After the shocking news of Couchsurfing accepting a $7.6 million investment and becoming a for-profit company, I just wrote a message to the hospitality exchange community. Most important: Hospitality Club will never be a for-profit business, we are currently developing an open-source site for HC and some behind-the-scenes info on CS. Please read the statement here: http://volunteerwiki.hospitalityclub.org/couchsurfing-for-profit-business-now
Oh, and a special shoutout to my haters here
I just read midsch’s posting about his helplessness in the hospitality exchange scene… He described the different situations quite good. However, my view on it and the possibilities connected to it are not as dark than his are…
It does not matter if CouchSurfing, HospitalityClub, GlobalFreeLoaders, BeWelcome… hospitality exchange pages have numerous times been described as the most useful sites in the web as they bring people together in real life. Since then numerous new hospitality exchange communities popped up to establish their own community.
But why establish your own community in times of Facebook APIs, Open Social and Drupal? Why not connect all those different communities together? Why not develop a Drupal module (http://www.drupal.org) that
offers all those established communities the possibilities to meet each other in real life?
I started a project on Amazee.com (as I have been around there when I wanted to bring the thing on paper), devoted to the development of a Drupal module for decentralized hospitality sites. Let us continue to learn from each other – here in the web, but also in real life. So why not spent our energy in this way?
As it seems interesting to set the things here in a wider frame (see, a.o., “Is travelling noble? Or: “The Emperor’s New Clorths” by PickWick), and some thoughts around this theme come up a couple of times recently (e.g. we vs. them), I would like to continue with this and publish more thoughts in this direction. I hope that this post is appreciated and will, hopefully, function as an opening to an interesting discussion and to new insights. And maybe even more people do so in future. Those lines have been first published, by me, on the HospEx Ne>>t Wiki under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.
‘Prejudice and Discrimination will always be with us.’
Hospitality Exchange Travel Networks a respond to this?
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by the color of their skin
but by the content of their character.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)
After a short introduction to Hospitality Exchange Networks, prejudice and discrimination and their relationship to each other, this essay will examine two widely known psychological theories that can be relevant in the reduction of prejudice. At the end, the relevance to Hospitality Exchange Networks will be evaluated.
Read the whole essay on HospEx Ne>>t Wiki.
Interesting Further Reading
For me, the failure of CS to sustain any democratic principles, freedom of speech, or abiding to the law or ethics, equality was the breaking point. So realizing they were not, nor ever would become that kind of an organization I had to go before further hurting myself being involved with people who could never understand what I stood for, what made me tick, and originally made me want to volunteer for CS. I tried as long as I could and was in no way “politically active” as the new race of outcasts on CS now is called (I was present in a situation where new person for some site tasks was needed, and the ones in charge went through their groups posting history to see there was nothing whatsoever that could indicate this was a person with critical thinking of any kind, especially towards CS). It’s only after seeing quite a bit of behavior and attitudes that I could not align with, as well as quite a bit of undermining, bullying and ignoring those who had, despite their differences with the LT worked very hard for CS that finally destroyed my faith in the leaders.
As an interlude, there was a strong push (in earlier times also officially sanctioned by the CS elite) to act in a more ad-hoc way (term coined by Dani I believe as “do-ocracy”). For me, this provided a way to get things ahead when no leadership was around to deal with many real issues rising up from the “bottom”, the community, through various means: groups, contact us section on the site, personal connections, real-life meetings. But at some point it became clear that in absence of leadership of any kind, it was those only interested in their own goals and visions for which Couchsurfing was merely a supporting platform, who were going to be the ultimate winners of the do-ocracy model. So naturally the LT might have been scared, I know I was. The critical error the Admins aka Leadership Team did in regaining their power was however to not take the good coming out of do-ocracy model so far, and not learn ways to actively listen to and engage with their community, which could have made all the difference in creating a network truly in line with its (current or future) vision statement and the values of its members.
On BeVolunteer/BeWelcome on the other hand the statutes clearly state what the values are, so that anyone wanting to volunteer clearly knows where they stand since the start. I’ve seen & heard “democracy doesn’t work” quoted by some along with rather condescending wishes of good luck. Well, this might be true – it’s certainly not easy to handle multi-national organization just starting out where many of the active people haven’t even met (yet). But still I’d say there’s a far bigger chance of survival thanks to the explicitly stated democratic principles (so neither dictators nor lone gunmen with their own motives can thrive for very long) to produce a sustainable organization and gradually grow into a viable alternative for those seeking hospitality.
While reading an NY Times article about CouchSurfing (thanks Mary) I was reminded of the magic that Casey created in the CouchSurfing project. I’ve definitely lost track of the magic over the last few months since becoming involved in the inner workings of the CouchSurfing organisation.
There’s a great sense of community, a great PR image, a wonderful “feeling” when reading about CouchSurfing. It’s a feeling that Hospitality Club and BeWelcome definitely don’t have. It’s more bohemian, more offbeat and quirky, yet somehow more mainstream.
Casey struck a great balance between the hitch hiking “true” traveller and the mainstream. CouchSurfing appeals to people from all walks of life, and that’s undoubtedly because of Casey’s ability to pitch it well.
In many ways, this makes it even more tragic that Casey chooses to run the organisation in the way he does. There’s such a huge opportunity to do something really, trully exceptional here. Unfortunately, it’s being stifled by the closed door, backroom politics style of leadership.
So here’s my question. Can we create the same magic in another network? Can we recreate that wonderful bohemian feeling in BeWelcome? Or CrashAtMine? Or a whole new network? Or is it something uniquely Casey that can’t easily be copied? Is it a quality that can’t be replicated?
This morning I woke up to find an email in my inbox telling me that my volunteer services are no longer required by CouchSurfing.
Apparently I have “fundamental differences in ideology and communication styles”. I’ve asked for clarification on that, fundamentally different from whom. I’m not holding my breath for an answer!
One thing was stated clearly in the email, CouchSurfing is not going open source. Not now, not any time soon. So at last the OpenCouchSurfing campaign has received one answer. That’s real progress I think.