Archive for July, 2008

The CouchSurfing News Channels – Coming Soon!

Friday, July 25th, 2008

A lot of effort is occurring in the background by volunteers working remotely and at the Alaska Collective to establish our very first centralized news page on the site.

Members on the Communications Team are creating guidelines and preparing for the launch of this news page, including developing all the technical specifications for our Tech Team to build this new functionality and making the moves to recruit more volunteers to help manage these channels. Members will be able to subscribe to the channels of their interest by email alert or RSS.

So what can you expect to see on this news page? Click the link below to check these channels out!

Member Stories

The Member Stories news channel will provide the official space for CouchSurfers to write and share their most memorable CouchSurfing experiences – whether surfing, hosting, or meeting CouchSurfers in other capacities. You can expect to hear about not only successful hosting and surfing situations, but the fun CouchSurfers have experienced at gatherings, excursions, events, and activities that inspire, inform, entertain, and motivate members towards furthering the CouchSurfing vision and mission.

Surfers Making Waves

This channel will showcase CouchSurfers who are embarking on particularly unique journeys. They might have a unique story that helps promote the CouchSurfing mission, through a series of unique and interesting couch experiences, be pursuing a project or ambition that is particularly unique and news-worthy, or using CouchSurfing to further a particular mission they are embarking upon.

CS Organization

This is going to make our volunteers and Ambassadors lives so much easier! A centralized channel for all CS organization-related information, to help keep interested members up to date with the latest information regarding the running of the CouchSurfing organization. You will be informed of new projects as they are developed, new volunteers and Ambassadors, new systems implemented, goals that will pursued, policy and finance information when its released, and any other information that Team Leaders want to share about the work of their teams.

CS Technology

Currently this is the Tech Team News Feed, and this channel will continue to inform members of the technical changes that are being implemented on the CouchSurfing site.

Wanderlust Newsletter

A quarterly newsletter that aims to inspire members to what the CouchSurfing vision and mission means on a personal level, and get members thinking about how they can live the CouchSurfing vision every day in their interactions and travels. This popular newsletter is coming back after a long sabbatical and you can expect to see big news items and old favorite sections such as “The Savvy Surfer” and “I want to surf with…”.

Events Newsletter

Another quarterly newsletter to inspire CouchSurfers to get involved with their own communities and other CouchSurfing communities when they travel. By showcasing some truly distinctive events that have been put on around by CouchSurfers around the world, and getting a preview of some to come, we hope to get members excited about actively participating and meeting new people from around the world.

Safety Newsletter

Appearing every six months, this newsletter will be the one stop shop for the most updated information regarding safety in the CouchSurfing community. Members will be informed of the latest safety features that have been implemented to improve member safety, general safety tips, along with information regarding known scams to help make members aware.

Press Spotlight

The CouchSurfing Press Spotlight is managed by our hard working Public Relations and Media team, who keep members updated with the articles that showcase CouchSurfing in the general public. This page will be easily accessible from our news page and will continue to highlight the stories that feature the CouchSurfing community.

Members will have the opportunity to submit article ideas for different channels and our Communications Team volunteers will make the news happen! Not all channels will be available immediately upon the launch of the page, but you get the idea of where we are heading. The next step after this page will be to determine an effective way for members to give feedback and provide ideas and suggestions on what is going on within the CouchSurfing community. The Communications Team is keen to make sure that community news is a two-way street!

If you are an experienced editor or writer and want to get involved in volunteering with the Communications Team, then please visit the Community Communications Group to stay tuned for the recruitment announcements!

Let the Swatting Begin

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008


Bug week has begun. The CS Tech Team is working hard this week to eliminate as many bugs as possible from the system. They started yesterday, and have fixed an impressive number of bugs already.

List of bugs fixes as of this post after the jump.

