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Archive for the 'Culture of Appreciation' Category

some thoughts about positive action

I’ve been a couchsurfing volunteer for about 9 months, in which I started the couchsurfing wiki, did tons of work on the code, and much more. I was trying to open the organization in a radical way, pushing for a free software license of the code and creating a bit of chaos here and there.

The day I quit 3 other coders who had contributed considerable work to the CS code base quit as well. It was a sad day. However, we thought that would be able to put pressure on the organization to open up. We thought wrong, obviously.

Now and then I’ve seen people quit volunteering for CS, for reasons uncommon to most organization. Still, I thought couchsurfing would continue, and people would be reasonably happy to volunteer within the framework provided.

Currently, with so many long-term volunteers quitting in such a short time span I’m wondering: what can we do to really open up couchsurfing – even if just a tiny wee bit? (And I prefer to wonder openly.) And is it possible to do this all together? Apparently the people who were against opencouchsurfing in the past seem to be sharing several goals. Is there another way to peacefully make a positive difference?

All the long-term volunteers are or have been friends with members of the leadership team, can we do something with that?

Or can a consensus be found to start something new or revive BeWelcome?

(Feel free to contact me by email if you prefer, firstname dot lastname at gmail dot com – I’ll keep things private if you prefer so.)

Ulf Kleinings emails telling people to quit couchsurfing !!

This is the letter Ulf sent a lot of people with the veiled threats to leave couchsurfing .

In a recent post he writes:

I had actually even tried to “talk” to them in personal CS mails – but that went so utterly wrong that after the replies I got from them I simply knew that I could not talk to them. …That was not what I had become after the pirate’s “raid”. And since they made it clear that they intended to keep up their fights in this very group.

You decide if the content of the email was about “talking”

Any chance to stop our waltz now???



I really didn’t wanna write this mail. Because I’m almost sure that you don’t want to read this from me anyways (or at least not any more…).
But I might do you wrong on this and perhaps you’d actually like to know what my “anti-campaign” is motivated by – or where I am coming from.

So this is AN OFFER in case you’re actually interested.

If you are not – just don’t read it.
I will not go public (in the groups or elsewhere) ranting about how you not used that try of mine for a dialogue and to clear up each others positions here.

In other words: don’t feel obliged to even read any further but just completely ignore this if you’re already too pissed off by me or what I’ve posted recently – I will not use that against you in any way!

I also must warn you that it will be quite sharply accusing and even a bit angry at times.

And I realize of course that in every management and/or communication seminar in this world you’ll always be told that such a rough tone is probably not the best
way to start a dialog.

Well – then this first step will have to wait just a tiny little bit longer.

For this is not gonna be a psychologically well and cleverly phrased luring you into anything

but instead I will simply be honest and blunt about what I think about your campaign! And since a lot of that angers me personally big time – this here (logically!) has to be a bit angry at times.

So here’s what increasingly annoyed me to the point where I needed to “shoot back” – to have some kind of outlet for my own anger…

It all starts with your (alleged and/or true) motivation(s) that you name for what’s driving you…

Some of you – namely Kasper and Anu – are very honest about how personal anger and disappointments (caused by what you view as betrayals) have been one big
motivation for you:

I do honestly not simply brush this away!
To tell you the truth – I actually have much more sympathy for such motivations than for what the others allege is driving them!

And yet while I do believe you that you feel this way -that

doesn’t necessarily mean that such feelings (and thus your motivations for your campaigning) are really based on actual events but only on what YOU REMEMBER has happened. Only that doesn’t necessarily have to be the facts…

AND by that I do NOT want to say that Kasper and Anu are lying. They might just be remembering things differently than others do.

And the fact that there is more than one person remembering events in the past
exactly the same does not prove anything! It’s in fact usually the quite the opposite! Here’s what usually happens:

one person remembers an event strongly but unfortunately also (at least in parts) wrong. Another person doesn’t remember it that well any more and thus (unconsciously) just follows the first one’s memories, adopts them as his own and thus re-strengthens the
first one in his conviction that things have happened the way he says they have.

There have even been experiments about that in which 2 groups of people were to witness a certain event and then the members of group A had to testify separately what they had seen whereas the members of group B were given time to discuss what they then testified
together. And – guess what! – group B’s one common testimony is usually further away from the truth than some single testimonies from some group A members.

And the other (even more important) difference is that most of group A members (even those whose testimonies were really close to the truth) don’t say they are 100% sure they remember everything correctly – whereas almost all of group B’s member say they are!!!

