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Archive for the 'Corpganization' Category

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SPOF’s as source of income

I wrote earlier at this blog that development at Couchsurfing isn’t the most stable part of the network. Today, lack of communication, as well as a simple programming error made a well respected member of the community leave. This can be read at a post by Thomas, as well as on the original source.

What really amazed me was the reason of the leave: a programming error, and not one, but one of many. I quote:

Another issue that was concerning me were bugs with simple fixes. Europeans consistently use commas to separate dollars and cents. However, many transactions were processed incorrectly, due to the comma. A member would attempt to donate 21,50, and 2,150 would be charged. Then it’s up to the member to notice the error, since we did not mail out receipts. I attempted and notified the LT that we should fix this ASAP, but it didn’t take top priority.

To be honest, I do not fully agree with Thomas stating that this is a scam, but I’m surely interested whether all the money is payed back as it should be. The programming error also makes clear that the creditcard-payments are handled at itself, instead of a payment broker. I’m not very clear if I would be glad to be a verified member…

Verification Team Leader resignation

It’s been a while since I’ve done any posting on OCS, but I stumbled across this post from the previous Verification Team Leader which provides invaluable information from the inside. It’s a long and painful read, but here’s what caught my attention the most:

  1. The Verification Team Leader himself admits that verification is a financial scam. There have been a lot of articles about this on OCS already.
  2. The sexual atmosphere at the collective has become even more out of touch with the real world and what Brian describes is absolutely cult behavior.
  3. Brian has only been volunteering for a year and he already writes: “And from what I read and gather, that’s fine by the LT. Seems that long-term volunteers are a pain in someone’s ass… not that they remember how CS was, but because they state issues, they are seen as trouble makers. I’m now one of them, I suppose.”

Welcome to the world outside of CS Brian!

The original post, now saved for prosperity and googlification:

I am attempting to abide by the guidelines within this group. I share here my letter to Jim and Casey for the reasons why I resigned as the Verification Team Leader, as many Ambs wrote to me off-site and asked for the ‘real reason.’ Here it is.

Dear Jim and Casey:

As you know, I’ve resigned as the Verification Team Leader. I currently remain on as a City Ambassador, NMW, CUQ Team Member, and co-moderator of the CUQ Team, unless you decide that it is not to be. I’ve always realized that this is your site, and the volunteers have very little to do with the direction that CS takes.

When I resigned from the verification team, it was a quickly written message to you. I had logged on, noticed yet another bug within the verification system, and realized that it was time for me to move on. I immediately remembered the bug of July 30 and 31 where everyone who tried to donate did so over and over, so their money was taken several times, many more than ten, but their profile was not updated. That bug immediately cost twelve man hours and we refunded almost $35,000 to members. I did not want to repeat that thankless amount of time working for free, with a ‘thank you’ given as a token gesture.

My thoughts of resigning actually began the week that I spent in San Francisco, at Base Camp. Jim and I spent a couple of weeks back and forth on email, trying to see if a ‘couch’ could be found for me at Base Camp. Mind you, this was not to be just a vacation for me, but Jim and I were going to work together to get me better trained. Back and forth the emails went, and the final note was basically, “We’ll house you somewhere… if you’re willing to sleep on a couch, then we’ll have room.” Not expecting anything else, I truly appreciated the housing accommodation as any true surfer appreciates an offer of accommodation.

The first weekend I was in SF was SF Gay Pride and I stayed with another CS friend. She also had another surfer (I’ll call her, D, as she has a starring role in this saga) for the weekend. We were invited to a CS brunch. Knowing that D was looking for longer-term couches due to a yoga class she was taking in SF, I introduced her to a group from BaseCamp at the brunch. When I mentioned that D was taking classes for Yoga, a couch was immediately offered to her at BC. And for a “week or so.” Mind you I had been emailing back and forth so that we could get some work done, but here was a young, cute lesbian who knew yoga, and she had a couch without any checking. Hmmm, didn’t someone say awhile back that if you’re cute and young……… and I’m sure one LT member would be very welcoming, in his mind.

