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Development as SPOF

I’m wondering what happened with me that I am actually writing an article on Reason for this wondering is that I wish the users, AND OWNERS the best of


Unfortunately, this seems not to be the case. In my short time as System Administrator at Couchsurfing, I’ve seem it happening more than often that the website was suddenly down. In 99% of the cases there was a change in the code, causing the downtime of one part (or even worse: the whole website). The second cause was MySQL, which just is crappy with the setup of Couchsurfing. In this case, the NDA caused good people to leave.


Lately, I’ve heared more moaning of the website being suddenly down. From my place (Rotterdam, The Netherlands), nothing seems to be wrong. Until lately. My mailbox is lately flooded of the loadbalancers that Couchsurfing use, and are no longer accepting connections. With the processing-power that couchsurfing does have (more than 7 webservers *AT LEAST!*), several database-servers, I unfortunately must conclude that the only reason why couchsurfing currently *FAILS* is the IT-management team of couchsurfing, especially the development-team.


So, can we conclude that the development-team fails? Unfortunately, this question must be answered as a no. Unfortunately, because otherwise the Couchsurfing Corpganization would be able to ditch the programmers, and get new, well payed, other guys willing to work their asses off.
The problem is deeper: CS is build in a iterative way: once build by Casey, extended by several guys. Unfortunately, the CS-MT is unable to get a firm grasp at the whole, is not willing to make it open-source, and is not able to program it the right way.


Even worse, the management has desided that *THE WAY* to program couchsurfing is to have several programmers in several timezones, programming at different (or the same?) things at the same time. In development-land (for what I have heard), a socalled OTAP-Street (Ontwikkeling, Testen, Acceptatie, Productie), meaning a line of Development, Testing, Acceptation and production, is *THE* way to develop things. I must say that I have said this several times to Casey and Weston and they claimed “it was to difficult”. With that decision they also chose a method that gave the following results:

Downtime May 5th 2009Now, would this above error be there when a decent method of development had been chosen? I sincerely doubt it.


This makes me conclude that Couchsurfing is *DEAD*. Yes, indeed, I must say this with pain in my heart, the current way CS works (ignoring willing programmers, DBA’s etc) is not the way CS will reach the 2 million people (?) they wish to reach. I sincerely hope that will not have the same problem.


Walter said it right: 1 million (?) people can’t be ignored. From my stance, we will have a favour of people applying for our couch via BeWelcome. I must conclude that my eyes are (unfortunately) opened. And that my English is worse than that I have hoped :)

7 Responses to “Development as SPOF”

  • BeWelcome is dead

    “I sincerely hope that will not have the same problem.”

    BeWelcome is already dead. Look at the recent discussions on the BW forums where people admit that development has stopped. The old vols have gotten tired and no one new is stepping forward. And I expect BW to continue to have problems because it has no clear target. CS and HC grew because they advertised to young people the chance to party, have a good time, and travel lots. Virtually everyone I know signed up there because they got something out of it. BW’s only sales pitch is “Look, we are an open community!”, and few are going to contribute anything out of pure altruism.

    BW needs to identify a clear demographic and purpose. Unfortunately, it can’t do that without alienating some members, as the community is currently divided between HC/CS types who just want to party or travel for cheap, and more serious types who think BW should be all about formal cultural exchange. See Spectie’s latest post on the BW forums. A very active host, he wonders how many people share the same views about BW that he does, namely it’s at its most basic a chance to give travelers a free place to stay and stay oneself for free when traveling.

  • I’m not sure who’s posting under the pseudonym, but I agree with their view, BeWelcome appears to be dying. I think such a small scale project needs a small group of dedicated, empowered people who can just get things done without being bogged down in “democracy”. I think democracy is great once an organisation is running, but it needs a little autocracy to get started.

    I’ve heard rumours of other people entering the hospex market, but I don’t see any sites that offer genuine competition to CouchSurfing. I believe HospitalityClub is also dying.

    I think the figure that’s most accurate is around 300k active members. That’s where Quantcast puts the numbers which are based on actual site visits, not “profiles in the database”.

  • @Callum Some days ago i found – Its really the opposite of “open”couchsurfing – “autocrazy” positioned. At the moment only <10’000 members but in the discussion forms (not that many posts) they answerd many requests and implemented what the users asked for.

  • Bewelcome is not dead and development hasn’t stopped. It’s true that we’ve hit a “dead” period in the sense nothing much seems to have happened for some time now, however: some features will get a much needed overhaul very soon and more is planned.

    What’s going to make or break BW is – as far as I can tell – whether or not the volunteers that believe in BW will stick it out. The BW site is not going to deteriorate, so if we manage to hold on to good people, I’m pretty sure more will join to chip in. Probably slowly, but still.

    Peter – Fake51

  • I think the problem with Bewelcome is it’s boring. I think the fact that it’s open-source and a democracy is great – but most people are more interested in the travel. So maybe there should be more features like incorporating relevant advanced features from Travbuddy, Dopplr, Twitter & Facebook. Overhaul the design and create an application platform.

    I’m think how people moved from Myspace to Facebook. MySpace feels like fun but Facebook feels like an all-in-one tool.

    Also maybe a key differentiator could be to team up with aid agencies, charities, WOOF, SERVAS and Intentional Communities – so travelers have an opportunity to do some volunteer work during their travels. I think this is what could save BW.

    BW needs to be different. Really different. BW needs more than democracy. It needs visionaries. Good Luck!

  • Yawn. Yet another guy who spent a few weeks/months inside the working of CS only to bitch about it for years afterwards with no actual scope of what’s going on currently. Yawn.

  • “This makes me conclude that Couchsurfing is *DEAD*. Yes, indeed, I must say this with pain in my heart, the current way CS works (ignoring willing programmers, DBA’s etc) is not the way CS will reach the 2 million people”

    How about this: if/when CS reaches 2M members will you shut the hell up and admit you have no idea what you’re talking about?

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