And that is why I don’t even believe you when you say

you have very good reasons for your fury because Casey and the others betrayed you. I mean, for example, even Kasper once told me that Casey had perhaps never
explicitly guaranteed him that CS will go open-source -

but he says that Casey has (to Kasper’s conviction: intentionally!) let him go on believing that this would happen.

But others have told me that Kasper believed what he wanted to believe and that Casey might have been a tad too diplomatic at this point but has in fact never held out the prospect of making the CS code open-source any time soon.

Which is – of course – just one example. In essence I just mean to say that simply because some of you remember things in a way that shows them as events anyone would feel betrayed or disappointed or annoyed by this doesn’t mean that these things have actually happened this way!

The other motivation(s) anger me even more!

First of all I must admit that I don’t quite believe you (any more – see below) -
but even if I did then this wouldn’t change anything.
Or at least not for the better.

I’m talking of course about those of you who claim that your motivations have nothing to do with personal grudges or anger – let alone hatred – in any way but are purely altruistic.

For you simply want to protect other members from being exploited and sucked out or
in any other way mistreated (betrayed of their donation money or whatever) by the LT.

Your repeated tries to picture yourself as the guiding shepherds who only wanna warn all us blinded sheep about the dangers those bad wolves mean to us.

And – of course – what infuriates me so much about that attitude is (as always) this very overbearingly patronizing.

I doesn’t make a difference if members suggest more and more bans and regulations or TTT
thinks about new censorship tools – or you keep on warning us and “fighting for us” against what endangers us!

All these approaches only show how some members think that
a) the other members need that protection and
b) need it from them! If that is not atad arrogant – then what is?
I on the other hand do of course believe that we “others” are mature and smart enough to care for ourselves.

We don’t need that help – no matter how well you mean it. Actually that constant well-meaning is what sickens me most!

We don’t need to be protected from guys who offer in CS groups to serve a gang of female members for a dinner with nothing but their ties on.

Nor to be protected from being led astray by a

CS members who ask for a little amount to crash his (super equipped) place.

Nor to be protected from posters who may be a bit offensive at times – or

And likewise we can see for ourselves when “our leaders” betray us and when they waste our donated money

what consequences we have to draw from this!

We don’t need you for this and certainly not your ongoing rantings and postings- and now even stronger methods to “open our eyes”. We can care for ourselves – don’t you get this???

But as I’ve said above I even doubt that warning us is really still your main goal. From all you published lately one can’t help but conclude that you’re in fact up to ruin the LT’s reputation – no matter what the costs!

You are not protecting anyone anymore but only desperately trying to rally as many as possible against the people who you now very obviously hate so much!

And this is why the “issues fade”!

I’ve stated in the past where
I disagree with you on the actual issues (e.g. democracy) – and where
I’m on your side (e.g. censorship).
If that could make you feel better I’d have no problems repeating where I
agree with you (even publicly – even if that means that I’m then publicly criticizing the LT!!!).

But my recent posts “against you” were not only NOT really against you personally (of course!) but actually not even against your issues or concerns or points of
criticism either -

but only about your “way” of forcing them on “everybody”.

I do not doubt that you’re convinced (or should I say: still successfully fooling yourself into believing)that your causes are noble.

But how can you – after such a long time – still pretend you’re doing all this
in the name of,
let’s just say: “many” others, when you never get any support from them?
Only 90 people taking that survey!
Even if you don’t view this as 90 out of 325,000
but go with Donna and say 90 out of 1,000 -that’s still less than 1 %!!!

And how many people do post and read on OCS?

And don’t try to fool yourself or anybody else by telling that it’s just (still) too
few people who even know about that little website of yours -
you’ve banged your drums loud and long enough;-)

And if you (eventually) do accept the fact that you are apparently not speaking for the silent masses – then you simply change your chain of arguments by saying that even “only 90 members” have rights and should get some respect and (especially when at least some of them
have volunteered quite a remarkable bit of time and efforts to CS…) some appreciation, too…

But then how can you simply keep ignoring the point that I’ve constantly been trying to make: that giving to those 90 what they want (the financial reports, the answers to all your questions) takes time

which then can not be spent on whatever those other 324.910 members would perhaps prefer to get from the same people who’ll have to take the time to please you 20 or 90 members?

What makes you think that your wishes are more important or of higher value or for what reason ever to be prioritized.

