I just received an auto-generated email from the CEO of TripAdvisor, congratulating me on my 100th review on the website. I find myself both amused and annoyed. As a hobbyist who discovered the site before my first trip to Argentina in 2009 and has used it hundreds of times since for choosing restaurants and places to stay, I find it fun to write reviews and be part of a community of travelers all over the world, and I long ago decided that that was the reward. However, as a freelance writer with a day job, I can’t help but be reminded that I’m giving away my work for nothing, producing quality copy for which I used to get paid, for which I trained for years, for which I memorized style manuals.
Granted, I don’t put as much effort into reviews for a non-paying website as I do into assignments for publications that pay, or even into my blog posts. But it’s a point of pride for me to post reviews – and even comments on others’ blogs – free of typos, errors, and stupidities. I want my reviews on TripAdvisor to be genuinely useful to other travelers – to let them know if an attraction or eatery is likely to be their cup of tea, to tell them something they may not find in a guidebook, to translate into English information that may be available only in Spanish. I have no desire to repeat what four or 40 or 140 visitors have already said.
I suppose this has been my philosophy as a journalist during the 35 years I’ve been writing for a public audience: to contribute to the body of knowledge, to the community or civic conversation. As has been noted zillions of times, the web is a great democracy, but it’s also a great font of blather and narcissism. I keep a private journal in which I can indulge in the latter. Now that I’m back from another trip to South America, I hope to write some more reviews and posts that make people think, or at least entertain them a bit.
My TripAdvisor contributions: