A New Hangout For Cafe Regulars?

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
ESL Café: none of our old regulars!

If you’ve been noticing a distinct lack of new posts at the ESL Café, it could be because a whole lot of the regular members have found a new neighborhood hangout: the forums at David’s ELT World. Tesall.com‘s recent Top 10 list alerted me to the presence of this site.

David is an EFL teacher in Turkey, and started the site as his contribution towards making EFL a better “place” for teachers. In an interview with TEFL News, he mentioned that he makes it a priority not to suspend members because they make unfavorable comments towards companies which pay to advertise on his site. There is an innovative solution to threads that get a bit out of hand – threads which might be closed or deleted elsewhere – and that is the Fight Club. In this corner of the site, those who are so inclined can argue to their hearts’ content. Making top bill at the Fight Club are a thread on Been banned from ESL Cafe and the Emerging story about TEFL International.

The general discussion forum is the busiest at the moment. Contributors I “recognize” from ESL Café keep the discussion going, and there is room for questions and new contributors on the destination-specific forums.

It does raise an interesting question: how much do advertisers influence what is posted online these days? Are TEFL sites responsible for bad jobs?

Deleting posts which criticize schools or companies which are advertisers can mean that a) teachers (contributors who keep the sites going) don’t feel free to share information they would like to and/or b) schools or companies may be able to pay their way out of bad behavior. On the other hand, sites which become known for naming names such as TEFL Watch and the TEFL Blacklist report receiving threats of lawsuits.

It would be misleading of me to imply that concerns about advertising and/or problems with ESL Café are necessarily widespread. I would also be amiss if I didn’t mention my own opinion that moderators of message boards are sometimes thought to be responsible for a lot more than they actually are. However the theme of online advertisers is an important one and I think it’s useful to clarify the issue as above in case the disadvantage of such a policy is not immediately clear. My personal advice to teachers would include: don’t rely only on a lack of negative information online when selecting a school.

While there is a bit of apparently open discussion about the Café (and that is what I elected to focus on in this post), ELT World is not an anti-Café or anything like that. There is genuine discussion going on about a variety of topics, most of which have nothing to do with other EFL sites and much to do with teaching English. Check out ELT World and see what you think.