Archive for August, 2008

Looking beyond Alaska

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

The Alaska Collective is in its final days. People are packing up, cleaning has started and others are still hammering away at their computers to finish off projects. So as this Collective draws to a close, its only appropriate that we share what is next for CouchSurfing.

This year, with both the Thailand Collective and our current Alaska Collective, CouchSurfing has benefited from the help of 15-20 full-time volunteers and staff for over 8 consecutive months. Several of these talented professionals have volunteered for CS that entire time, working without pay for the love of CouchSurfing.

In Thailand, we began to build our expert volunteer teams, we made many new tools for volunteer productivity, and we made our website scalable for the 1 million CS members we’ll have by the year’s end. In Alaska, we’ve focused on improvements to member features, such as the reference system improvements, a new chat system, improved safety features and soon-to-be-released communication news channels.

With this Collective ending, CouchSurfing was faced with the question: what’s next? Great ideas are pouring in from members and we have so much on our to-do list. How can we retain the talented full-time volunteers we’ve enjoyed for these many months?

Now it’s time for CS to take the big next step.


Currently, our very talented scout, Pinkfish, who found our dream location in Pai, Thailand, as well as this amazing house in Homer, Alaska, is searching for a living and office space to house fifteen full-time volunteers and staff for the next 12 months in the San Francisco Bay Area, California.

We’re calling this location ‘Base Camp’ because it will be our long-term volunteer training base and launch spot for future CS Collectives around the globe. Base Camp will allow us to recruit the best talent in the world, ensure that CS is right for them, then send them off to join Collectives already in progress. Base Camp will also provide a stable place to plan and support the remote Collectives. We’ll be able to start one Collectives as another ends, and we will eventually maintain multiple continuous Collectives on several continents, accessible for most CS members.

While Collectives inspire the commitment of volunteers and staff members who want the adventure of traveling the world for CS, Base Camp will also attract those who have families or jobs and who need a stable location to participate.


We are an international community, and that’s why we will continue to hold international Collectives. CouchSurfing takes place in home around the world, and Base Camp will be just one of our centers of activity.

California offers CS many resources for a long-term location. The SF Bay Area is known worldwide as a center for innovative web companies as well as charity organizations that are changing the world – which means CS will fit right in. We’ll have help from some of the smartest minds who have already made the SF Bay area their home, and many free recourses for non-profits.

Another advantage is all of the CouchSurfers who live there. Of the cities with the largest total number of CouchSurfers, San Francisco is in top ten. And of all large cities, SF has more CouchSurfing members per capita than any other city in the world. Did you know that 1 in every 200 San Francisco residents is a CouchSurfer? SF loves CS!


The first step is to find our new home. Pinkfish has already enlisted the support of the SF Bay Area community to help us find the right location and set it up. Before we move in, we’ll post the available volunteer roles at Base Camp and at the next Collective that will most likely begin in November. Maybe one of these roles has your name on it!

We have so much we want to accomplish, and Base Camp will allow us to do those things more efficiently than ever before. Adding new features, building community, bringing much more information and stories to members, supporting large member events such as this summer’s CouchCrash in New York City, making it easier to surf and host, and giving our Ambassadors more support.

With so much to do, we’re excited for the opportunity to continue the progress we’re making in Alaska without break through the next year and beyond.

CS Tech Release 5 – Eagle

Saturday, August 16th, 2008



The CS Tech team has put out the final release of the Alaska Collective.  Included in this release:

Features & Fixes


• Menu options on each page are now centered.
• Removed some old links from the footer of the website.
• Front page picture has changed.
• Gaps in the index page have been removed.
• Removed the character counter input field from references and show the characters left just as plain html text.

Changes in groups

• Added subscription settings button on navigation menu.
• Subscription page is under group tab.
• There are now different colors for different type of groups: normal groups are beige, cs organization groups are now green, teams are blue and communication channels are yellow.
• Tabs and submenu don’t disappear anymore when you go into a group.
• An organization group doesn’t highlight the info-tab anymore and stays under the group tab.
• Redundant buttons in groups have been removed and the group tab with navigation menu stays open (almost) everywhere.
• Added PAGING to the groups!
• Fix group digests not being sent out bug.
• Leave group button on group page.
• Fix bug in where square brackets couldn’t be used in group posts without causing problems with the text.


