This site was archived on 24 April 2012. No new content can be posted. The mailing list remains online and the site will stay in this archived state for the forseeable future. If you find any technical errors on the site, please contact Callum.

Unprofessional Couchsurfing Safety Team?

The Couchsurfing Safety-team has never been without criticism. They are too closed, communicate not well enough and are too paranoid for legal actions against them, are just some of the regular comments I have heard in the past 4 1/2 years I am a member of Couchsurfing. I have no insider knowledge on this side but am a bit shocked but not surprised when I came across this posting:

Ulto contacted CouchSurfing to report the host’s misconduct and left negative feedback on his profile warning other women to stay away. The host retaliated by posting nasty comments to Ulto’s profile, including calling her a “psycho.” CouchSurfing remained silent. So, she contacted them again. Silence. On the third try, she threatened legal action and got their attention. But even that failed to keep it.

The amount of misconducts that happened due to hosting or being hosted by and through people met on Couchsurfing and other hospitality networks are as far as I am aware thankfully limited. But is seems that the safety-team is not up to understanding how to deal with acute safety issues adequately.

Still, the online service ignores complaints from women and LGBTQ travelers who have been attacked, drugged, raped, molested, and harassed by hosts. (These complaints can be found on CouchSurfing’s own message boards, and elsewhere around the Internet.) CouchSurfing denies responsibility with the pat response that victims should more vigorously vet potential hosts and report illegal behavior to the proper authorities in the country in which they’re traveling. The onus for safety is on the victim, not CouchSurfing. But this manner of thinking ignores the way the system itself facilitates illegal behavior, or at least, does little to prevent CouchSurfing from being used for nefarious purposes.

How the safety-team currently operates might even become a reason why hospitality exchange networks soon will be on the decline again, or change how people trust strangers. Maybe it is time for Couchsurfing to come out in the open about their safety-policies, have their policy more public and facilitate a public or at least a semi-public debate about it.

Find more information and critique through this comment posted on an earlier post.

Replacing The Airplane-Symbol With Something Less Insidious

Why is the “I am traveling” logo on a couchsurfing profile symbolised by an airplane? That’s what a member asked himself. He suggests to have this “pernicious symbol” replaced with a drawing that better relates to what traveling is about.

Small in itself, I think this is quite an important observation, and a great way for Couchsurfing also to reach out to the community. For example to ask for new drawings and have members to vote on those. But instead of seeing this as an opportunity to increase member-involvement, this was the answer:

Thank you for your suggestion! We have added your idea to the wish list for the tech team. However, please note that our tech team’s “Must Do” list is large, followed by a larger “To Do” list, followed by an even larger “Wish List.” Therefore, we have no way to tell you if, or when, your suggestion may ever be implemented.

Put the whip down! and, step back from the dead horse!

Love and Peace to all.

Guys, Girls, pets and stuffed animals, I think we can leave the holy family to win. WTF they have won, escapes me(money maybe(Ohh goddie(Fools))), but i know personally that whilst the battle has already been won countless times, the cult like, closed minds of the ‘organisation’ would only be opened by a FBI assault team, in the desert, on a lonely farm somewhere. Namisain. The amount of time and energy that has been wasted on trying to get them to stop being such babies, could have moved a small mountain or educated a kingdom.

Seriously, i’m tired of trying to make couch surfing better and i see a world that can be made much better, in many ways, easily. Dose any one want to get back to making the world a better place? Or how about even just making your life a better place?

Towards the end of last year, is stopped helping others and focused on helping myself. I started this year with a mission to make 2011 a good year. In january i had the opportunity of a good job in Thailand and then a telecoms consulting contract in southern Africa. I was in need of good work and a holiday. By not, just sitting around bitching and getting of the sofa and doing something, i’m now writing this by the sound of the pool hoover, bobbing around, in front of me and the pool bar staff asking if i’m unjani.

As well as getting the good work, money and holiday that i needed, it has been beautiful to learn the social basics of an African language, understand how, through language and culture they view the world differently and also how they view the world the same. It is also interesting to see the issues here that are different and the same. Learning a new language, meeting new people, making new friends, doing good business, helping a developing people with what i do best engineering technological and business strategies and solutions, has made me feel so alive, i want to feel like this all the time!

