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Archive for the 'people' 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

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.)

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 – the real background!

This blog is mostly run by BW-lovers with a clear agenda (make CS and HC look bad so their “oh-so-moral” alternative looks attractive). For all others, who still have a somewhat open mind and don’t fall so easily for Kasper & Co’s constant propaganda, here a link to our side of the story:

The real background about this “democratic, transparent, legal” (sic) network.

Couchsurfing Scheduled Downtime Policy

Scheduled downtime policy

  1. * <1 minute: Nothing else is required.
  2. * 1-4 minutes: Requires a “don’t panic” email to key volunteers through the emergency response channel notifying what is going on.
  3. * 5-29 minutes: Requires at least 12 hours notice to the Tech Team, the Communications Team and the emergency response channel.
  4. * 30-59 minutes: Requires at least one week notice to the Leadership Team (LT) & the Communications Team. A 12 hour notice should be given to the Tech Team and emergency response channel.
  5. * 60-240 minutes: Require at least one week notice to the LT for approval. Communicate the same as 30-60 mins.
  6. * >240 minutes: To be avoided at all cost. Break downtime into 240 minute increments separated by at least 1 week.

Impressions of the CS Thailand achievements

To be honest, the list of CSCT achievements confused the hell out of me. Instead of a report on which objectives were achieved through which actions, it’s a huge list of “stuff that we’ve done”. How does all this relate to any kind of overall plan? Was there even a plan?

This is not a report, this is a “shut the fuck up” list. What this list tells me is: “LOOK! We’ve done A LOT! Leave us alone!” Doogies (a CSCT participant) sums it up best in one of his comments on this site:

You wanted to know everything we did in Thailand so you get a document with more than 500 achievements we accomplished there for couchsurfing.

More than 500 achievements! Wow! Unfortunately, I find it clearly symptomatic of a miserable professional result. I’ve seen this approach before: Whenever a large project failure had to be covered up. Been there, done that myself. It’s a sleight of hand technique: By pointing at a huge, unreadable and almost entirely unverifiable list of statements, they are hoping to hoodwink the CS donation base that all that money is serving a purpose and probably to fool themselves in the process. The person responsible for this style of writing is Mandie, showing us again how incompetent she is at what she does. Hold this report up to the standard of any serious non-profit organization and it just becomes sad. This is not a report, it’s a hastily thrown together list of things people could still remember doing.

There is plenty to learn from the report though. In general, it appears that the largest part of the participants has been busy analyzing and communicating. Also, tech has been very busy, probably the most productive team overall (this has always been the case in CS). If anyone seems to have done anything, it’s clearly the programmers. We’ll see how well it all holds up in the summer.

Things that I noticed right away:

  • Jim Stone is a scary control freak, which we already knew from the way he bullied everyone in the CS Wiki. Look at what occupies him:
    • ” A reminder system to let people know they should update any reference that has been identified as violating our terms of use.”
    • “References are no longer completely deleted when removed, just hidden for safety concerns. We also know who deleted it, what the reference said, and when it was deleted.”
    • “Deleted Images: The safety team can easily delete images from accounts that are deemed inappropriate. The member is also emailed to let them know with instructions on what they can do next.”
    • “Refined a tool that more easily identifies real spammers and harmful users and doesn’t temporarily falsely identify members as being spammers as often now.”
    • “Deleted posts: every post that’s been deleted, why it was deleted, who did it, when, and ability to reactivate it with one click.” (I’d love to see this list of “whys” sometime.)
  • Rachel is a one-stop CS police force: “Directly handled several member disputes.” She obviously doesn’t need to report to anyone, because obviously every communication is an achievement and a report of Rachel’s activities simply isn’t listed.
  • Speaking of communication, Mandie thinks this is an achievement: “Email to ambassadors explaining website downtime.” My god. An email. The “report” is full of nonsense entries like that.

But all that is just fun and games. It clearly wasn’t edited anymore than the average OCS post (this says enough), providing hours of entertainment. Meetings are NOT achievements, neither are writing emails, calling people or “Finding a suitable caterer and arranging for daily delivery of food.” (Obviously nobody felt like cooking in a country with such a low wage scale.) Who cares about the “bi-weekly shopping trip”? Or what about ” Administered half-way point evaluation meeting with House Manger.”? That one was from Matthew Brauer, who has a truly sad list of achievements and still can’t spell his name right. (What the hell is it with using nicknames in an “official” report anyway?)

