Thaivisa: Founder of Thailand's largest online community answers the critics

Thaivisa is far and away the biggest web-based forum catering for expats in Thailand, and Thaiophiles abroad. As with every successful and expanding enterprise, it has its promoters and detractors; it is loved and hated, envied and dismissed, praised and sneered at. No one is indifferent. Virtually every farang in the country with an Internet connection, whether or not they contribute directly, checks out the threads now and again. (They may pretend they don’t ;-)

A group of senior expats administers the website. With a wealth of knowledge about the Land Of Smiles accumulated in some cases over a decade or more, they describe their goal as building “the most complete and updated website for the expatriate community in Thailand regarding visas and immigration issues”.

Common gripes are that the moderators are too severe, freedom of speech is suppressed, certain ‘inoffensive’ topics are deemed off-limits, controversial or critical threads locked, poor advice is handed out willy-nilly. Members are accused of spending much of the time bickering amongst themselves, or insulting not only new members, but also Thailand, Thais and the Thai way of life. How fair are these criticisms?

‘George’, founder and chief admin of Thaivisa, chats about these and other issues…


FB: George - how long have you been in Thailand, what did you do before, where are you from?

G:
I've been in the IT industry most of my life, I'm just a computer and forum freak who specializes in SEO, an old geezer from cold Scandoland, a long-term Asia expat who will always be staying in Thailand, and I just love it here!


FB:
As founder, do you have sole control, or do you have partners (other than commercial)?


G: It is a communal effort with the moderators and other administrators offering help, advice and opinions. I, however, have the final say. The admins have constant contact via email, phone and chat.

FB:
78,000 members and counting. A record of over 9,000 users on-line simultaneously. Did you have any inkling that things would grow this fast when you set it up 7 years ago? Did you always intend that it would become a business, or was it just set up for fun originally?


G:
Just for fun originally, but the demand was so strong and the response so enthusiastic that in order to keep the forum running smoothly we had to end up getting our own servers, this necessitated implementing advertising.


FB:
The commercial benefits of reaching such a size must be considerable?


G:
As are the costs. We are reinvesting in new servers and have four full time employees for programming, server maintenance, legal issues and, member support etc.


FB: How about the other side of the coin, the problems of managing such a large group of people who can (and do) say virtually what they want, at any given moment, 24 hours a day?

G: It's not an easy task, but it’s great fun with a few exceptions. There are lots of foreigners who don't understand the laws of Thailand and think that Thai laws are the same as their own countries. We should be more polite to our host country in my opinion, and not be too negative about Thailand or Thai people. Thailand is a relatively young democracy and we as foreigners need to understand that. To post on Thaivisa is a privilege, not a right, but we try to accommodate everyone who follows our rules.

We have been organizing member meet-ups and parties in Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Surin and other places, and it's amazing to see members get together and see the real faces behind their avatars. To be honest, haven't we all sometimes posted a nasty forum comment from behind the keyboard after a few too many beers, and regretted it the next morning :)

FB: What can you say about the specifically Thai constraints, such as lese majeste? How often do problems crop up in this area? Can you cite any specific cases?

G: I'd rather not. We have implemented control routines that flag any activity that could be a problem. See above response.

FB: How many moderators are involved? How do you recruit them?

G: Seventeen moderators and they are usually regular members who have shown a history of intelligent and informative, non-aggressive posts, but they are almost always recommended by the moderating team, and it is a group decision to bring them into the team.

FB: Do you have any idea of the member split – in terms of nationalities, actual expats/non-residents? I was thinking of IP analysis, not perfect, but a fair indication.

G: We did a survey a few years ago, here it is.

I think it’s fairly accurate and this reminds me to do a new member survey again very soon, should be interesting. Thaivisa has extremely high traffic, here some examples:

Big Boards
Google Trends
Google Adplanner Website profile
Truehits

(Interview continues after the Google Analytics stats image...)


FB: Legally, how does the forum stand on liability with respect to advice and information provided either by members in open forum, or in your information sections, should readers act on this advice and find that it is misleading, or erroneous?

G: Please use the report button or email me, and we take care of it. We state quite clearly in the forum rules:
Use of our forums

"Please remember that we cannot actively monitor the contents of, and are not responsible for, any messages posted. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. The messages express the views of the author of the message, not necessarily the views of Thaivisa.com or any entity associated with Thaivisa.com"

"Any user who feels that a posted message is objectionable is encouraged to contact us immediately via the report function. We do have the ability to remove objectionable messages and will make every effort to do so if we determine that removal is necessary. This is a manual process so please realize we may not be able to remove or edit particular messages immediately. Responding to objectionable messages is discouraged".
FB: TV has its critics. Some suggest that the polarized views, constant carping and insulting, cast the Thai-based farangs in a particularly poor light. Then there’s what some see as a constant belittling of Thailand, Thais and Thai policies (e.g. in discussions about visa regulations, but there are multiple examples across the boards). It may be only an outspoken minority, but does this concern you?

