It’s A Scam!
The campaign for a truly open CouchSurfing organisation
Wow. Within a week of launching OpenCouchSurfing, we’ve seen an immediate upgrade to the CS DB (resulting in the site being down for 18 hours). They (*) have announced upgrading the webservers as well (to reduce the current security risks). The “Leadership Team” has finally been made official. Now, some of these things have been announced before (the DB upgrade and Leadership circle), but it seems like to much of a coïncidence that all this happens in one week. So, this effort seems to have good and positive effects which strengthens us to continue to improve things.
What I wanted to talk about is the Leadership Team. At first view, it seems like it is indeed a step in the right directon. At second view it actually makes matters worse and formalizes the closed culture of CS. Let’s have a look, shall we? The most important sections to pay attention to:
What does this mean in practice? A boys club. You are not allowed in unless you are in good standing with the Leadership group, because they hold each and every means to allow or disallow you. Dissenting ambassadors are explicitely discouraged from even trying to apply (“in good standing”), not that they could get in anyway. Oh, wait. There is no application process defined. Never mind. But there’s no official end to a Leadership position anyway, so we don’t actually need candidates. But hey! Ambassadors can censure a leader, right? Uhm. No. Leaders are only required to make a public statement regarding the “planned action” to address this. Case closed. There is no way in and no way to get anyone out. A proper way to do it would have been to let the ambassadors actually vote for their “leaders” every year or so, but I guess that is too threatening for the existing power structure. The current state of affairs is just outrageous.
Transparancy by biannual reports? This is not transparancy, this is PR. We need insight into the decision making process and there need to be tools in place to ensure accountability, not just promises of “focussing on the mission”. We don’t need binannual PR reports.
Funny intermezzo: Look at the Leadership Qualities page. Now have a look at the self-evaluation form for level B registered nurses. E.g. “Teamwork: Interacts effectively and builds respectful relationships among individuals and in teams” (leader) versus “Teamwork: Interacts effectively and builds respectful relationships within and between units and among individuals.” (nurse). Some requirements are copied almost verbatim. So, are we getting leaders or nurses? On a more serious note, this is indicative of the increasing use of marketing speak coming from the Leadership Circle. They’re not talking, they’re making announcements/press releases. This is no way to treat a community run by volunteers. And it doesn’t speak well for the effort put into this document that parts are just copied of the net, it definitely makes it seem like a rushed PR job.
What is all of this lacking?
Say no to the circle of level B nurses**. Write to them and demand direct representation, transparancy and accountability. Help us make CS more Open and Free.
*: There has been a lot of complaining about using “us vs. them” language, which is just annoying. Raise your hand if you don’t know who “they” are. You’ll know when you’re not part of “them”.
**: It’s called humor people.
Great! Finally! Some tangible (public) information about the Leadership Circle! Mattthew started articles on the CS wiki about the Leadership Team and the Leadership Qualities. I will refrain myself from any comments, since I won’t do any better than Anu:
How about these?
- Ability for respectful conflict resolution through confrontation rather than avoidance
- Ability for open, direct and sincere dialog with the community
- Ability to take in and reflect upon constructive criticism and act on it accordingly
- Ability to operate in a multi-cultural environment, actively realizing the mission of inter-cultural understanding in accepting varying communication styles and other differences stemming from diverse cultural backgrounds
- Ability to operate in a largely virtual organization
… then I went to sleep for a couple of hours.
When waking up I was surprised to see that:
To create a bit of balance I then started the Dissident Team.
This site has been getting quite a bit of attention so far. Couchsurfers are responding to these issues from all sides, both positively and negatively. Overall, it can be said that the majority of reactions respond positively to the concept of more openness. The main objections are to the style of communication and to individual campaigns.
Why in this (direct and not so subtle) way? Why not through the organisation itself? Why now? Why not wait for … (insert something here)?
The Wiki main page adresses this more thouroughly, but simply put:
Things that have been long overdue:
On a side note, we’re trying (as per some people’s suggestion) to present the “other side” of the argument as well. Please help us complete the Wiki with pro’s and con’s.
As expected, the topics addressed on this site have caused quite a few reactions already. For the sake of Openness, we will try to list as many as possible on the Wiki in Category:Reactions.
A very interesting reaction came from Leonarde Silveira, one of the admins. Most of the conversation was over the phone, but in summary he was definitely not against opening up a dialog. His main concern was a too polarized view on this site, the fact that the “other side” of the discussion is underrepresented. In my opinion this is certainly a valid concern; it is a valuable exercise to add possible reasons for the current situation. I did encourage him (and hereby other admins as well) to also send us their view on some of our topics, which he promised to do. Other than that, logging all of the discussions and different viewpoints seem like a fair and balanced approach.