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.

Archive for the 'Transparency' Category

Casey attempts to sell Groups posts to Google, members protest en masse

If he was any more blatantly deceitful, we’d have to call him Zuckerberg! Step right up trusting travelers, and watch how Casey Fenton attempts to sell all your old (and current, and future) Groups posts for profit!

And if not for cash, then surely for the added marketing value (worth real money, and lots of it), to allow Google and every other web site and search engine to add what you thought you were sharing with only fellow CS-members, to their fully public, permanent record that is the global internet.

All the personal trip and traveler feedback you thought you were sharing only with other CS members? Sorry, surprise, now everything you posted on CS is part of the public record, forever. And, perfectly searchable.

I realize Casey’s announcement(s) have mostly to do with Groups posts, but isn’t he trying to put into place the exact same kind of exposure and sale of all your information, including your profile? Your profile picture? Isn’t he playing the exact same kind of despicable game that Zuckerberg plays?

Make no mistake about what Casey is attempting to do, exactly like Zuckerberg/Facebook – blatantly deceive you, to gain your trust and persuade you to add to his mountainous pile of traveler feedback, then once he has your trust (and your posts and personal information) he sells everyone’s posted information to enrich himself, personally.

This has been his goal since the inception of the entire CS project, he just didn’t have any buyers yet. Until now. Until Facebook became the story to copy. Until he invested considerable effort in building the largest list of users he could accumulate, to ensure the biggest pay-day he could arrange for himself.

I’ve noticed that despite several fundamental issues which members have complained about for literally years, that are never even acknowledged… in all this time, the most visible efforts seen from the inner circle and their hiring decisions, seemed to always be about PR (public relations), suppressing the publication of complaints, outright denial of reality, and spreading the gospel. To grow the list of users. To fatten the calf before the slaughter.

In classic Cult-of-Casey style, he sells you out without a warning or your consent, but when the backlash proves substantial and it turns out that people don’t want any part of what Casey’s selling, he tries to spin his scheme as something that he only intended in the best of ways, something to help you!

I don’t know which kind of people I despise more strongly – users, or liars. Let alone a career scam-artist highly skilled in both exploiting and lying to people. But the recent investors want the maximum return on their investment, so just as others have predicted… let the sale (of information you donated in good faith) begin!
Fresh email from HQ, just received, sent to all CS “members.” Stare into the face of pure exploitation and bald-faced lies:

“We’ve heard you: Change to plans regarding groups”
Dear CouchSurfers,

Last week, we sent an email in which we announced our plan to make CS groups available to search. We made this decision because the team had received member complaints that some newer members of the site didn’t seem to be joining for the right reasons. We thought that allowing people to see more of what CS is about before they join might help address this problem.

The members disagreed! We’ve heard from hundreds of people who are very opposed to this approach. I’m very sorry to have caused so much distress. It’s clear that this is something that members care deeply about, and I respect the need to approach it differently.

We have made two major changes to our plan:

Group posts created in the past will not be available to search. The only posts that will be visible to search engines will be those created after February 15, 2012. This will protect the privacy of any members who no longer use the site and may not be aware of the changes.

All members will have the option to keep all of their posts hidden from search and from non-members. Just as we currently allow you to keep your profile hidden from anyone who is not logged in, we are now building another privacy option that will allow you to easily specify that your group posts should not be visible to search engines or people who are not logged in. This privacy option will apply to all of your posts, both past and future.

These two factors combined mean that the only posts that will be visible to search will be those made in the future by people who choose not to make their participation in groups private.

I sincerely hope that this approach will protect the privacy needs of all CouchSurfing members while also giving people who are considering joining CS an accurate impression of who we are – a community, not a place to find a free place to crash.

If you still have concerns about this, I invite you to email me at and share your thoughts. The team makes all of its decisions with the intention of making CS better for its members. It seems that this time the change we wanted to make would actually have made it worse, and for that I’m sincerely sorry. I’m glad that you responded with your concerns: your reactions helped us see various sides of the issue that we had not considered. I know that CS groups are considered to be a safe and comfortable place to express yourself fully, and I would never want that to change.

Thank you for your patience and for your passion,

Casey Fenton
Co-Founder, CouchSurfing International

A plan for dramitic change and its already started.

Hi people.

I have not come here to talk about CS history and its negativity, this site stands as testimony to that and needs little added to it. I have come here to talk about a plan for the future and its abundant potential positivity for the community. If you are interested in the community and finding solutions to the problems it faces, then this project is for you.