A small side item… shortly after my visit, Jim, you requested a “friend” link. We were never friendly. We were friendly enough talking about work, etc… but while I visited SF for a week, you never once attempted to get to know me, to become friends.

I’ve coordinated volunteers for years, with many different organizations. Typically, an organization seeks to appreciate, thank and motivate all of it’s volunteers. I’ve never known an organization to house, feed and pay any of it’s volunteers. There’s never been (in my experience) an attempt to make the volunteer jobs of remote volunteers any better in this organization… not so if you’re at base camp. Meetings are held about how to make the dull volunteer’s jobs and lives better. More parties? More travel? More roadtrips? More alcohol and drugs? Perhaps you need more rooms for casual sex or perhaps an orgy room?

There are 100′s, perhaps 1,000′s, of volunteers who put in many hours in support of The CouchSurfing Project. 99% of those receive nothing in return, except perhaps an Ambassador flag. These volunteers work countless hours answering member questions, responding to issues, groups management, event management, locations management, AST/AMT, Ambassadors, spreading the word, and working remotely on Tech issues, and, until recently, assisting members with the Verification Program. Yet, there are a very few special volunteers who CS seem to revolve around.

These ‘core volunteers’ who live at BaseCamp or one of the collectives (mind you many may not have had a profile before becoming a ‘core volunteer’ or their profile had few references, vouches, or perhaps they hadn’t even become verified — profiles that I would be hesitant to surf/host with…) are asked to help make decisions (by voting at BC) and other important issues, but they seem not to be surfers, at all. Most seem very unwelcoming… that another someone is invading their secret society at BaseCamp. More than one person has said of BaseCamp, “they don’t seem like surfers.”

And if you’re tired of living in San Francisco, by all means, go to Costa Rica, or even to Turkey, where we can show even more appreciation to those we’ve already shown appreciation to. While “collectives” are said to be a mechanism of reaching out, most have their doors closed — except to a special few. And by the way, CS will pay you to go ‘home’ to your new house. My understanding is that to even be considered for Turkey, you’ll have had to do at least 3 hard months at BaseCamp or Costa Rica. Wow, things are hard! We’re sorry, let’s let you go to Turkey for awhile.

Many feel that the “volunteers” who live at BaseCamp are spoiled and self-righteous. Many also feel that they do not represent CS well, as many do not seem to be “surfers” at all. Many also realize that nepotism helps you to secure a spot. It’s been stated over and over that “who you know” has no bearing on who is ‘invited’ to live at BaseCamp. I don’t think so. Mrs. Gadget has housing and a position. Jim’s girlfriend has housing and a job. *Please NOTE that I have NOTHING against neither Ms. Gadget nor CaseyAnn personally.* A former house manager was a friend of TTT’s (so it’s been reported).

And not just housing, by the way. We’ll also give you a job! And a title, perhaps. Let’s not worry if you know nothing about Human Resources, Volunteer Coordination, or have no accounting background. Many members and Ambassadors also believe that it helps someone secure BaseCamp status by returning sexual favors. At least you have the rooms/space set up for it.

I’ve never been to a non-profit’s headquarters where there were rooms specifically for sexual encounters. And it comes with anal beads, mind you. Don’t get me wrong… I am a Sex Positive person. but when positions and housing and food and travel are given because of this, then the word volunteer should be changed to another word, meaning the exchange of sex for cash or other tangible items. Do you think the American Red Cross has anal beads anywhere within their headquarters? I realize we are not the same, but still.

So, if you volunteer at BaseCamp, you’ll be rewarded richly. You’ll be housed in one of the most expensive cities in the US, or live in an international location with all the amenities you could never afford yourself volunteering.