But what is really interesting is what is missing:

  • Where is all this generated material being kept? Things like “plan for Alaska Collective including budget, roles, objective and location”, “desired skills sets for volunteers in team”, “‘Core concepts’ to help uncover and articulate what CouchSurfing is about, not about, what its mission is.”, etc etc. The server team doesn’t mention installing a document repository and the Wiki has been shot down Jim Stone style. So, unless I’m mistaken (no way to verify unless Doogie could come out his tower to enlighten us), all these wonderful documents either don’t exist or are sitting in someones harddrive or mailbox. Either way, that will mean 90% of “work done” will be tossed away again for the next collective, like it has happened 2 times already. Remember the huge “organizational chart” that was created before CSCNZ? Exactly. CS management = the way of the Dodo.
  • There is absolutely NO mention of 501c3 status. None. Let me repeat that: the entire 501c3 process is completely absent from this report, even though it was in quite a few announcements. What happened guys? Didn’t you work on it or is it not an achievement? Or maybe, perhaps, it was a miserable failure?
  • There is not one mention of drafting contracts and exactly one reference to legal work:
    “Phased out one-on-one verification on the advice of our legal team: verification now only available through credit card or a verified PayPal account.”
    Right, so all those expenses towards the CS lawyer(s), 14,234$ in 2007, have only resulted in another way to increase profits? It appears nobody had a contract or even insurance (only travel insurance is mentioned), since none of that is mentioned. (Search for: “legal”, “contract” and “insurance”.)
  • What the hell is going on with Casey Fenton (who also doesn’t need a last name)? Why doesn’t he have his own personal achievements, like his buddies Matthew or Jim? Why is he mentioned in second place of a team twice? My guess is that they are trying to shield Casey from direct comments on his behind-the-scenes style of control. Who are they kidding? Where has the “leadership team” gone? Where are the board meetings? Who is on the board anyway? Of course, it’s also possible Casey couldn’t be bothered to write down his list of “achievements” and/or Mandie didn’t dare to ask him.
  • Did you know CS has a new team in charge? Neither did I. This time, it’s simply called “CouchSurfing Management” and guess who’s in it? Matthew, Casey, Jim and Weston (member since April 15th, 2007). Congratulations guys, you have finally managed to create your little Northern American boys club.

What else do you see missing from the report? What do you think is the funniest “achievement”?

Trust decreasing among CouchSurfers?

Trust metrics are techniques for predicting how much a certain user can be trusted by the other users.CouchSurfing doesn’t really have a prediction mechanism, but trust values are registered for every friendship link.

I never thought the denominators for the trust value made a lot of sense for the friendship links on CS (especially when translated, I don’t really know how to best translate “I somewhat trust this person” into my mother tongue). Still, there seems to be a definite trend of linearly (in time) decreasing trust on the Quality of Service page. It would be interesting to compare this to values from before and do a deeper analysis. The “average quality” doesn’t seem to be changing significantly on the other hand, maybe slightly going up? Possibly because it’s actually visible to the receiver.

Joe Edelman wrote the QoS code, and wrote to me:

Wow, that *is* interesting!

So the avg trust is calculated among introductions added in the last
week that are reported as due to CS and in-person. So it’s not because
of virtual users, and it’s not because CS is accelerating and includes
less pre-existing friends.

The only confounding factor I can think of, is that it doesn’t take the
“date you met this person” field into account — a lot of people don’t
fill it out, or don’t fill it out correctly. So it includes
introductions that are finally being reported from the past, as well as
those that actually occurred that week.

We could be seeing an ever-greater percentage of weirdos from the past.
You know, those random people that blew through a collective, and much
later are friending everyone. And the people they are friending hardly
remember them and so don’t trust them. This would be a result of social
graph “fill-in”, perhaps as a kind of recoil from expansion last summer.

Or, perhaps it’s an accurate result, and as CS grows, people that meet
find they have less in common, since CS includes more demographics.

In that case, it could be interpretted as a *positive* result: perhaps
the ideal would be to take people who DON’T trust each other INITIALLY,
and give them POSITIVE EXPERIENCES such that later they DO trust each
other, or they start to trust other people from a new demographic MORE.

Let’s just hope this trend does not continue. If it would, the average trust would be zero by the end of 2010.

In the meanwhile, some active work can be done on designing and implementing a trust system from scratch on BeWelcome.

The data:

year   week introductions users  quality  trust

2008    16         6625   3890    1.526   0.370

2008    15        14238   7345    1.506   0.377

2008    14        14818   7591    1.490   0.379

2008    13        16520   8201    1.527   0.388

2008    12        13895   6952    1.500   0.387

2008    11        12252   6291    1.479   0.379

2008    10        12303   6490    1.493   0.392

2008    09        12796   6482    1.480   0.382

2008    08        11336   5875    1.483   0.376

2008    07        12484   6408    1.486   0.391

2008    06        11778   6215    1.469   0.409

2008    05        11201   5945    1.453   0.406

2008    04        10570   5998    1.479   0.415

2008    03        10757   5983    1.489   0.410

2008    02         9560   4872    1.503   0.410

2008    01        13972   6425    1.484   0.417

2007    52         7749   4279    1.476   0.414

2007    51         9332   5118    1.467   0.421

2007    50        10975   5500    1.480   0.422

2007    49        10309   5632    1.454   0.415

2007    48        10664   5500    1.454   0.413

2007    47        10335   5734    1.487   0.425

2007    46        10835   5762    1.492   0.429



Argument By Selective Reading:

making it seem as if the weakest of an opponent’s arguments was the best he had. Suppose the opponent gave a strong argument X and also a weaker argument Y. Simply rebut Y and then say the opponent has made a weak case.

