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Impressions of the CS Thailand achievements

To be honest, the list of CSCT achievements confused the hell out of me. Instead of a report on which objectives were achieved through which actions, it’s a huge list of “stuff that we’ve done”. How does all this relate to any kind of overall plan? Was there even a plan?

This is not a report, this is a “shut the fuck up” list. What this list tells me is: “LOOK! We’ve done A LOT! Leave us alone!” Doogies (a CSCT participant) sums it up best in one of his comments on this site:

You wanted to know everything we did in Thailand so you get a document with more than 500 achievements we accomplished there for couchsurfing.

More than 500 achievements! Wow! Unfortunately, I find it clearly symptomatic of a miserable professional result. I’ve seen this approach before: Whenever a large project failure had to be covered up. Been there, done that myself. It’s a sleight of hand technique: By pointing at a huge, unreadable and almost entirely unverifiable list of statements, they are hoping to hoodwink the CS donation base that all that money is serving a purpose and probably to fool themselves in the process. The person responsible for this style of writing is Mandie, showing us again how incompetent she is at what she does. Hold this report up to the standard of any serious non-profit organization and it just becomes sad. This is not a report, it’s a hastily thrown together list of things people could still remember doing.

There is plenty to learn from the report though. In general, it appears that the largest part of the participants has been busy analyzing and communicating. Also, tech has been very busy, probably the most productive team overall (this has always been the case in CS). If anyone seems to have done anything, it’s clearly the programmers. We’ll see how well it all holds up in the summer.

Things that I noticed right away:

  • Jim Stone is a scary control freak, which we already knew from the way he bullied everyone in the CS Wiki. Look at what occupies him:
    • ” A reminder system to let people know they should update any reference that has been identified as violating our terms of use.”
    • “References are no longer completely deleted when removed, just hidden for safety concerns. We also know who deleted it, what the reference said, and when it was deleted.”
    • “Deleted Images: The safety team can easily delete images from accounts that are deemed inappropriate. The member is also emailed to let them know with instructions on what they can do next.”
    • “Refined a tool that more easily identifies real spammers and harmful users and doesn’t temporarily falsely identify members as being spammers as often now.”
    • “Deleted posts: every post that’s been deleted, why it was deleted, who did it, when, and ability to reactivate it with one click.” (I’d love to see this list of “whys” sometime.)
  • Rachel is a one-stop CS police force: “Directly handled several member disputes.” She obviously doesn’t need to report to anyone, because obviously every communication is an achievement and a report of Rachel’s activities simply isn’t listed.
  • Speaking of communication, Mandie thinks this is an achievement: “Email to ambassadors explaining website downtime.” My god. An email. The “report” is full of nonsense entries like that.

But all that is just fun and games. It clearly wasn’t edited anymore than the average OCS post (this says enough), providing hours of entertainment. Meetings are NOT achievements, neither are writing emails, calling people or “Finding a suitable caterer and arranging for daily delivery of food.” (Obviously nobody felt like cooking in a country with such a low wage scale.) Who cares about the “bi-weekly shopping trip”? Or what about ” Administered half-way point evaluation meeting with House Manger.”? That one was from Matthew Brauer, who has a truly sad list of achievements and still can’t spell his name right. (What the hell is it with using nicknames in an “official” report anyway?)

But what is really interesting is what is missing:

  • Where is all this generated material being kept? Things like “plan for Alaska Collective including budget, roles, objective and location”, “desired skills sets for volunteers in team”, “‘Core concepts’ to help uncover and articulate what CouchSurfing is about, not about, what its mission is.”, etc etc. The server team doesn’t mention installing a document repository and the Wiki has been shot down Jim Stone style. So, unless I’m mistaken (no way to verify unless Doogie could come out his tower to enlighten us), all these wonderful documents either don’t exist or are sitting in someones harddrive or mailbox. Either way, that will mean 90% of “work done” will be tossed away again for the next collective, like it has happened 2 times already. Remember the huge “organizational chart” that was created before CSCNZ? Exactly. CS management = the way of the Dodo.
  • There is absolutely NO mention of 501c3 status. None. Let me repeat that: the entire 501c3 process is completely absent from this report, even though it was in quite a few announcements. What happened guys? Didn’t you work on it or is it not an achievement? Or maybe, perhaps, it was a miserable failure?
  • There is not one mention of drafting contracts and exactly one reference to legal work:
    “Phased out one-on-one verification on the advice of our legal team: verification now only available through credit card or a verified PayPal account.”
    Right, so all those expenses towards the CS lawyer(s), 14,234$ in 2007, have only resulted in another way to increase profits? It appears nobody had a contract or even insurance (only travel insurance is mentioned), since none of that is mentioned. (Search for: “legal”, “contract” and “insurance”.)
  • What the hell is going on with Casey Fenton (who also doesn’t need a last name)? Why doesn’t he have his own personal achievements, like his buddies Matthew or Jim? Why is he mentioned in second place of a team twice? My guess is that they are trying to shield Casey from direct comments on his behind-the-scenes style of control. Who are they kidding? Where has the “leadership team” gone? Where are the board meetings? Who is on the board anyway? Of course, it’s also possible Casey couldn’t be bothered to write down his list of “achievements” and/or Mandie didn’t dare to ask him.
  • Did you know CS has a new team in charge? Neither did I. This time, it’s simply called “CouchSurfing Management” and guess who’s in it? Matthew, Casey, Jim and Weston (member since April 15th, 2007). Congratulations guys, you have finally managed to create your little Northern American boys club.

What else do you see missing from the report? What do you think is the funniest “achievement”?

26 Responses to “Impressions of the CS Thailand achievements”

  • Thomas: “What do you think is the funniest “achievement”?”

    This is your positive contribution to opening CouchSurfing? Laughing at the achievements of volunteers?

    OCS keeps proving over and over again that it’s interested in nothing than slinging mud at the efforts of others.

  • Laughing at the achievements of volunteers?

    What achievements ? Name one LT you disgust me .

    Talking about alaska in thailand ?

    I think casey f*cko would sell ,also loses will be there in the last balance sheet .

    I am shocked with the views of doogie and the rest (they care a shit about the work the ambassadors are doing or about working for couchsurfing.)

    His site says it all. The priorities of the collective happy campers (NO i will not use volunteers) is very different from the work done by mock turtle , leimondo ,ricardo who are putting out a frame work for the future. Even duke did an awesome job with the gig swapping.

  • Thomas, in his blog “Thoughts from the General Manager” Matthew Brauer mentions that he had to “Edit supplemental statements for our 501c3 application”, which means that the application as it was could not be processed by the IRS, and it has now gone back to the end of the queue again, so that we can expect to hear about it again in four or five months.

  • Thomas, thanks for this considered post. I haven’t tackled the list of achievements, but I feel like you’ve given a good overview of it.

    I’ve noticed a lot of poorly written, rather incoherent posts on this blog recently, yours makes a welcome change. It’s nice to see well written posts again.

    Alas, as usual, CouchSurfing is mismanaging donations, abusing their “charity” status and having a great big party while doing so.

  • I’m in with disgusted. As usual you guys are just tearing down what good volunteers try to build up. You will never ever say anything positive about the people behind cs.
    You guys should go into politics!

  • Again, I think we should be criticizing only the lack of openness in CS administration, not the Collectives method of doing things. I don’t mind if progress on the site goes a little slower, as long as whoever is in charge is having lots of fun. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m on Couchsurfing because I enjoy unwinding in the company of other young (and young-at-heart) people of leisure, and the same goes for my friends. The leadership team should reflect this. I don’t understand why you want to transform the leadership team into a bunch of boring business types.

    For those saying, “People shouldn’t be having fun with verification or donation money”, I don’t see the problem. I haven’t verified yet because I don’t have anything approaching a stable address, but I’d like to someday, and I have no problem with my few euros going to providing an appropriate atmosphere for CS maintenance.

  • Christopher Culver you never did have a problem with the LT spending OTHER peoples donations . Not do have a problem it is not our money!!

    an appropriate atmosphere for CS maintenance. Would that “CS maintenance” be by free flight tickets to thailand and then to alaska and who knows where next?
    Would that “CS maintenance” be from the bucket of alcohol.
    I do not know if you are an ambassador or even HELP make cs better .Or are just USING the site for your pleasure and would not bat an eyelid if it goes down.