The prior verification team leader received an amount for each verification. It makes sense to motivate this person. They are your key to income. Due to poor communication and no technical help, she resigned. I was asked to step in, and I did so. Mind you, I was never told about an “incentive” nor asked if I would like to volunteer at BaseCamp. So be it. The ‘volunteers’ who took the team over, 3 of them, will all be rewarded richly for their ‘hard work and dedication.’ They will be at BaseCamp, even though one is out of the country now so that the US government doesn’t catch on to what’s happening. I doubt the volunteers at BC actually tell Customs they are entering the US to be “paid” in housing and ‘stipends.’ Seems contradictory for a non-profit trying to gain Tax Exempt status to guide ‘volunteers’ on what to say so that the same government doesn’t block their entry into the US.

So, enough about me feeling sorry and not good enough to warrant an inquiry as to whether or not I’d like to be an “appreciated” volunteer and live at BaseCamp. We’ll bring in the store manager and let them stay a good 8 months, but not to worry, no work needs be done.

Many, many times I’ve answered members questions when they request a variance from the verification team, that “what we do for one, we must do for all.” CouchSurfing does not believe this. Let’s highly reward a very few, and the idiots who continue supporting our ‘chosen’ ones, will continue to do so, or leave. Not to worry, there are 1,000′s more who would love to give their time, energy and love to CS as others leave because they are tired of the BS.

Then comes the issue of disrespect to the volunteers who work their ass off to help us protect ourselves. Recently, a highly-respected long term volunteer left a negative reference for an LT member. Hers was the second negative reference. Both centered around inappropriate conduct. Almost immediately, the reference was removed by an LT member. NOT from the volunteer team with the responsibility to handle such issues — the MDST — but by a leadership team member. The member rewrote the reference, and it was put back onto “His” profile. Then, yet another LT member removed it. Mind you, if it were any of the 1,000′s of other volunteers NOT at BaseCamp receiving the reference, we would have had to wait until the MDST completed their review, and rightly so. But, if you “volunteer” at BaseCamp, then references don’t matter, it appears that an LT member can just delete ones they don’t like… regardless of whether it is factual or not. Again, what we do for one, we must do for all — does not apply.

Long-term volunteers are leaving in droves. I do not count myself as a long-term volunteer… I’ve only been volunteering the last year or so. And from what I read and gather, that’s fine by the LT. Seems that long-term volunteers are a pain in someone’s ass… not that they remember how CS was, but because they state issues, they are seen as trouble makers. I’m now one of them, I suppose.

Another issue that was concerning me were bugs with simple fixes. Europeans consistently use commas to separate dollars and cents. However, many transactions were processed incorrectly, due to the comma. A member would attempt to donate 21,50, and 2,150 would be charged. Then it’s up to the member to notice the error, since we did not mail out receipts. I attempted and notified the LT that we should fix this ASAP, but it didn’t take top priority.

Then there’s the issue where members were using other person’s credit cards and the cards were approved. Even though the names did not match. Changing the wording from “Name has been checked” to “Identity Checked” doesn’t quite cut it, in my opinion.

The push to hit up members within their first few hours of joining is an attempt to raise funds, not to make the system safer. Period. It’s for money. Sadly, I believe that the same amount of money could be raised by asking for a donation, simply and plainly… but you seem to not want to ask for funds to keep the service ad-free and running… but calling it ‘verification’ seems to rid you of the guilt in asking for funds.

So, with that, you have my ‘real’ reason for resigning. If you’d rather I not volunteer at all, I’ll understand. I still believe in the spirit and ideals of CouchSurfing and love meeting other surfers and hosts. I do not have to be a volunteer to do that. I will remain on to help other Ambassadors and community members.

I would like to train future ambassadors on how they can best serve the community, our fellow surfers and hosts. I also wish to remain on as a co-coordinator of the CUQs… again, to help my fellow members and ambassadors.

However, I leave that to you. Either way, I’m happy to not have the stress and pressures. I never could fill my predecessors shoes, and 3 replacements will have a difficult time in filling mine. But now that they are all “corporation volunteers” they will fall in line, or lose their ‘core volunteer’ status, not to mention their housing, food and travel expenses.

