Frustrated with edits to your submissions?

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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yes i think

Hey @CoolCrab @AdOYo thanks a bunch for that sugestions, the way edits are handled and implemented is something that we are reviewing, but cannot promise anything in the immediate future but is something we do have on our radar.

Hello @onoma truly apologize you had this experience as we strive to maintain the voice and work of the contributor. We are ever-evolving the Atlas and the editorial process and will continue to strive to be better in the future. Our apologies again, and feel free to link to the particular entry in question and perhaps I can provide more insight.

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Hi Jonathan, and I thank you for the response and work that you do for this community we all clearly care about.

I do want to mention though, that since one of the feedback items mentioned on this discussion is a general feeling of less involvement with the volunteer contributors from the site’s staff, advising me to email the editorial team directly is another example of this. I have noticed that team members like Igdaloff are tagged directly for web development suggestions for example.

Isn’t there an editorial member active on the forums that can be reached out to directly for editorial feedback posted here? Specially since my points weren’t exactly issues with articles but rather what I think are examples of AO’s style guides and wording having a potential for improvement (specially in light of 202o having been such a crucial year for debate on race issues), not only on articles but also on the way user-generated texts are edited.

Understood completely, and by no means do I mean that in the sense of “just send them here” but it’s the best way to reach the editorial decision makers, especially when it comes to articles like the one you mentioned. We are also in the process of reviewing places in the Atlas that need revisions for language or are culturally insensitive. I don’t mean to dismiss creating a forum thread on the issue, but I just want to make sure your questions are answered and thats the best way in regards to articles, or editorial questions about AO style or specific suggestions. We pride ourselves on checking emails regularly and being in contact with our community. In regards to places, I’m the best person to reach in that regards in the forums and the places email is also checked regularly.

I don’t mind edits if it’s an improvement. With the few submissions I have gotten through whatever the review process is, I can only think of one that got rewritten and it was, as someone else pointed about - just changing words etc which didn’t add any value in my opinion other than simply using different words.

My biggest frustration is this: I would LOVE to contribute more here but honestly I don’t see the point sometimes. I go through a lot of trouble to do a write up on a place only to have it sit for a loooooong time and never get published. It would be different if they were written poorly but they weren’t in my opinion. I write a lot professionally for my “day job” - and I was trying to make this a fun little distraction/side thing which would hopefully help people enjoy cool, interesting places as much as I do. I have done a fair amount of traveling and while a lot of the places I’ve been are already represented here, some aren’t and I feel I am adding something by contributing. To spend time on creating an entry only to have it sit without even getting an acknowledgment of “Hey, thanks but we don’t want to publish this” would be better than hearing nothing. You can’t expect people are going to want to contribute often or long term when they feel they have to jump through hoops that are not even clearly defined. Just my 2 cents.

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They got a lot slower now due to covid, but most of my submitted places are reviewed within 1-2 months these days. I have not had any sink into obscurity for about a year or so now. How long are you waiting?

What could also help is to nudge them by sending a list of all your places to places@ao and asking them for a verdict. I usually frame it in the context of, I do not need these published now, I just want to know if they are on the list to be published or not. Then they usually give you a reply within 7 working days.

I do not know how their system works, but from experience it seems to be a fb/twitter/email like feed that they just work through. If some place gets skipped due to whatever reason, it falls down and just does not come up again. They may have changed this recently though, as now its usually my older places that get published first. (Where before it was the new ones.)