In two weeks, i have done more for more people, that i have done in two years within couchsurfing. Within 2 days we built, within 2 hours i built the first proxy, well it was actually about 30 minutes, but i like the 2 theme), in two seconds we can decide to make meaningful actions, collectivly. I see that the hasn’t done much, through lack of support, which is a surprise. If the cs org is so fucked up and is supported by a community who wouldn’t give a dam if the first development team had been murdered, then i don’t see what there is left to be interested in on this network any more? It dose nothing other that contain members, like an old bucket. It is the members that create the community and make it alive!

I say we get out of cs on mass, keep your account but set it to coffee only, use BW, Tripping and Servas, support the alternatives.

The horse is dead guys!!!!!! (<< an thats from someone who normally never uses exclamation marks)

Love and Peace

Couchrequests Issues

Recently the couchsurfing organisation changed the couchrequest system. For some this might be an improvement but in my experience it just creates problems. For starters one has to respond in time, before the date that the person requests for. This might be good for the guest requesting hospitality but for the potential host this means you have to reply sometimes instantly, if the date is for tomorrow for example. Otherwise the system doesn’t even allow you to respond!

A related issue is that my percentage of “CouchSurf requests replied to” dropped from one moment to another from 100% to 80%. And going back into my archive I seem to have only missed three requests that were send to me while I was traveling and that were short notice. This obviously doesn’t explain the sudden drop, since I have received hundreds if not a thousand requests over the past 4 1/2 years. And responding to the last one pending only made the percentage increase with 1 percent…

Weird, especially since again there is so little communication about the changes made in the system (this news-item of June 2010 seems to be the only communication). And this is not the only issue, as suddenly I seem to have a bunch of “neutral references” which before used to be positive. Or maybe the explanation is that the amount of bugs is increasing, as in my history of couchrequests there seem to be only a hundred e-mails. Of which the latest dates back to 07/11/2008 (obviously missing a couple of years).

Changes for new users

We had our first spam post on OpenCS today. Our WordPress settings allowed anyone to register and immediately publish posts. Until now, it was never abused (at least not that I noticed). Today it was. In response, I’ve switched all new users to have only “Subscriber” level permissions on the blog. I’ve also deleted the offending user and the post.

There’s no easy way to combat this type of spam. New user signups are pretty constant. We have a great deal of “spam” users already on the database who have not yet posted anything. Let’s hope they remain dormant.

If you have other ideas about how we can respond to the spamming, please contribute in the comments here. I’m happy to change the settings back if that’s the consensus. My feeling is that because this site is so quiet now, it’s ok that new users need to ask on the mailing list before they can write posts here. What do you think?

There is no change to comment settings. Comments work just as they did before.

Reviving the Collective idea – from a free software community

In 2008 I came across Drupal in several ways, while working for Hyves I came across a highly intelligent guy telling me about how it’s possible to build websites without coding. Then after I quit that day job we were picked up by a guy running a small Drupal shop in Ghent while hitchhiking to Sweden.

In the meanwhile I’ve built tons of Drupal sites, and some CiviCRM sites. Now I’m very happy to see the idea of collectives show up in another part of my life: folks at a Massachusetts based Drupal consulting company are proposing to set up Drupal Work Collectives.

The Drupal commune would be open to whomever wanted to come join in for a period of time and help advance the cause. Every member of the community would provide a special skillset to the team, be it coding, theming, graphic design or documentation. Some people could be permanent residents at such places and others could come and go based on work available and projects being worked on. Of course at first, we think it would have to start as more of a couch-surfing type thing. People who have the space can offer it up, recruit and house a few drupalistas for the duration of a project, like contributed work, or payed client work. From there, teams could assemble all around the world, do the necessary work, and do it better than they could alone, all while being able to enjoy and explore the world. Then disband, these communes or colonies don’t have to be permanent, although that is the eventual goal.

I’m looking forward to participate!

Blurb from the COO: “very few resources to dedicate full-time attention to every program that we offer.”

Apparently news of the translation team strike has reached up to the CS COO:

Hello translation team members!

First, I want to thank you all for your dedication to this team and for wanting to help make CouchSurfing available to more members around the world. Translations is important to us and we couldn’t do it without you.

I understand from Benjamin that this team is on strike and no longer actively translating the site. He has brought up several issues with us that we are trying to better figure out. This area is important to us and we want to be sure that we have thoroughly researched the issues before we proceed with a larger scale solution and possibly make it worse. I apologize if this process is taking longer than some of you may like. As you know, CouchSurfing is a non-profit organization. With very limited funding we, in turn, have very few resources to dedicate full-time attention to every program that we offer. Our tech team alone has hundreds of priorities listed and are working around the clock to get to everything as quick as possible.

