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Tony Espinoza (CEO) Discussion - Week 12
Posted May 28th, 2013 - 3:42 am from San Francisco, United States
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Posted May 28th, 2013 - 8:41 am from Los Angeles, United States
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Posted May 28th, 2013 - 11:33 am from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted May 29th, 2013 - 12:37 am from New York, United States
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Posted May 29th, 2013 - 1:28 am from San Francisco, United States
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Posted May 29th, 2013 - 1:41 am from San Francisco, United States
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Posted May 29th, 2013 - 4:05 am from New York, United States
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Posted May 29th, 2013 - 9:13 am from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted May 29th, 2013 - 9:21 am from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted May 29th, 2013 - 5:18 pm by from Atlanta, United States (Permalink)
"Why? Because this is a relatively hostile environment. I wanted the
abuse to stop. If anyone is going to be mistreated, I'd rather it be me
than my team."

Thank you for that. These are good people who don't deserve the piling on they sometimes get.

Posted May 30th, 2013 - 2:46 am from Kowloon West, China
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Posted May 30th, 2013 - 5:13 am from San Francisco, United States
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Posted May 30th, 2013 - 6:41 am from Kowloon West, China
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Posted May 30th, 2013 - 8:36 am from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted May 30th, 2013 - 10:59 am by from Fairbanks, United States (Permalink)
"(I have completely shut down the premium membership concept -- we aren't doing it.)"


wha.... REALLY?! is THIS offhanded bracket in a dot point the first we've heard of this? or did i miss something? this is HUGE!

see ya later free accommodation come travel agency come trip advisor... hopefully 'welcome back' couchsurfing community come lonely planet guide...




btw i hold NO copywrite to my fantastic 'promote and advertise locally recommended small businesses for a cheap yearly rate in a separate section of place pages' income-generating idea i threw out there a month or so ago. steal away and i'll back you 100%.

the premium membership NEVER would have worked in our community. we're all too close. we'd end up with one person who's signed up passing their phone with the cs app on it around to travellers at the meeting or letting surfers use their computers to use the membership benefits on their account IF anyone wanted access to that in the first place. so, good plan scrapping it.

Posted May 30th, 2013 - 12:02 pm by from Fairbanks, United States (Permalink)
oh! thanks theresa for re-asking my question, i see it sparked off a little discussion of it's own....


just to carry that thought through, though... yes, things get heated on here. it's because we're all passionate, and tony, i think you're STARTING to catch our "disease" a little bit. welcome to couchsurfing ;) things get heated on the place pages, too. patience runs thin with sleezebags who only offer couches to pretty young ladies who publicly ask for couches on the board. (we yell at them, too, for posting there. to make sure they protect themselves.)

we get angry when big changes happen which we have no control over.

we get angry when questions don't get answered, or when there's general vagueness and political-style responses going on. (my own housemate / host got herself removed from this group after saying the above in a much more explosive manner. bless you, amanda ;) )

people care about their communities. a LOT. especially with this age bracket. (the same age bracket that attends protests, do direct actions against companies or policies they don't like, start boycotts.) it's the gen x 'fuck that' mentality carrying on into the online gen-y style communities.

it's not something you can deflect or change. people will ALWAYS be angry about something they're passionate about.

anyone who's been in a political university club, or a youth movement, or on the board of directors for any volunteer organisation, knows this.

so. you arrived here, tony, because you wanted to deflect that anger towards yourself as opposed to the old staff members. (btw were they officially staff? or couchsurfing members? or both? i was confused about their role and title to begin with, to be honest. it seemed a little blurred. it lends itself to an even angrier "but you're one of us! DO something!!!" response from us.)

so you coming in was likely the best thing, at the best time. as the man with the answers, you are able to answer questions which the others had to deflect, which keeps everyone a bit calmer as frustrations don't run so high with knowledge and answers readily available.

it also means that we know, immediately, who to blame if things don't get answered ;) the others had to pass things through you, and its hard to know if they never passed the concern along, or forgot it, or if you ignored it. it's much more clear and direct, this way.

