Location: The Couchsurfing Project >> We are upset that CS has become a for-profit corporation
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Who has some constructive problems with solutions about the website usability they want to share?
Posted February 13th, 2013 - 10:27 am from San Francisco, United States
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Posted February 13th, 2013 - 10:35 am from San Francisco, United States
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Posted February 13th, 2013 - 10:43 am by from Paris, France (Permalink)
"www.onecouchatatime.com - yea, that's me."

Hi Alex. You have a lot of nerve. I have flagged your post as commercial spam. Nice try, though...

Posted February 13th, 2013 - 11:20 am by from London, England (Permalink)
For me, the problems are inextricably bound up with the for-profit switch. That's what obliges CS to change the UI, to move away from the core hospitality element, and so on: to attract maximum, low-quality traffic.

Any 'patch' we could suggest here won't be taken seriously by the staff because it would conflict with their ultimate aim: that's why they just got rid of the sticky 'community details' in different place pages even though they had managed to alleviate some of the worst problems with place pages (and notwithstanding the dismay of everyone on Ambs Public).

In other words, the problems are too deep-rooted to fix by this kind of initiative. Now I haven't seen your movie, Alexandra, but I'm going to guess you didn't ask Fenton any tough questions about his sellout.

Posted February 13th, 2013 - 11:56 am from San Francisco, United States
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Posted February 13th, 2013 - 12:13 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
Oh Alexandra, nice try again. If we were on any team together I suppose I'd be aware of it. We are not, and we do not share any common basic values. I have seen more than enough of your spam and other posts not to have any interest in spending time with you.

If you don't want to dicuss your film, why did you sign your post with a link to your commercial website where you sell your product, in violation of the CS terms of use?

Posted February 13th, 2013 - 12:40 pm by from London, England (Permalink)
hahah - well, I'll sidestep the Alexandra Liss - Polyglot fight for a moment to focus on broader questions,for one reason: because I think that Alex's starting point is a common misconception on CS: that all the problems in CS now stem from either lack of competence on behalf of HQ, lack of knowledge or experience with the community, or the fact that Fenton has been pushed out. In fact, as I said above, I think that the for-profit switch made all these problems inevitable, and that Fenton is most to blame.

To answer Alex's last message to me:

"I think it is possible to make a profit and still be a socially aware business..."

That may or may not be true generally, but not in the case of hospex I think. CS was all about finding ways to do things cheaper or for free: hospitality, activities etc: based on altruism. If I don't receive a financial reward for opening up my home to you, then I get rewarded in other ways - gratitude, cultural exchange, couches for myself later on, etc. It's very difficult to find a way to really profit out of a community that's about avoiding financial exchange. That's why Tony Espinoza claims that the real engagement in CS is meetups (often in bars or restaurants which offer opportunities for commercial tie-ups) not hosting.

"You are saying that the Terms of Use is meant to attract low quality traffic? How do you figure?"

No - the place pages are meant to attract low quality traffic. That's why they are searchable via google, and why they have been centralised (not decentralised as you claim) around big-city hubs, with all the conversations from smaller towns etc pushed into the one page. The aim is, so far as I can see, to have a smaller set of high-traffic sites which can be used to market commercial deals, tie-ups for partners, etc. The terms of use come in at the point where all the data provided by new sign-ups can be used, sold on, etc.

"In San francisco alone, there are almost 10,000 conversations posted, mostly filled with CouchSurfers more consistently "asking for something/help”"

Yes, this is why I don't really understand why this is sustainable. If no-one replies to these conversations, then surely eventually post rates and traffic will drop away. However, admin have constantly refused all requests to roll-back to the pre-place pages group system - the obvious solution - which tells me there must be some financial motive for remaining as we are.