G: Yes, it does concern both me and the moderating team but we have to strike a balance between allowing people their opinions and racist and denigrating language. We do our best. At times we fail, and at times we succeed. It is a very large board with a very active membership and unfortunately, we cannot be in all places all the time.

FB: In a similar vein, do you regret the number of people that restrict their postings, or leave the forum altogether, because of the aggressive, insulting responses they often receive to questions posed in good faith? Is there nothing that could be done about this, in terms of moderation policy?

G: Members are just that, members and most regular posters are quite aware that they can be proactive in helping the moderating team by reporting such posts. As stated above, we cannot be in all places all the time and it is up to the membership to help police and maintain civility.

FB: Have you ever looked into this and come to any conclusions about which nationality(ies) is/are the main guilty party/ies in terms of stereotyping, polarised views?

G: No, not really. My experience has been that bitter, unhappy and aggressive people can come from anywhere.

FB: In a way it’s a lose-lose situation for the moderators. Too much interference and they are accused of being heavy-handed, of having a ‘God complex’. Too little, and people complain that new members posting in good faith are being scared off, that posters are showing a lack of respect for Thailand. One of the more frequent moans is about moderation policy and censorship. So what would you say to those who complain about so-called moderator overkill, draconian measures, when the topics stray into 'sensitive' areas (and I'm not referring to lese majeste issues, take topics such as bar girls, or naming and shaming, for example). Can you sum up your views, and TV policy, in this respect?

G: If someone has been wrongly treated by a mod or admin on the forum, just drop me a line and we will investigate it. We have been advised by our lawyers to be very careful about commenting on certain issues, and we practise some "self censorship": in these areas. We have high ranking officials who read our forum, and the laws about libel and defamation are harsh.

It is important to realize that in Thailand nothing detrimental to any business or individual is permissible because of Thailand's strong laws against negative comments about individuals, businesses or officials. Defamation is both a civil and criminal offence in Thailand.

The final judgement can be ANY amount which the court approves, including jail time. It is in line with the perceived amount that the defamatory statements have cost the business. So, if the business claims you have cost them 2 million baht in lost business and reputation, they can then claim this in a civil suit.

Thailand is VERY active now in bringing defamation cases to the courts. With the constant battle between the governments & groups, the courts are establishing precedents that MAY NOT be in line with Western standards of free speech. These precedents WILL be applied to EVERYONE in Thailand.

Also, foreigners are just starting to realize this type of ‘strict’ law applies. We are beginning to see more and more defamation suits being brought from foreigners – and they are winning.


There is a standard of good taste that needs to be maintained. Some of the posts on Thaivisa.com definitely cross the line. It is one thing to make observations and report in a balanced fashion - but BASHING a business or “singling out” a business person is a definite no-no. All too often I see forum boards being used as a battle ground between businesses/individuals – either spamming or trashing. We have been advised to tighten our grip on this type of posting. Eventually someone is going to get pissed off enough to file a lawsuit.


This is a dilemma for us at Thaivisa, and we need to protect our members and the website from lawsuits. Please follow the forum rules is all we ask for.


FB: Some members were concerned about the commercial tie-up with The Nation, a publication that generally maintains a pro-establishment policy at the political level. Has this link affected the way you manage forum content in any way?

G: No, The Nation has no effect on content. No moderator or administrator is allowed to use their personal political opinions in moderating the board but rather they implement and enforce the rules.

FB: If you had to sum it up in a couple of lines, what advice would you give to a would-be expat, single guy, who has spent a couple of weeks on holiday in the country, and is now thinking of retiring to Thailand? :-)

G: Stay for 6 months before committing yourself. Thailand is a wonderful place to live, but not everyone is cut out for expat life and not everyone adjusts well to living in a totally different culture.

FB: If there are any other points you would like to make, e.g. plans for the future for Thaivisa, feel free…

G: What I would like to add is that Thai Visa is more than just a group of moderators and members, but a huge community that I hope can work together to make it a place where people can go to not only learn valuable information, gain help, but also friends.

We have a lot of plans for the future, within a few weeks we will do a big upgrade of the forum software, and there are some interesting new services to be launched, a new blog portal and an expat directory that we are very excited about. If our members have further ideas how we can improve, feel free to email me at george[at]thaivisa.com


Also, we are always looking into partnerships with other Thailand related businesses, just give me a call!


Kind regards

George

Follow me on Twitter
My Facebook
Thaivisa Facebook
______________________________

Ed. Thanks to George for taking the time to talk openly about Thaivisa, its plans for the future, the difficulties it faces, and some of the more controversial issues that surface about the forum around the web, now and again. One of the most surprising answers he gave was that there are only 17 moderators; it must be almost impossible to cover the vast number of posts that appear each day, and I can see how the ‘report post’ function is critical, as well as the involvement of the community itself in self-moderation.

The exchanges on Thai politics are typical of the discussions that show farang contributors in the worst possible light. In certain threads the occasional measured responses are easily outnumbered by some of the most bitter and polarised unpleasantness I've seen on the web. The antagonists line up in opposing yellow and red camps, attempting to strike a killer blow via their keyboards. PAD and DAAD have got nothing on the Thaivisa virtual soldiers in terms of intolerance and venom, when it comes to politics.