but even so, people do, and will, (and always will, no matter what you do, how amazing couchsurfing becomes, or how transparent things are) be passionate, and therefore angry when things dont go along with what they envision. and you know what? that's fantastic. that's where momentum comes from. that argument is what proves that people care, because arguing and getting passionate takes a lot of energy!

so.

having explained that in my opinion you will NEVER have a completely 'safe' conversation between ambs and staff... where does that leave this group? are ambs going to be silenced in their passion, and only allowed to post if they use neutral language? or will there be more hick-skinned employees around who can take this sort of conversation? or will it remain you trying to absorb the heat?

Posted May 30th, 2013 - 2:09 pm from New York, United States
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Posted July 1st, 2013 - 8:00 am from Castegnero, Italy
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Posted May 29th, 2013 - 10:32 am from Los Angeles, United States
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Posted May 28th, 2013 - 12:59 pm from Sevilla, Spain
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Posted May 29th, 2013 - 1:00 am from Melbourne, Australia
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Posted May 30th, 2013 - 2:40 am from Kowloon West, China
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Posted May 31st, 2013 - 6:44 am by from Beijing, China (Permalink)
Hey Tony.
I've been following these "Tony Espinoza (CEO) Discussion" since Week 1.
Thanks for your time and energy.
Have read all your posts, and the vast majority of the ones of the other members.
I cannot say all your answers have been the ones I would have expected, but most were I guess.
Sometimes have been disappointed by the negativity of some members, but as well it meant people had/have CS the community in their hear... and without some critics I do realize that we wouldn't be where we are now, so, thanks all.
As well if I am still personally rather highly involved, I have to confess I am not as much as I used, and don't have the exact same passion I used to have... but I do realize there are several reasons for this, habit, age, bad moves on CS, my CS friends taking other paths... Hopefully the changes to come with help, somehow... let's give it a try!
Plus I know 2 of your employees, including the last one (as of last month) that I met just weeks ago (and was about to host if she hadn't become sick and decided to stay at a hotel instead), and if all, or even most, your employees are as cool and motivated, we can reasonably have good hopes.

Anyway, haven't found the time to write before, or just most of the time what I would have in mind was written by somebody else.
As well because usually if I start writing, I write a lot (I guess you're about to understand this :D), if I start getting involved, I get involved a lot... so getting older (and having a wide variety of interests), I've learned to get less involved, to write less messages :-D

Just to let you know, about CS, I've been a member since 2006 and (traveling/nomadic) ambassador since 2008, right after I started my "Around the World in 80 Months (& 10 Languages)" lifestyle.
Have hosted 150+ members in 11 different countries, surfed 200+ couches in 35+ countries, organized dozens of events and participated in hundreds of them, read thousands of posts and wrote hundreds of them... and have made hundreds of friends along the way, and thousands of acquaintances.

**********

Anyway, my point is...
Do not forget that for guests to stay they need hosts.
You know that there are globally more people searching for a couch than people offering.
So, my point is, whenever you have to choose between smoothing things out for a host and a traveler, you should prioritize the host, in my opinion.

Week 11 you wrote:
"I do think something of the location must be shared with the traveler for planning purposes, but maybe not the exact address."

Week 12:
"Only when a surfer commits to specific dates from a Host do they exchange contact info. I am looking at a feature that will allow the host to defer the timing so that perhaps the guest receives the info a week in advance (or as specified by the host). I've heard from some travelers that they really like having everything on paper a couple weeks ahead of time and not be dependent on getting online. We'll have to see"

I do think it would be good to offer hosts to automatically share their phone number, address, or whatever... BUT only as an option.
And as well maybe you could make the "include directions" pop-up when hosts answer with a yes.
But again, hosts shouldn't have any obligation to automatically send anything.

Even though as a guest I do try to get the precise address of my host, as hitchhiking and most of the time without a phone it's easier, I am OK when they don't share this.

