I have a rule here: whenever someone answers my question or corrects my notebook, I immediately click on their profile picture to see if I can help them. I never just say thank you and close the window.
Sometimes I find I can be useful to them.. Other times I find they're just here to help others (which is incredibly generous on their part). If I find I can't help them, then I correct another person's post to "pay the favour" to the world.
It goes both ways: often when I help a Chinese or Iranian here I immediately get very generous help back from them, and often these lead to personal frienships. It seems helping people is an excellent way to establish yourself here, rather than impersonal "I'm looking for a language partner" messages.
My question is this: do you try to help people who help you on italki? I scratch your back, you scratch mine: if the world worked that way we'd all be happier!
@zaeanderson: when I give my bus seat to an old lady, is that reciprocity? Of course it is: I hope that one day when I'm as old as her, a young man like me will give my seat to me. Reciprocity isn't always personal, it can be social.
@Katerina, I understand what you mean, as Laura said I think the lack of reciprocity is a problem for speakers of languages that have many learners, eg. Spanish, French, Japanese, Chinese, etc. So you're off the hook, so to speak!
@安静静, many thanks for the kind words
@Sudeep, yes, aside from language exchange cultural exchange is a great benefit to this website. I honestly think there's too much emphasis on finding a "language partner", when we could learn more about their background instead. We should treat other users on this site as human beings, not as pure language-learning tools.
@Miriam, totally agree. Not thanking someone for help is very bad manners, and if I recognise someone who just clicked "upvote" last time I helped them I'm much less likely to help them again. Perhaps if italki gave us notifications for upvotes it would be different, but it only takes seconds to type “thank you for your help"!
@Laura, I totally agree with you - maybe we should click the profile picture before we correct others' notebook, to make sure that person's a productive member of italki!
Though honestly, if you never help others on italki you miss out more than anyone! I'm pretty sure I get above-average help on this website, and it's because my friends take a lot of time making detailed corrections to my content. Why? Because I helped them in the past, and they know they can count on me on the future.
It's a nice feeling, especially when shared with a total stranger you'll never meet in your life!