But while we may sometimes carp about some of the on-line personas who frequent Thaivisa, you can't argue with the wealth of expertise to be found amongst its members. It regularly proves its worth in providing information to newbies, as well as coming up trumps in a tough situation. Just a couple of days ago I was contacted by someone in England whose father was very ill in Pattaya. His daughter was desperately trying to get him admitted into hospital, but only recently the family had been hit by a £6,000 bill from one of the expat hospitals there, and it was looking increasingly as though someone had helped themselves from their father’s Thai bank account to boot. 3am in Thailand – and she was trying to find information about cheaper Pattaya hospitals, English-speaking contacts. Less than 20 minutes later from TV’s Pattaya forum I had suggestions, a name and a phone number, with more to come a couple of hours later. To say his daughter was relieved was an understatement. Stuck on the other side of the world, her father unable to communicate with her, she was at a loss what to do – and even the British Embassy in Bangkok was fobbing her off. It’s in situations like this that on-line communities such as Thaivisa really show their value.

Thiavisa has its competitors, with a few more relaxed forums out there. But the latter can afford to be more laid-back, mostly having far fewer members, and therefore being more easily managed and moderated as a result. The proliferation of blogs also provide some essential insights, and Richard Barrow's network in particular (forum, blogs, chat rooms, news) is a superb and well-written major resource about Thailand. What they all have in common, even if they are prone to error now and again, is an underlying honesty and generally speaking, a lack of politically-motivated agenda. Forums and blogs have at times become a vital source of information when the traditional media is either being stifled or manipulated, as we are witnessing right now with the unrest over the presidential elections in Iran. Hundreds of thousands of internet-connected Iranians are getting news out via blogs and emails.

It can be a bit difficult sifting through all the noise on the likes of Thaivisa, and for a newbie, searching through all the data can be daunting. Still perhaps this is being addressed in the forthcoming updates George refers to. I hope the blog portal will be open to the independents out there!

(Scroll down for more stats, and a summary of Thailand's laws of libel by Thaivisa's lawyers...)

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From Thaivisa's lawyers, some more detail on the subject of defamation:

Defamation of Character

Criminal Liability


Criminal liability for defamation is covered by Sections 326 to 333 of the Thai Penal Code,
which provide for punishment by imprisonment not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding Baht 20,000, or both. The Penal Code also provides that any imputation made upon a deceased person to a third party, which is calculated to impair the reputation of his/her father, mother, spouse, or child, or to expose the deceased to hatred or contempt, is an offense. Defamation committed by means of publication of a document, drawing, painting, cinematograph, picture, or letters made visible by any means, gramophone record, or any other recording or broadcast is punishable by imprisonment not exceeding two years and a fine not exceeding Baht 200,000.

The Thai Civil and Commercial Code (CCC) has defamation provisions, but does not
distinguish between libel and slander. In the chapter on Wrongful Acts, Section 423 of the CCC, it states that any person who, contrary to the truth, asserts or circulates as a fact that which is injurious to the reputation or credit of another, or his earnings or prosperity in any manner, shall compensate the injured party for any resulting damage. Being unaware that a statement is false does not constitute a defense, provided the person ought to have known it was false. Section 447 of the CCC gives the Court a right, upon application of the aggrieved party, to order other measures, either instead of or in addition to payment of damages, for the rehabilitation of the injured party’s reputation.

Claims for damages arising from defamation are barred after one year from the date the
wrongful act and person responsible became known to the injured person, or ten years from the day when the wrongful act was committed (Section 448). If, however, damages claimed arise from a wrongful act which is also punishable under criminal law for which a longer period is prescribed, then such period also applies to the civil action. For the purpose of achieving faster results, criminal actions are filed much more frequently than civil suits. Defamation actions are often reported in the press.

Defense Against Criminal Libel


There are three defenses to a charge of criminal libel:

  • The statement is true, unless the defamatory imputation is of a personal nature and would not be of benefit to the public.
  • A fair comment was made in good faith -
  1. By way of self-justification or defense.
  2. For the protection of any legitimate interest.
  3. Upon the status of an official in the exercise of his functions.
  4. By way of fair report in the proceedings of any.
  • The opinions or statements expressed during proceedings were by the parties involved, their lawyers, or their witnesses.
Under Section 332 of the Penal Code, the Court may order destruction of the defamatory matter and that publication of the Court’s judgment be made in one or more newspapers once or several times at the expense of the guilty party.

Civil Liability


There are two defenses to a civil action for defamation:

  • Justification, where the defendant in a civil action may escape liability if he/she can prove that the statement was substantially justified, i.e. true, but more than just true. There has to be a valid reason for having made the statement even if true. It is not an absolute defense to a criminal prosecution for libel to prove that the statement was simply true.
  • Privileged communication, where a person may make a communication in good faith to persons having a rightful interest in it, even though the information given may later be found to be erroneous. For example, in Dika (Supreme) Court Case No. 938/2519, the Thai Bankers Association circulated a notice to its members warning them that the action of a group of persons which included the plaintiff might be damaging to the members’ business.
The action of the Thai Bankers Association was held to be a valid protection of a legitimate interest.