And as a host I've learned the hard way, when, back in 2010, I was kicked out of my flat after just 10 days there, because I had been hosting too much, and my guests were too noisy (the case that was mentioned was a guest who shout out loud my name in front of my building (yep, in the streets) at around 1AM, and rang the bell frenetically (when she had my phone number and as well could have sent me an email as she was online minutes before).
Since then, I don't give my address anymore, just tell them the closest metro station, and prefer to go and pick up my guests after they call me / SMS me / email me to confirm their arrival.

**********

Something else, about the passport verification.
You wrote "We are building new features to send millions of travelers to CS Ambs (e.g., Ambs Directory). So verification makes a lot of sense for the community"
It makes sense on your side. And I even remember years ago people suggesting this should be implemented, for everybody... even though I understand as well fears of people to share personal information.
Now with those, are you gonna inquire with the police or whatever? (I have no criminal record (as far as I know :p) so I'm not worried, but I believe people could not like that, whatever they have a record or not.
And if you find something, would anything be considered a problem to remain as an ambassador?
Because if not, what is that verification you are talking about?

As well personally, I've learned (the hard way, again, with a boss doing some moral harassment) that it was better not to give my own name publicly. I gave myself what I call my "celebrity name", David France Mundo, and almost nobody knows my real name (which makes people think I'm either escaping law enforcement, a spy or the son of a rich family... I wish I was... all of that above! :-D). That said, if a host, or a driver, when hitchhiking, ask me personally to see my passport, I totally understand and show it to them).
Now my point is: in CS, my real name appears nowhere... what would change having a copy of my passport? (I can accept to send it to you, but just wonder if I would have to make my real name appear too, or you could just keep it somewhere related to my profile in your own records).
I know I'm not the only one, so it's not about me.

Don't get me wrong, I don't say it's a bad idea, and again, it was asked for by several ambassadors in the past (talking about all members) but well, it's a very sensitive subject I believe.

**********

OK, you wrote you were not gonna get much online for the next days, should stop here.
You now understand why I refrained from writing?! ;-)
Have a good one,
David

**********

PS: Bonjour to all my fellow ambassadors and ex-ambassadors. For the ones who know me, missing YOU :p... I'm currently in Tokyo, and will be until early October; can't wait to meet again some of you, and probably host you! (and for the others, it's never too late to get to know each other). Sayonara! ◕‿◕

Posted May 31st, 2013 - 7:00 pm from San Francisco, United States
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Posted May 31st, 2013 - 7:38 pm from Kowloon West, China
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Posted May 31st, 2013 - 7:44 pm from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted May 31st, 2013 - 7:52 pm from Kowloon West, China
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Posted May 31st, 2013 - 7:57 pm from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted June 1st, 2013 - 4:46 am from Managua, Nicaragua
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Posted June 1st, 2013 - 8:02 am from San Francisco, United States
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Posted June 1st, 2013 - 10:33 am from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted June 1st, 2013 - 11:44 am by from Copenhagen, Denmark (Permalink)
You can not make surfers pay without destroying the free exchance that is so essential in the way the couchsurfing community work.
And what if a connection does not work out? Will the surfer get the money back then?
You can basically not get money out of couchsurfing without destroying something essential, because it is build on free exchange and helpfullness, but at least you can look for the least destructive way to get your money.

Posted June 3rd, 2013 - 1:56 pm from Athens, Greece
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Posted June 3rd, 2013 - 2:10 pm by from Beijing, China (Permalink)
Tony, thanks for taking the time to answer me, and tell people more about the plans.

In a way it sounds good to get some charities benefit of CouchSurfing.

But I understand people's fears, that guests will have higher exceptions because they have paid something.

Thanks to Shiizzle post minutes ago (good luck in Turkey, man!) I just remembered I wanted to write back here and talk about the ads.
I know that from the very beginning you have said you didn't want ads. I was at a conference Casey Fenton gave in Vienna in 2011, when searching ideas for monetizing CS, he as well said he absolutely didn't want ads.
Why is that so?

I know not everybody in the members want them either, but in my mind, it would be the best way to make money, without bothering much the ideals of the members.

