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Archive for the 'Campaigns' Category

Casey attempts to sell Groups posts to Google, members protest en masse

If he was any more blatantly deceitful, we’d have to call him Zuckerberg! Step right up trusting travelers, and watch how Casey Fenton attempts to sell all your old (and current, and future) Groups posts for profit!

And if not for cash, then surely for the added marketing value (worth real money, and lots of it), to allow Google and every other web site and search engine to add what you thought you were sharing with only fellow CS-members, to their fully public, permanent record that is the global internet.

All the personal trip and traveler feedback you thought you were sharing only with other CS members? Sorry, surprise, now everything you posted on CS is part of the public record, forever. And, perfectly searchable.

I realize Casey’s announcement(s) have mostly to do with Groups posts, but isn’t he trying to put into place the exact same kind of exposure and sale of all your information, including your profile? Your profile picture? Isn’t he playing the exact same kind of despicable game that Zuckerberg plays?

Make no mistake about what Casey is attempting to do, exactly like Zuckerberg/Facebook – blatantly deceive you, to gain your trust and persuade you to add to his mountainous pile of traveler feedback, then once he has your trust (and your posts and personal information) he sells everyone’s posted information to enrich himself, personally.

This has been his goal since the inception of the entire CS project, he just didn’t have any buyers yet. Until now. Until Facebook became the story to copy. Until he invested considerable effort in building the largest list of users he could accumulate, to ensure the biggest pay-day he could arrange for himself.

I’ve noticed that despite several fundamental issues which members have complained about for literally years, that are never even acknowledged… in all this time, the most visible efforts seen from the inner circle and their hiring decisions, seemed to always be about PR (public relations), suppressing the publication of complaints, outright denial of reality, and spreading the gospel. To grow the list of users. To fatten the calf before the slaughter.

In classic Cult-of-Casey style, he sells you out without a warning or your consent, but when the backlash proves substantial and it turns out that people don’t want any part of what Casey’s selling, he tries to spin his scheme as something that he only intended in the best of ways, something to help you!

I don’t know which kind of people I despise more strongly – users, or liars. Let alone a career scam-artist highly skilled in both exploiting and lying to people. But the recent investors want the maximum return on their investment, so just as others have predicted… let the sale (of information you donated in good faith) begin!
Fresh email from HQ, just received, sent to all CS “members.” Stare into the face of pure exploitation and bald-faced lies:

“We’ve heard you: Change to plans regarding groups”
Dear CouchSurfers,

Last week, we sent an email in which we announced our plan to make CS groups available to search. We made this decision because the team had received member complaints that some newer members of the site didn’t seem to be joining for the right reasons. We thought that allowing people to see more of what CS is about before they join might help address this problem.

The members disagreed! We’ve heard from hundreds of people who are very opposed to this approach. I’m very sorry to have caused so much distress. It’s clear that this is something that members care deeply about, and I respect the need to approach it differently.

We have made two major changes to our plan:

Group posts created in the past will not be available to search. The only posts that will be visible to search engines will be those created after February 15, 2012. This will protect the privacy of any members who no longer use the site and may not be aware of the changes.

All members will have the option to keep all of their posts hidden from search and from non-members. Just as we currently allow you to keep your profile hidden from anyone who is not logged in, we are now building another privacy option that will allow you to easily specify that your group posts should not be visible to search engines or people who are not logged in. This privacy option will apply to all of your posts, both past and future.

These two factors combined mean that the only posts that will be visible to search will be those made in the future by people who choose not to make their participation in groups private.

I sincerely hope that this approach will protect the privacy needs of all CouchSurfing members while also giving people who are considering joining CS an accurate impression of who we are – a community, not a place to find a free place to crash.

If you still have concerns about this, I invite you to email me at and share your thoughts. The team makes all of its decisions with the intention of making CS better for its members. It seems that this time the change we wanted to make would actually have made it worse, and for that I’m sincerely sorry. I’m glad that you responded with your concerns: your reactions helped us see various sides of the issue that we had not considered. I know that CS groups are considered to be a safe and comfortable place to express yourself fully, and I would never want that to change.

