Wikivoyage talk:No advice from Captain Obvious

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No advice from Captain Obvious[edit]

swept in from the pub

Inspired partly by User:(WT-en) Inas#Respect, I whipped up a little page for a new pseudo-policy called Project:No advice from Captain Obvious. Comments welcome -- is this worth elevating from personal rant to an actual policy? (WT-en) Jpatokal 05:22, 22 November 2009 (EST)

It's bumped up to a part of the Manual of Style now, and the redirect obvious points to it. Please help me link it in where appropriate. (WT-en) Jpatokal 17:31, 11 December 2009 (EST)


Like it. Sums up the idea entertainingly. (WT-en) Andyfarrell 12:05, 22 November 2009 (EST)

Looks good to me, too, although we may need a new image - despite the licensing on Flickr, that image also appears copyrighted at -- (WT-en) Ryan • (talk) • 13:46, 22 November 2009 (EST)

The basic idea is great! Do we need to add something about things that might be obvious to an experienced traveller, or an to expat in some country, but not to the novice visitor? Some of those are exactly what we do want to cover. (WT-en) Pashley 00:36, 7 December 2009 (EST)

Yes. Added. (WT-en) Jpatokal 17:42, 11 December 2009 (EST)

Policy / Essay[edit]

This edit changed the article to remove its category (all articles in the Wikivoyage: namespace should have categories) and to add a disclaimer that "this article is an essay, not a policy". The article is frequently cited as a guideline, so I'm not sure if the disclaimer is needed - Wikivoyage doesn't really create a distinction between guidelines and policies that I'm aware of. -- (WT-en) Ryan • (talk) • 17:52, 13 December 2010 (EST)

I've removed the "essay, not a policy" disclaimer since this guideline is frequently cited in reverts. -- (WT-en) Ryan • (talk) • 01:47, 24 January 2011 (EST)

Too broadly interpreted[edit]

I think this is too broadly interpreted. In the last two weeks, the following has been held, with this policy as backing.

  1. Everybody in the world knows what a burger or hot dog is
  2. Everybody in the world knows how to address envelopes the American way

This is too broad. As written, Capt Obvious says nothing about anything close to these; it merely says that every non-idiot knows a modicum of public safety. Furthermore, what every non-idiot in the world knows about any one place is highly subjective. Cultural imperialism isn't that pervasive. I personally believe there's very little we can assume that foreigners know about a foreign country (with the possible exception of the few things enumerated here), and I oppose the broad interpretation of this policy. Purplebackpack89 03:55, 1 February 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Cultures like to think they have a monopoly on the way they do things, and I've seen so many edits to our guides incorporating information people think is unique to their destination, but is true or well understood largely everywhere. However interesting some of this information is, we don't want to fill our guides with curiosities and trivia. We want practical information.
Letters get delivered all over the world, through just about every country on the planet. If you write an address clearly on the front of the envelope with the right stamp, you can pretty much drop it in any postbox on the planet. Everyone in the world knows how to do this. The USPS delivers letters written everywhere to U.S. addresses.
We have three or four paragraphs in one of our premier articles, filled with trivial information that is obvious. It is disappointing. --Inas (talk) 04:29, 1 February 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Do we have pages explaining what hot dogs are, or how to write a letter? Two good examples of why we need this policy. Globe-trotter (talk) 04:39, 1 February 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think it's important to remember that this advice is not intended for a universal audience, but for an audience that understands English to a fair degree. It seems unlikely that someone with enough English ability to use our guides is unfamiliar with the phrase "hot dog". Some of them might be, sure... but that's what dictionaries are for. LtPowers (talk) 21:04, 1 February 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]
NO. Just no. I cannot understand your guys' desire to limit Wikivoyage artificially. You seem to be saying that if they don't know something, they can look it up on Wiktionary or on a Wikivoyage in another language. Well, I can tell you right now that those articles won't tell them all they need to know about the U.S.. It's our responsibility to tell them that here. And we can't do that with some absurd policy that takes guesses about what people who speak a little English should know, and then deletes it. Purplebackpack89 16:17, 4 February 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]
We have to take some guesses. We have to assume some basic level of English knowledge; we are not here to teach people English. LtPowers (talk) 00:43, 5 February 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Purple - a key point of this policy is that we want guides to be focused on things a traveler needs to know, and not diluted by things that 99.9% of travelers already know; this guidance matches the site's founding principle: Wikivoyage:The traveller comes first ("All our work aims foremost to serve the travellers who are our readers."). The definition of a hot dog or how to address a letter is common knowledge, and including that information in an article only removes focus from information that a traveler actually needs. When something is common knowledge it is emphatically not "our responsibility to tell them that here" when doing so decreases the utility of our guides for the vast majority of readers. -- Ryan • (talk) • 02:38, 5 February 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Great point and well put! There will always be these fine judgements to be made (and personally I am definitely of the inclusionist tendency) but some things are just better left to Wikipedia and that is just one reason why we should, very occasionally, allow precision inline links to our sister project. -- Alice 03:05, 5 February 2013 (UTC)