Opinions or statements expressed during court proceedings are privileged.


Another form of privileged communication involves statements made by members of the
Senate or the House of Representatives of the National Assembly when stating facts or opinions or in casting votes. No charge or other manner of action can be brought against such legislative members. This privilege extends to printers and publishers of the Legislative Minutes and to persons permitted by the presiding member to give statements of fact or opinion at such sittings.

Insult to Character


There is another offense under the Penal Code, namely insult, as provided for under Section 393 of the Penal Code stating that whoever insults any person in his presence or by publication shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding one month or a fine not exceeding Baht 1,000, or both.


Insult is also one of several grounds for divorce.


Defamation is more serious than mere insult. Defamation must involve publication to third parties and must lower the plaintiff in the eyes of right-thinking members of society.
However, insult does not have such an effect and need not take place before any person other than the plaintiff.

The need for insult provisions in the law is better appreciated with some knowledge of the Thai language and of the Thai mental approach to life and social relations. It is a characteristic of Thais that they are particularly sensitive to personal abuse, which is taken very seriously. The Thai language contains many colorful expletives which, while not defamatory, are exceedingly hurtful to the sensitive Thai. Such phrases lose their significance in translation and might seem comparatively innocuous to westerners.


Examples include aye sat, meaning “you are such a base and low creature”, or aye haa, meaning “you are physically sick”, while aye baa means “you are mentally sick”.


For many reasons, but principally because of the delay and cost of litigation in Thailand, courts see few insult actions except as a basis for divorce. Insults, however, can lead to nasty altercations and confrontations, so being polite at all times cannot be stressed often enough.


While damages awarded in defamation cases are minimal, the time and expense consumed in prosecuting or defending these actions can be massive.It is important to realize that in Thailand nothing detrimental to any business or individual is permissible because of Thailand's strong laws against negative comments about individuals, businesses or officials. Defamation is both a civil and criminal offense in Thailand.


The final judgment can be ANY amount which the court approves, including jail time. It is in line with the perceived amount that the defamatory statements have cost the business. So, if the business claims you have cost them 2 million baht in lost business and reputation, they can then claim this in a civil suit.


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58 comments:

BangkokDan said...

Nice work - and chapeau George!

One may not like ThaiVisa's strict moderation policies, but it may be necessary, to a certain point.

Maybe ThaiVisa should create a "Members only" section where you're only allowed to post after, say, 100 "meaningful" posts ...

Mike said...

Pete I would echo Dan's sentiments.

Personally I have found the forums a useful resource if you don't mind wading through some of the crap.

I occasionally post, but its always factual based on experiences such as visa renewals.

As for the post itself-excellent and well balanced. A good read and a little food for thought when it comes to penning blog posts.

Anonymous said...

1. BangkokDan - it's already done - there is a private section you can access after you have made 500 posts... but it's actually pretty dull compares to the main public forum

2. The article notes that it is pretty daunting for newbies to have to search for info. I'd answer by saying that if they're not prepared to put in some of their own time and efforts to research their info needs, then they are setting themselves up for a big fall. Many of the topics are addressed in new threads every other week, because ppl aren't willing to make an effort, they just want to sit back and have food (info) put in their open mouths like so many demented chicks. They don't even know enough to know what to ask!

This is a major source of frustration for regular posters, and causes some of the testy posts mentioned in the article.

The FrogBlogger said...

Dan, good idea, I can think of at least one other forum that does that - TD. Mind you, not sure that "meaningful posts" is a criterion ;-)

Mike - yes food for thought for bloggers and forum posters based in Thailand, when you read the comments of George's lawyers at the end. Must be like hanging on to a crocodile's tail at times, administering such a huge, diverse and outspoken membership 24 hours a day, all year round.

hobby said...

I hardly ever go there after my comments all got put under moderation watch a few years ago - I think it was because I posted this emoticon a few times in discussions with some obnoxious sexpat:)

Now there are so many good blogs around, I see no reason to vist forums as well - I already waste waay to much time on the internet as it is!

I imagine the main competition to T.V. would be TeakDoor - I hardly go there either, but some of the house building threads there led me to Village Farang's blog, which I think is how I came across the FrogBlog:)

The FrogBlogger said...

Hobby, is there some special Australian significance to playing the violin that I'm missing here? :-D

Catherine said...

Darn, I didn't realise TV had so many lurkers... guess I'd better take more care the next time I feel like making an ass out of myself.

But in my defence, the only time I've really gotten stroppy is when Thais or women have been slapped hard. It used to happen disgustingly often. There were foul mouthed, nasty-minded people posting on TV.

When it did happen, this other me would take over, a me with fire breathing out of any and all pores...

...which often resulted in my posts being deleted and a warning given out, usually by the lady watchers.

Long live the ladies of TV! I don't always agree with their decisions, but I do feel that they've made a positive change.