CS2 - 2008 Alaska Bug Week
- 0000540: [groups] When a new user join a group, a message is forwarded to moderator, sometimes user name is not written (GrandVizier) - resolved.
- 0001434: [user profile] Male default preferred gender (redcouchguy) - resolved.
- 0001733: [user profile] Suggestion to change text on the page for editing the Contact Method field (redcouchguy) - resolved.
- 0001732: [friend connections] reference labels missing in "my friends" (redcouchguy) - resolved.
- 0001466: [general] Error in the exposed procedure for printing CS business cards at Vista Print (redcouchguy) - resolved.
- 0001045: [general] VistaPrint information out of date (redcouchguy) - resolved.
- 0001638: [email] wrong link in friend update emails (redcouchguy) - resolved.
- 0001724: [couchsearch] Option to search for Couch Availability does not work (cyrilg) - resolved.
- 0001707: [groups] "Create a new group" from the page "Edit Communication Settings of Groups" doesn’t work. (GrandVizier) - resolved.
- 0001730: [general] Warning: array_push() [function.array-push]: First argument should be an array in [] on line 513 (cyrilg) - resolved.
- 0000557: [images] Deleted Folders for pics still in pulldown menus (cyrilg) - resolved.
- 0001097: [images] Moving images doesn’t work (cyrilg) - resolved.
- 0001641: [general] Strange symbol on The Phoenix Story page ( [^] (walterheck) - resolved.
- 0001686: [couchsearch] New City Ambassadors not listed in Couchsurch (redcouchguy) - resolved.
- 0001697: [couchsearch] Missing alt text for profile icons (redcouchguy) - resolved.
- 0001700: [contact us questions] Link to member profile disappears when answering a CUQ and in the stats page (redcouchguy) - resolved.
- 0001719: [general] Need to tweak the text here: [^] (redcouchguy) - resolved.
- 0001728: [general] [^] stays blank (redcouchguy) - resolved.
- 0000742: [general] clicking "logged in as x" link adds user’s own "profile views" count (redcouchguy) - resolved.
- 0000248: [general] Main Page Testimonial Snippet Cannot Be Expanded (redcouchguy) - resolved.
- 0001202: [general] Turkish Currency (redcouchguy) - resolved.
- 0001050: [general] Wrong link in policy_faq page (redcouchguy) - resolved.
- 0000801: [admin] Needed: Verification Upgrade Button (redcouchguy) - resolved.
- 0000836: [admin] Need log of when verification system is down and working properly (redcouchguy) - resolved.
- 0001506: [groups] A post doesn’t appear on the Buenos Aires Group (GrandVizier) - resolved.
- 0001496: [groups] Formatting gone AWOL in the Mumbai group (GrandVizier) - resolved.
- 0000889: [groups] New user joined group emails not sending reason (GrandVizier) - resolved.
- 0001611: [chat] Users with deleted profiles able to enter chat - resolved.
- 0001652: [groups] deleting group posts - post count not updated (GrandVizier) - resolved.

Caribou Tech Release

Thursday, July 17th, 2008


The CouchSurfing tech team has just released their third update of the Alaska Collective. Dubbed “Caribou” after the animal and the Alaskan town, this release adds functionality across the site.

Some of the most noticeable changes have been made to the reference system.

Here are the changes you’ll see:

  • Simply Positive, Neutral or Negative!

We know, we know… that time you surfed with those kids in the Philippines during Chinese New Year and ate tarantulas with the village grandmother or when you met your best friend three years ago when you hosted her last minute in Portland qualify as EXTREMELY positive experiences. However, it seems to be the trend that less members distinguish between truly “extreme” and “positive” experiences. Now members will just choose to rate the experience as "positive", "neutral" or "negative". You can pay homage to the extremity of your experience in the body of your reference. All current references will be automatically changed, so "extremely positive" and "extremely negative" references will be changed to "positive" or "negative", respectively.

  • Bringing them together

To help you get a clear picture of both sides of the CouchSurfing experience, you will be able to see the references that two members have left one another, grouped together. Yes, that’s right – you won’t need to scroll through the entire reference list to see the corresponding references a member has left! References you have left others, that don’t correspond to a reference left for you, will still appear at the bottom of your reference list.

  • Stationary updates

Updated references will stay put. They won’t move to the top of the reference list, but the member will receive an email with the reference changes. Now you can keep track of all the changes in your references, but others won’t be able abuse the system by constantly updating references in order to keep them at the top.