Volunteer Team Changes

Events Team

• Lets event approval team know the length of time between when the invite was created and when the meeting is scheduled to take place.
• Meetings list is now paginated instead of just showing a few of them.
• Page addded to list of deleted meetings that was created for events administrators.
• Corrected weird formatting with meeting invitation email that invitees receive.
• Fixed crucial error that was preventing meeting messages from being approved.
Verification Team
• The verification team can see a list of all members needing letters and edit their addresses from one page rather than from the sending page. This also marks an address as being edited and removes it from the list. Doing it this way helps divide up the growing tasks by the verification team between those who edit the addresses to ensure that they are correct and those who just send them out.
• Changed the word ‘project’ to ‘team’ in email going out when getting verified as per request from the verification team.
• Refined the way addresses can be edited before sending letters to help the verification team.
• Added checkboxes to edit address for verification letters/postcards going out page to mark multiple ones as being ready to print instead of just one at a time.

Contact Us Questions (CUQ) Team

• CUQ team can see what member’s privacy settings are at when diagnosing user problems.
• Removed accidental ‘localhost’ from link for CUQ team.
• CUQ team can undelete profiles again after mysteriously not being able to anymore since the last tech release.
• CUQ team can reset passwords with one click instead of previous confusing and unnecessary interface.
• CUQ team can validate emails without having to click on user profile pages.
• When a CUQ team member manually validates an email address, an email is now automatically sent to that person letting them know.
• MDST/CUQ team can see more information about member accounts (like if they have selected not to receive any emails at all from our system) in order to further diagnose member issues.

Member Disputes and Safety Team (MDST)

• MDST can change someone’s user_name without logging in as them anymore, if necessary.
• MDST can only edit information on other people’s profiles because they have the appropriate permissions. This saves us in case someone figures out the exact url needed yet doesn’t have the permission.
• The ‘mdst read messages’ tool has been significantly restructured in order for greater versatility/functionality, and more sophisticated logging to keep team members accountable.
• MDST can change some account information for members, if necessary. Every action is logged.

Profile & Edit Profile

• All buttons used for navigation are highlighted now when you are on the page it refers too!
• Instant messaging options are now only shown to friends. Skype & MSN are now on top in the list as they are more common than the other instant messaging account options.
• ‘Optional contact method’ under couch information has been removed.

Communication Channels

• Integrated the communication news channels into the groups functionality.
• Integrated tinyMCE WYSIWYG editor into the communication channels groups (can be available everywhere on the site).
• Made a Yahoo! pipe RSS feed that takes all feeds on the channels and integrates it into one.
• Created page to make it possible for users to send article proposals into the communication news channels.
• Added a functionality on communication channels posts to help volunteers manage the status updates on articles through the drafting process.

Temporary changes

• Disabled image processing to keep webservers alive! It is currently set at six image uploads per member per hour, but we are slowly increasing this limit and watching the web server load to see how much we can handle.
• The search database server has been overloaded recently. We have temporarily disabled the radius search functionality to keep search working.
• Added another database server to split the load search generates.
• Added three more web servers to help with the site load while we investigate longer term solutions.


• We’re testing out memcached on all web servers.
• We’ve setup our own, internal, software package distribution repository.
• Greatly enhanced our code approval and deployment tool.
• Rewrote radius search to use a distance table.
• Rewrote some security checks in edit pages.

Bug Fixes

• bug 1807: internal comments on CUQs are now available on a history page that they were missing from.
• bug 1425: previous CUQ history is always shown when answering a question whereas before it was dependent on them replying in a very specific/non-uniform way in order for it to happen. Now it always shows previous history if the email address is the same.
• bug 1427: now makes really long URLs in CUQs behave like they do in group posts and trim them down.
• bug 1679: takes care of poorly worded information about how to change your address based on what level of verification you’re at, corrects link to right place to change it.
• bug 1797: fixed bug concerning date issue on past meeting messages that were approved.
• bug 1759: rearranging notice boxes for both internal CUQ team and ‘current known issues’ boxes are larger, in better positions, and have more basic functionality like who updated it last and at what time. This also lets people who view this information on contact.html to see when the last time we updated our ‘current known issues’.
• bug 1770: TBM icon was showing up on every profile in couchsearch/greeting page because of missing brackets.
• bug 1776: removing duplicate words in an error message.
• bug 1772: if in ‘people’ or other sub-folder clicking on site logo goes correctly to root directory.
• bug 1784: while our current policy prohibits members from searching out accounts by email it wasn’t clear until now how to find your friends that you’re trying to refer when they are already in the system.
• bug 1802: made ‘you are currently logged in as…’ information clearer.
• bug 1765: Tweaked email validation message to allow for 15 minutes to receive validation email rather than 5 minutes.
• bug 1808: removes duplicate ‘persian’ entry from list of languages, allows us to remove options that aren’t needed.
• bug 1121: people were able to add bogus friends where the id didn’t actually exist. Now it checks to see if the id brings back a valid profile before proceeding. Friend connection info only counts if both the ‘to’ and ‘from’ friends are valid