'...it's already done - there is a private section you can access after you have made 500 posts... but it's actually pretty dull compares to the main public forum'

I'm sort of 50/50. I guess I'd like to think that the brighter, kinder, more sensible people post there.

But truthfully, I usually forget it's there at all.

When I'm bored, I go and check out all the guys trying to make points off of each other. Then I get bored soon enough again, and off TV I go.

The FrogBlogger said...

Catherine, the fire-breathing you? Best I try to stay in your good books then :-D

You know, I came across this really excellent design site the other day ... ;-)

Lloyd said...

All the more reason to shut the site down, as a genuine resource I would say it is as close to useless as "tits on a bull".

From an IT perspective, if they feel they needed their own servers for the small volume of viewers they have then they are fooling themselves, but that is to be expected.

If and when someone with more than a little IT knowledge decides to hit the Thai expat market then Thaivisa.com will go down the same route as the dodo bird, the sooner the better!

Corkscrew said...

The composite answers we get on TV regarding almost any question makes this place the BEST place to pose ?s.

Keep it up.

hobby said...

FB: I dont think its peculiarly Australian, although I am having trouble finding references to it on the web.

I think it stems from cartoons I watched as a kid where after a tragedy/death/funeral there was often a cut to someone playing the violin.

I'll try to put it into context:
In a thread over at TV I was arguing that the behavior posed a strong risk of catching aids, and I ended a few of my posts to him with the violin playing emoticon.

Obviously the moderators felt it had a similar meaning to what I had intended:)

The FrogBlogger said...

Sorry Lloyd, that's too high tech for me, you'll have to explain in words of one syllable from a dictionary before computers were invented... Corkscrew... but you sometimes need a pretty thick skin.

Catherine said...

Pete - 'fire-breathing you'
only when provoked ;-)

Lloyd - 'as a genuine resource I would say it is as close to useless as "tits on a bull".'

While I don't care for all the forums (who would?) they do have forums where generous people share their time and knowledge.

hobby said...

I see what Lloyd means by 'small volume of viewers' - those Google analytic figures for 3 1/2 years at TV are similar to the daily traffic figures over at my blog:)5555

Greg said...

Great post Pete, well done. Some interesting info in there. Regarding Thailand's lesse majeste/libel/slander laws, there have definitely been a few times where I've wanted to say/type/post something but changed my mind, even though I reallllly wanted to say it. The fact that I was censoring myself out of (real or perceived) fear pissed me off a bit. It's not easy to get used to, but I try to follow a great piece of advice: you have two ears and one mouth; use them in proportion.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thanks for the link to Thai-blog & thailandqa dot coms .
I may never have to go back to that bitchy out of date TV forum again

Lana said...

TV is most entertaining, though the negativity can sometimes make you feel very depressed about Thailand! (and the expats who live here)

I find the Ladies in Thailand subforum the most entertaining, especially for posts by guys who try to sneak into it regularly!

The FrogBlogger said...

Hobby, gotcha, now I understand the violin reference... oh and on those stats, you only have a mere 6 mill or so hits a year? Looks like you need some SEO advice from Lloyd ;-) Catherine, you're right, like everything it's a 'parson's egg', I've had some really useful stuff from TV, especially in the local Chiang Mai forum. The politics and the Thailand-bashing can be depressing though. Greg, "you have two ears and one mouth; use them in proportion" - great piece of advice, not heard that one before! anon Richard's network is a great resource as I said, there's room for both in my view. Lana, entertaining? You do need a sense of humour sometimes! Must check out the Ladies section, I'm intrigued now (I'll only lurk behind the curtain though)...

Lloyd said...

I am not nor have I ever made reference to being an SEO expert however 16 years experience as a software and senior web developer does give me some insight.

The figure may sound impressive to some but for what the site claims to be and the number of visitors to Thailand and expats in Asia my personal opinion is its nothing special, which is probably due to some of the quality of the information and the people who post.

The FrogBlogger said...

Well I don't know about you Lloyd but for an online community dealing solely with one country in SE Asia, those figures seems pretty impressive to me. As I mentioned on Twitter to someone today, the visits haven't caused a spike in my page hits, but more of an Eiffel Tower. It'll shortly be about 2,000 visits just from Thaivisa, over exactly 12 hours since I first posted the blog.

As for quality, like everything in life there's good and bad, and although TV has its negative side you've got to accept some people's word that they have received extremely useful advice and information there at times (I certainly have). No one is claiming it is perfect, least of all its founder, going by his answers in the interview.

People are not obliged to post there - they can simply lurk, or use the search function to retrieve targeted information.

Sure there will be idiots posting there, but then that's life, it takes all sorts, including the idiots. Nothing we can do about that except try to avoid them if it's something that we take too personally. Doesn't bother me too much, I tend to stick to the local forums, or photography, or wildlife etc, when I pay TV a visit. On the rare occasion I got caught up in a political discussion I soon learnt that it was pointless pursuing any discussion with some of the single-minded extremists there.

Lloyd said...

Each to his own.

