What Can and Cannot Be Discussed in This Forum

Lately I have seen an increase in topics being closed which brings me to the question of “What can and cannot be discussed on this forum”? I was under the impression that if a member had a question or was seeking advice on how to handle a situation, the forum was the place to seek other members’ input/advice/opinions. In one post, @Angela-HeadOfCommunity says “these matters need to be discussed on a one to one basis and managed off the forum which is a public space”. So how would the member know who to contact on this one to one basis? If members are being told that Membership Services “is experiencing a high volume of incoming messages,” why can’t members receive assistance in the forum as a remedy? Someone else may be experiencing the same or similar issues.

@Angela-HeadOfCommunity states, “It is very possible that other members who are involved in any particular situation, directly, or indirectly, are present.” If this forum comprises homeowners along with pet sitters isn’t that a given possibility that they would be present? @Angela-CommunityManagerstates that “the forum is not the place for personal exchanges between members…” Isn’t that what this forum is–comprised of personal exchanges among members?

In my opinion, closing forums is silencing/suppressing a person’s freedom of speech / voice. When a topic is closed, the next time a person has an issue, he/she may be reluctant to reach out for help. How can members support those that need help or advice when this happens?

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Spot on @anon49809275 ! I read plenty on the forum but rarely say anything.
Recently I’ve noticed threads being closed down because ths doesn’t want the members to have open discussions. Being steered towards Membership Services is a cop out as they “have been experiencing an unusually high volume of enquiries” for over two years now and telephone calls still remain unanswered.
Every other forum I’ve ever been on covers any number of topics/threads, and as long as the language is clean and not insulting, the theads are not closed down. Currently, ths is treating the foum members just like Putin is treating the Russian people - close any discussion that displeases him. Not a good look.
Time to become more moderate, maybe?

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Hi Sharon and thank you for your honest feedback. We absolutely want this to be a place where members can gain the opinions and advice of other members. However, when topics are made public there’s an element of privacy that we need to maintain to keep this a safe space for anyone who arrives here. If we cannot maintain a safe space then the sad result will be that less and less people will engage with others and the forum will fail to achieve its goal of being a space for people to share experiences, make connections and chat about all sorts of associated topics.

We believe, in the interests of privacy and respect that no-one should ever feel (however right or wrong the topic is) that their situation is being aired publicly for criticism, whether that be negative or constructive, unless they’ve explicitly given the OK for this to happen.

This is a young forum and we are all learning how to best deal with the situations that arise here. There’s an element of trusting that a topic will remain non-personal, but when the outcome of a sit is less than perfect and emotions are high this is sometimes difficult to maintain and it becomes clear that one or other member could identify themselves from the information provided. This becomes an uncomfortable situation for us all, especially those personally involved, but also among the wider community. We often receive direct messages from concerned readers who also find these situations difficult, and who express concern that this similar public critique might befall them also. Others are very clear they do not want this space to be full of the types of topics that need the help of the support team.

One thing we are clear about is that the forum was never intended to be an extension of membership services and there are clearly cases where membership services and a private discussion with members is the recommended option to resolve a dispute or get the best advice in a difficult situation. Just because there is a private space available doesn’t necessarily mean that this forum space is the best option for all questions. This is the difficultly of balancing what is a more general question and what becomes too personal. And this is why you’ll sometimes see a post closed, because we’ve reached that point.

The way to assess whether a situation should be dealt with one a one-to-one basis can quite easily be determined by asking is it a current negative sit outcome? Is it a sit that hasn’t yet completed to the satisfaction of all parties? If this is the case then really the first point of contact should always be membership services.

In terms of personal exchanges, that is the purpose of direct messaging. Direct messages provide a private way to discuss a particular situation with another member here in the forum. We already see many members reaching out to each other in this way and this is safe and private.

You have raised a good point though, especially about how someone may be less likely to reach out for help if their topic has been closed. I think that’s possibly our responsibility in making the guidelines clearer about the purpose of the forum and how it isn’t a replacement for the support provided by the internal team within the wider organisation.