Most of us are naturally positive, altruistic and open, it is our nature as humans. Many of us normally chilled people have become incensed and even outraged, at the state of the organisation at the heart of our community, its actions or lack of them and the dubious legal positions that leaves them and us in. This is a bad situation that we have all been painfully aware for far too long and that must change. Now is the time to make that change! Are you ready?

The plan is to create a new site and organisation (Couch Surfing Community org) that will initially supplement and CSI, filling their numerous gaps. Our belief, is that we have many times more resources, than is needed, within the community, to form a totally fresh organisation, owned and run by the community and for the community, open and accountable to the community. With the establishment of this additional organisation for the community, we expect it to grow and move forward, benefiting the community in countless positive ways, with the desired outcome of advancing way beyond CSI, making it mostly irrelevant or even taking it to the point of replacing CSI entirely.

The key is this plan is in its community ownership and community involvement. We are currently investigating how best to legally bind this project, it’s organisation, website(s), etc to the member base. (If you can assist with this then please get involved now) We feel that from this base we can build an organisation and website, that dose the community justice and facilitates the community to do the many good and positive things, that have long been desired.

A few of us techies have made a start. This is a quick and effective, off-the-shelf environment. It provides a free forum to collect, associate, focus, discuss and decide, the form of the project and the site it will create, the structure of the organisation and the projects it will work on.

We have successfully collectively collaborated to produce a great deal of talk on this site and elsewhere, this has taken a great deal of our time and energy. You are being asked now to spend a little time and energy to at least join this site and support the project and its mission, which you will shape. If you still have any passion for the community or a subset of it or even individual members, who have enriched your life, please join

If you have any skills or knowledge that you would like to contribute to this project then please email us

We are currently particularly looking for legal and organisational skills and knowledge to prevent the same legal and organisational bungles that the original bunch of techies made. Contributions made now to a successful project will probably be the most beneficial act you will ever make to help and support the cs community.

We are also calling on the wealth of technical skill out there, we know that there are numerous highly skilled individuals in our community, who have excellent skills and or ideas. If you are one of them and have a desire to help CSC move on from this technical and organisational hell, then please spare a few moment to join this project and any groups that take your fancy. There is a fair amount of work to do, building a new site and making the temporary site more useful, your community needs you now! Join Now! If you would like a free linux or windows server and sub domain for your country/city to get a local tech group going and work directly for your local community, as well as for the global one, then contact us, with a phone number and we can get you going in minutes.

Legal, organisational and technical are not the only skills we need. Communication is an important part of any endeavor. As the current members are techies, who are not built to produce nice texts, we could do with a copy editor or two. If you have a passion for communicating and CS then again please email us

If you are willing to actively contribute to any area of this project, then please email us directly Large and small contributions are all valid. Even if you only have a little time to spare, you contribution will still be valuable.

I’m known for using music to reinforce my posts. On this occasion i feel that there is only one song needed for this project…
Bob Marley – Rastaman Vibration(Positive Vibration)


Alleged rape through CouchSurfing

I just read this article on the British Dailiy Mail web site.

Terrible, terrible news. I only hope this leads to CouchSurfing improving the trust systems. I hope they don’t use it to promote verification even more, or make verification compulsory.

Checklist to Evaluate a Nonprofit Board of Directors

Last night I was skimming through a book about fundraising. I was surprised to see that members of the Board of Directors are tacitly supposed to give to the charity. So I googled a bit and found this Checklist to Evaluate a Nonprofit Board of Directors (courtesy of Greater Twin Cities United Way).

It’s hard to assess in how far the CouchSurfing Board is meeting these requirements, apart from 4 (recommended) and 15 (essential): all 5 members of the board have American citizenship, are living in California, are in their thirties, there is one female member and 3 out of 5 are receiving a salary.

Most of the other points don’t seem to be available for public scrutiny (at this point it’s even unclear to me if there are any bylaws).  It would be nice if there were a bit more clarity about this charity.