Thank you for your patience and for your passion,

Casey Fenton
Co-Founder, CouchSurfing International

Replacing The Airplane-Symbol With Something Less Insidious

Why is the “I am traveling” logo on a couchsurfing profile symbolised by an airplane? That’s what a member asked himself. He suggests to have this “pernicious symbol” replaced with a drawing that better relates to what traveling is about.

Small in itself, I think this is quite an important observation, and a great way for Couchsurfing also to reach out to the community. For example to ask for new drawings and have members to vote on those. But instead of seeing this as an opportunity to increase member-involvement, this was the answer:

Thank you for your suggestion! We have added your idea to the wish list for the tech team. However, please note that our tech team’s “Must Do” list is large, followed by a larger “To Do” list, followed by an even larger “Wish List.” Therefore, we have no way to tell you if, or when, your suggestion may ever be implemented.

A plan for dramitic change and its already started.

Hi people.

I have not come here to talk about CS history and its negativity, this site stands as testimony to that and needs little added to it. I have come here to talk about a plan for the future and its abundant potential positivity for the community. If you are interested in the community and finding solutions to the problems it faces, then this project is for you.

Most of us are naturally positive, altruistic and open, it is our nature as humans. Many of us normally chilled people have become incensed and even outraged, at the state of the organisation at the heart of our community, its actions or lack of them and the dubious legal positions that leaves them and us in. This is a bad situation that we have all been painfully aware for far too long and that must change. Now is the time to make that change! Are you ready?

The plan is to create a new site and organisation (Couch Surfing Community org) that will initially supplement and CSI, filling their numerous gaps. Our belief, is that we have many times more resources, than is needed, within the community, to form a totally fresh organisation, owned and run by the community and for the community, open and accountable to the community. With the establishment of this additional organisation for the community, we expect it to grow and move forward, benefiting the community in countless positive ways, with the desired outcome of advancing way beyond CSI, making it mostly irrelevant or even taking it to the point of replacing CSI entirely.

The key is this plan is in its community ownership and community involvement. We are currently investigating how best to legally bind this project, it’s organisation, website(s), etc to the member base. (If you can assist with this then please get involved now) We feel that from this base we can build an organisation and website, that dose the community justice and facilitates the community to do the many good and positive things, that have long been desired.

A few of us techies have made a start. This is a quick and effective, off-the-shelf environment. It provides a free forum to collect, associate, focus, discuss and decide, the form of the project and the site it will create, the structure of the organisation and the projects it will work on.

We have successfully collectively collaborated to produce a great deal of talk on this site and elsewhere, this has taken a great deal of our time and energy. You are being asked now to spend a little time and energy to at least join this site and support the project and its mission, which you will shape. If you still have any passion for the community or a subset of it or even individual members, who have enriched your life, please join

If you have any skills or knowledge that you would like to contribute to this project then please email us

We are currently particularly looking for legal and organisational skills and knowledge to prevent the same legal and organisational bungles that the original bunch of techies made. Contributions made now to a successful project will probably be the most beneficial act you will ever make to help and support the cs community.

We are also calling on the wealth of technical skill out there, we know that there are numerous highly skilled individuals in our community, who have excellent skills and or ideas. If you are one of them and have a desire to help CSC move on from this technical and organisational hell, then please spare a few moment to join this project and any groups that take your fancy. There is a fair amount of work to do, building a new site and making the temporary site more useful, your community needs you now! Join Now! If you would like a free linux or windows server and sub domain for your country/city to get a local tech group going and work directly for your local community, as well as for the global one, then contact us, with a phone number and we can get you going in minutes.

Legal, organisational and technical are not the only skills we need. Communication is an important part of any endeavor. As the current members are techies, who are not built to produce nice texts, we could do with a copy editor or two. If you have a passion for communicating and CS then again please email us

If you are willing to actively contribute to any area of this project, then please email us directly Large and small contributions are all valid. Even if you only have a little time to spare, you contribution will still be valuable.

I’m known for using music to reinforce my posts. On this occasion i feel that there is only one song needed for this project…
Bob Marley – Rastaman Vibration(Positive Vibration)


some thoughts about positive action

I’ve been a couchsurfing volunteer for about 9 months, in which I started the couchsurfing wiki, did tons of work on the code, and much more. I was trying to open the organization in a radical way, pushing for a free software license of the code and creating a bit of chaos here and there.