Casey, this is to you personally. I believe you have great ideas and a great site here. But I also believe that you have advisors who advise you incorrectly. I believe that they only have their best interests at heart. You have an LT member who actively gropes and fondles females… female volunteers, and female guests. Many, many times we lowly members and volunteers have heard of how he places his genitalia on other volunteers’ keyboards. Again, I am not a prude… I’m a sexually positive person and believe sex should be enjoyed — with a consensual partner! He gets away with it, but it will come back to bite you in the ass. He will grope the wrong person, and there will be a price to pay. Please do not be like the Catholic Church and shuffle this person off to a place where women are traditionally treated like material objects… where his gropes will be just as emotionally damaging, but where the objects of his unwanted advances will probably not speak out due to cultural issues. Don’t put a wolf in the chicken coop. You already have one ambassador within walking distance of CS who won’t speak out publicly about the things this person has done to her, and in her home. Is this really the best you can do to coordinate/energize your Ambassador corp?


Verification ticks on images

Today I noticed that a green tick now appears on the images of CouchSurfing members who have paid for verification. I notice these ticks on groups, I assume they’re all over the site. Wherever you see a thumbnail picture of a person, it marks who have paid and who have not.

This continues what Jim Stone started back in New Zealand all those years ago. A campaign to drive verification revenues ever higher. Given that you only need to pay once to become “verified”, CouchSurfing International Inc rely only on a continual stream of new members to make “donations”. If they can increase the percentage of people “donating”, more money for the coffers.

Perhaps we can subvert this new feature by framing our own profile pictures and adding a different symbol to donate that we opt out of the so-called “verification” system. We could even combine that with a real verification system based on the verification of actual identity and physical location. Food for thought… :-)

CS 2008 Finances

Today I noticed that the CouchSurfing 2008 finances have been updated for the whole year. I whipped up a graph to show where the money goes.


Employee related expenses account for 62.8% of total expenses. In that figure I’ve included salaries, tax, payroll fees, rent, travel, food, and staff development. Admin expenses includes anything not in hosting / verification. Hosting is server costs plus telephone / communication. I suspect most of the telephone / communication expenses belong in Employees, but I left it there to be on the safe side. Finally, verification, the source of 99% of the income, costs only 6% of total expenses. I included printing and mailing in the verification cost.

The numbers are:

Employees: $405’440.59
Admin Expenses: $116’901.33
Hosting costs: $86’723.33
Verification: $36’589.83

It costs more than $400k to staff CS Inc with how many employees? Five? That would be a cost of $80k per person per year.

Hopefully this helps to understand where the money goes.

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.

A Non-Profit Award for Couchsurfing?

Somehow, I always think it is funny when CS defines itself, knowing that whatever it says about being so wonderful and inclusive, doesn’t count for the organisation itself.

By the very definition of our mission, we have a commutation solution that is 100% inclusive. We invite everyone everywhere into the community: old, young, conservative, liberal, east, west, black, white, gregarious, introverted, rich or poor. The beauty of addressing a communications challenge of this nature—bridging cultural differences and building understanding between people around the world—is that the more diverse our membership base is, the more fully we will achieve our communications goals.

This excerpt is from the submission of Couchsurfing Inc. for the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR), where Couchsurfing won the Award “for Excellence in New Communications” for Nonprofits November last year.

We operate on a shoestring budget. This has required us to become experts in distributing our workload to a large, often remote, volunteer work force. We currently only have four paid staff members. We have two approaches to make this happen: sophisticated online volunteering tools that allow hundreds of members to easily perform needed tasks such as individually greeting every new member, and responding to every member inquiry

If you feel like ranting protesting, comments go here.

A Couchsurfing Career Life With Benefits that Money Can’t Buy

Have you always wanted to be a “Ambassador Management Coordinator” or “Safety Systems Coordinator” for CouchSurfing? Now you can! CS published their “career openings“, or “couchsurfing careers“. Since these openings are not even linked from anywhere on the CS-website yet, you might stand a fairly good chance (it got posted!) to get one of the 14 full-time jobs, and become part of their family.