Indicator Met Needs
E 1. The roles of the Board and the Executive Director are defined and respected, with the Executive Director delegated as the manager of the organization’s operations and the board focused on policy and planning
R 2. The Executive Director is recruited, selected, and employed by the Board of Directors. The board provide clearly written expectations and qualifications for the position, as well as reasonable compensation.
R 3. The Board of Directors acts a governing trustees of the organization on behalf of the community at large and contributors while carrying out the organization’s mission and goals. To fully meet this goal, the Board of Directors must actively participate in the planning process as outlined in planning sections of this checklist.
R 4. The board’s nominating process ensures that the board remains appropriately diverse with respect to gender, ethnicity, culture, economic status, disabilities, and skills and/or expertise. NO
E 5. The board members receive regular training and information about their responsibilities.
E 6. New board members are oriented to the organization, including the organization’s mission, bylaws, policies, and programs, as well as their roles and responsibilities as board members.
A 7. Board organization is documented with a description of the board and board committee responsibilities.
A 8. Each board has a board operations manual.
E 9. If the organization has any related party transactions between board members or their family, they are disclosed to the board of directors, the Internal Revenue Service and the auditor.
E 10. The organization has at least the minimum number of members on the Board of Directors as required by their bylaws or state statute.
R 11. If the organization has adopted bylaws, they conform to state statute and have been reviewed by legal counsel.
R 12. The bylaws should include: a) how and when notices for board meetings are made; b) how members are elected/appointed by the board; c) what the terms of office are for officers/members; d) how board members are rotated; e) how ineffective board members are removed from the board; f) a stated number of board members to make up a quorum which is required for all policy decisions.
R 13. The board of directors reviews the bylaws.
A 14. The board has a process for handling urgent matters between meetings.
E 15. Board members serve without payment unless the agency has a policy identifying reimbursable out-of-pocket expenses. NO
R 16. The organization maintains a conflict-of-interest policy and all board members and executive staff review and/or sign to acknowledge and comply with the policy.
R 17. The board has an annual calendar of meetings. The board also has an attendance policy such that a quorum of the organization’s board meets at least quarterly.
A 18. Meetings have written agendas and materials relating to significant decisions are given to the board in advance of the meeting.
A 19. The board has a written policy prohibiting employees and members of employees’ immediate families from serving as board chair or treasurer.
Indicators ratings: E=essential; R=recommended; A=additional to strengthen organizational activities

CS uses SphinxSearch

I read that CouchSurfing uses SphinxSearch to improve member search. The software is available under the GPL or a commercial license.

I mention this here in the interests of collating technical data on how CS is built.

CS blocks Wayback Machine

Check here and here. You’ll see “Blocked Site Error.”

The site used to be available in the wayback machine, so it would seem that somebody at CouchSurfing International Inc has specifically requested that the site be removed from the archive. Is there any legitimate reason why such a request would have been made? Personally, I can’t think of any.

Couchsurfing The Movie

What do you want to do with your life? What is your mission? This is what Casey and Heather ask you in the marketing video “Couchsurfing The Movie”.

We will choose three Missions and CouchSurfers to star as the subjects in our documentary “Couchsurfing: The Movie” (expenses paid! sic). This journey isn’t just about sightseeing, it’s about traveling with a purpose!

Maybe the idea seems good to the regular couchsurfer, but the status and funding of this project is completely unclear. The website is hosted by Entrip while the project is co-produced and created by Alexandra Liss, also the owner of the websites. In her CS-profile she explains it a little bit herself:

I met Casey Fenton, who recently commissioned me to create the feature length documentary “Couchsurfing: The Movie,”– loving life right now and all the possibilities that this journey will lead to…

In her profile she also mentiones that she is busy with raising sponsorships. It is unclear though what type of expenses and funding are related. Casey mentions in the video that flight-tickets are fully paid, but do people also get some pocket-money? And what if you go hitchhiking? It is also pretty insane to see Couchsurfing Inc. promoting unsustainable forms of traveling such as flying – by the way. And how much community money is actually going into this project?

Let’s see when this project is to start though. First deadline was set for December 15th but now it is January the 15th, according to Still, the site is not ready yet and you cannot signin, upload or for example “Rate Missions and Vote”. (See also the beta-site which is a bit further developed).

The video is great though. It makes you laugh, guaranteed. – the real background!

This blog is mostly run by BW-lovers with a clear agenda (make CS and HC look bad so their “oh-so-moral” alternative looks attractive). For all others, who still have a somewhat open mind and don’t fall so easily for Kasper & Co’s constant propaganda, here a link to our side of the story:

The real background about this “democratic, transparent, legal” (sic) network.

Dictatorship 0 – Pirates 1

Pirate flag by pioforskyOur Alaska mirror blog has ruffled some feathers. Somebody changed the CouchSurfing blog feed. Instead of the whole post being included in the feed, now only the excerpt is included. So anyone reading the blog in a feed reader has been highly inconvenienced.