This is a relative of Argument By Selective Observation, in that the arguer overlooks arguments that he does not like. It is also related to Straw Man (Fallacy Of Extension), in that the opponent’s argument is not being fairly represented.

Your argument conveniently omits the more relevant information:

American Red Cross
Top Person: Marsha Evans
Top Salary:* $651,957

Easter Seals
Top Person: James E. Williams Jr.
Top Salary:* $488,300

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Top Person: Thomas Priselac
Top Salary:* $1,503,080

On average these executives from other non-profits made:

Mattthew Brauer mentions in his post:

Even if we take the lowest figure in that list MB is still only making 4.9%

the bad guy on our couches

hi guys,
there is this bad guy bouncing around our couches and taking things with him that doesn t belong to him.he is leaving behind empty pockets and broken hearts. I have researched his way around Europe and he has been doing this on CS since spring 2006. I will write a story on him and how the CS is handling his case. There is a self-defensive system going: people warn each other, start threads, etc., which is fine. I just have the impression, that the leadership is slowing this down. Anyone who wants to give me his opinion about it or speak up for the contrary I would appreciate to get to know your arguments. Please send me a Mail via CS:

Casey Fenton needs to go.

Disclaimer: I am not OCS, if the OCS doesn’t like me utilizing their venue, I can perfectly understand them removing this, so go ahead Callum or whoever runs this site ;)

That title works to grab everyones attention. Hello there lazy bums in Thailand, celebrating ineptitude under the sun!

I was thinking how all the work of the motivated volunteers full of ideals and good intention can be saved. The title was my only answer. One thing i have learned is that people dont really change, i dont expect Casey or the majority of his buddies to be different, despite all the visionary leadership.

Why do I point out that people don’t change? Because I am convinced that they would have to change if Couchsurfing is supposed to progress. Couchsurfing as a website and Organization has grown beyond the size that is governable with the attitude and management employed by Casey and his appointed BurningManBeer Buddies. We are dealing with an Organization that is crooked and mismanaged from the Top. Casey might be a nice guy, he might be a good coder, he might even have that MC1R sexyness to get all the good bitches in the pack, but he is about as good as a manager as Paris Hilton is an expert on Quantum Mechanics.

From the Top down, it was all about happiness and fun, NEVER about accountability and results. Casey initially, when first launching public, already made a claim on how cs is a 501c3 non profit. He either made a false claim, which would make him a liar and crooked person, possibly a felon, since he collected the donations, or an amazingly inept manager. You don’t run an Organization without knowing its legal status, dot! I tend to go with a third option though. He is a hopeless dreamer, who wants to make a 501c3 and heal the world, but gets ahead of reality way too much. This pattern was followed in the whole CS team and Spirit of Organization. Sure, it would be great to have a good manager, but lets settle for someone who COULD be a good manager, such as TTT, but who actually sucks ass since he settles for having a manager title, rather than doing the job, just like Casey and 501c3. On CS, the culture of Vaporware needs to go. The people will not change, so unless they go, Cs will never proceed beyond the Fratboys who would LOVE to be cool, but end up being drunk failures.

They ALL lack the self confidence to critically reflect upon their managerial skills or the apparent lack of. The root of all this is of course, Casey. He appointed Managers who lack the wit and gut to debate with a dissenting community. A dissenting community that actually argues constructively and is kind enough to share all the solutions.

CS, thanks to the pressure built up by Pickwick, is about to arrive in the cloud of Accountability that is the real world. I hereby Claim that there will be no milestone accomplishment at the Thai Collective, which will make it nothing more than an expensive party for Casey and his equally inept cronies.

You run an Organization and fail to deliver, you go. If is all about buying Caseys’ Burning Man crew 4 Months of sponsored Holidays on the beach along with pussy that would not be available to this elusive group of mediocre men, then is indeed a brilliant success for aforementioned visionary leader and his associates. It would of course make it a racket and scam, morally at least, regardless of how it would be judged by a legal professional.

If Couchsurfing is not a racket and scam but instead an organization with genuinely good intentions, then it is a failure on all accounts. Absolute top-performing professionals in their respective field get alienated or sacked by a management that has possibly not even learned how to spell (project) management. The Couchsurfing Management in its current incarnation is a direct result of Casey Fentons inability to accept superior skill from employees and volunteers. The current management has a track record of rejecting highly skilled employees and outside advice, lacks skill and self confidence along with the inability to accomplish anything themselves.

You guys all need to go. I am glad CS is in the Real World SOON, legally speaking. Casey and friends, you guys talk all the talk, all the time. I have yet to see anyone walk the walk. I invite you to prove me wrong, but you and me, we both know, you fail.

p.s. i invite everyone to personally attack me on my position, preferably somewhere in real life

p.p.s please, since i am so full of shit, be so kind and make a list of all the accomplished managerial successes of the current leadership team, since thats all that it takes to turn my whole posting into a pile of shit. hint: most mangers work 45-50h a week and deliver results correlating to this