Are traffic collisions too obvious a danger to mention?[edit]

Swept in from the pub

Road traffic is by far the highest risk for travellers to suffer a physical or financial injury at many destinstions, with exception for wilderness, war zones, places with an extreme crime rate, or other imminent dangers. This applies to most big cities in high-income countries, even those that are not notorious for dangerous traffic. However, we have the Wikivoyage:No advice from Captain Obvious guideline, which discourages from advice which would apply universally to many places around the world. Should country, region and city articles mention the risks of vehicle collisions in the stay safe section? /Yvwv (talk) 01:11, 23 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It depends. My POV is that if a certain area or region is notorious for collisions, then it should absolutely be mentioned, but on the other hand, it should not be mentioned in every single article in that region. SHB2000 (talk | contribs | meta) 01:14, 23 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think site-specific information would be wanted for areas that are notoriously bad. For example, I've read that Mozambique has incredibly bad traffic jams and that sandstorms cause low visibility in Libya. In other places, such as Mexico, it depends on where you are. Mexico City has traffic jams but other places don't. Baton Rouge has more car wrecks and car thefts than typical for the US. I think you'd reach Captain Obvious if you warned people against typical risks, not if you said that this place was worse than usual/worse than other places in the region. WhatamIdoing (talk) 04:00, 23 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
We do mention some obvious risks, such as cold weather in the Arctic. On the same lines I think anyone could imagine that traffic in Egypt is bad. The warning adds value when it is more specific, such as linking to a travel topic about the issue or giving advice which may not be obvious: in Egypt or India, hiring a local driver is absolutely reasonable for a Westerner. Also in places were the danger isn't unusually bad, a warning may be warranted: Finland doesn't have dangerous traffic overall, but pedestrians should be much more careful than e.g. in Sweden. –LPfi (talk) 07:53, 23 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
One part of the problem, is that traffic dangers are normalized around the world. In most OECD countries, traffic is the most common cause of lethal or severe physical injury, second to self-harm; though less frequent dangers such as homicide, wild animals and falling from cliffs get more public attention. Our readers can be expected to be familiar with traffic dangers; but they still deserve to be mentioned in context with other risks. /Yvwv (talk) 10:20, 23 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think one important aspect is to what degree a warning is actually helpful. We don't need to state something just to be able to wash our hands, like those responsible might want to do. It is good to mention your point in Travel basics, Stay safe etc. (many people get less careful with everyday dangers on vacation), while in individual articles we should give the more specific advice. There are often twists in the local traffic culture that could take travellers by surprise. I think we are quite good at it, having seen many examples of such good advice. There are similar issues about other dangers. While musk oxen don't cause many deaths in Norway, a tourist could very well go too close, so describing their behaviour for areas where you go to see them is very much relevant (and can be interesting). We should probably tone down many wildlife warnings (I have tried to do so for Nordic articles), but most statistics say little about what really warrant warnings – you have to use your best judgement. –LPfi (talk) 11:11, 23 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The two could be profitably combined in many cases: "Crashing into moose is just as dangerous as the viral videos suggest, and it gets lots of headlines, but even in the most moose-infested area, you're still more likely to crash into a tree or another vehicle than a moose". WhatamIdoing (talk) 20:36, 23 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
In general, our health and safety sections vary a lot in tone and quality, and it is important to mention that they should not replace professional advice. Do we need to expand the Wikivoyage:Manual of style with Wikivoyage:Health and safety information or something similar? /Yvwv (talk) 12:05, 24 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Do we need more advice than can be put in Wikivoyage:Article skeleton templates/Sections#Stay safe and #Stay healthy? Both are short. Wikivoyage:Tone could include what needs to be said about the tone of these sections (essentially: keep to what is helpful, save your jokes for other sections). I don't like the advice on professional advice, and I don't think it should be repeated in every Stay safe. Only where you can get it, really need it, and this isn't obvious. The rest goes into Travel basics. –LPfi (talk) 16:01, 24 October 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]