• Changed ‘CouchSurfing’ is a service mark of CouchSurfing International, Inc.’ to ‘CouchSurfing’ and ‘CouchSurfer’ are registered and unregistered service marks of CouchSurfing International.’ as per request from our lawyer.

CS Tech Release 4 – Denali

Friday, August 1st, 2008



For the fourth release, these are the changes that have gone live on the site today!

New features:
A new chat system has been created! Check it out at

Volunteer team tools:

Verification team can see links to all regions of outgoing letters at the top of the screen instead of clicking to another page.

CUQs now have direct links to contribution/verification logs on member questions instead of having to click through so many links

The verification team can see a list of all members needing letters and edit their addresses from one page rather than by doing it from the sending page. This also marks an address as being edited and removes it from the list. Doing it this way helps divide up the growing tasks by the verification team between those who edit the addresses to ensure that they are correct and those who just send them out.


The event invitation approval team can now organize lists of meeting invitations to be approved by order that the events are happening so they can get to the ones that will happen the soonest first.

Now meetings that have already passed before the meeting invitation was sent out can’t be approved, only rejected.

mission_stats.html – this is now fully translatable by the translation team.

Made the link in the verification log viewable by members to the Contact Us team, rather than the volunteer’s profile who performed the action. This will ensure that members will contact the Contact Us team to inquire about their verification, rather than the volunteer directly.

Improvements to back-end and performance:

Aggregated all web server error logs
Improved logging in access logs for debugging
Separated php.ini files for web servers and smtp servers
Enhanced some folder access permissions
Merged the new header class into the main development trunk

The Tech Team focused on squashing bugs this past week in Alaska. Check it out!

Bug fixes:
– General —
0001730: First argument should be an array in /var/www/html/lib/access.lib on line 513
0001728: stays blank
0001466: Error in the exposed procedure for printing CS business cards at Vista Print
0001045: Vista Print information out of date
0000742: Clicking "logged in as x" link adds user’s own "profile views" count
0000248: Main page testimonial snippet cannot be expanded
0001050: Wrong link in policy_faq page
0001202: Turkish Currency
0001641: Strange symbol on The Phoenix Story page
0001719: Need to tweak the text here:
0001221: Help make CouchSurfing more secure! Broken link
0000595: Print view is not working any more
0001070: Broken link to contact Tech Team
– Email —
0000890: Emails with wrong user name as sender
0000701: Showing mail sorted by sender works only for the latest 15
0001638: Wrong link in friend update emails
0001539: Couchsurf messages no longer forwarded to my yahoo account
0001581: All Emails Sent, Greetings and Couch Requests from 01/24/0 to 05/20/08 Disappear or not listed.
0001592: emails_replied_to.html page is not displaying message subjects
– CouchSearch —
0001661: Cities not listed alphabetically
0001724: Option to search for Couch Availability does not work
0001686: New City Ambassadors not listed in CouchSearch
0001697: Missing alt text for profile icons
– Images —
0000557: Deleted folders for pictures still in pull-down menus
0001097: Moving images doesn’t work
0000881: Images randomly ‘deleted’
– Greetings —
0001590: Sent greetings are not accessible
0001583: Greeting: Priority selected "Remember?" No Greeting Templates
– User Profile —
0001645: ICQ, Skype and Yahoo user names appear twice in the list
0001033: Birthday miscalculation
0001102: CS request to yourself not counted for reply-rate
0001756: "Quick link" to edit couch information missing when no couch is available
0001716: Print profile shows incorrect logo
0001749: Profile map
0001748: Ambassador home link not appearing on my profile
0001434: Male default preferred gender
0001733: Suggestion to change text on the page for editing the Contact Method field
0000946: Age does not update automatically after the birthday
– Meetings —
0001758: Meeting Message Approval
0001600: page for sending out meeting invitations doesn’t work
0001698: Send notification when a meeting is deleted
0001753: No access for any event approvers to approvers menu, some earlier events – invitation system not fully functional
– Groups —
0001742: Clicking "Make Private" on a group fails
0001014: Cannot leave archived group
0001067: Group moderators of private group cannot add new member
0001100: Deleted group still visible
0000368: Group post link does not link to that post, but to the top of the thread
0001364: Archived groups must get posting function disabled
0001516: Deleted users still getting some posts from groups
0001707: "Create a new group" from the page "Edit Communication Settings of Groups" doesn’t work
0001506: A post doesn’t appear on the Buenos Aires group
0001496: Formatting missing in the Mumbai group
0000889: New user joined group emails not sending reason
0001652: Deleting group posts – post count not updated
0001071: The page "Delete cities" invoked from admin_geofix can’t load
0001582: "Promote to moderator" link doesn’t always work
0000582: No error message is displayed when user attempts to join private group with no password
0001006: Private group shown to people that are not members
0001258: Cannot edit groups
0001543: Each time I try to create a group, I get a SQL error
0000733: URL group redirection not working correctly
– Admin —
0000849: News items deletion handling
0000836: Need log of when verification system is down and working properly
0001739: Meeting message approval past history does not properly paginate
0000801: Needed: Verification Upgrade Button
– Ambassadors —
0000469: Additional field on /amb_where_hear.html needed to be displayed
0000832: Greetings: Greeted members still show with greetings count 1 or higher + show_more not working for city/country
0000740: Greetings: after sending a greeting, more options for return
0001219: 2 bugs.
0001686: Fixed a bug where some ambassadors aren’t found because they live in a different town than the town they are listed as a city ambassador for. Now shows ambassador managers a list of people that are city ambassadors in different cities than their profile locations.