The site has a 51.24% 'Bounce rate' which effectively wipes out 50% of their 'visits', then their would be search engine, spam webbots and of course the number of usual forum users possible visitors. It does not take many regular visitors to a forum to generate very large page visits and there are at least 200 regular readers who spend half their dull lives trawling the forum posting constantly, I would guess this would account for around 70%-80% of the remaining page views.

Theres no doubting the site is a resource but overall the amount of negative and useless information far exceeds the good.

The FrogBlogger said...

Lloyd, well I may not be a senior web developer, but I know what a bounce rate is. For the benefit of anyone who doesn't, it simply means that a visitor doesn't click on an internal link within the page he first visits. There is no time limit, ie he may read the page he is on for an hour, but if he doesn't go elsewhere within the site, then it is counted as a bounce.

Now while that may be of concern to the likes of ecommerce sites, to quote Wikipedia:

"Caveats

While bounce rate is a useful tool for e-commerce sites, it is of more questionable value for sites such as news and information, where many visitors go to scan headlines and conduct research, and can find what they want immediately on the entry page. Indeed, for any kind of informational site, sophisticated users are likely to bookmark a page within the site, which then becomes their personal entry page, check it (e.g., for sports scores, the price of pork bellies, etc.), then bounce right off. The page will have done its job, but might still have a bounce rate above 80%, bringing up the average for the whole site. For such sites, metrics such as returning visitors vs. new visitors might be more informative."

Sorry, don't see the logic or much of a basis for your last couple of assertions. You call the first a guess and contradict yourself in the second. Look, I'm no sycophant here, I'm the first to criticise some of the more negative aspects, but I haven't got an axe to grind either. Sticking to the facts, the site contains a lot of useful information, and helpful people as well as some noise-makers. Seems like a normal cross-section of humanity to me.

Talen said...

I've used ThaiVisa quite a bit in the last few years as a lurker when I was looking for specific information.

I've never actually posted there because to be honest it always seems like an us and them kinda place with a lot of attitude.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with George that expats living in Thailand have to accept the culture and as with most countries we have to learn to to live in a country where rules are rules. Keep up the good work at Thaivisa as we we expats need to find out what's going on in the country

Anonymous said...

as you say many posters claim to have moderation issues, but as i have said before on the forum they have a difficult job and george has confirmed that tyhey can not be everywhere. yes they sometimes get it wrong but think of how many posts there are! they get it more right than wrong.

i would personally not recommend the richard barrow site. There is not so much flaming but it is very sanitised, the key posters are outside the kingdom or/and have limited first hand knowledge of thailand. while thaivisa moderators respect a posters view even if different from their own the barrow site by their own admission discuss individual posters.

The FrogBlogger said...

Talen yes it's a good resource for the lurker too, no one is twisting anyone's arm to post if they prefer not to get involved in the polemics of some threads.

anon 1 yes - it's a lesson a lot of expats have yet to learn, that we have to adapt to the culture and Thai ways if we want to live in LOS, not the other way around.

anon 2 Richard's network is a different set-up, I personally think a lot of the blogs are really well written. I suppose you pay the price in sanitisation if you want to cut out the flaming.

Dr Nikhil... you've posted three times to make libellous claims about an individual at TV. Apparently you didn't read the blog in full, you must have missed the section on defamation. Fortunately this blog is not a democracy, it's closer to a benevolent dictatorship, and as a result I can choose to ignore people making blatantly defamatory accusations about individuals without the slightest supporting evidence.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Frogblogger. There are some good blogs on the Barrow site.

The difference between Tv and Barrow is that on TV you can hold a diffeent view from a moderator and the moderator doesnt automatically block it.

It is all down to respecting a person's point of view. The barrow site often operates like a "three line whip" where you have to toe the party line.

The strength of Tv - and why it is successful -is that within the rules - you can post your own opinions.

Anon 2

The FrogBlogger said...

Anon 2, I've rarely posted on Richard's forum, and only on entirely uncontroversial topics, so I can't comment. I did ask Richard if he would like to give his views on various topics, haven't heard back from him yet.

Anonymous said...

Great listener this George. The first question is how long are you in Thailand and gets answered with exactly nothing.
It is high time that a second forum will appear, based outside Thailand so that also painful topics can be discussed. Mister George is guarding the value of his websites that is why they are offered for sale. People who sell websites usually shy away from controversies even though they are worth discussing it.

The FrogBlogger said...

"Absolutely nothing", anon? "Long-term" was the answer. People running big forums like this tend to be subjected to all manner of abuse, usually from behind the cover of anonymity. George provided as much personal detail as he was prepared to give, and I respect that. There are too many people about with agendas and attitude to do otherwise, unfortunately. Other forums? There are plenty of others. See how far you get on controversial topics in those. Try starting up one yourself even, you'll soon see how quickly you have to start moderating posts. Want to discuss awkward topics such as lese majeste? Start up a non-Thai based blog and say what you like. Wouldn't advise you returning to LOS anytime soon though.

Oh, and why post anonymously if freedom of speech is so important to you, and there is nothing to be afraid of?

Joy said...

FB, so sorry for off topic comment but Welcome to Chiangmai!!:-)

Martyn said...