You may wonder why so many talented people volunteer for CS when they could have high paying jobs in the corporate world. The reason is that CS provides benefits they can’t find anywhere else. We live and breath CouchSurfing, and we are all a family.

Although you have to pay your first travel to the “Couchsurfing Base Camp” yourself, CS provides all full-time volunteers and employees “with free housing and meals”. In addition, each full-time staff member “has the opportunity to live abroad for several months of each year at one of our amazing Collective locations while maintaining a home and life in the San Francisco Bay Area”.

If you are the lucky enough to get one of the 14 listed full-time jobs, you will first have to go trough a three month trial period, after which you will be rewarded with “travel tickets, travel expense reimbursements and eventually paid salaries”. However, you will have to consent to your bos(ses) (“supervisors”) and keep yourself to the following social rules, meaning that you shall

- maintain positive references from other surfers or hosts.
- treat your team supervisors and other volunteers with respect.
- follow standards and procedures established by teams you work with.
- follow priorities and objectives established by the team supervisors.
- communicate in a calm and compassionate tone (‘thou shalt not flame’).

So what are you waiting for, go and apply for your role! Current (as per 1st of November) “openings” include:

Administrative Assistant; Ambassador Management Coordinator; Database Administrator; Developer, Events Coordinator; Human Resources & Personnel Coordinator; Marketing Coordinator; Member Communications Coordinator & Writer; Safety Systems Coordinator; System Administrator; Gardener / Landscaper; IT Assistant; Trainer, Educator, Coach, or Expert.

Note that there are currently 14 full-time positions available, while there are only 15 people supposed to stay and live in the Couchsurfing Base Camp. At the moment though, according to Matthew, there are already 15 people living there…

Security through lies

Most readers here know that the famous MDST (Member Dementing & Sensorship Team) deletes threads for “security reasons”. No, there are no security problems at CS. Never heard about thieves, molesters and similar stuff. Of course it’s a stupid way to “clean” the community, but at least it helps to sell out the company if the application for “non-profit”/”charity”-stuff in New Hampshire fails. (Or Casey just get bored of CS.) But that’s not the issue here.

Yesterday the news at CS announces:

Buggin’ Out!

Fixes to the “location bug” brings back functionality better than ever!
20. March 2008 Once again, the shining stars on our tech team have successfully tackled an error in the system to get things back to normal on the site for you.

You may have noticed the site was offline for a short while today. This downtime was scheduled so the tech team could fix the recent issues experienced with correctly reflecting members’ locations.

Check out what features are back for you!

* Nearby travelers on members’ home page will now actually be nearby!
* When you search for a couch in a city, you can now effectively search for members within a chosen radius of that city. Let’s say you want to CouchSurf in Gdansk, Poland but there are only a handful of CouchSurfers there. You can once again search for a couch within, say, 20 km of Gdansk. Hurray!
* Location map on member’s profiles will reflect the correct location. Members will no longer randomly be placed in Africa… unless you live in Africa!
* Recent member login location will reflect correct location as accurately as possible. (Click here for information on why it may not always be right) If you were logged in during the downtime, you may need to log out and log back in to show the proper location.

A round of applause for the tech team volunteers- job well done!

First of all: Great, they finally not only do something with the code they also announce it. I’ve also noticed, some minor bug fixes have been done (months after reporting) and some small improvement are online, most of them asked for again and again in the last years. But nothing really impressing. And here the good news already stop.

So let’s “check out what features are back” for us: All the four points mentioned in the news are based on one single topic: IP adresses and their localisation. As even CS explains at the linked page it’s not accurate. There are several reasons for that, like wrong settings from your ISP, using of company firewalls etc. This caused a lot of CUQs and cockroach posts when I was doing this kind of stuff. And it’s simply not to fix, the whole idea is a mistake.

If it works properly IP localisation is a serious threat against privacy. Your company sees where and when you login (during work time? from somewhere else when you call in sick?), so you may loose your job. Your stalking Ex is able to track you. At some places the nearby couchsurfer feature is widely used to annoy females with inapprobiate mails. Exact localisation while travelling is a useful information for criminals interested in your unguarded flat (this is especially useful if you’ve got a verified adress and CS places the the google marker in search exactly at your home).