Who is to decide that anyways?
I don’t know what the LT or tech team or other current powers base their decisions on -

but one thing seems very clear to me:

I’d personally rather spend my time on volunteering for something which (I’d believe) as
many surfers as possible will benefit from than on something that (I’d believe) only 90 people are really interested in.

And would even consider that a wise and selfless decision.

Actually what I myself would probably do is spending my volunteering time on what

I’d like to do best – and that would certainly not be to give in to any claims made by the same 20 (or 90 or whatever) people who’s thrown so much mud at me.

Which gets me to the next point – the one that infuriates me most:

your constant and most of the time very unfounded and simply false presumptions,
insinuations and accusations.

And how you use any cheap rhetoric trick to turn whatever you can find into something that’s allegedly supporting your points
- when of course a closer look almost always reveals that it is in fact not!

This email as well as all my recent counter-posts were and are – as I said above -
motivated mainly by my anger about this.

What an irony- you do your thing out of anger about the LT and
I do mine out of anger about you guys! (And you can’t really complain about this when you claim that same right for you!!!)

But reading some of the most recent posts (especially in Anu’s goodbye thread) it looks like you now won’t stop at nothing anymore.

You declare everyone who’s not with you (i.e. basically everybody…) silent
accomplice of a criminal band who uses “your money” to commit crimes!!!

You try set the Thai authorities at us/them/the CSC.

Legal actions against CS are taken in New Hampshire!

And please – spare me the bullshit (and save some dignity for yourself) by not even trying to claim that this is not against CS but only against CS’s LT and
thus even for the benefit of CS for it’s the LT who means the real thread for CS.

You know as well as I do that if taking them down will eventually mean taking CS down.

At least for the time being…
Sure, that would prove your points – for in a democratic and transparent community the downfall of the leaders does not mean the community’s downfall,

But to provoke CS’s end only to prove that you were right – how incredibly sick is that?
And how could you then still pretend that you only wanted to help CS as a community???

This is as retarded as – let’s say – shooting soldiers before they go to Iraq to prevent them from being shot there!

And if it wasn’t you who sent the formal query to the Royal Thai Government and who placed the thoroughly documented formal query about possible Unlawful Charitable Solicitations before the Attorney General of New Hampshire – then why does it sound like you’re all too eager to see what this will lead to?

Ok. That’s why I’m so furious about your campaign and so angrily trying to oppose you!
But now I’d like to take a look on how you think this will go on.

Here’s your current situation as I see it:
You can’t get what you want from the LT
since you cannot force them to give in to you.

You could keep on trying to irritate them so long and so much until they eventually decide to give in to you to stop all that fuss you’re making.

But so far that hasn’t been successful at all – at the contrary:

you claim more communication from the LT – but your constant ranting and mudslinging has only stopped them from even reading the posts in certain groups any more.

That might not be professional but it’s surely very understandable to me!

I think I would do likewise!!

And so instead of getting the LT to respond to any of your matters (how could they if they don’t even read it anymore!!!) -

you’ve actually set more and more”regular” members against you, who were often
initially even with you on some issues (and would still – apart from all the fights over policies and
politics -

like to get to know you in person to have a beer or two or just a good time in any other way…).

So now you have the LT against you (even on very personal levels),

hardly anyone any more behind you and all this in a online community who’s future, as
you are so sure, is so heavily threatened and where donated money is wasted on crap and the security of the members’ data so endangered…

I know, I know… If your standard reply to that is still (after all I’ve written up to hear) that awkward questions and criticism must not be so easily be to be silenced – then there’s obviously nothing to stop your incredibly unrealistic vanity!

I mean:
Why do you guys think it’s up to you to change CS? Seriously:
Why do you even care at all whether CS is a community where such things are suppressed? Where there is now transparency, no democracy and no criticism tolerated,
… Why does all that concern you?
You can’t stop that – and that’s mainly because practically nobody agrees with you on hardly any of those accusations and concerns and views (any more) -
and thus nobody supports you in this but is only increasingly annoyed by your furious rantings.
And if that all is the case (and how can you still disagree that it is?!?) -

then why don’t you leave that doomed community with it’s rotten leadership and
it’s blindly following members behind? If it’s (in your opinion) that bad – why not spending your expertise and precious time and all for a hospitality exchange network which (in your opinion) is worth it?
Do you really feel all your efforts and motives are appreciated here?

