This site was archived on 24 April 2012. No new content can be posted. The mailing list remains online and the site will stay in this archived state for the forseeable future. If you find any technical errors on the site, please contact Callum.

CouchSurfing NDA Lessons

Reading recent posts on this blog I realise that a number of people signed the CouchSurfing NDA under the impression “it was going to be fixed”.

I think there’s an important lesson for volunteers to learn here. Don’t sign unless you’re happy with what you’re signing.

It’s impossible to say how things could have happened if people had made different choices, that’s not my purpose here. I’m looking forward, both to new CouchSurfing volunteers and to other NDAs. If you’re not happy with the terms, don’t sign them. A verbal agreement to change the terms later simply doesn’t cut it.

I held off signing the NDA on the basis that it would interfere with future businesses I might be involved in. Now, I’m glad I made that choice, because it seems clear that CouchSurfing (Casey) have no intention of producing an NDA I would be willing to sign.

7 Responses to “CouchSurfing NDA Lessons”

  • You are right, Callum.

    I learned the lesson the hard way. But I don’t regret my CS experience.

    We got to see, first-hand, what doesn’t work, and that should ultimately be to the benefit of whatever else we get involved in. And we helped out the hospitality community and made some good friends along the way.

    CS ended up being for me a case of “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” So “I’ll get on my knees and pray, We don’t get fooled again.”


  • P.S., I think I have learned something from my CS experience.

    A few days ago in, I saw something that looked like top-down control. I may have become jaded by my experience in CS, having come to expect the worst. I may have over-reacted by publicly expressing my concern, because I’m hypersensitive now to anything resembling CS management style.

    But I’m glad I did, because of what it revealed about BW. Within hours I got a personal email from one of the members of the Board of Directors. It was very supportive, sharing my concern, reaffirming the democratic values of BW, and informing me that an inquiry would be immediately launched. Within a few more hours there was extensive communication between myself and the 3 other people involved. They each wrote detailed explanations, gave clarifications, expressed regret for things not communicated clearly or done properly, all with a very professional, respectful and even friendly tone. The matter was completely resolved within a day.

    Good grief: to think what I put up with in CS! But because of that, I have such great appreciation for BW now, and a growing loyalty to them. It’s rare to find such quality in the world these days. But I shouldn’t be too surprised. Many of the BW’ers had painful lessons in HC like I did in CS. So, maybe together now, we won’t get fooled again.

    BW seems, so far, to be light-years ahead of CS in the areas that matter to me most. I see great potential there.


  • @John: I agree, no point in regretting what’s past. I also don’t regret going to NZ to the collective or any of the other work I’ve done for CS. You learn or you die, period! :)

  • “I think there’s an important lesson for volunteers to learn here. Don’t sign unless you’re happy with what you’re signing.”

    Um, yeah, this seems like a no-brainer, right? Signing a document that you don’t agree with seems like a very silly idea.

  • good thinking, have you ever met Casey?

    If you know him for a longer time you know that he regularly raises false expectations (like “we’re working on a better NDA”) and makes false promises (“the 501c3 will be filed practically tomorrow”).

    I myself struck through the ugliest parts of the NDA (the software patent one) and thought that striking through would help with speeding up the process of getting a new one. The legality of the whole document becomes questionable when things are striked with a ballpoint.

    I also never asked anybody else to sign the NDA. Many people who came to Nelson did some (or a whole lot) of work without ever signing an NDA. This could actually be a problem in the future, since CS obviously doesn’t own the copyright for these changes. However, all these people would have happily signed an NDA without a zombie or slave clause.

  • it IS silly to sign something you dont believe in, yes. Yet there are members in the tech team who pretty much told anyone who doesnt like the new draft to shut up and walk away or else blindly trust the leaders to not take the doc u signed too seriously, in case u DO end up breaching it. Which I think is even sillier. (consequently, the discussion along those lines was the final catalyst for many developers to walk away)

  • It’s important to remember (for the future that is) that a written contract always holds more weight than a verbal one.

Comments are currently closed.