The day I quit 3 other coders who had contributed considerable work to the CS code base quit as well. It was a sad day. However, we thought that would be able to put pressure on the organization to open up. We thought wrong, obviously.

Now and then I’ve seen people quit volunteering for CS, for reasons uncommon to most organization. Still, I thought couchsurfing would continue, and people would be reasonably happy to volunteer within the framework provided.

Currently, with so many long-term volunteers quitting in such a short time span I’m wondering: what can we do to really open up couchsurfing – even if just a tiny wee bit? (And I prefer to wonder openly.) And is it possible to do this all together? Apparently the people who were against opencouchsurfing in the past seem to be sharing several goals. Is there another way to peacefully make a positive difference?

All the long-term volunteers are or have been friends with members of the leadership team, can we do something with that?

Or can a consensus be found to start something new or revive BeWelcome?

(Feel free to contact me by email if you prefer, firstname dot lastname at gmail dot com – I’ll keep things private if you prefer so.)

Alleged rape through CouchSurfing

I just read this article on the British Dailiy Mail web site.

Terrible, terrible news. I only hope this leads to CouchSurfing improving the trust systems. I hope they don’t use it to promote verification even more, or make verification compulsory.

Checklist to Evaluate a Nonprofit Board of Directors

Last night I was skimming through a book about fundraising. I was surprised to see that members of the Board of Directors are tacitly supposed to give to the charity. So I googled a bit and found this Checklist to Evaluate a Nonprofit Board of Directors (courtesy of Greater Twin Cities United Way).

It’s hard to assess in how far the CouchSurfing Board is meeting these requirements, apart from 4 (recommended) and 15 (essential): all 5 members of the board have American citizenship, are living in California, are in their thirties, there is one female member and 3 out of 5 are receiving a salary.

Most of the other points don’t seem to be available for public scrutiny (at this point it’s even unclear to me if there are any bylaws).  It would be nice if there were a bit more clarity about this charity.

Indicator Met Needs
E 1. The roles of the Board and the Executive Director are defined and respected, with the Executive Director delegated as the manager of the organization’s operations and the board focused on policy and planning
R 2. The Executive Director is recruited, selected, and employed by the Board of Directors. The board provide clearly written expectations and qualifications for the position, as well as reasonable compensation.
R 3. The Board of Directors acts a governing trustees of the organization on behalf of the community at large and contributors while carrying out the organization’s mission and goals. To fully meet this goal, the Board of Directors must actively participate in the planning process as outlined in planning sections of this checklist.
R 4. The board’s nominating process ensures that the board remains appropriately diverse with respect to gender, ethnicity, culture, economic status, disabilities, and skills and/or expertise. NO
E 5. The board members receive regular training and information about their responsibilities.
E 6. New board members are oriented to the organization, including the organization’s mission, bylaws, policies, and programs, as well as their roles and responsibilities as board members.
A 7. Board organization is documented with a description of the board and board committee responsibilities.
A 8. Each board has a board operations manual.
E 9. If the organization has any related party transactions between board members or their family, they are disclosed to the board of directors, the Internal Revenue Service and the auditor.
E 10. The organization has at least the minimum number of members on the Board of Directors as required by their bylaws or state statute.
R 11. If the organization has adopted bylaws, they conform to state statute and have been reviewed by legal counsel.
R 12. The bylaws should include: a) how and when notices for board meetings are made; b) how members are elected/appointed by the board; c) what the terms of office are for officers/members; d) how board members are rotated; e) how ineffective board members are removed from the board; f) a stated number of board members to make up a quorum which is required for all policy decisions.
R 13. The board of directors reviews the bylaws.
A 14. The board has a process for handling urgent matters between meetings.
E 15. Board members serve without payment unless the agency has a policy identifying reimbursable out-of-pocket expenses. NO
R 16. The organization maintains a conflict-of-interest policy and all board members and executive staff review and/or sign to acknowledge and comply with the policy.
R 17. The board has an annual calendar of meetings. The board also has an attendance policy such that a quorum of the organization’s board meets at least quarterly.
A 18. Meetings have written agendas and materials relating to significant decisions are given to the board in advance of the meeting.
A 19. The board has a written policy prohibiting employees and members of employees’ immediate families from serving as board chair or treasurer.
Indicators ratings: E=essential; R=recommended; A=additional to strengthen organizational activities

CS uses SphinxSearch

I read that CouchSurfing uses SphinxSearch to improve member search. The software is available under the GPL or a commercial license.

