currently reevaluating again. However, with the volume of submissions we receive now, it’s difficult for editors to reply to discuss specific entries and edits that are needed. However, we try to be as responsive as possible in our emails by replying back and outlining what a submission may be missing if the contributor asks us to take a second look. Would you mind sharing the places you mentioned? Would love to investigate more. Thanks again for the note, and apologies if any response came off as blasé.

Hello @Kara would you mind sharing the entry? I can certainly provide more insight into the decision or reevaluate the entry.

I know that you guys mean well, and that you have a lot of submissions to deal with. That is why I try not to complain about this outside of the odd email and topics like this. :stuck_out_tongue: Just wanted to get out of the way that I do not take it personally or anything like that, nor do I expect any special treatment because I submitted a lot.

It is just that sometimes a place gets declined (often food related ones) for a certain reason. e.g. it is not the biggest or the only one. Then I try to provide additional information, that should have been in there in the first place yes, but I do not always focus on the sensational bits. A few years ago, the editor would look at it again and sometimes go “well that does change things.” These days, it does not matter because it has been declined. A second look has not been an option as far as I am aware, in fact I even got the message that once feedback is shared, they hope that their decision is respected. e.g.

We are working hard to make sure that we give our community members as detailed an explanation as possible for when we aren’t able to include their submissions and suggestions, but we also hope that once we do share that feedback, you’ll be able to respect our decisions.

If you guys prefer that these pieces get resubmitted so that they can be re-evaluated with additional info, then that is fine. But that was not the impression that I got. (correct me if I am wrong.) It would not be a bad way to do it though if you want to avoid emails.

As for the spots that I was mentioning. One was because it is re-written through a very US-centric lens where the word ‘gypsy’ is described as derogatory and no longer in use, while this is not the case in most of Europe. I can understand that you guys don’t want to throw around a word that can be derogatory, but the article feels judgemental of a term that was so much the norm that their king was named it. It was not a swear word that others called him to belittle the man. One could also use the Polish word ‘Cygan’, translate it to ‘Gypsy’ and then explain why the English word ‘Gypsy’ is derogatory. Now it comes over a bit like it is saying that the Poles are racists for not upgrading their vocabulary.

The other one was the one on the Antwerp hands, which are simply a sweet. The act of cutting off hands in Congo is in no way related to it. Yes, they are both hands but implying that the people making and selling these somehow are supportive of it is really a big stretch IMO. One can and should still cover it, as apparently people do make this connection, but I think that it is important to do it in a neutral way. The article does a decent job of that, but my annoyance spikes each time I see this blurb on facebook.

While the common legend about Antwerp’s chocolate hands tells a story of sweet victory, there is a more complex, bitter, and oft-overlooked history associated with the symbol of severed hands in Belgium.

If you look at the comments in those posts, they are basically exclusively from angry people who think that Belgium is celebrating the Congo. Especially because 99% probably does not actually click or read the article. Which is really not the kind of emotion I was going for when adding this entry.

All in all, I really try not to be political. I see AO as a place of wonder and inclusivity where interesting places from across the world are shared and discussed and where boundaries are broken down by showing people the beauty of another country despite whatever political stuff might be associated with it. However with some of these things it feels like one country (the US) is judging traditions of others, based on their own values and history, and that of course is your right to do. It is just frustrating to see things that I add being turned into vehicles for exactly the kind of thing I am trying to avoid. I could go on, but this reply is long enough I think.

Again, I mostly just penned this down because people are talking about it and I wanted to weigh in my opinion. Overall you guys are doing great, and I am very happy with how most my other 248+ articles turnd out after the editing.

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I mentioned something similar on another discussion, although this is in relation to stories rather than place entries:

The concrete example is usage of the terms “North America” and “Native Americans”.

In the linked article, Cahokia is called “the largest city in North America before Europeans”, which discounts places like Tenochtitlán and Teotihuacán in modern-day Mexico, based on the Anglo-centric definition by which Mexico is in Central America (and by the definition that includes Central America in North America, seen as the default even on the Wikipedia article, then Tikal is discounted too North America - Wikipedia).

The quoted post deals with wether “Native Americans” are the Indigenous people of the U.S. or the entire Americas (see this one too https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/what-was-native-american-food-like-before-europeans). I understand that for anything with several possible definitions, you’ve got to choose one and it won’t please everyone. It would still be remiss if I didn’t bring up cases like these though. With a BLM banner on the homepage, these might be discussions AO could consider having internally.

Hey @CoolCrab No worries at all, these are all valid points and we truly welcome all criticisms/critiques because the Atlas is a community project, its just as much yours as it is ours so we always want feedback from contributors :+1: . Especially those who have been ardent supporters of the Atlas. Generally, we always reinvestigate a submission upon request if there is something we have missed. Or if the contributor outlines why it should be in the Atlas. As for the language, we really have to be careful, sensitive, and adhere to our journalistic principles we always try to make sure we edit places the cultural lens of our contributors but have to be sensitive to any ethnic group that could be offended because our audience is global. I will look into the other entry for you and truly appreciate your work and suggestions.

Another case of U.S.-centrism is within food pages. Concrete example, Cornish pasties:

All but one of the “where to try it” locations are in the U.S., and my own submission of places in Mexico for the paste pachuqueño (Paste (pasty) - Wikipedia) have yet to appear.