I know you cannot say why Casey thought the same way, I just mentioned that because I realize both of you apparently never considered it... so there must be a "good" reason for that?!

Thanks.

Posted June 4th, 2013 - 8:45 am from Los Angeles, United States
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Posted June 5th, 2013 - 9:27 am by from Playa del Carmen, Mexico (Permalink)
I really cannot follow all these posts...it's impossible!
Often repeating the same things over and over again, often many uselessly personal points of view which do not see the system as a "whole" but only for our own interests.
I really think Tony is the only one actually going through and reading every single message. :)

At the moment I have nothing to add personally, just that I see things slowly getting better compared to the terrible 2012 and I hope CS management (from Tony down to everybody else) remembers that WE ARE couchsurfing, they are just the ones who are making the tool look better and more functional.
Without couchsurfing, we continue to exist.
Without US, couchsurfing is nothing.

As I already told you before Tony, try to make your decisions and changes by listening to us and taking in account our recommendations, believe me, we know how to use this site better than you!
:)

Posted June 6th, 2013 - 11:56 am from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted June 9th, 2013 - 4:33 am from Wellington, New Zealand
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Posted June 9th, 2013 - 5:35 am from Melbourne, Australia
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Posted June 9th, 2013 - 6:14 am from New York, United States
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Posted June 11th, 2013 - 9:18 am from Dresden, Germany
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Posted June 11th, 2013 - 10:38 am from New York, United States
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Posted June 11th, 2013 - 11:08 am by from Fairbanks, United States (Permalink)
i think i made a suggestion regarding this awhile back...

i think the ebay feedback system has some things to be said for it in its scoring system of 'postage was quick' and 'item was as described' etc. this could be used in a silimar way- ie. 'was this couch as described': 1 disagree - 10 agree. or 'i felt comfortable staying with this individual' etc. 5 qns like this plus a comment box where people can either chose to elaborate or write something specific would be good. it keeps the touchy qns anonymous, which i feel is important, and gives a collaborated idea of what various experiences have been. ie. your own score will never be shown, just added to a general indication at the top of the feedback list.

i dont like the idea of too much information being displayed for each reference, as it only takes longer for new potential surfers or hosts to read, and discourages lengthy reading of references.



on a side note- david, shiizzle, kirstine- tony specifically said "And we've also learned that there must continue to be a ways to surf and host for free." in his last post. not sure where you've gotten the idea that surfers will need to pay from, maybe i missed something? but im fairly certain that this is not the plan atm.

Posted June 11th, 2013 - 12:11 pm from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted June 13th, 2013 - 1:42 pm from Rotterdam, Netherlands
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Posted June 19th, 2013 - 11:17 pm from Melbourne, Australia
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Posted June 5th, 2013 - 12:40 pm by from Atlanta, United States (Permalink)
Hi Tony:

First of all, thank you for doing these discussion forums. They are quite open and very much appreciated by most.

I have a question about the integrity of the reference system. How would CS address abuse outside the CS community?

As you are aware, there are at least a couple of unofficial CS groups on Facebook where members can post pretty much anything. On one of these groups, which has over 5300 members, I found a post from a CS member in Taiwan asking for comments on a negative reference he received. The reference seemed valid on its face.

The conversation quickly degenerated, with members calling the person who left the negative reference stupid, retarded, not normal, etc. In effect, what they are trying to do is bully this woman into removing her negative reference. To me, this is a serious issue because it affects the integrity and safety of the reference system.

I reported this abuse to the CS Safety Team (Ticket #51439) and was told there was nothing they could do about it. "People are allowed to express their opinions, assumptions and thoughts, not only within our system but also in others (like Facebook). In reviewing the content you have included here, the statement is not one for us to act on as it's not abusive." I was told my best route is to report it to Facebook. Why would Facebook care?? Their system is not the one being abused!

I think it is the worst form of abuse of the CS system because if it is left unresolved, members wil realize that, as long as they take their abuse outside the CS site, CS (while not condoning it, of course) won't/can't do anything about it.