Certainly not by the “powers” but obviously neither by the members – except for the same very, very few people again and again!
Is it perhaps just the money you donated?
I’m sure we could give you that money back!
If it’s the time you spent at the CSC’s -
we could figure out how much you got for that in return (accommodation, food, …) and
then -
should we agree that your work was more worth than that -
could perhaps even pay you some money for your work there…

And then you can go somewhere else and make all the things you’ve learned here (in such a hard way!)count.
By that I mean: make sure that none of those many, many mistakes that (in your opinion) have happened and are still happening on CS will be repeated there.

Think of all the advantages you’d have!

You can plan for a community of several hundreds of thousands of members right from the start.
You can think about all the features and ways of communications and extras and
security issues and possible if not probable future server problems and ways to generate funds

but also at the same time financial reports regularly and how to install some kind of democracy and transparency ALL FROM THE START – before even the 1st member will have joined!

You’ve been part of so many things on CS and (as you’ve posted more than enough) have witnessed so many things that went wrong (in your opinion) -

so you can avoid them on your hospitality network right from the start.

And you’ve met each other!

Technical gurus, law experts, visionary minds, devoted day-by-day
workers! All in that little group of 20 (or 90 or so)!!!

And then -
when you’ve finished all the programming in a few months then you’ll post heavily about that on CS. And -
NO! – they won’t stop you from this!!!
And then if your own network turns out to be really so much better -

since it’s without any of what you’ve criticized about CS – then surely all the CS members
will change over to your network in no time! Granted -by that time that will be a few hundreds of thousands profiles who’d have to be transferred then, with a few hundreds of thousands of friend links and all.
But behind that are a few hundreds of thousands people who can do the job – one profile per person.

And those people then will not even have to be convinced of the general idea of hospitality exchange networks anymore!

And there you’d have achieved your goal! Free all those poor CS’ers from their mean leaders – not by getting rid of the leaders or by changing their old community

but by giving them a new one where everything will be so much better.

Mainly because it’ll be without them dreadful leaders!

Why do you still invest time in posting in the CS groups or your OCS site -

instead of putting all your time and efforts in coding that Casey free vision???

Btw: Should you ever come to Cologne then the first beers are on me;-)
(Only wanna make sure that I’m good friends with the leaders of that new community, too, right from the start;-D)

Maat et jot! / Take care!


Is the Couchsurfing collective a cult?

First off: Don’t panic! What I’m trying to investigate is the collective, not the website or the entire CS community. I will try to look at various aspects of the collective in relation to typical cult characteristics, but I will also try and suggest an “antidote”, a way in which certain tendencies could be reverted. Note that I only approach this from a psychological point of view, religion has little to do here (for now). For all you conspiracy nuts out there: I do not believe cults are formed with the intent of forming a cult. I believe they are usually a result of well intentioned, but badly executed social experiments. Lastly, you might not agree that some of the characteristics are bad, which is fine as well of course.

Let us look at the key steps for coercive persuasion typically found in cults.