I’ll bet some clever bod thought this would stop our mirror blog. Wrong! It’ll take more than a little inconvenience to keep us pirates down. I’m pleased to report, that after a brief outage, the mirror blog is now back in full working order, with full post text.

So if you want to read the blog in your feed reader, subscribe to our feed instead, and get the comments!

We have won the battle, but I suspect this will not be the end of the war. As a Sun Tzu disciple, I have studied the enemy closely. I have anticipated their next seven moves. Fear not, their incompetence will not stand in the way of democracy and freedom. The pirates wil overcome their foolish attempts to quell free speech. Vive la revolucion!

2008 Q1 finances

“I hear servers and domain names are really expensive to maintain, and that some of the ones working on it, especially the full-time employees, are really hard-working, so deserve to be on a payroll. That fact is hard to disagree.. But at the same time, i wasn’t happy to hear that some especially coveted members in the core CS circle get their flight costs to get to the collective covered by the money raised from our donations. And that, just to get someone they really like having around to join them and be their private cook!”

Regarding finances, check for yourself, the finances of the first quarter of 2008 are available. Salaries are the biggest post on the expenses side. That doesn’t include flights and other costs of Collectives. Less than 10% of the income is used for servers and there was a surplus of almost 60.000 US$.

7220 • Salaries of Professional Staff
7250 • Payroll Taxes
7260 • Workers Comp
7515 • Bookkeeping Fees
7520 • Accounting Fees
7525 • Bank Service Fees 8,221.52
7530 • Legal Fees 9,867.59
7540 • Web/ Internet/ Host Fees 2,960.59
8110 • Office Expenses/ Supplies 3,195.01
8130 • Telephone & telecommunications 2,208.03
8140 • Postage, shipping, delivery 5,730.80
8160 • Equip rental & maintenance 13,923.46
8170 • Printing and Copying
8210 • Rent, Parking, and other occupancy
8215 • Building Repair and Maintenance
8220 • Utilities
8305 • Auto/ Fuel Expense
8310 • Travel 6,223.67
8320 • Meeting Expenses
8330 • Meals/ Groceries 10,895.37
8520 • Insurance – non employee
8540 • Staff Development 3,589.10

(note: meals and groceries were bought in Thailand!)

“I take it that back when CS was a more grassroots thing (correct me if i am wrong), all collective volunteers had to find their own way of getting to them. And that all the work was done pro-bono, even those who were working on improving CS on a full-time basis. In such a case, i wouldn’t think it’s fair that there are people on the payroll now, but those who helped cs in the initial startup days don’t get shit for all that they have contributed… “

CS never was very grassroots. PEople (like me) just tried to move it there. Casey has received a 2000 US$ per month salary ever since there was money coming in. It’s always been under control of Casey, and later Casey and his close friends.

I think paying some people is fine. Though, only people who are really needed, e.g. system administration to keep the site up 24/7, and further, let the community decide where their money is used. Whenever there’s a donation, add some checkboxes where you can give options where the money can go after the basics (administrative stuff, server costs, basic legal costs) have been covered (e.g. none, publicity, collectives, salaries for casey’s friends, food and lodging for groupies).

And don’t pay 2000 US$ per month plus expenses plus flights plus food and lodging. During a stay at a Collective it’s extremely easy to not spend more than 300 US$ per month…

Apart from the flights to and away from New Zealand (800 US$) I hitchhiked to the three CouchSrufing collectives I worked at. The laptop I bought to work on CS (1000 US$) broke quickly after I stopped volunteering, because of an extremely ridiculous non-disclosure agreement was “leaked” that does not allow working on any similar project (e.g. Wikitravel or other social networks).

BeWelcome will take time to grow. The BeVolunteer organization is already far ahead of anything else in hospex world in terms of flexibility, transparency and democracy. The software is about to follow. 3500 members is already a large pool of active people to connect with.

And note that BeWelcome now has (alpha stage) functionality where all members can verify members, for free. And it’s ID card or passport verification, not just address verification (which can very easily be falsified).

My idea about couchserfing was that it could be used as a vehicle to do much more than just hospitality exchange for college aged low-budget travelers. With so much money coming in and such a huge community behind it it would be extremely simple to set up much more sharing and society enhancing projects. E.g. a good friend of mine who also attended the New Zealand Collective is setting up If it would have been done from the inside of CS it would have been big by now. Though, on the other hand, I’m extremely happy that I didn’t accept Casey’s offer to host with CouchSurfing…