We have certainly not given up on our Translations area and are working to correct the issues as soon as possible. Many of these issues are complex and difficult to understand exactly what is wrong with them but the tech team has been steadily resolving the reported bugs concerning it. For example, this weeks’ updated code release included some fixes to some backend functions that should help. It was reported that some updated translations were overwritten whenever our website code was updated. This should now be fixed. If you see this still happening please report it to the SBOT team, through your designated coordinator, or directly to us at and choose the Translations option in the dropdown menu at the bottom of the page.

Also, our WebOps coordinator has asked Benjamin to step down from leading this team. In the coming weeks we’ll be talking to some team leaders about forming a new overall leadership post.

We understand that the translation system is not optimal and some of you may choose to remain on strike. But if you’d like to continue translating please do. It’s completely up to you. If you no longer wish to remain on the translations team we ask that you kindly remove yourself from the translation groups and let us know in the future if you’d like to come back. Again, this is completely up to you. We appreciate and value your help and want to help you help the organization for as long as you’d like to contribute.

Thanks for your help, everyone. We couldn’t do what we all do together if it wasn’t for team members like yourself. You rock!

Happy Surfing and translating!

Jim Stone
Chief Operations Officer
CouchSurfing International

I couldn’t have written a better analysis than Margaret’s:

…has the CS management never heard of working together to reach a compromise? What about ‘negotiation’…does that word ring a bell?

I find Jim Stone’s answer to the Translations Team to be both disrespectful and disingenuous. If I had to devise an approach to the management of volunteer groups which would definitely *not work*, and would alienate and anger any competent volunteer, I could not have come up with a better example than this post from the COO.

I cannot imagine why any sane person, excepting those with pathologically low levels of self-esteem, would continue to volunteer for this organization.

This post is an example of exceptionally incompetent volunteer management because:

1. Jim says that his team must more thoroughly research the areas of concern, that Ben and this same team have already clearly and concretely outlined, before making any changes…why? Because (in classic arrogant disregard of volunteers by paid staff…) to follow the advice outlined by Ben, the team leader, would “…possibly make it worse” (“it” being the situation…please see paragraph 1 in the link Kasper provides). This is administrative double-speak at it’s most irritating….and is a thinly veiled excuse to buy time.

2. Jim excuses his own management incompetence by saying this: “As you know, CouchSurfing is a non-profit organization. With very limited funding we, in turn, have very few resources to dedicate full-time attention to every program that we offer.”

NO! I have never, ever, in my 5 years of reviewing non-profits, seen any organization excuse unprofessional behavior by saying, well…ya know…we’re *just* a non-profit.

Non-profits are held to even GREATER standards of professionalism than for-profits; they have to be, because they rely upon the public trust for funding. You never, ever, ever, want to betray this public trust…so to say that you cannot run or fund your programs appropriately because you are too poor is admitting your own inability to run the org….every non-profit is in this same situation…other managers just manage it better!

Jim Stone suggests that CS can’t do its job because it does not have the riches of a for-profit company; this excuse is simply insulting to the literally millions of non-profits which perform miracles, daily, on shoestring budgets: providing food, housing, jobs, hope and life to humanity, simply because this is their charitable mission. This can-do spirit is INSPIRING to volunteers…people want to join an org that puts it out there, for the universal good, despite having limited funding. Limited funding is not an excuse in the non-profit world. NO ONE wants to pitch in and help an organization which excuses its own management incompetence by saying they dont’ have enough money!! Do these guys want to drive away their own staff? good lord, it’s astonishing.

(the poverty plea is actually a lie: CS has tons of money…more than enough…to fund its programming. They simply *choose* to not put this money toward programming. What do they spend it on? Cohabitation bonuses, airfare, rent for luxurious spaces on the beach, and that nebulous catch-all category: Talent

Jim has shown, in this post, a distressing lack of talent. If you add the entire expenditures from the Talent portion of the financial pie, you’ll see that CS spent (I’m assuming this past year, since this info is not dated…incompetence again) $1,590,172 on “Talent” alone…and for what? We get a reference counter that is far inferior to one developed, for free, by Dan?

Jim is the head of Operations. According to the pie chart linked above, CS spent $169, 032 on operations during whatever fiscal time frame this webpage documents. What has that money purchased?? Jill Kohlberg, the PAID volunteer coordinator-type person is unresponsive and evidently AWOL (despite her LinkedIn profile saying that she’s still getting a CS paycheck (source: ) ….while the competent Translations Team leader, Benjamin, who has diligently worked for free, is *fired*.)