  1. People are put in physically or emotionally distressing situations.
    As a former participant, I can testify that taking part in a collective is both physically and emotionally draining. Simply put, there are too many people in too little room. Sleeping in the living room, getting too little sleep regularly because of the continuous activity, general lack of truly private moments. Many people in the NZ collective needed a “break” (temporarily move out) because of how stressful is was at times.
    Possible solutions
    Separate the working environment from the living environment. Encourage realistic working hours instead of letting people work into the night. Lower the number of participants to suit the venue.
  2. Their problems are reduced to one simple explanation, which is repeatedly emphasized.
    The simple explanation given in this case is “We’re all together in this monumental task”. CS as an abstract idea is seen as a supremely important goal and anything that stands in its way (criticism, the law, etc) needs to be pushed aside. “Nonviolent communication” (see previous post) is seen as the only reasonable communication style.
    Possible solutions
    Place CS within the larger context of hospitality networks, cooperate with other organizations on a structural level (seminars, shared initiatives, etc). Get outside experts and expertise that does more than promote the party line. Challenge entrenched viewpoints regularly, create a culture of continuous evaluation. Stop using NVC.
  3. They receive unconditional love, acceptance, and attention from the leader.
    I’ll translate a part of a collective participants’ blog (“Doogie”) which I think speaks for itself:
    “The atmosphere is anything but serious or professional. Everyone is more than friendly with each other. At unguarded moment, when you least expect it, you’ll get a heartwarming energy hug or a ‘good work’ pat on the shoulder. It is impossible to be depressed here, because every little dip is countered with the best medicine: a good portion of well meant affection.”
    Possible solutions
    Make rewards realistic and conditional. In essence, compliment someone on a specific job done well, instead of broad emotional rewards. Be a bit more professional, perhaps the constant hugging is not such a good thing?
  4. They get a new identity based on the group.
    The “ideal image” is the Burning Man persona: Carefree, the eternal traveler, unbound by relationships, jobs or anything similar, experimental and spiritual. During my time at the NZ collective I saw more than one “spontaneous dress up party”, where suddenly half of your colleagues are dressed in fur coats, bunny ears, half undressed and in various levels of intoxication.
    Possible solutions
    Keep the party out of the collective. Moderate the dressing up and make sure you have a better age/background mix in your volunteers. How many carefree 30 year old North Americans do you really need? Give some room for the “boring” people. (Note that I don’t really care about what one does in their spare time, but if a group is socially pressured into the same behavior I do object.)
  5. They are subject to entrapment and their access to information is severely controlled.
    As a volunteer, a collective is financially draining (most participants are relatively poor to begin with), which quickly limits your options to staying at the collective constantly (24/7) or quitting altogether. You are bound by a very restrictive NDA, limiting your career possibilities and ability to communicate with the outside world. Criticism is kept off the CS website through social pressure (hence the existence of this website) and criticism is put on par with “hating” (which is pure indoctrination). Again, a lack of real outside expertise (social academics and more experienced people are actively being held outside of the collective). The collective is organized in a very remote location (New Zealand, Thailand), isolating people from their regular social network.
    Possible solutions
    Pay all of the participants or severely limit the duration. Organize it in a much more accessible location (Europe or North America). Kill the NDA. Make critical evaluation a highly accepted and rewarding activity on CS on all levels (instead of repressing it in the “brainstorm” group).

Any other ideas?

Nonviolent communication

Thailand collective newsletter nr 3 is out. There’s not many real announcements in it, much “we are going to …” or “we are working on …”, but a particular section caught my eye:

Collective Members Learn a New Way to Talk it Out

Communication is crucial, particularly when considering our growing membership. That’s why volunteers at the Collective are devoting their own time to learn from enthusiastic CouchSurfer, Johnny Colden about Nonviolent Communication (NVC). Collective participants who already have training in this communication technique have found it useful not only in CS member relations, but in their personal and professional relationships as well.

Now, this communication technique called “nonviolent communication” is something that some of the old-timers (like Kasper and me) have seen before at the New Zealand collective. To be able to understand CS, it’s good to try and understand this NVC thing.

The term itself is of course sheer marketing genius: You can’t possibly be pro violent communication can you? However, the odd thing is when it is being applied in a situation (like here) where there is absolutely no evidence of “violence”, except when you stretch (and pretty much redefine) the word to mean “angry” or “direct”. If CS has had trouble, physical violence within the organization or amongst volunteers certainly hasn’t been it. In other words, it is a great example of Newspeak. Oddly enough, NVC does endorse (physical) violence as a means of self-defense [3]. The enormous difficulty of defining self-defense is however ignored (something Ghandi was for instance much better aware off).

The origins are pretty ambiguous as well. It was invented by a guy called Marshall Rosenberg, who now has a “center for nonviolent communication” in… San Fransisco. His “supporting research” is mostly based on domination systems in primate communities [1]. That’s right: monkeys. Of course, this completely disregards not so subtle differences like self-awareness and actual language or any effect rational thinking might have. To the point however, the entire theory is based on the notion that we (still) behave like primates, which is a gross generalization at best. There is no scientific research whatsoever of the effectiveness of NVC in daily life, organizations or elsewhere, making it the same type of “theory” as “intelligent design”, which incidentally is also American in origin.

But what is it about? The goal is to “to observe without evaluation, judgement, or analysis”, “to look for feelings behind words that are expressed”, “to look for unmet needs, connected to these feelings; evaluating which needs are not (yet) being met instead of evaluating actions in ‘right’ and ‘wrong’” and “to make a request how another person could enrich life. Essential in this is that the other person is to be left free to honour or decline the request.” [2]
In essence, it promotes a “feeling” based language as opposed to “critical” thinking. Any kind of moral judgment is to be avoided, as is obligation (things you have to do) or any feeling of guilt. In nonviolent communication one would never say “you should” or even feel guilty for an wrongful action. At best, you can have a “sweet bad” feeling [1]. But, let’s listen to this:

They were not ordered around, for the simple reason that if the chief officials had been told what to do in the form of: you must, you have to, that would not have helped matters any. If the person in question does not like what he is doing, the whole works will suffer. We did our best to make everything somehow palatable.