"Places should become a centralized Community Board based on location (similar to the old Group Board) but better! This would replace Conversations and also have a place for activities based on location as well. "

What you suggest is more or less what some cities had achieved with the 'community details'. London, Paris etc had large sticky guidelines forbidding couch requests in conversations. Hong Kong, as well as I think New York and other cities, had posts advertising newly created city groups which more or less played the same function as the old groups and were becoming quite popular. So, the logical conclusion would be to encourage that, no? But Then admin deleted the community details, for quite spurious reasons IMO, including the suggestion that they were 'unwelcoming to new members'.

I suspect the reason is that they didn't want to forbid Couch Requests on conversations (as they are an easy way for people to try and get hosted without taking the time to understand the site or community) and they didn't want other groups taking traffic away from the place pages. The place pages are clearly an integral part of their business plan.

This is what I mean by the fact that the for-profit drive renders well-meaning attempts by users to fix these kinds of community problems useless. The kind of community we used to have just wasn't and could never be profitable - in the ways that the investors want.

"As far as my film, I made the film BEFORE all these changes, so to be honest, I made it about a different CS"

You made it before the changes to the website, but the for-profit direction was announced in summer 2011. That's the place to start looking if you really want to understand why things have gone wrong now.





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Posted February 13th, 2013 - 12:42 pm by from London, England (Permalink)
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Posted February 13th, 2013 - 1:02 pm from San Francisco, United States
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Posted February 13th, 2013 - 2:06 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
Alexandra Liss wrote:

"Like I said, I am looking for solution oriented interactions, not angry people who thrive on putting others down."

"Are you that dense?"

"the blatant slander and misinformation is getting really old"

"the negative reference on your page describes the exact issue I am speaking of, so obviously you have a history."

"The only person you are hurting with this paranoia and negativity if yourself."

Right. Keep outing yourself for those who didn't know the character already, and showing us whose team Miss Liss really is on.

As for the "misinformation" on what constitutes commercial spam, here are links to some of your posts regarding onecouchatatime.com which were removed by CouchSurfing in the good old days when it was a non-profit organization.

http://www.couchsurfing.org/group_read.html?gid=3731&post=9021472

http://www.couchsurfing.org/group_read.html?gid=5186&post=9021463

Perhaps the interpretation has changed. We'll find out soon enough.

"I dedicated the last two years of my life for free".

Seems that you have forgotten the kickstarter money ($7.955?) which CouchSurfers donated to your project, at the time presented as a documentary on "How different parts of the world do love". Problems with your memory, or with the truth?

Posted February 13th, 2013 - 3:10 pm by from Dijon, France (Permalink)
Alexandra,

The essential problem in your analysis is that you evoke goals you find positive and seem to assume that CS management is actually in favor of these goals. While those of us aware of the history and inner workings of CS know that it is not true. And that in fact they have very actively worked, especially recently, to suppress any honest involvement by members of the CS community, destroying tools that have long existed, being transparently dishonest about their methods, plans and goals. It is impossible to participate from the inside, because even many members of the paid staff are completely unaware of the corporate goals and even of the actual structure of the business, which is guarded secret.

Posted February 13th, 2013 - 10:46 pm from Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain
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Posted February 14th, 2013 - 4:52 am by from Budapest, Hungary (Permalink)

will not screen Alexandra Liss's documentary.

Posted February 14th, 2013 - 10:02 am by from London, England (Permalink)
Copied from something I wrote elsewhere:
******

New CS management don't need more feedback. They get thousands of messages in their Zendesk forums, as well as lots of detailed analyses sent privately. Hell, in Ambs Public there are even people creating Greasemonkey scripts to add features to the website for free! The problem isn't that they don't know what's wrong. The problem is that their interests and the community's interests are no longer the same.
Therefore, if you want something positive and constructive to do, the best advice I can give is this: don't forget that hospitality exchange does not equal CS. There are other, better sites out there which are genuine non-profits (something I think essential to keeping the community spirit). BeWelcome for example is set up under French law, which would make a for-profit transition,as I understand it, effectively impossible: being far more strict than US law in this case. So I'd suggest you put your energy and passion into building that site instead. It's a lot more transparent and horizontally organised than CS, which has always been secretive and top-down. While I stay on CS to watch how the story will end, when it comes to actually meeting people, the alternatives now seem so much more attractive.

