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CouchSurfing 2.0 is dead

An appropriate system for a hospitality exchange network will not rise from the ashes of CS 2.0: Today the Newsletter Wanderlust was published, announcing the expansion of hired manpower. I guess, it’s not wrong to call it CS 3.0, the short blossom of CS 2.0 and the chance to open the whole network is over.

We have to face the fact: CS is a company and simply can do what it does. We are “only” users of a (so far free) service offered by a company, not members of an open network. There is no such thing like participation in CS and in consequence the field “How I Participate in CS2″ on the profile pages should be ditched. Also the mission should be changed to:

“Donate for Creating a Bigger Corporation, One Job at a Time!”

Things left we can do:

- hosting/surfing/meeting
- don’t forget about all the nice experiences
- demask attempts by CS to call a top-to-down structure a place of
- being aware of the fact that most couchsurfer simply don’t care
- looking for / creating projects with an appropriate form of structure
- don’t get frustrated

Her mit den Abenteuern! (German for something like “Gimme adventures!”)

7 Responses to “CouchSurfing 2.0 is dead”

  • Very well said, Midsch. I would only change one thing. The title would be “Couchsurfing 2.0 was murdered”. CS 2.0 did not die a natural death. Its demise was premeditated and deliberate.

    I’m not sure what the best strategy is from here. My inclination is to create something positive rather than fight something negative. I had pretty much moved on from CS and was just checking in on some friends still on the inside, when I saw those new members putting good creative energy into proposals for some form of self-governing CS. I felt I had to speak up. They had no idea what they were up against. An easy mistake to make given the “participate” PR. But it takes time and energy to do this “demasking” and that’s time that could be spent on other things.


  • One think i cannot bear is people trying to underestimate others iq!
    Really, -maybe it’s because of my ego, i don’t know- but it gets me really mad!
    Why didn’t they say so from the begginning?
    Why didn’t they introduce CS as a company to new members and Not as a community?
    Why did they call for help all those volunteers to build up the site together, when all they wanted was free-workers?
    (you don’t have the right to speak up and decide about cs- matters but your valuable time and efford are most welcome)
    Why didn’t they say “ok, the COMPANY is such and such, managed by those people, you are a CLIENT and to use this company’s service you have to pay 10 euros annually, and we’ll provide you the best service there is in hospitallity networks. If you face any problems with the servers- down, security issues or other possible hazards for you due to the use of our services you have every legal right to ask for a compensation or even to sue the company.”
    Commercial as it may seem, it’s very honest and the role of each participant is clear and fair.
    - Do they think that cs would have evolved in such a great network if it wasn’t for the simple members/ volunteers contributions??
    OK. One guy had this exellent idea, but who worked to make this a reality?
    - Do they think that if people like us (humble members) weren’t willing to open their houses to the guests, this could actually work??
    - Of course not! We (also) provide the product “hospitality” and giving it for free. We can do that anyway, with or without cs.
    Anyway, I’ve made a profil on BeWelcome, aswell.
    And from now on, trust me, i’ll keep my ideas to myself or use them for my family’s/ dear friends projects who i know are going to make some good use of it ;)

    If some of you want to crash at our place in Greece, just send me an email. You don’t have to be a cs or any hospitality network’s member, just an honest human being.
    Good day!

  • Very well said, also, Maria. You captured so well a sense of betrayal that I hadn’t found words for yet.

    Thank you for your invitation…that’s the hospitality spirit!

    I decided to volunteer at

    There are now 5 former CS developers volunteering for, among a total of 30 already. The website only went online in February. I look forward to working again with Kasper and my other former colleagues, as well as the others in BW who appear to really get the hospitality concept.

    The catalyst that triggered our departure was primarily the NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement), but also other issues connected with the LT, like the decision not to make the CS code open source.

    No one in BeWelcome will be making a buck off our work. It is a volunteer run organization. Period. Our work will be contributed in the spirit of generosity characteristic of the hospitality movement. It will be available free of charge to other organizations, because the BW volunteer developers decided that unanimously.

    When we were working for CS, not only did Casey (and now Jim and Matthew) financially benefit from our generosity (and that of every other CS volunteer and host), but they also wanted exclusive rights to our work so that neither we, personally, nor any other organization could benefit from it.

    Now, any work that we do can be used by CS or anyone else. If CS chooses to incorporate some of our code, they won’t be allowed to claim ownership of it, although Casey and the others will still be able to make a buck from it, to the extent that it makes CS a better site and brings in more revenue. Perhaps they would use the increased revenue to increase their salaries or to create more paid positions for the elite of CouchSurfing.

    We don’t mind that someone can make a buck off our work. We give it freely anyway. What we minded was that that was not enough for Casey and the others. They didn’t want anyone outside of CS to get any benefit from our work, including us, other organizations or future employers of ours. I’m not only referring to the code itself, but to any creative ideas or innovative solutions to problems we might have had while writing the code.