Where that quote came from might shock you: Adolf Eichmann. If you think quoting Nazi’s is over the top, please realize that Rosenberg himself posits NVC as an antidote to certain lingual techniques described by the Nazis. The fact that there actually is quite some overlap in the ways of redefining language is a sad and somehow frightening irony.

Now, to be fair, NVC has supposedly had quite some success in places like Rwanda, Burundi, Serbia and Ireland, essentially in (war) conflict zones. It is easy to see how a non-judgmental language can help in solving such deeply rooted, civilian and truly violent conflicts.

The elephant in the room, the BIG question however is: What is nonviolent communication doing in CS? Why is it being used in an volunteer organization that has absolutely nothing to do with civilian conflict zones? The consequences of using NVC are highly disruptive for any kind of constructive or even pragmatic work. CS and Casey in particular has repeatedly shown an unwillingness to acknowledge mistakes, which allows those mistakes to endure and be repeated indefinitely, simply because feeling guilty is “violent”. Casey (and Matthew Brauer) repeatedly refuse to state an official answer on critical questions, because “every opinion is equal”. CS would much rather let the issues raised here on OCS hang in the air unanswered than to critically self-examine. It has repeatedly chosen an emotional process over rational thinking. (NVC ignores the possibility that rationality and emotions aren’t such separate entities or that they can coexist easily).

Nonviolent communication in the couchsurfing organization is actually “non communication”. NVC is a horribly ill suited way of communicating in an organization such as CS because it is explicitly against critical thinking and badly suited for any kind of self-improvement. It is a system of avoidance, useful only for being able to ignore any guilt or moral judgment.

It is hard to say what came first to CS: NVC or the avoidance culture. But it seems here to stay.

[1] Marshall B. Rosenberg, The Basics of Nonviolent Communication: An Introductory Training, two video-cassettes, Center for Nonviolent Communication, 2001
[2] Nonviolent communication on Wikipedia.
[3] Advanced Training, Day 1, with Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D., raising your giraffe consciousness, 6 Jan. 2005, Center for Nonviolent Communication, 4 May 2005

As an happy/sad/ironic side-note, it’s typical to see that the guy that gave an NVC presentation in Thailand (Johnny Colden) put as his occupation on CS: “Dream engineer”. Sigh.


CouchSurfing has been mostly offline the past 48 hours – due to a “power outage”. Great, especially now that I tried to organize my goodbye meeting in Trento.

Hint: don’t use MyISAM tables for mission-critical data. And try to get some MySQL support engineers working on it. Oh but wait, one year ago there actually was a MySQL support engineer that joined the Collective with money out of his own pocket and was working for CouchSurfing in his own spare time.

Now, since I am still blocked from the wiki that I founded, can someone please add the following text to

==Trento meeting 11th and 12th January==

Call +39 33 47 18 30 42 (Kasper).


So long, and thanks for the fish

Also posted in: ambassador’s public

It’s finally time to let go of all my remaining ties to volunteering in CouchSurfing, a few words about the why, if you will…

It wasn’t a bad year (1) In fact, it was a very good year. How often do you get a chance to see the world, settle down a bit in places, work for the things you believe in and meet the people you’ve been craving to meet all your life?

I’m still coming to terms with my feelings of this year, and CS more specifically. There’s a strong component of unjust treatment, and many questions which are to date not answered. I could probably write a book about all this but this will have to wait until a later date (you might want to check here in the near future though ;) (2)

There’s definitely some anger: after all, I started doing CS work after already been burned once in a volunteering setting (3) and for this reason really did not want or need a second similar experience. However, I got one. What makes me angry is not the “wasted time” itself, it’s more the fact that had I known the fundamental attitudes (4, 5) of the leadership a year ago, I would probably not have started volunteering to such an extent – my anger is more directed towards concealing these attitudes (with lack of real communication there was no way of telling what the admins were thinking) rather than having them in the first place – for at least it would have offered an opportunity for me to choose if these were the kinds of people I’d like to work with (or as it seems, for). This by now almost feels like purposeful deception to lure in willing volunteers (6).