You should be reading this in Chiang Mai, as the song goes "looks like you made it" and I'm glad you're back in the LOS....ThaiVisa.

I am a member of TV but use it infrequently apart from when one of their emails trigger my interest. The answers in your interview say to me that with 17 moderators and a possible 9000 members online at once the employment of someone for legal issues is a necessity. George the TV founder is at least aware of the problems that face the forum and is attempting to tackle moderation and other problems. The derogatory remarks towards Thai's etc that you mention are a concern but an unfortunate fact of life. A little like the company employee who has been doing the same job for years, boredom sets in, same old faces, same conversations, the ex pats making these comments are stuck in a rut with nothing better to do. For the good of Thailand and less so TV perhaps they should pack their bags and go, then they might wake up to what they are missing. Good luck to TV but with 17 moderators then they'll need a huge slice of it.

I hope we will be getting an update on the Spotlight girls in the coming months. Chok dee krap.

Bangkok Blogger said...

LOL for about 30 seconds I thought that that the map overlay showed visitors to your blog !! I think we should set up a forum in competiton with the nation/ thai visa :)

ijustwannateach said...

I like the part when George pointed out that moderators are usually regular members who have shown a history of intelligent posts. He is talking about some super bear like me. And if i look at all this SEO pie charts i must say that George is a little sophisto himself too. soo intelligent.

Did you know that there are around 6000 banned users on thaivisa forum? That is the hard work of the moderators.

"Steven"

irish pub said...

Too good post with lots of information.

The FrogBlogger said...

Martyn - it's a few more than 17, an error in the original. George confirms than the mods number in the low 30s. Still, not an easy job, given the number of posts...

Spotlight girls? Afraid no blogs on this topic any time soon, or an unprogrammed amputation of nether regions might be carried out. I would rather hang on to what I've got ;-)

joy - a belated thanks :-)

BB - too much hassle involved, I'm happy to leave TV and the others to get on with it!

ijustwannateach - are you one of the banned members by any chance?! 6,000 banned members, if true... not particularly surprising, over the years, and given the numbers involved.

irishpub - thanks. Hope to do a follow-up soon.

Siam Observer said...

If everything is above board with ThaiVisa, why is it they never disclose the name of a company behind the website? Could it be that there isn't one and TV is just trying to fly under the radar of the tax man?

And by the way, since the activities of the TV expat moderators constitutes work per the laws of Thailand, has TV been kind enough to furnish them all with work permits?

The bit about defamation laws is largely a red herring. They simply sought a justification to prevent criticism of some of the sketchier and less competent business which advertise on ThaiVisa.

The FrogBlogger said...

'Siam Observer' - perhaps because no one has asked them to? I did, and the answer came back that "Thaivisa operations, sales and marketing are managed by Creative Solutions Pattaya Limited Partnership, Chonburi, this company operates under the Thai laws and regulations and complies with all their requirements, including taxes."

With respect to what constitutes work in Thailand, I know that voluntary work does require a work permit. I have no idea if unpaid LOS-based forum moderators technically require such a visa or not.

As for the comment ref defamation, it's 'fortunate' that you have posted anonymously, as you are yourself technically libelling the advertisers on TV. Of course, you provide no supporting evidence. I imagine intelligent readers will therefore treat at least your last comment with the contempt it deserves.

hobby said...

I just posted a fairly mild comment on TV that basically says we cannot believe how the Bangkok Post & The Nation are reporting on the reds.

My comments are all subject to moderation at TV, so it will be an interesting test of their moderation policy - if they reject it, the only possible grounds they could have is that I was slightly disrespectful to their sponsor.

The FrogBlogger said...

In which forum? Can't see it. If you criticised both the Bangkok Post and The Nation, without falling within the defamation criteria as defined by TV's lawyers in the original blog (admittedly rather sweeping), then I can't see why the post should be moderated. If you have the exact wording, that would make things clearer.

hobby said...

It still has not made it through moderation yet, so it looks like it will be rejected - doesn't surprise me, and the only reason I bothered to try to post there was because my blog was referred to early in the thread.
(if it does make it to be published it will be in
this
thread & posted by Nganadeeleg)
Cannot remember the exact wording however it was a fairly innocuous post IMO (but it would not surprise me if they find some excuse not to post it as it goes against the pro establishment view of that site:)

hobby said...

Update: My innocuous post has still not appeared on the Thai Visa forum and they have not even had the courtesy to give me a message to say it was rejected and why (other than when I originally posted it the screen said it would go to moderation)

The Thai Visa site is excellent for expat & visa type information, but as a source for political news & discussion it is very sanitized, and IMO biased.

Actually I'm greatful for the experience, as I think it will be a good source of inspiration for my future blog posts:)

The FrogBlogger said...

Thanks hobby, the political threads can occasionally be a real turn-off on Thaivisa, for sure. Thaivisa does a good job in getting the headlines from the Thai papers promptly onto the forum, but the discussions often then go downhill pretty quickly.

As to bias, I suppose there's bound to be some with unpaid moderators involved, but whether there's a specific political agenda amongst its admins, I have my doubts - despite The Nation tie-up.