We will make this a priority to discuss and update the guidelines so that there is less confusion on this matter as the forum grows.

I hope this gives some insight into the difficulties we face when moderating topics publicly.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Angela, Vanessa and the Team

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Angela: You and the team do a great job of managing this forum with tact and respect. Would it be possible to make the forum comments open only to forum members? It would still be open to forum members who register and are not yet THS members and the general public would have many other ways to seek information regarding generic housesitting info. I belong to several other private forums where things can be discussed privately among the members. We are kind of like a family and I would like to be able to give constructive criticism but would prefer to be able to have these discussions with out them being made public. This just my option, others may not feel this way. I think it may warrant exploring, if making it a private group is possible.

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@Southernsitter that’s a great idea.

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I suspect that even if the forum is open only to members, we would still have to be careful about what we say about specific sits or sitters. I can’t imagine the feeling if anyone of us recognized ourselves being talked about in a post.

In my opinion, every time a topic has been closed down, I’ve understood the reasoning behind it and agreed.

If we really want to continue the conversation in a private mode, we can also PM.

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Right, @Kelownagurl, it could be very hurtful to recognize yourself being discussed publicly in a bad light. A closed group might be nice but this group is already too large to be considered intimate, although because only a small percentage of us post, it almost feels like family. I think the reasoning behind having this as a public forum is to draw new members to THS. There is a “business “ component to maintaining this forum.

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I am a member of a similar forum/discussion group for another subject. The moderators there shut down SO many conversations SO frequently that it became impossible to get any peer-to-peer support. Eventually a few people splintered off and made their own private (secret) conversation group. I hope that doesn’t happen here, because the brain-drain from the original forum was significant, and without all the volunteered advice from the more experienced members, the official moderators became overwhelmed.

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Sorry Angela but membership/customer services doesn’t work, we get quicker answers on the forum

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The moderators rightly shut down topics that could compromise someone’s privacy. They also shut down topics that are critical of the management. Reminds me of the line from The Godfather, “It’s not personal… it’s strictly business. “

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It’s all business and none of this is personal. When a sit is booked it is a transactional agreement. Your profile is your selling tool, what you say and what you write is always selling yourself and all telling of who are, what you represent.
Nothing about any of this is personal.

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I agree with you @Smiley . I had the same experience recently on a bad sit. I could not get through to anyone at THS on the phone and got no answer when writing to membership services. So I reached out to Angela publicly on the forum and got a reply within 10 minutes!. She took my complaint off the main forum to connect with me privately. I was fine with that as I had not wanted it too public, or for the other party to see it, but we needed urgent support! She passed me on to another staff member at Membership services who took over and my issue was eventually resolved satisfactorily. I see people getting very quick responses and support via the forum- from both THS & fellow members so its a very useful tool.

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I’m glad you resolved your issue promptly @Lokstar but what about the unfortunate people on a sit, with a problem, and no idea that the forum exists - they’re hung out to dry by ths because, as we all know, membership services are unreachable.
When are the staff going to get back to normal @Angela-HeadOfCommunity ? The rest of the country in the UK are back at work, apart from the civil service - surely you don’t want to be compared to them?

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It’s fairly obvious there’s a Forum - it’s has a red mark by it so stands out- but I know a lot of people won’t have the time to trawl through it

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This I’m 100% on. No one wants to come on here and see a post about them, and I’m sure most will know once they read details, or even just see the profile pic. However it has proven recently this is the fastest way to reach someone in customer care, so until things change, people will keep doing it. Just hopefully with less details.