There’s also sadness: thinking of what might have been, the possibilities for creating real difference, all in vain. And not because people, the community didn’t want it, they were ready to take CS to the next level, to decentralize (7) along with the mission crafted up after the big crash of 2006 (7, 8 ) to create a better world, one couch at a time. No, it was the attitudes of the leaders, lack of any real communication by them, lack of meaningful, respectful dialogue with the community or even volunteers who are actively striving to make things better that stopped (sometimes even reversed) (9) the momentum of the community to decentralize itself. I also feel sad that this potential of the community was never recognized by those in power and that corporate structures, top-down management and weeding out all possibility to self-organize were seen as the only way to go forward – where’s the space for diversity, more bohemian attitudes towards life and independent thinking that are very present in the spirit of this community?

But there’s (always?) a silver lining: if it wasn’t through CS, it would have probably taken me years longer to find the people I connected and hope to continue working with (some, though by means not all ;) of them here: 10,11) to create a better world, one whatever (Line of code? Guest bed? Idea? Freedom?) at a time!

I’d like to thank all the great people I have worked with and met on my 21st century version of the”Grand Tour” (11). Regardless of my issues with the leaders at the moment, I believe the rest of you are still good people and deserve far more credit and appreciation than what you’re given now.

Finally, just a fair warning from someone who cares about all of you: please keep your eyes open before jumping in the deep end with CS or if you’re there already, and don’t stop asking the questions (13) in case there’s something worrying you…

Goodbye, and happy surfing,

9. (original) (backup)

My last post to CS

I agree. I’m also Anu’s #1 fan :)

And I thought I was! :)

Although I have moved on to support the hospitality movement through, where a true democracy exists and no one is making money off the generosity of others, where volunteers are respected and treated with honesty and fairness by other volunteers acting as leaders with the consent of the community, I sometimes check in at CouchSurfing to see what my friends are up to and to check on the community I love and gladly worked for as a full-time volunteer until it was led away from the CS 2.0 vision by the current management.

Not well, I would say.

I feel that trying to influence the power elite of CS is futile through any other than legal means, but I feel compelled to speak up on behalf of Anu.

I worked very closely with her for more than six months. During this time, she demonstrated excellent qualities of self-motivation, leadership, responsible communication, and technical competence. But more impressive was her tireless devotion to the community, always advocating for it, always nurturing it, always defending it (even with anger at times). And above all, most impressive was her direct honesty and integrity.
She was the obvious choice for Tech Team leader, in the minds of Kasper and I, and I believe she had the support of Joe by that time. We were the 4 core volunteer developers who together did the bulk of the technical work on this website during most of the year following the Montreal Collective, where CS 2.0 was launched.

Anu was blacklisted by the CS elite, and passed over as leader of the Tech Team. After many months of devoted work on behalf of the community, the wishes of the Tech Team on this matter were completely ignored, not even consulted.

Anu has been unappreciated and treated with disrespect. This is unconscionable. Myself and other volunteers of the Tech Team were mislead and treated with disrespect.

When I resigned as a volunteer, I had strong suspicions about the motives of the CS elite, but I gave them what benefit of the doubt I could and was willing to support CS as a corporation providing a service to the hospitality community. After what I have seen and what has come to light since, no longer can I support it under the current management.

Casting dispersions on Anu’s integrity is going too far. She deserves an apology.

Calling people who gave heart and soul to this community, but now feel mislead and betrayed by the CS elite, and are angry about it, “CS-haters”, is reprehensible.

This is in the style of the Bush administration, which brands all critics of its policies “unpatriotic“.

Let me out of here. I’m deleting my profile.


Appreciation of Culture

I can’t let Anu’s announcement pass by without an expression of appreciation of Anu and the culture she represented, much to my own personal enrichment.

When Anu visited me some weeks ago, we went to a bakery named “Sweet Finnish” in Boston, and met the Finnish owner. I got to hear a short conversation in Finnish for the first time. The owner had set up a posterboard with pictures and factoids about Finland. Very well done, and very interesting to me, considering its emphasis. Here are some quotes:

In 1906, Finland became the first country in the world to adopt universal suffrage that not only gave women the right to vote, but also run for office

Finland is one of 10 countries in the world that has a women president chosen by direct popular vote.

Independent since 1917, Finland is the only country in Europe that has never had a king or an aristocracy.

Finnish teenager’s skill in math, science and reading were rated the best among the 40 countries assesed in 2004. Education is free from Kindergarted to higher education including Medical and Law School.

Finland was ranked the most competitive economy in the world.