This leads me to wonder if the equivalent of the many Gastro Obscura places that are basically “a (insert “exotic” food nationality here) eatery located in the back/basement of a bodega in The Bronx” would be rejected if located outside the U.S.

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@jonathancarey Thanks very much for your kind reply.

Regarding “We are open to rearranging any part of a entry if the author submits an edit” - I did try this once, by undoing an erroneous edit, but that edit was later redone, and ended up going back & forth a couple of times. Not a good use of AO’s time or my own.

Regarding example links - I will send a few to you in a direct message. However, please allow me to clarify, I didn’t post this message in order to seek redress of specific edits. I posted it to see whether other contributors have experienced issues, or if it was just me…

Thanks again

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Hey @linkogecko sorry we missed this one! And thanks a bunch. With any issues dealing with articles, the best way to reach the editorial staff directly is through the contact form under Story Feedback so it can reach the editors quickly. https://www.atlasobscura.com/contact_form

Kind of same story here: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/nose-academy
I submitted some edits to the place, most notably its new location for the next few years, and it never appeared for some reason. I feel like especially with stubs, there are issues editing them.

I’m new here. Haven’t submitted any places. In all honesty, I found Atlas Obscura while doing research for my own travel-related website and have found it a fun and valuable resource. My website is similar in concept but has a slightly different approach and theme. I mention this because working on my own site has given me a greater appreciation for the scope at play with Atlas Obscura and other similar travel/destination sites. The challenge is enormous.

And the challenges if growing because of COVID. Consider how many small businesses, museums, and random oddities are temporarily closed? How many of them will become permanently closed? How does this impact the staff and the queue of submissions/edits?

For example in Baltimore this closed before COVID:

I considered submitting an edit but: (1) The submission form is kind of intimidating, and (2) I’m guessing the staff are overwhelmed with bigger issues.

AO is not perfect as evidenced by this thread but I have to admire the job the staff and contributors have done to date. Wondering if anything in the submission/editing process could be systematically changed to make things easier and improve outcome(s)?

I’d also be curious to learn what specific challenges the staff and website leadership are facing due to COVID. The world has certainly turned upside down.

Cheers to all the veteran AO place submitters- y’all rock!

I can’t say how this impacted them or the places, but it is a good call. The best option would perhaps be to try to activate more users to submit pictures and maybe answer questions just like google maps does. Like after you press ‘ive been here’ a few times, it can send you a message to answer some questions about the places. e.g. is it still open, was the information accurate, etc. People could just say yes, no, yes or give more text. Maybe it could ask them to edit the piece. And otherwise it gets marked somehow and some editor tries to fix it.

It honestly surprises me how few people know that the db is user sourced and that they can add and edit entries. Often on fb some people complain about inaccuracies. I then tell them that they can fix it themselves, and 9/10 times the reply is ‘wow really?’ I have no idea how many actually do it, but AO should really advertise this more I think. (unless they get enough submissions as is right now and don’t want to get swamped.)

As for editing, you should do it IMO. I use the atlas a lot for travel and it is always frustrating if you make time to visit a place and it turns out to be gone or closed. I always try to update that into the place if it is the case.

I’ve had the same experience and I have no plans to submit further entries. I looked forward to seeing how an AO editor might polish my submission, if it was accepted, but I was shocked when multiple errors were inserted in the editorial process — including factual errors. I managed to get the errors corrected after a couple passes, so I am not looking to revisit the situation. However, as someone experienced in journalism, I am not game for that amount of unnecessary work in a situation where I am not being paid for my effort, and it would be negligent of me to submit again without a willingness to go to bat for my entry after seeing the mistakes added under my name last time. I am also less interested in reading articles here after my experience because my trust in the editorial process has been eroded.

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Can I also address a growing frustration with fellow user edits?
I have had this simmering for a little while and have ignored it assuming I was just being overly precious about places I have submitted but I now feel like I need to check if I am the only one?

I want to start by saying I have absolutely 100% no issue whatsoever with people adding new facts, details, and photos, or simply adding grammar and punctuation that has been missed. It makes me so happy to see each submission improve further and further with community teamwork.
It does, however, frustrate me no end when other users make destructive edits or I click onto a submission of mine that says it has been edited but I cannot see any changes.

A recent submission of mine that was only published 2 weeks ago has been edited by 5 accounts, 4 of which are new accounts that each have only one edit attributed to them, which is to my (Very local and niche) place.
I understand that new accounts have to start somewhere and as I said previously I love to see people adding and improving submissions, but I am very suspicious of 4 brand new accounts all starting with that one small submission, and additionally so when I cannot see what has been changed by them

I hope I don’t sound petty or precious, I truly consider my submissions to just be the first step in a piece of community work, but it is such a shame when I get my hopes up for new photos or facts and can only see unnecessary, or destructive changes.

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I’d be very happy if we could get an email when our places get edited. Like [place X] has been edited, and maybe either show the before after or just mark the new parts as bold? Ideally you’d want a history like wikipedia does.

AO did some great work on making the process surrounding new places more transparent, so it would be great if they did the same here.

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I couldn’t agree more, an email much like we receive when a submittion is published would be so good, and if there was a comparison or even better a history like you say that would be ideal!

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