  • Nevermind trolls like “davy”, Christopher. I checked out your website and and unlike most of the trash talkers here who can’t wait to tear everyone else down you seem to be living the true CouchSurfing spirit. Keep it up! But don’t expect to come here for a reasonable debate. The “spirit” that’s fostered here won’t allow it.

  • Joe k said:
    >>But don’t expect to come here for a reasonable debate. The “spirit” that’s fostered here won’t allow it.

    Possibly true… although a lot of good debate has happened here.

    But EXACTLY the same things can be said about CS. No one who runs it has been willing to engage in ‘debate’ – or discussion, dialogue, allaying of concerns, transparency, insight into the basis of decisions, or anything else.

    Without them some good debate has happened, too.. but also a lot of damage done.

    Christopher, @ you: i really doubt that much complaining would happen about the lifestyle of CS leaders in using the Collectives, if a lot of other things were done responsibly. But people getting paid to do a job should try to do it professionally, at least the JOB part.
    You’re also missing the points of others that having Collectives in inaccessible parts of the world in fact prevents CS from fulfilling its potential – they are literally refusing ‘manpower’ while also constantly complaining that problems are due to a shortage of it! Not exactly logical, nor a good excuse either.

  • Constant expenditure. air tickets >transport>accomodation>food Thailand>Alaska
    Depletion of resources. 70,000 surplus > – loss
    Less donations >no new income
    What happens when there is not more resources in a company?
    File for Bankruptcy

  • @chris
    i had always hoped the verification donations would support this;

    couchSurfing seeks to internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance and facilitate cultural understanding.

    CouchSurfing Mission Statement

    i’d be more inclined to support the collective if (aside from all – most – the arguments already put forth here and elsewhere) it had included more locals, if instead of just having fun on time off participants perhaps learned something about thai culture (which would be pretty fun actually), did something to spread that ‘official’ mission and not the more americana ideal of work hard play hard (and, obviously, the work is being debated so it stands to reason the play should be to)

    as far as partying on donations is concerned, that would be suicide for a real charity and i hope cs is still trying to get down that path. (501c3)

    i noticed your travels haven’t taken you to scotland yet, when they do, drop by!


  • A lot of interesting reactions here, some quite emotional (which is unfortunate). To address some negative reactions:

    - OCS *is* political action and it has always been one. CS is a large organization, with a fairly vulnerable and extremely large group of members. OCS is practically the only true opposition within CS and if only for that, it’s useful. Opening CS will not go smoothly or easily, that has been clear from the start. But, as has always been stated here, anyone can try a different approach.

    - Good people can do bad things. I’m sure the CS volunteers in Thailand are nice people, in fact I *know* Matthew is a nice guy to talk to. However, I also think they are doing the CS community a disservice by the extremely bad way they are doing their (payed for) job. One should not withhold criticism because they are nice. Now, if the “Couchsurfing management” (or whatever their name is this month) would be approachable, there would be more civil ways to voice our concerns. Their own tendency to hide, censor and ridicule simply causes me (and others) to criticize them fully in the open.

    - The fact that it’s so damn easy is to find “funny achievements” in the only official “report” we’ll probably see from CSCT is actually quite depressing. What do they want me to think when they write an achievement such as: “Made sure the renter put in the promised furniture.” or “Locating 5 gallon water jug carriages for easy pouring to reduce use of small water bottles.”? Be glad I still have a sense of humor for what is actually a tragedy and a genuine waste.

    As is usual not many people have responded to my core criticisms however. What do *you* think of Jim’s/Rachel’s/Matthew’s “achievements”? Why doesn’t Casey have his own entry, you think? Why don’t they write anything about legal (contracts/insurance) or 501c3 related issues? What does this report say about the future of CS? Where is it headed in your opinion?

    And, as a reference point, let’s see what other people on this site have achieved professionally in the last 5 months (2008).

    - Started a new creative production company and won several large contracts for it. Created a logo, house style and website for it.
    - Made a feature length documentary film (almost finished).
    - Organized a video competition and two international workshop weeks for young people.
    - Organized a brainstorm (unconference) weekend for BeWelcome at my house for almost no money at all.
    - Created two community sites for youth centers in Antwerp and Dublin.
    - Currently making a docusoap series.
    - Insured myself and plenty others, payed taxes, wrote contracts, had about 8 meetings on average *per week* and wrote proper reports for them.
    - Hosted over 25 people through CS.