– Contact Us Questions —
0001744: CUQ stats page says ‘commented by’ not available before July 17 even after July 17
0001700: Link to member profile disappears when answering a CUQ and in the stats page
0001649: The Mantis new issues feed no longer updates on the CUQ page
0001754: Clarifying language for CUQ team on a CUQ team tool
0001743: Internal comments don’t get automatically put in the blank when answering CUQs and therefore don’t transfer over to the stats.  Now they do. Updated a CUQ team link to the correct one
0001738: Added more categories for CUQs

Other CUQ changes:

Fixed a bug that changed the id of the team member that answered a question as well as the date it was answered when commenting on previously answered CUQs.

Updated name of CUQ team function to more accurately express what it does to avoid confusion.

Updated the correct time when leaving a comment on a previously answered CUQ.

Created system that shows who the last one to leave a comment on a CUQ is on both past and current CUQs.

Made it so the message about missing new functionality only appears on statistics that came before the functionality existed.

Changed another link to the correct one for the CUQ team FAQ.

Updated internal comments information asking them to please preserve previous comments as per the CUQ team leader’s request.

– Other —
0001309: Contact disappears
0001391: Too many connections on bug tracker mysql
0000128: Last logged in location not always shown
0001732: Reference labels missing in "my friends"
0001667: Email verification feature doesn’t work
0001611: Users with deleted profiles able to enter chat
0001745: Primary navigation active "folder tab" is pushed up and looks broken
0001050: Fixed wrong link
0001466: Fixed business cards ordering page with updated info
0001732: Fixing weird reference display behavior on connections.html page
0001737: Confirmed email addresses when signing up like we do with passwords
0001733: Reminds people to use the optional ‘contact info’ in the couch info part of edit profile responsibly and to encourage the use of our established communication channels rather than external ones that our MDST can’t help with
0000701: Messages sorted by sender will now paginate properly
0000849: Admin news items can’t be completely deleted anymore

0000441: enabled the entire friend connection page to be translated

0000248: Fixed testimonials

0000742: Clicking on your own profile no longer increases your "profile views" count

0001700: Link to member profile is now available when answering a CUQ and in the stats page when the user writes without being logged in by their email address is in the system (and linked to a profile)

0001697: Shows the alt text for profile icons on both the profile and the mapsurf pages.

0001638: No more ‘/profile.html?id=0′ broken links in reference update messages

0001679: Message is clearer to verified members about why they can’t automatically change their address and how to do it properly