I mention this here in the interests of collating technical data on how CS is built.

CS blocks Wayback Machine

Check here and here. You’ll see “Blocked Site Error.”

The site used to be available in the wayback machine, so it would seem that somebody at CouchSurfing International Inc has specifically requested that the site be removed from the archive. Is there any legitimate reason why such a request would have been made? Personally, I can’t think of any.

Couchsurfing The Movie

What do you want to do with your life? What is your mission? This is what Casey and Heather ask you in the marketing video “Couchsurfing The Movie”.

We will choose three Missions and CouchSurfers to star as the subjects in our documentary “Couchsurfing: The Movie” (expenses paid! sic). This journey isn’t just about sightseeing, it’s about traveling with a purpose!

Maybe the idea seems good to the regular couchsurfer, but the status and funding of this project is completely unclear. The website is hosted by Entrip while the project is co-produced and created by Alexandra Liss, also the owner of the websites. In her CS-profile she explains it a little bit herself:

I met Casey Fenton, who recently commissioned me to create the feature length documentary “Couchsurfing: The Movie,”– loving life right now and all the possibilities that this journey will lead to…

In her profile she also mentiones that she is busy with raising sponsorships. It is unclear though what type of expenses and funding are related. Casey mentions in the video that flight-tickets are fully paid, but do people also get some pocket-money? And what if you go hitchhiking? It is also pretty insane to see Couchsurfing Inc. promoting unsustainable forms of traveling such as flying – by the way. And how much community money is actually going into this project?

Let’s see when this project is to start though. First deadline was set for December 15th but now it is January the 15th, according to Still, the site is not ready yet and you cannot signin, upload or for example “Rate Missions and Vote”. (See also the beta-site which is a bit further developed).

The video is great though. It makes you laugh, guaranteed.

Quo vadis hospex?

Short and cynical comments on some could-be-existing networks:

  • * – Easygoing consumerfriendly network run by a bunchfull of burning men buddies with no strategy for the future at all. As they eat up an amazing amount of donations and the market for virtual social networks collapses with the international cashflow a simple sellout isn’t an option anymore. When the fun is over, I won’t share the hangover.
  • * – The google-ad homebase of a single men gathering people who don’t mind censorship in communication. If the communication system is working at all. Estimated 2 years behind reality. Hard to signup for newbies and without technical improvements a living dead.
  • * – Surviving from the stoneage of postwar hospitality exchange still not yet at home in the digital age but muddling through anyway.
  • * – Some core volunteers still suffer from restrictive mindsets (courtesy of, so progress in really opening up the network is small. Restrictions are still restrictions even if the code is GPL. The open source rebuilt of a common hospex-software is probably to slow to really suffer in the decline of big hospexnetworks, but may offer some software for other experiments (still a shitload of work).

Short but nevertheless also cynical theses for the future of hospex:

The hospitality exchange scene is and always was diverse. This won’t change, no, in the future the number of networks will probably rise and the importance of each one for the whole scene will shrink. I see two main future options / possibilities:

  • * Hospex as a gadget/plugin in other (commercial) networks like f**kbook, MyShit, soon T-Couch, iHospex, MacSleep, Sleepbucks and others – nothing I’d really care for, but something that would definetly keep some idiots out of things I like. There’s nothing wrong with it, but please leave me alone.
  • * Hospexnetworks with very specialized communities like gay boyscouts, polite gamblers, frustrated florists … A disadvantage of this kind of networks is the absence of bigger diffences within them, as there is always a common interest / category. So somehow it’s a bit limiting and cultural exchange simply fails with out differences. A solution could be megasearches between open parts of these networks, profile transfers and easy access. Besides smelling like violating privacy all over the place, it’s all theory right now.

And why this ranting?

I’ve spent and still spend some of my free time to volunteer for hospex networks, but from time to time it’s good to reconsider engagement. Right now it feels like being stucked between something halfdead, that is still working from an user-only point of view, and a luck of ideas/projects to improve/develop things.

So maybe it’s time to look for something useful to do in other areas?