Posted February 13th, 2013 - 11:34 am from San Francisco, United States
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Posted February 13th, 2013 - 12:39 pm by from San Francisco, United States (Permalink)
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Posted February 14th, 2013 - 5:08 pm from Paris, France
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Posted February 15th, 2013 - 9:42 am from London, England
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Posted February 25th, 2013 - 1:29 pm from Rapperswil-Jona, Switzerland
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Posted February 14th, 2013 - 6:14 pm from Barcelona, Spain
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Posted February 15th, 2013 - 10:15 am by from Perugia, Italy (Permalink)
Dear Alex,
I have followed this squabble for a while.
I think there is a major misconception on your part about the purpose and the general spirit of this group. I think most people of this group are hardcore. Extremists, radicals if you will. AND I LOVE THEM FOR IT!
You see, I feel like you think of yourself of being in the right heartspace and all, but you accept the compromise. Excuse the pathos but, to me, this is what may be wrong with the world. The micro as a reflection of the macro:
Thinking you can change the system from within the system still implies that you believe the system to be real. Most people here, I think, are fully aware that Corporate Couchsurfing is nothing but a fiction, upheld by people believing it to be the only reality of the sort.
It sucks big time, and if your movie has the ability to reach many people it would be marvellous if it addressed the issue from that angle... But I guess this is wishful thinking.
I am very thankful for what couchsurfing gave me last summer.
So much so that I too made a little film about it (with my Ipod and analogue camera) as a gift to those who came to visit me in the summer of 2012.
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBm9ksG7CWM)
But all of it was due to its users, most of which agree that CS.com has been deliberately voided of its humaneness. CS has failed to be part of the solution and has become part of the problem. This is my humble opinion - and I know you haven't asked for it. Feel free to ignore.

lotta love
D.

Posted February 16th, 2013 - 5:54 pm from Paris, France
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Posted February 18th, 2013 - 4:15 am by from Albany, United States (Permalink)
Hey Alex--

CouchSurfing wasn't the first website to offer this kind of service, and hospitality networks have existed for many many many years. I myself am still part of some. CouchSurfing is nothing new.

I agree for the most part with BlueDragon. Most of the problem comes from the switch to a for-profit model.

You may or may not be aware of Edward Abbey's famous line, "Growth for the sake of growth is the philosophy of a cancer cell."

"What do you think CS's aim is then ? I think it is to scale, to grow, yes to turn a profit - but I think it is possible to make a profit and still be a socially aware business..."

This idea is a very Western, very popular, and very wrong. It's so sad that so many people realize that there is an optimal size for any organization, and Couchsurfing has gotten too big for its pants. I'm not sure how to say this, but the quality of the average Couchsurfer has gone downhill. Why do people, particularly Westerners, harbor this idea that things always need to get bigger?

The best way to kill couchsurfing is to make a documentary about it and flood it with people who don't know and don't understand it. Couchsurfing is not some cool club you join; it's a way to travel for less money. Every time I see someone make a CS documentary, or make a CS T-shirt, or some other promotional CS thing, I cringe, because this is not about marketing and branding!

Here's how to fix it. Return the Website to a real non-profit model and stop fucking with the interface. It worked perfectly fine before. It was clunky, but it worked. Stop making it cool. I don't need something that's cool, I need CS to be full of competent, reliable, conscientious, intelligent people who can't afford to travel any other way.



Posted February 18th, 2013 - 4:44 am by from Albany, United States (Permalink)
I also agree that there are other hospitality networks and that hospitality does not end at CouchSurfing. It's just a website, and I never had any strong loyalty to it. That's just silly. If it doesn't work, I'll just move on to one that does.

Also, this should have said, "It's so sad that so many people DON'T realize that there is an optimal size for any organization..."