    What about you?

  • About that 501c3 issue everybody is going on about all the time. I don’t even know if this information is relevant or not but I’ll mention it anyway.
    When I went for my Visa in the US embassy in Belgium they gave me a very hard time giving me the volunteer status. I almost didn’t get it!
    “Its not that you are working for charity or church” they said. “Programming huh, its not a traditional volunteering job”. So I tried to explain what CS does and explain them the CS mission. Not convinced they ask me about the tax status of CS. “I don’t know” I answer “but I think have the the non profit status”. “aha” she said and she looks something up on her computer. 2 minutes later she smiles at me and wishes me a pleasant stay in Alaska.

    As guessing is fully accepted as argument on OCS my guess is that the 501c3 IS pending somewhere in American administration. It is already in their system and it is official enough to give me a completely legal visa without asking any more questions. (after the taking fingerprints and check for explosive molecules on my hands)

  • 2 minutes later she smiles at me and wishes me a pleasant stay in Alaska.

    As couchsurfing has stopped the google bots from getting information. The lady much has read all about the fun doogie had in thailand and all the photo links from ocs. And that is why she smiled :) .

    She realised what the management at crotchsurfing was really doing. She also much have seen how much “programming” doogie really did at thailand.

  • that’s great Doogie…glad you found your way

  • Doogie, after a report had been filed with the Attorney General of New Hampshire, Casey was forced to register CS as a charity with a delay of 4 1/2 years in November 2007, and as a result it is now on their official list of chairties. That’s why you’re able to get a ‘B-1 Visa for Volunteer Service’.

  • observing the decline

    I love how Pickwick takes all the credit for CS applying for 501c3 non-profit status. Ha! Did you also part the Red Sea for Moses?

  • Registering with the Attorney General has nothing to do with “501c3″. You have no clue.

  • cool, somebody deleted all the shit spam posts.

    this improves the site alot. the only improvement i can think of now is making the cs nickname or an equally identifieable name mandatory. whilst giving everyone the liberty to post their ignorant crap in comments, it would remove the anonymous trolling.
    of course, cs goons would cry censorship, after all, caseys culture is the use of proxy messengers so this is not suprising, yet it remainds hypocritical bullshit hence unacceptable here.

  • Zak0r: “yet it remainds hypocritical bullshit hence unacceptable here.” I realize that English is not your first language so I understand that it must often be difficult to communicate with it, but I have no idea what you are saying here.

    This one I did understand: “whilst giving everyone the liberty to post their ignorant crap in comments, it would remove the anonymous trolling.”

    Obviously you can have your “real” name, like “Zak0r”, and still post “ignorant crap in comments” just the same, right? Of course with a “real” name it’s much easier to disregard any of the content and directly attack the person posting it, so I can see why most of the attackers, oops I mean “commenters” here would want that. Why listen to the message when you can just attack someone for speaking up?

  • speaking up != bullshit

  • @Diederik

    IF speaking up != bullshit


    shutting up !=

  • hello dimwit. since its rather obvious your comprehension of written english ranks somewhere between texas and north dakota, i will make it easy:
    the nickname i use here is identical to my cs profile name, hence it is easy to identify my “opinion” with my “person”. in no way i try to obfuscate possible links between the two.
    if people have no guts to identify themselves in a debate about a webpage, they can aswell go fuck themselves, in my modest opinion.
    i guess i am a bit burned by the lack of spine expressed, especially at “REAL LIFE MEETINGS AND COLLECTIVES”. all the idiots with a big mouth and opinion have no opinion or clue or arguments or courage to defend it face to face.

  • @ Sasha,

    You are completely right :) Shutting up is different than saying nothing :)

    if people have no guts to identify themselves in a debate about a webpage, they can aswell go fuck themselves, in my modest opinion.

    The only (imho) valid reason to be anonymous is to state your opinion, *AND* being afraid of the consequences of stating your opinion. Not to be a bully on this website.

  • @Diederick

    we are talking about a website and volunteering here. if people cant speak their mind being afraid of consequences in such a mild environment, i would not even want to guess how they fail in proteting their own interest in the “real world”

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