This honestly is what bothers me the most. The amount of money that is spent to be a member of the site. If there is a topic about a change that took place, allow people to question and vent. The new ID verification is the main point. There was a huge post, and it was closed and locked, someone started a new one, and the same happen. What it made me think was they didn’t want potential new member seeing it to be honest, or they were tired of hearing about it. Closing, doesn’t stop the frustration, it make it worst, and those most upset feel they are not heard, and even more inclined to cancel. Even I myself have a ton of questions or concerns on the topic, however I know that even speaking of them, I risk the thread being locked. Prime Example, while still in the new member(and all my post had to be approved), I posted a huge reply on the review suggestion page. All my other posts and replies even after that one were approved and this one took almost a full day to get approved, almost like they weren’t sure if there were going to do that, and I’m sure because I was critical on how things are being handled. I did not like that at all, and causes me more concerns.

Great movie by the way, and I can understand it’s just business, however I feel things can be handling different. Show some empathy, and that you are actually listening. Post updates on hot topics that people have concerns on. I know they just got the big deal in the US, and because of this, hirer some more customer service. It should be a 24 hour operation with multiple people on hand at anytime , because house/pet sitting doesn’t stop after business hours, and our lovely forum admins need vacations too.

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Hi @BlueDiamondRose thank you for your detailed reply … as always. I hope that you are fully recovered from your nasty “bug” … not sure what else to call it, however I’m sure that you had a few names for it.

Posts are not closed because members are being critical of management or voicing their opinions they are closed when they are no longer adding any relevance to the topic, helping solve member’s issues, contributing positively to the conversation or have just become a place for unhappy members to vent, that is not the purpose of this forum.

When comments on posts become repetitious they add little or no value to members of the community which encompasses all members, not just those involved in a particular conversation.

Questions and concerns being raised on the post you refer to were answered in forum comments and blog posts on the website, having the same reoccurring questions posted numerous times in albeit a different form, is of no value to any member.

The forum is a place for all of our members, Admin had numerous requests from our community members to close the post in question. Concerns that a few members were holding the forum to ransom and creating a tone which was not only unpleasant but making other members question the value of being here, very active and engaged members who have been great contributors since the forum began.

We made a judgement call based on what was best for all forum members and our community.

There is a Direct Message option for all members to use if they wish to continue a conversation when a thread is closed. Membership Services can be reached via email 24/7 and all admins are available via DM.

We do not close posts lightly if the decision is made it’s made after discussions with the Forum Team and the wider business but often it’s our own members who drive the decision, which was the greatest contributing factor in this case, after all this is their forum too.

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Thanks @Angela-HeadOfCommunity I am feeling much better. Still not fully 100% back to normal, however moving in the right direction. Thanks :smiley:

Thank you for taking the time and clear things up for me. :heart:

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Thank you for publishing this message.
I joined the Trusted housesitters just yesterday and have not paid the membership yet. I am now exploring the forum thinking of making a decision in the next few days.
If queries are not answered in a timely manner, I am worried in case some issues rise and I will not have anyone to talk with for support?

Hello @Mokina and I understand your concern - if there’s anything any of us here can do to help reassure you, please do reach out, particularly if you have any questions about support.

The comment to which you are replying was back from March, when the company was still adjusting to returning to full strength after the pandemic regulations eased, and to transitioning as a “remote first” company to ensure that we are able to deal with any future work from home situations that might arise.

Membership services has since then been returning to full 24 hour cover with many more new members of staff to support our members around the world. There are now over 100,000 members, yet you’ll actually see very few queries that arrive here at the forum now, because they are being handled by the wider support team. Just a tiny proportion.

Of course, as in any business there are always the occasional times when the outcome could have been different or perceived to be better, but please know that between the wider membership services team, the forum and our community management and moderation teams, we will always aim to have your back and be there to give any help you as you get started on your house sitting journey, and beyond. Trust Pilot is also a good place to see just how positive an experience the majority of our members have :slight_smile:

We have an awesome community here in the forum, now over 5000 members who look out for each other, help and advise and support where we can. Welcome to our happy house sitting world!

All the best, Vanessa and the forum team

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Yes, this is exactly why I always refused to look at “The People of Walmart”, because I was absolutely sure that my big behind on a wheelchair would be the next photo around the corner. I think THS has to handle all this delicately if possible for both the HO and the sitter.

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