But the main point is: IPs can easy be faked/changed. There are several services in the internet who offer anonymous access to webpages, there is software like Tor to hide your IP and makes it very, very difficult to trace you. At the moment CS tries very hard to block IPs from those services/networks but it’s a ridiculous attempt and doesn’t work if you accept some reloads while using the software. If someone does the work to setup a profile for abusing CS, hiding the real IP is no big deal. And still CS calls this a security feature. As at least the techno crowd must know that’s not true, so insisting on IP-Localisation as security feature must be called what it is: a lie.

When you know an organisation is lying to you about a serious issue, how trustworthy it is at all?

PS – There is a lot to do about security at CS:
- encrypted login (SSL), especially because a lot of couchsurfers use the page from unsecure, public computers/connections while travelling
- really delete information, not only hide it (mails, profiles, …) but don’t hide useful information (profiles from thieves)
- don’t say it’s privacy VERSUS security,  it’s privacy AND security

John: “Casey’s style: indirect, manipulative, pulling strings from behind the scenes”

I think almost all of John’s comments deserve to be blog posts on their own. So I’m copying this one over here:


“I think it was Matrixpoint who said that Casey really insists that he is not the true leader of CS…”


Actually, I don’t know that he ever said this. On the contrary, since I first appeared at the Montreal Collective, and during the following year as a volunteer, I found it very difficult to determine the organizational structure of CS and Casey’s role in it.

Everyone knew that the organizational structure was being revamped as part of CS 2.0, but the only public information I could find was an organizational diagram on the website that showed a central box labeled “Admins and Founders” or the like, months after I left Montreal. I was disturbed to see this for two reasons: 1. the complete lack of detail of the internal structure of this box, and 2. it’s central position, which was in conflict with the agreed upon decentralized organizational structure suggested by the tree model (see the logo of this website) that was created during the Montreal Collective.

There was no particular mention anywhere that Casey was the supreme, unaccountable head of CS. He was only included among the list of 4 founders prominently featured on the website. There were no by-laws to be found. The only information available about the Admins was a brief statement that they were volunteers who helped with important administrative duties involved in running the website. No information about how they got their positions or whether there was a term of office, etc. No information about performance reviews, etc.

As someone who had begun volunteering full-time with the intention of working freely on behalf of the hospitality community for years to come, I sought clarification as to who I was actually working for. I made it clear that my intent was to work for the Community, not for Casey and the Admins unless they were in some way accountable to the Community. Why in the world would I (or anyone) work full time so that Casey and his hand-picked buddies could live it up in exotic locations, unless the Community who provided the support for that had some say in it?

I got no meaningful response to two lengthy requests for information from the Admins beginning in December, 2006. That’s when I started reconsidering my commitment to CS and paying attention to such matters as the NDA (another whole story in itself).

It wasn’t until the following year (in the spring I think) that Casey finally revealed to the developers that he was the sole member of the Board of Directors. (According to Pickwick, Casey’s told a different story to NH government officials).

So, you see, Casey’s style was very indirect. CS 2.0 was supposed to be about members participating in the operation and evolution of CS, and the emphasis was **decentralized** participation. It was “The CouchSurfing Project”, not “Couchsurfing International, Inc., Casey Fenton CEO and sole member of the Board of Directors”. “Do-ocracy” was promoted by at least one of the Admins, and another Admin was generating most of the communication which included a call for member involvement.” No where was it mentioned that these Admins derived all their power from Casey and that he quietly controlled everything with absolute authority. He rarely took a public stand one way or the other, but rather allowed people to form impressions, whether they agreed with his personal agenda or not, that he did nothing to correct.