  • Identifiable icons

To make it clear under what situations members have met each other, each reference will include icons that show whether a member hosted, surfed or traveled with the other member.

  • How close are they?

When looking at references, there will be a dot to show you how close the members are to each other. Just as in the "How do I know?" section on profiles, you can easily see by the darkness of the dot, the strength of the friendship link. The darker the dot, the closer the friendship.

  • KISS: Keep it short and simple!

We don’t want you to have to read an essay to understand the message a member is trying to get across in a reference. There will be a capped limit to how much you can write in each reference, but don’t worry – it’s capped at 1000 characters so you will still have plenty of typing space!

  • Keeping things private for members

On publicly viewable profiles, references left for others will not be displayed unless you’re logged in. This is to respect the privacy of members whose profiles are not publicly viewable.

Some of the other visible changes include the addition of a safety page under the home tab and the addition of city and country of origin for every meeting member.

For full details, check out the release notes.

Alaska CSC Talent Show [Video]

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

In case it is not clear by now, there is not much “nightlife” out here in Homer, Alaska, save for really bad costume karaoke, playing pool at a scrubby but charming pub, bonfires with Chubby Bunny contests, Scrabble, “Netflix Night”, and the hot tub. Therefore, we at the Collective have to be very creative about our leisure activities. So inspired by the show “American Idol”, we hosted our own in-house, home-made Alaska CSC Talent Show last Thursday, July 10. It was a surprising success!

Despite being poorly organized by Mandie and myself, and in typical CS-fashion (meaning everyone does everything at the last possible minute!), we managed to come up with eight outstanding acts! In addition, we asked three colleagues to play the roles of the American Idol judges: Weston played “Randy”, Rachel played “Paula”, and then Cam played “Simon” (with incredible accuracy.)

Act One: Joel (our visiting French Chef) taught us all how to make Les Bananos Flambees in the kitchen…which involves rum-soaked, flaming bananas (with a side of fire extinguisher.)

Then we moved into the Dining Room for…

Act Two: “Times 11 and a Beer” was a nail-biting, audience-participating, high-math contest between Cyril, the Human Calculator, and Patricia, operating a regular calculator. Cyril not only beat Patricia on the calculator, but finished his beer!

Then we moved to the Living Room for…

Act Three: “Bear Belle’s Bellydance”, which was performed by a visiting Dutch CSer named Eline. Eline dressed up in her super-sexy belly-dance gear (bells and all!), with hunting-spear in hand, and simply hypnotized the crowd.

Act Four: “Slam!” Charish, our gleeful, enthusiastic PR Team Coordinator, surprised our audience with some DEEP poetry she composed, then twisted us around completely with an interactive, giggle-inspiring poetry slam.

Act Five: Named “Masala”, Shonali and Dougie whipped out the Banghra beats and did a flawless spoof on the Classic Bollywood Couple Dance Scenes…and if you know anything about Bollywood, you would know what a perfect job they did! (None of us knew Dougie could dance!)

Act Six: Laura and Andrew, known as “Flannel Flapjacks”, did a poignant guitar-duet. Laura shocked us all by exposing a beautiful unique, singing voice, and Andrew did such a good job on the guitar that we barely noticed Laura was just doing air-guitar!

Then we all moved to the Piano Room for…

Act Seven: “The Soul Man Show”, which featured Nick “The Blick”, our tee-totaling cook on piano, dressed like Elton John in the 70’s (fur coat and glasses, holding two bottles of booze), and Me, playing the role of the sexy sassy back-up singer, performing our own lyrics to “The Midnight Hour” (“I cannot wait until the Collective’s Over, and no one is around….”) which basically poked fun at everybody at the Collective.

The final act of the show, took us all outside to watch…

Act Eight: Weston showing off his soccer (or football) tricks, while Ben did some kind of juggling with fancy sticks….

However, the Talent Show Judges are the ones who really stole the show with their improv skills! Weston, without even seeing the show “American Idol” before and with a little direction from Trip and I, played “Randy” possibly better than Randy himself! Yo dog! And Rachel captured a highly sentimental, overly enthusiastic, alcoholic Paul Abdul, which naturally inspired Cam to channel a caustic, highly critical Simon. In my humble opinion, one of the best nights at the Collective thus far…we had no idea how much talent was lurking among us!