…and “operations” is spelled “opperations”!

Well… I have one thing to add, it’s the first public post of someone in the higher spheres of CS in a while. One has to have respect for that!

Free software inspires changes on

DAN° released a script for Gresaemonkey that improves the profile page by adding statistics about references and other information. A key part of that, numbers of references, has now been included on

Thanks DAN° for your contribution. Maybe in time, CS Inc will include more changes inspired by external agitators.

Some more blurbs, from BSR and some funny/sad negative references

So blurbs will be opt-in rather than opt-out. But what I read today deserves another post: A Global Ambassador left 5 negative references for people he never met, they all look like this:

Never met him. From his posts (mainly Brainstorm group) got the impression, that he has problems for not being as important as he was (he often “mentions”, how he used to be “big”). Looks like he’s trying to regain importance with his “watch group activities”. His arrogant self-righteousness sticks out even among his fellow BS’ers. His urge to lecture others on moral behavior & to express disdain for what- or whomever he thinks “below him” is sickening – as are his lies, as documented in my “Lies” threads in BS group. Sad thing is: he’s obviously smart, very educated & even witty sometimes – yet none of that helps:( When I had to ask his permission to KEEP him in my “Devil’s Black Box” #1 after gotten anonymously ratted to the MDST & being told then, that I had to ask these guys first, his curt reply showed his disdain for me: “Please remove my name from your profile. I do not wish to be linked to you in any way.” ALSO draw your own conclusions from his REPLY REF, IF he gives me one!

None of these 5 people have any other negative references…


I think it’s a shame to lose Henk as such an active and generous host in, perhaps, the most difficult city to find a couch…but I don’t blame you a bit, for removing yourself from the search feature. I would feel equally sad if I was condemned unfairly by a representative of CS, after having offered my home to travelers in support of the organization and its ideals. (I understand that Ulf does not feel as though Ambassadors represent CS, but most other members, myself included, consider them to be so)

Somehow these references remind me of the references that I left to Casey and some other Admins, with the difference that I actually met the people I left a reference for, and I don’t think Ulf could seriously be as upset about the BSR gang as I was about Casey&Co’s behavior in 2007.

(I removed or adapted these negative references of mine.)

Blurbs from BSR

Sometimes I come across some very accurate and insightful messages in the Brainstorm Redefined group. And I just adhocratically decided to copy some of that stuff here, where it is actually indexed by Googlebot for others to find in the future.


“just a way to pay some employees more than others”

I’m fairly certain that it’s just a way to pay for the inner circle’s rent out of company/charity funds, without paying income tax on the value of the benefit. Because that’s what it usually is. And that’s what it was about when they were paying supposedly tax free flat rate ‘daily travel allowances’ for long term employees, or before that, when they paid flat rate ‘travel expense reimbursements’, or before that, when they were offering ‘free food and lodging’, as a perk for ‘volunteers’.

And it’s not as if the IRS had never come across it. There are certain areas of maximum suspicion in all tax jurisdictions: tax free benefits in kind, foreign business travel to popular holiday resorts, employing family/friends, (sub-)contracts between legal entities owned by the same people, all kinds of expenditure that may be (partly) private, etc. They all raise red flags with tax inspectors, and give them the hope of shining in the eyes of their superiors by catching a crook.

Having a nice place, however, may well turn out to be a ‘chick magnet’, as I believe the phrase is in heterosexual womanising circles.


perhaps it’s not useful to think of CS selecting for ‘dumb’ women, but to view the managers as valuing loyalty in their hiring selection. In my opinion, you must simply do your job and keep quiet to remain employed by CS. Your place is very circumscribed and the understanding is clear: if you want this job, you lose your voice.

I hosted Mandie, the former communications directors, and she was really smart. I also admire Meredith’s writing skills (current communications director) and I hear that Rachel is simply wonderful to work with: professional, prompt, responsive and super competent. I dont’ think any of these people could be considered stupid.

I do think that CS values loyalty and discernment in their hiring choices. The way to get, and keep, your job is to either not notice problems, or notice them and shut up about it…I think CS values employees who are very patient and who do not think critically about problem solving…which is a long term concern for the survivability of this org under its current management. Most organizations value employees who notice, and point up problems, early on before they become larger concerns….it’s the only way to ensure quality.