Finland was, for the 3rd year in succession, rated the least corrupt country in the world by Transparency International.

The openeness and transparency of Finland’s companies were ranked the highest in the world.

Linus Torvalds developed the Linux operating system while studying at the University of Helsinki.

Linux was the only serious competitor to Microsoft Windows.

Unlike Microsoft, Torvalds made his operating system open source and available free of charge.

Many consider Linux more secure and reliable than windows.

(All this — in a Finnish bakery! Makes me want to live there, except for the cold winters.)

This was so interesting because it suggests how Anu may have acquired some of her enlightened qualities and principles (though surely she’s much more than merely a product of her culture), and why ultimately, volunteering for CS (under the current management) turned out to no longer be right for her. They are against democracy, have strongly favored secrecy over transparency, and have taken a stand against open-source.

Perhaps the CS management should send a delegation to Finland and tell them democracy can’t work, since it’s known to crush minorities. That it is impractical and dangerous to let citizens vote for their leaders — only chaos can result. They might also want to inform Linus Torvalds that open-source is a dangerously insecure way to develop software. American corporate culture, Bill Gates-style, is the way to go. (Although, word is, even Microsoft is starting to explore open-source possibilities).

People that think like this couldn’t possibly fully appreciate the tremendous gift Anu was to the CS community and the hospitality movement in general. But some of us know better, and we hope she doesn’t let their lack of understanding and appreciation for her, personally, and the excellent Finnish cultural qualities she brought with her, to weigh on her.


Constructive process / intentional destruction?

Hi, (in reply to [0],… for “proper threading”)

guess what, I was one of those people only wanting to discuss ideas for a long time [1]. At some point of a full year of volunteering as a coder[2] and trying to make sure the very ideas from this group actually got somewhere [3], it became evident that in order to get those constructive ideas heard and implemented, improvements would need to be made. So I and others whose input you’re so willing to discard tried our best, sadly many of our suggestions and constructive efforts often went ignored by the LT [3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. Also, the “critical” tone is all too easy to obtain when valid questions and due criticism [8] repeatedly go unanswered.

I feel it’s important to let others here know what exactly they are dealing with. I feel it’s a bit silly being all positive and hoping ideas somehow will get heard, when there are still no decent mechanisms to make that happen and no apparent willingness (historically) to actually listen to people who provide ideas to deal with the situation EVEN when they are the ones actively working on the improvements.

Besides, I feel the not-so-gentle wish of yours of all of “us” to take a hike with all the criticism based on EXPERIENCE (the case for me, Kasper, and the ones who already moved on) of dealing with the CS organization is just another form of censorship, albeit softer than simple deletion all of the “negative” posts. If asking questions and telling the truth is deemed as unconstructive and evil, I sincerely think CS is headed the wrong way.

FYI: the leadership team is far more willing to bring in “fresh” people than to keep around the old ones (who were actually doing a sizeable chunk of the actual work [9, 10, see especially contributions by Kasper and Matrixpoint] instead of just talking, and were respected by their volunteer-peers if not by the admins/leaders), once they start getting “difficult” – so beware, a year from now the situation for many of the new enthusiasts could well best be described as “told you so”. An actual quote from some leaders: “The coders are just whiners, so let’s just get new ones” – culture of appreciation [11], anyone?

Actually, there’s nothing new under the sun, has anyone ever wondered what happened to COSMIC GIRL, DANI! (former admins), CAIRONA (European Collective 2006 co-organizer) or Aparna (Former CS Country Ambassador for India)?

FYI 2: Blast from the past [12], many issues were questioned more than a year ago, yet we STILL don’t have all the answers. Make your own conclusions?


[1] (list of my public, CS-related group posts)

[12] Money and Such:

how many %why?:

2,450 (!) words about: MONEY, MONEY, MONEY…

Financial transparency

Where is CS going?

Making it official (Anu leaving, that is)

Whev – after quite a few weeks of cold feet and months of discontentment, it’s finally done: I’m no longer a CS developer. Since there was ample time to come to terms with this and make my own conclusions, rather than being told to take a hike, I am actually okay, and excited about lots of things (perhaps including some more volunteering as well, but only time will tell if that’s the right path for me from now on).

In any case, I would like to thank everyone I have had the pleasure to work with – regardless of the CS leadership team propaganda I do believe everyone writing and reading this blog are doing it because they care about CS, enough to be interested in the organizational issues as well. (consider this as my implementation of the culture of appreciation ;) )