A second negative reference has already been left on this woman's profile by a friend of the host who has never even met her. It basically called her ungrateful for the free couch and asked her how she could do this to his friend.

I take the reference system VERY seriously, as it is the ONLY way I can truly know about others' experiences with a host or surfer. If people can bully someone until they remove a negative reference - no matter where that occurs - we should all be concerned.

Again, thank you for answering all our questions for the past dozen weeks or so!

Michael

Posted June 24th, 2013 - 1:09 am from Christiansted, US Virgin Islands
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Posted June 24th, 2013 - 9:34 am by from Playa del Carmen, Mexico (Permalink)
Reading through the various comments there is one in particular which I stumbled upon and which i would like to comment on, that of David/COCYTUS

"nothing could be further from the truth" referring to references and vouches being indication of activity.

I totally agree with you that many references or vouches could have been abused in term of "reliability".
I've heard of more than one "active CSer" who were racing for references and vouches and begging people to vouch them.

I do believe however that these are exceptions.

Today I think the referencing system we have in CS is important and I wouldn't change it radically.

When looking for Active members, personally I would look for people hosting, surfing, creating events or participating to events, with references and vouches.
This should be done in a timeframe.
Some people were active years ago and today are silent.
Others just started and are very active, so their activity is isolated in the most recent months.
Somebody who hosted 100 People in 2010 but stopped and another person who is hosting right now and has hosted 70 people in 2013 have "similar" numbers but should be taken in account of in a different way.

References, vouches, guests and hosts and events ARE a kind of measure of a CSers activity, they just need to be looked at with a clear mind and not as numbers.

Many people spend hours on CS forums writing.
These people are active members too.
I do not want to reduce the importance of those who write a lot on the forums of this site, however I truly believe 90% of couchsurfing is done away from the computer...not AT the computer.

"Sleeping on a couch is not the “raison d'etre” for CS"
True..but it is the biggest reason for the existence of this site.
Take away the events, the meetings, the site...hosting/surfing is the main part which remains.



Posted June 24th, 2013 - 3:32 pm from New York, United States
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Posted June 25th, 2013 - 9:13 am from Los Angeles, United States
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Posted June 25th, 2013 - 12:29 pm from London, England
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Posted June 25th, 2013 - 6:25 pm from Saint-Brieuc, France
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Posted July 15th, 2013 - 1:50 pm by from Moscow, Russia (Permalink)
Technical:/Places Categories/Places to stay/

Dear Tony,

as you might see most of the posts under "Places to stay" are simply couchrequests. We are really tired of that. I suggest to either

- completely remove this text&link: "If you have a different question or comment about finding places to stay, you can start a conversation"

or

- change it to something like: "If you are in an emergency situation please feel free to post in the Last Minute (Emergency) Sub-Group

or

- change it to something like: "If you have a different question or comment about finding places to stay, you are welcome to check this Group

Posted July 25th, 2013 - 2:11 am by from Washington, United States (Permalink)
I think it is generally confusing to both hosts and surfers to have three places to post public couch requests:

1. In the "Last Minute Couch" subgroups
2. On the place pages - under the "Places to Stay" category
3. Via the Open Couch Request system

To get maximum exposure, a potential surfer will post a request in all 3 places. Hosts have to check all three places to find all surfers looking for hosts.

The site would be much easier to use if there was a single place or method of posting open couch requests. I know that you are working on the open couch request system and I would hope the new system would be the only place that you would need to post open couch requests.

Posted July 25th, 2013 - 7:48 am by from Moscow, Russia (Permalink)
Jordan,

here is a simple explanation:

1. Last Minute (Emergency) subgroups - are subgroups created for emergency situations, when suddenly a traveller has no place to stay

2. Couchrequests are explicitly prohibited at Place pages

3. Open Couchrequest is actually the only one place where you can post public couchrequest (except emergency situations)

Ideally surfers supposed to use couchsearch system (which is in terrible condition now, the old one used to be much better) and search/find likeminded people who may host them and then contact them.