I personally believe they're just spam. There's already a tool for finding language partners, you don't need to post an ad about it. I wish it were banned on italki, personally. If only italki listened to its regular users' feedback this site would be a lot better!
I want to be positive and not just complain, so here's my advice: go out into the italki community and help. There are plenty of people learning your language, so go mark their notebooks! Go answer their questions! If you can distinguish yourself as an intelligent language learner I promise you you'll be noticed!
I certainly don't believe language partner requests are ill-intentioned, mostly they come from brand new members who seem to have joined the site a few minutes ago. The fault is with italki, who actually encourage users to litter every area of the community with these messages. Create a separate community board for them and ban them everywhere else. However I still feel LPR are rather pointless, the best approach would be to help someone first, add them as a friend, and start a relationship that way.
Btw the relationship doesn't have to be for "conversation exchange". I've made several friends here who I've never spoken to, we just help each other with language-related issues from time to time. You get a lot more benefit discussing something than you do from a one-sentence reply from the "Answers" forum (a part of this site I love btw!)
Most of these seem to take a certain form : one variety is the 'I'm new to this site, and I want to meet partners to help me learn English, etc.' , and a variant is 'I am looking for someone/a native speaker to help me improve my English speaking'.
They are not really 'discussion' topics, and should not, strictly speaking, be posted in this section. Maybe Italki can provide a separate area for this type of comment.
It's inevitable that there will be more people seeking English partners than there are candidates available, so perhaps a note of cautionary advice should be given to those posting such messages, to the effect that the chances of finding an English partner, if you are offering Chinese, Urdu, Punjabi and, in particular, Arabic, are fairly low, and those in this position should look for help from tutors and teachers.
If you consider language partner exchange to be italki's main function then you'd have to conclude this site is a massive failure: most many people get little or no response to language exchange requests.
Anyway, I find these language partner request messages (a) uninteresting, (b) distracting from real discussions about actual topics, (c) very impersonal and non-diverse (because they're all virtually identical and don't engage with the community in any meaningful way), (d) ultimately mislead the LPR posters themselves, because they get no response and may conclude this site is useless. If LPR's were banned, users would be forced to make an effort to make themselves noticed, and would get a better result from the site.
No, I don't think these ads "harm" me. If it works for the majority of italki users, it is fine for me. I just lose interest in searching for language learning related discussion topics on italki and go somewhere else. When I look for discussions about learning German, there is only one out of 20 threads, that is actually a discussion topic. One is a link to a learning article, 5 are questions about grammar, one is about help for translation, one is an ad looking for a room to hire, one is a suggestion for a language learning app and 10 are requests for language exchange / Skype partners.... So maybe it's my mistake that I expect to find discussion topics in a section that is called "discussion". Or italki should rename it "classifieds".
- iTalki is a fantastically diverse community. You knew it whgen you registered here, didn't you? Not only races and etnicities and genders: education levels, IQs, mental conditions vary greatly.
It is absolutely not clear how the forum Must idealy function in such a community. Consider it an experinment. And it is fascinating how many people are tryiung to propse rules and their vision of what it must look like, and what is the right thing to do and who is wrong.
No, Alan, a detailed set of rules fnely tuned for you or for me will be harmful for others (those we don't respect).
Moreover, many ideas people have result form cultural blindness.
As to fine tuning... many people, mostly people who are good at English, prefer long multi-word posts dedicated to complex questions. Some of them think that the "forum" is for this. But if other people find use of some posts you simply don't need, how do you know the forum is not for them?
What on Earth this forum should be and look like? How do we learn it?
That is my major objcetion. What can be done instead: to observe how poeple use it. Then when you have a clear vision OR some ideas of what brilliant and funny can be made out of this... supply the site with a corresponding structure.
And no, I don't prmice that structured site will work better. What if it will only be better for you and me and worse for others?