An example of his indirect style was when he made Chris Burley the new Tech Team leader near the end of the New Zealand Collective. Chris obviously was functioning as Casey’s tool, being used by Casey to shake up the development team (probably due to issues with Joe and Kasper). Chris had very little familiarity with the code or with ongoing initiatives. He only had Casey’s authority backing him up and used it to rule with an iron fist, announcing that no “personal ideologies” would be tolerated and all developer-initiated projects would be put on indefinite hold. (Developers were clearly now to be thought of as order-following employees, but without the pay, not co-participants in a project to make the world a better place.) Casey remained quietly in the background while Chris took most of the heat for Casey’s “house-cleaning”. Chris quietly dropped off the radar by the end of last summer, as if his usefulness as a tool had expired.

What was most disturbing to me about this incident was that not long before this Casey had finally talked with me on the phone (after a 3 month wait) for a few hours and we seemed to have reached a meeting of minds. I explained to him that I would begin no new projects until the NDA was fixed (as he had promised some nine months before). I told him that it was outrageous as it stood. He said nothing in response. But he actually invited me to participate in the formulation of the organizational structure that was in its final stages. I said, yes, I would very much like to be involved. The result of this call was that I felt Casey had heard my concerns and that I now was getting some respect as a full-time volunteer (of more than half a year).

So I was very shocked that Casey appointed Chris, without even consulting me or any of the Tech Team about it, especially since he had the opportunity to discuss it with me on the phone and had given me the impression that he wanted me to be in the loop when it came to organizational issues.

I was even more shocked when I sent him an email saying that although Chris might be a good choice based on his past general contributions (this was before his new personality as a “leader” emerged) but that he didn’t have enough technical knowledge to lead the team, and a least another co-leader who did was needed. Casey never responded to my email.

I was even more shocked when the new organizational structure was announced (completely done in secret), and that what little apparent accountability it seemed to include amounted to nothing.

I was ultimately shocked when the proposed NDA came out (after a year) that was supposed to be the “fixed” version, but it was 10 times worse than the original. It had the feel of the Patriot Act to me. I was utterly uppalled by the mindset that produced it, and by the way this whole drawn-out fiasco was conducted by Casey and his appointed elite.

I certainly felt the trust I had put in Casey as a result of the phone call completely betrayed, and I took the NDA as an indirect message to me that I was no longer wanted as a developer, since I had publicly announced I would no longer begin any new projects if the NDA wasn’t sufficiently fixed.

I would have much preferred that Casey had told me this directly, as I would have preferred that he shake-up the Tech Team himself instead of having a henchman do his dirty work for him.

This is Casey’s style: indirect, manipulative, pulling strings from behind the scenes, while giving a casual, no-worries, laid-back, often non-committal impression in public: a fun guy to party with.

In case any one is wondering whether Casey might have been justified in “cleaning house”, I can say that the 4 core developers made a huge contribution to CS, much more so than Casey, at least in the technical area, for most of the year following the Montreal Collective. (I suspect it was our very success that scared Casey, and threatened his absolute control.) Speaking for myself, the greatest problems I encountered as a volunteer developer were all caused either directly or indirectly by Casey or the Admins due to their arbitrary assertions of power without understanding the situation, extremely poor communication, and poor judgment. Working with the Community, on the other hand, was delightful and I still have those good memories.


Casey Fenton needs to stay

To clarify what OpenCouchSurfing is and isn’t and to give a more balanced view in our blog posts I’m writing this tiny blog post about why Casey Fenton needs to stay.

  • Casey might not be the most educated IT guru, but he’s definitely a guru and at this point he’s probably the only person capable of keeping the CouchSurfing website up and running.
  • The entire CS “Leadership Team” and Board of Directors consists of Casey’s friends. They would be quite clueless if Casey suddenly disappeared.
  • Casey is great. He might not have made the right decisions and I cannot agree with his attitude in many ways, but I am sure that I will feel happy if I will be able to give him a genuine hug again, maybe in 2009.

Still, even legally there is a problem with Casey in a paid position while being a member of the Board. And it would be totally useful if Casey’s ideas about transparency and volunteer participation would change a little bit. Though, also without it, with an estimated half a million US dollars coming in during year 2008 it’s unlikely that the ship will go down any time soon. And I am sincerely happy about that.