Who Are We?

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

One of our goals at this collective is to enhance the user experience of a CouchSurfer. A general goal, but an important one none the less. When we began discussing different ways to accomplish this goal, we realized that we only had a vague impression of who CouchSurfers were. Sure, from profile polling we could tell that the average age is 26, most of us speak English, we all like to try new things, and we like to meet new people. What we were having difficulty figuring out was where people were having trouble with the site. We knew where we were having trouble and what processes are complicated, but finding what was complicated to users of different experience levels was a challenge.

Enter the User Research Team! Created during the Thailand Collective, this team is made of of people around the world who specialize in user research! They have come up with some incredible solutions for us to find out how and why surfers use the site in the way they do. The team has just started an audience research project that will help us define our group of users. We can see who is just joining the site, and how they manage to find what they are looking for compared to the site use of surfers who have been active since the birth of CouchSurfing – and everyone in between.

Knowing who we are helps in every aspect of CouchSurfing. The goal is to simplify everything, and allow people to find what they are looking for without having to think about searching for it. We will be able to identify groups of users, and present them with tailored navigation options that offer no more and no less than what they want.

Recently we posted a news item with a survey for focus groups, and the response has been incredible. The strength of the CouchSurfing community is evident in the number of people who are willing to donate their time towards the improvement of the experience.

Tech Team Alaska Collective – Release #2

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

The Tech Team has released their second tech brief of the collective. This is a culmination of the work of many people, both here at the collective and in remote teams around the world.

View Tech Release #2

Thanks much to everyone involved for making this possible!

Ready, Aim, Blitz

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

I arrived in Homer late Sunday, and am excited to again be a part of the Collective atmosphere: the productivity, the camaraderie, and the inspiration of volunteering alongside so many driven professionals who are devoting their time to this project. The setting here is absolutely stunning–who wouldn’t want to look out over snow-capped mountains when pondering an e-mail? That said, I’ve had little time to explore beyond our backyard (although see the picture below – its nothing to complain about!). the office

Since my arrival, I have been busily working on several exciting projects. Firstly, it’s an exciting week on the news front! As many of you are aware, CouchSurfing recently surpassed 1 million positive user experiences worldwide. For the Public Relations and Media Team, that means a media blitz: sending out our first worldwide news release this week. It’s an enormous task, but a thrilling one! The distribution of this news release will help us examine our process and identify areas for improvement. I’ve been absolutely amazed at the professionalism and dedication of the many volunteers who comprise this team; what a gift it is to volunteer with them and learn from them. Logistically, a distribution plan like this one is difficult–the press release must be translated into many languages, then each core team member must research media outlets to which this should be sent, which can be a time consuming process. Developing an international media list requires ongoing dedication, but I have no doubt this team is ready for the task!

Secondly, I attended a presentation on the new mission, vision and values of the organization and the anticipated new visual identity, the result of a long, organic process which began during the Thai Collective. It was much to absorb, and as our Identity team collects and incorporates feedback, it’s exciting to see how the collaboration of so many unique individuals brings the vision into focus. Of course, Public Relations is dependent upon the outcomes, so I eagerly await the final results, which will be incorporated into countless facets of CouchSurfing’s external communications.

In addition, we’re working on a strategic plan for both internal and external communications for CouchSurfing; a plan which will drive our direction for the next two years. We’re starting from scratch, which makes it both a thrilling and challenging time to be a part of this community.

Over the next 11 days that I am here, I will also offer media training to key members in leadership in the organization, giving them the tools they need to deliver the messages we want the world to hear. The training helps interviewees focus their thoughts, gain experience in front of a camera, gather constructive feedback about their interview performance and hone their interviewing skills. My hope is that if the people representing CouchSurfing in the public get cold feet, it’s because they’re standing on a glacier…not in front of a television camera.

It’s a whirlwind of good work to do and good people to do it here at the Alaska Collective!

Charish (Public Relations & Media Team)