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A Change in Direction

Pickwick’s threat of legal action against CouchSurfing marks a change in the approach of OpenCouchSurfing. I think we need to consider whether the consensus of OpenCS supporters is in favour of this new approach.

Not to try and stop Pickwick, but whether to encourage him to work under the banner of OpenCouchSurfing or whether to keep a distance between the two.

I’d like to warmly invite people to share their views here. I’ve also started a similar discussion on the mailing list.

12 Responses to “A Change in Direction”

  • As my cross-posting Pickwick’s ‘threat’ to OCS already implied, *I* think that it deserves to be accessible here.

    I have always perceived OCS as a place that joins people with similar concerns pursuing different avenues to improvement, rather than a ‘group’ that takes stance as a single body. So, imo consensus on this issue is essentially irrelevant; dissenting OCS sympathisants can leave their opinions in plain view, and no-one will like them less (or Pickwick more) for doing so.

    Although I never bothered to make sure, I thought there was a disclaimer that expresses this view on the status of OCS as well?

  • I feel pickwick is too aggressive and threatening . OCS according to me is keeping the couchsurfing spirit intact and documenting changes made by the LT to change that spirit.

    Lets learn from the past and know that threats just makes people more close minded and defensive.

    This move could go two ways. Either casey sells . Or the LT fights back . IF that is the goal of the OCS then Pickwick’s threat of legal action is the way forward.
    Or the options should be evaluated.

    Anyway would love your help on getting word press on ….

  • @Daz: WordPress on? I look after the WordPress install if you want to contact me directly.

  • My question: if the Attorney General investigates CouchSurfing and finds them guilty, how would that benefit members?

  • I don’t think it matters much if there’s a consensus here about Pickwick’s action. After all, we OCS participants are a fairly loose bunch, rather than a solid body of people with a unified direction.

    But FWIW, I do think such an action is a good idea. After all, its main purpose seems to be to shed light on how CS is run and what kind of entity it really is. And the nice thing is that it can achieve that regardless of the outcome, i.e. regardless of whether the decision by some court is condemning or not.

    Roy, hopefully with the above I can answer your question too. Aren’t clear answers about the status of CS benefitting members? To turn it around, how does all this secrecy and hypocrisy benefitting members?

    This is what the O in OCS is all about…

  • Something I just posted on the BS group.

    If I would have been a lawyer with Pickwick’s experience I would have probably taken the same path. I am not, and neither was any of the other dedicated volunteers who have put their soul here and who have busted their asses off working for the CouchSurfing community (sic!). I think there is a reason for that. There was certainly no lack of lawyers willing to help. I was offered help from many lawyers with profiles on CS, when I wanted an NDA decent enough for highly skilled volunteers to sign.

    On the other hand, Matt Whatley, the “tax ninja” is a lawyer who worked for CS, without any clarity about his actions. He even stated to be on the Board of Directors on his LinkedIn profile, which was a blatent lie. His stance on intellectual properties did not seem very adequate to me for a volunteer organization (I remember him on the phone stating that “the source code is one of CouchSurfing’s most viable assets”, which is quite a ridiculous thing to say in fact). Matt is the type of lawyer Casey prefers to work with.

    So if it helps anyone to be more accepting of Pickwick’s position: I am neither happy nor unhappy that he is doing what he’s doing, but I am definitely curious of the outcome. If the whole CS endeavour is legally sound, there is nothing to worry about. If on the other hand, this is not the case, we have reasons to worry. And in that case Pickwick’s action is totally warranted. In fact, I believe him when he states that in that case, action will most likely lead to an improvement of the legal statute of CouchSurfing, and consequently to the overall well-being of the entire CouchSurfing community.


  • I totally agree with Vasilis on this! (love you, man!)
    I want Norbert to take legal action asap!
    I’m so sick and tired by all this “political speach” from the LT and “family”. I read the answers to the survey…I feel soooo stupid for posing most of the questions there, for spending my valueable time on this, as if i didn’t know what we’re dealing with here.
    No more lies for me, thank you!
    What Norbert suggested should be done ages ago…
    And if that means “cs being sold” as a revenge, i really don’t mind any more! Really! We are all educated how to be good consumers, aren’t we? The terms of use in a private sector are pretty much clear to everybody. At least when i pay, i am respected. If cs was a private company from the beggining, nothing of all this would have happened at the first place: volunteers wouldn’t be cheated and hurt, friendships wouldn’t have been destroyeed, members wouldn’t feel like being fooled and told lies.
    Why cs should declair that it’s a non-profit? To attract “alternative-openminded-young travellers” who search for a holly mission, right? Aaaaah! There you go! These kind of people are the “target-group” of what cs has to sell! By declairing cs as a non-profit, it just makes the product more attractive to them! And also makes them wanna be part of the product, too. And it also provides the company quallified free labour and privilledges with the tax-law etc. Not so ethical according to my book of ethics, sorry!
    Cs as a product is successful by being a non-profit! That’s why Casey doesn’t want to sell! It’s a one-way street for him! So, if the guy wants it to be a non- profit, he better have it according to the law!
    IMHO, i want him to sell! I beg him to sell! So everytime i have a stupid “server-down” (for the fifth time in a month ;) ), i can sue the f#**# company! Please, Casey, sell ;)

  • Actually, I don’t think a company would let the servers go down as much as Casey&co.