On the other hand, it has got to be advantageous for Thaivisa to be linked up with the most pro-establishment English language national in terms of protecting their business. On this level I could understand if there was some bias as a result.

I suppose at the end of the day unhappy punters can always vote with their feet, the admins would be justified in saying.

hobby said...

I suppose at the end of the day unhappy punters can always vote with their feet, the admins would be justified in saying.

Agree - that's why my last post over there was in 2006
(it's obviously a popular site, just not my scene:)

The FrogBlogger said...

Wondered why a search for your username when looking for that post only produced results for 2006 - thought there was a problem with the search function.

If you can put up with the idiots who inevitably chip in with replies, Thaivisa is definitely the best place for up to date info as well... needed to quickly find a traditional massage place in a specific part of Bangkok for a friend who'd just arrived last night, and TV soon came up with a good suggestion (amongst several daft answers of course...)

CosmicSurfer said...

RE Hobby - Violin Player... Just for your FYI the Violin Player emoticon is one of the Emoticons offered by TV itself when posting there, so no need to use any outside links... I've used it many times myself... and I've never been deleted, blocked or banned because of it.

I too have had my disputes with TV Moderators, but by maintaining a level of respect and well-founded argumentation, where I have had Threads closed on me, I have never had any Blocked and deleted.

On the whole, I do find TV to be somewhat over-moderated. I do believe that it is our duty as people who live in Thailand to try and improve Thai society, as any culture that stagnates basking in it's own unsupported and long-gone glory, will only fall further into the backwaters of global progress.

This leads to my feeling that TV should act more as a advocate and representative of its Expat members, and less as an entity worried about it's own survival.

Which is also a bitch I have with the daily papers, and anyone that ignores the injustices and discrimination that permeates the society around us... We are not doing Thailand a service by acting as ostriches... But in the name of progress and the future of this place that we now call home, we should be doing what is necessary to turn the downward spiral into an upward cycle.

We would hold an "intervention" for our drug-addicted best friend. Why is it wrong to intervene when we see destructive actions all around us, and realize that the only way that the negative situations around us will ever see the light, is to tear down the curtains and force the windows open?

Turning a blind eye is not an action of respect, and intolerance should never be tolerated.

CS

CosmicSurfer said...

BTW... after writing and posting my previous post, I came to the realization, that discussing the level of moderation, and the direction and purpose of ThaiVisa itself (i.e. Advocacy for Expats vs Info for Visitors) would never be tolerated as a thread on the TV Forum!!!

Ironic, isn't it!
Glad I found this place.
CS

hobby said...

CosmicSurfer: Yes I used the emoticom from their list, but I think my implication that the sexpat was engaging in risky behaviour (hence the violin) was a bit too much for the moderators.

Agree that topic would be banned on T.V. :)

In fact I'm thoroughly sick of trying to post on T.V. - in recent months I have tried posting very innocent comments, and they still dont make it to the site.

Like Frogblogger says, it can be a good resource, but you have to put up with a lot of crap.

familyonthemove said...

Great report and interview - thanks! But I have to say that I stay away from Thaivisa these days. Yes, useful info, but so many pointlessly aggressive posters and political bickering ... it's the Land of Snarls

Anonymous said...

Thaivisa is now very similar to a 'tabloid'...dollar driven nonsense.

I'll never return there while their policy is about money & while the moderation is gestapo-esque.

Anonymous said...

English tongue is not my primary language, yet I could understand it using the google translator. Superb publish, have them coming! Best wishes!

Thailand Hotels said...

Wow! Thanks for the link to Thai-blog & thailandqa dot coms .
I may never have to go back to that bitchy out of date TV forum again

Jill said...

We used to listen to our little 2 1/2 year old neighbor screaming before bedtime nightly... I BAAAA! IIIIII BAAAAA! She was yelling at her parents who were trying to calm her down enough to get her sleepy so they could put her to bed and get some rest themselves! I don't know how serious some of the things Thais say are... mostly they're in jest, I would guess.

Graciela said...

I never read Thai Visa. Pointless arguments, farangs who have been here decades and, God knows why, as they obviously hate Thais and Thailand, and cut and pasted content from other news sites as, heaven forbid, 'George' actually had to create it himself.

Worse than useless, IMO.

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Anonymous said...

Thaivisa does little more than cater to racists and these racist are used to increase site visits to help George line his pockets.

Newcomers who are forced to ask question because they can't find answers to their simple Visa questions in the thousands of racist and abusing posts are then too abused in responses.

The selective deleting of posts is sick. The forum is full of negative posts towards Thailand, Thai People and their religion even though this is clearly against forum rules but dare say something generalized about westerners and you'll find your posts gone and your account suspended.

A very nasty and negative site that is more harmful to people who want to know about Thailand than helpful.

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Anonymous said...

I suggest people do a little research on Google about ThaiVisa and its team -- you will find interesting links such as this: http://www.pissedconsumer.com/reviews-by-company/thaivisa-website/if-you-are-a-racist-then-thaivisa-com-is-for-you-20130915447202.html