    How does their attitude square with the spirit of generosity that characterizes the hospitality movement? No wonder they don’t want elections in CS.


  • I agree with the most written in the comments here, escpecially with thinking about “wasting time” in a more constructive way than demasking PR and flogging a dead horse. (At least I’ve started my registration at …)

    But after thinking for some days about the title I still don’t want to change it to “CS 2.0 was murdered”. Just feeling uncomfortable with the accusation, because I don’t see such a “simple” reason for the death of CS 2.0, maybe it was something like willful neglect?


  • Hi Midsch,

    You are wise to give the benefit of the doubt. After all, it’s a question of intention, which is often difficult to assess. I can’t prove intention, so I’ll concede the point.

    What caused me to feel strongly that deliberate intent was involved was the confluence of three developments which seemed coordinated in that they all drastically altered the role of volunteers in CS especially relative to the Corporation and/or the management of the Corporation: the LT’s new policies, the NDA, and the shake up of the development team. Much of what happened with the development team was private, but it was every bit as disturbing as the other two issues, and had the same heavy-handed assertion of management power. The common thread in all three issues was the “top-down” emphasis.

    Before these 3 events unfolded during a relatively short time frame, ‘volunteer’ meant for me a more active member of the community with specific areas of responsibility. There were some things that needed doing, but it was also a joint creative community-based enterprise to make CS better than ever.

    Afterwards, ‘volunteer’ felt more like ‘hired help’ but without the pay. It was a privilege to be a volunteer. You don’t have to do it, but if you do, you’re expected to follow the rules and do what you’re told. If you don’t like that then don’t volunteer. If you do volunteer, CS gets to keep all your work and ideas, but you get good work experience (like an intern) that might help you get a job someday. Good grief!

    On the development team, I worked my butt off for more than 6 months full-time. Every single thing I did was for the benefit of the community. I contributed a lot of creativity and innovation (like the poll system) while tending to urgent things that needed fixing (like the geographical database). I saw a need and responded, working with others in the community who saw the same need. Meanwhile, I worked with my colleagues to put various structures in place that would enhance the long-term development effort. We accomplished a great deal and had laid the groundwork to accomplish far more in the future.

    Then one day Chris showed up as our new leader (endorsed by Casey). We weren’t consulted at all about it. He didn’t seem like the Chris I had known (we had just talked on the phone only weeks before). He started off by announcing that no new creative projects (like the poll project) would be allowed for some time. All our work would have to be approved. It was time to “get back to basics”. What a slap in the face for the development team, and what a callous disregard for the tremendous voluntary contributions we had made.

    I feel sure Chris had been “programmed” by Casey and the LT. He hadn’t been much involved since the summer, and had very little idea of what we had done and the structures we had developed. He started laying out his own structural plans without much idea what was already in place. He even acknowledged he was primarily there to represent the LT on the development team, not the other way around.

    In fact, the biggest problems the Tech Team had were either directly or indirectly caused by Casey or the Admins. We were understaffed because of Casey’s insistence to personally meet new developers, and because number of highly skilled developers would not accept Casey’s NDA. The chronic server problems were almost entirely due to Casey’s reluctance to accept the many offers of help with that. I, personally had many problems working with Casey. He undermined my work on several occasions because he was out of touch with what was going on and often didn’t follow the communication and procedural structures in place.

    We were not perfect, but as unpaid volunteers we did a hell of a job in spite of being short-staffed and in spite of the poor communication, unresponsiveness and lack of participation of the Admins on many occasions. But they decided that the CS 2.0 volunteer initiative had gone awry, at least on the Tech Team, and they sent Chris in to clean house, without understanding what was going on.

    Yes there were some issues with individual developers, but that’s always going to be part of the deal and can be dealt with on an individual basis. After all, if the mission of the organization is about inter-cultural understanding, then certainly good communication, tolerance, negotiation, compromise, patience, encouragement, etc. should be the default stance within the community, not heavy-handed authoritarian rule.

    We certainly had earned the right to at least be consulted about our preference for team leader, if not actually choosing him/her. There can be no doubt about this. Unless, of course, one regards CS as a corporation, and the management has absolute authority to do what they will and volunteers are just “hired” help who should just be thankful for the opportunity to work for such a respected international corporation. This was NOT this spirit of the community that brought CS back from the crash, but something precious has been lost along the way.

    After repeatedly trying to give the benefit of the doubt, at a certain point the pattern becomes quite difficult to explain away.

    Nevertheless, I agree with you.


  • Midsch, i wish you all to have a GREAT time, there!
    I wish we could come, too…
    Keep up the free spirit!
    Love and kisses from Greece

  • Oi !
    I know this story is a bit old now..but I just discover couch surfing this summer, and I “use” ( participate..) it a lot in brazil right now.
    I’m glad to discover a bit of his history site, what’s going now ? is it always “Donate for Creating a Bigger Corporation, One Job at a Time!”
    if you have time to respond me, it will be a pleasure to know a bit more.
    Hugo. simple members ( not verified..)

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