  • For me, Norbert’s legal actions are basically the last effort I want to support under the banner of OCS. I disagree with Daz in the sense that I don’t think there’s that much more we can do in a “non-aggressive” way (I’ve always disputed the subjectivity of that term, especially on the internet where real violence is simply not possible). There’s a few good reasons for that:
    - There are hardly any communications channels left. We’d have to “force” ourselves into view constantly.
    - Insulting critics is appearantly perfectly accepted by the large amount of CS brainstormers. Look at this gem:
    “Are you a martyr now? I think I’ll set up a shrine for you.And this memorial shalth be headed with, in goldish-shiny-blinky-light letters: “Pickwick – the man who freed us from the threat that was, CouchSurfing” Mhm. Sounds like a good thing to do.” (by a certain Christian Knoflach, with not a single response).
    Getting rotten eggs like that thrown at you gets tired *very* quickly. And it seems that the more we press issues, the nastier the insults become. So, if anybody is willing to step in and face that instead of the usual suspects (Kasper being a particularly nasty victim), please do so.
    - It’s getting harder and harder to get “inside” information, so the amount of speculation we have to do is getting larger. It is hard to convince regular CS-ers of such speculation, if they don’t know the 4 page history.

    In any case, for me, this is the end of the line. Regardless of the outcome, I’ve done my share to try and save CS from the organisational hellhole that it has become. I’m moving on to other projects. And to be honest, the almost constant stress that this caused in my body is just not healthy.

    Since a lot of you pointed out that we’re a loose association, this won’t be the end of OCS though. Unless something spectacular happens, there will always be “the watchers of CS”. I must say that I’m incredibly proud of the way everybody found a place within OCS that he or she was comfortable with. It seems like there has hardly been any serious disagreements within OCS itself, precisely because we’ve always upheld the mantra: “to each his own”. I can’t tell you how often I was suprised by support coming from an unforseen corner, which compensated for those lonely moments when it seemed like there were only 2 or 3 people interested.

    I know this sounds like a goodbye and it is, in a certain sense. I’m going to scale back my OCS activity and just keep up-to-date on Norbert’s efforts. You know where to find me.

    In conclusion, I’m happy to say I’ve learned an incredible amount in the last half year. About self-deception, PR tactics, non-violent resistance, doubt, google caching and the value of patience. For this, I thank you all. An especially warm shout-out goes to Callum without whom this site would never have run as smoothly, Kasper for his incredible example of how to be consistent in your beliefs and Anu for whom the whole transition was probably the hardest.

    But, of course, I love you all.

  • regarding OCS:

    do not make the mistake that ulf and the lt often do:
    there are many people who are not OCS and are still in the current ruckus with the LT. pickwick and me are two examples of that.
    casey shows his lack of leadership character on all fronts, i guess it must be hard to stomach a bit of humiliation and say pickwick youre right, we will make up, give us a few weeks, please cooperate with us to solve the legal issues and aid us with your skill.

  • Thomas,

    I want to thank you for all you’ve done for the hospitality community. I’m sorry it’s taken such a toll on you, and I hope you find a healthier and more enjoyable experience in BW/BV.

    Months ago, I decided it would be a frustrating and futile endeavor to make further attempts to confront Casey and the LT culture he created on his own turf. The only effective avenues I could see were:

    1. Buy out Casey and Co.
    2. Sue Casey and Co. in court.
    3. Provide healthier alternatives to The Casey Show.

    I very seriously considered the first two, but opted for the third. I prefer creating a positive than fighting a negative. When others continued to contend with Casey and his cohorts and “sidekicks” (Anu) from within CS, I followed the events with admiration for their principled actions. Speaking truth to power is a courageous thing to do. Whatever the outcome in the short term, you have been a voice for reason and justice, and that does make the world a better place.

    I do think that Norbert’s legal maneuvers are the only thing that might shake the LT out of their smug complacency, and I agree with some that the most likely outcome is that the CS organization will be better off as a result. But even in the worst case that CS folds, there already good alternatives for the hospitality community, so I’m not worried about that.

    Taking the longer view, I see the future of the hospitality community as something like what Kapser and others have suggested: open source platforms offered by people like Morgan and the BW/BV team, which may then be customized to the tastes of countless special interest groups whether they be adventurists, cyclists, Christians, scientists, low-budget travellers, gays, etc. There will be a role for an umbrella, meta-organization to support dialog and cooperation between the smaller communitees. BV may well fill this role. CS could have been this meta-organization, easily, but not now, I believe.

    Because of the overt promotion of the hard-partying/communal/exotic lifestyle by the core of the LT, I suspect that over time, as many alternatives spring up, CS will gradually become the home for this sub-culture. If CS doesn’t go this way, another group will take on that identity, as there is a large community there that deserves a home of its own. Besides, when newcomers become aware that there are alternative communities with no “Verification Tax” that mostly supports the exotic lifestyle of a select few, they will think twice about joining CS.

    Unless of course, there is a regime change in CS. But that seems unlikely short of bankruptcy or criminal proceedings, now that CS has become the meal-ticket of not only Casey, but some of his buddies as well, with more likely to follow. When push comes to shove, I think Casey will come clean and comply with Norbert’s requests, if indeed he has been misleading the community all along, rather than risk a legal battle which might mean losing his meal-ticket and the reigns of power. But as has been pointed out, if Casey has broken the law, his fate may no longer be in his own hands.


  • Friends,

    thank you for your clear words and addressing problems so directly. Throughout the whole opencs movement I have learned many valuable lessons which will help me to make things better at the first time in BeVolunteer (I am only one of many contributors of the democratic decision making process over there).
    One thing, if any of you knows a French lawyer who could help BeVolunteer gain a good legal background (i.e. check that we do things the right way) – we would be more than happy for it!

    Apart from that most things requested primarily by developers of openCS have been agreed on and are about to be implemented in BW including open source licence, openID, opening the wiki to the public , polling and community features and so on. For this your action and activity was very helpful and pushed us towards a transparent framework in which we now can find our healthy and sustainable balance.

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