Posted February 18th, 2013 - 9:31 am by from Budapest, Hungary (Permalink)
Thanks for your comment CHUCK!, I find it intelligent and wise.

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Posted February 18th, 2013 - 9:26 am by from Shenzhen, China (Permalink)
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Posted February 18th, 2013 - 9:29 am by from Shenzhen, China (Permalink)
Thanks CHUCK!, your first post is the first post I read since I joined the group, which aims to address/ananlyse the problem itself rather than just spreading the negative emotion about CS turning into a for-profit group. This attitude is very encourage.
We benefited from CS and want it to remain how it was, isn't this the direction we are going?

Posted February 18th, 2013 - 12:26 pm from Paris, France
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Posted February 18th, 2013 - 12:32 pm by from Paris, France (Permalink)
I'll be happy to host anyone who is enjoyable to host, whether it saves them money or not, as long as it doesn't reward those who screwed us or those who put money on them and their fraudulent business model.

Posted February 18th, 2013 - 10:45 pm by from Albany, United States (Permalink)
That's true--I didn't state what I meant very well.

What I mean is that money is a barrier that keeps people from traveling. Some people can't travel if they can't afford it. If these people don't travel, then there will be less cultural exchange or whatever you want to call it. I don't mind hosting people who are doing it to save money, and are conscientious and courteous. I have decided to give priority to those who have less money, out of principle. There is, of course, a difference between those who have little money and those who are truly poor.

I actually registered because I thought of Couchsurfing as an extension of the old "traveling anarchist" and "traveling quaker" networks, where you could ask your buddies for friends they know in other cities so you can crash on their couch for a few days and maybe do dome cleaning. So, actually, I kind of joined this site because it offered me a way to save money while traveling. And I honestly beleive that cultural exchange, or whatever you want to call it, comes through cheap travel. And I think that if people don't need to earn as much money, the world will be a better place because they will spend the time doing things they enjoy. Not everyone can have their dream job.

My impression from couchsurfing in South America is that poor people don't have the resources, usually, to host. My hosts were either foreigners who lived in a country they weren't born in, or wealthy natives. So my "cultural exchange" was limited to the perspective of middle- to upper- class transplants, or middle- to upper- class natives. It was still educational, but it's something to think about.

Posted February 19th, 2013 - 8:58 am from London, England
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Posted February 19th, 2013 - 9:58 am by from Budapest, Hungary (Permalink)
I use hospex sites to offer/find free accommodation.

1. I feel offended when I read statements like "CS is not about free... but cultural...", since I live in a country where the average monthly salary is 350 USD. Staying for free at other peoples places is not an option for me, but the door to explore other cultures.

2. I'd like to think about myself as a "traveling anarchist" (thanks CHUCK!) so I wouldn't like to feed the tourist industry anyway. Offering/accepting free accommodation is at least something I can do although it's only a mosquito bite.

3. Hospex isn't always fun. I met great people during my travels but had terrible experiences as well. I'm trying not to take advantage on anyone, but from a certain angle those who could afford to stay in a hotel but choose my place instead do take advantage on me since choosing worse conditions could be defined as an experiment in which I'm the mouse.

Don't take me too seriously! Don't take anything seriously! :)

Posted February 18th, 2013 - 10:10 pm by from Albany, United States (Permalink)
Thanks Echo!

Posted February 18th, 2013 - 1:46 pm by from Dijon, France (Permalink)
Believing that a business can be socially responsible is very different than thinking that business is socially responsible by definition.

CS has refused to even pursue the legal status of a "B Corporation" which it has falsely implied it has. Its first big investor, Benchmark, decided to renounce its "B Lab" seal of approval, finding that even that minimal level of accountability was too big a constraint.

If someone wants to promote socially responsible business, as the person who started this thread claims she wants to do, CS is a very bad example, a model of exploiting thin air for personal benefit, after having immorally and illegally stolen community assets.