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Archive for the 'Elections' Category – 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.

“Happy” birthday.

Happy birthday.

Almost exactly a year ago, the OCS initiative was started. Initially, our hope was to entice the LT with concrete ideas and campaigns, to get them to address the various serious issues we had discovered at the heart of CS. Not much has changed however and most of the changes have not been for the better:

  • CS is legally still in very dubious water. Still no 501c3 status, after… 3 (or 4?) years of claiming it?
  • Casey still holds all the legal (and financial) strings and has decided to set up camp in Alaska next, which is essentially his home.
  • Transparancy is down, censorship is waaay up. (Search engines have been blocked and CS has a permanent censorship/security team now, almost like during the cold war!)
  • CSC Thailand can be declared a failure as well now, after the NZ meltdown. I haven’t seen anything positive come out of it, but we’re still waiting for the “memo”.
  • “Not talking to anyone” has become the official communication mode for the entire organisation.

And so, with a heavy heart, I’m renewing the domainname by 2 years. In all honesty, I had serious hopes that it wouldn’t be necessary to have this website for more than a year. I (personally) was perfectly willing to “bury the hatchet” if there was even some semblance of progress. Alas, it is not to be. CS still makes me angry, especially for the obligation I feel towards its wonderful community to speak up about its numerous failure, shortcomings and shady deals.

Maybe now is a good opportunity to start thinking about OCS “2.0″. The way I see it, the signal to noise ratio on the blog could be better and there have been some points of discussion we could re-raise at this point. Anonimity, re-posting and privacy concerns come to mind. More importantly, I believe OCS should refocus its efforts towards a clearly understandable and easy to navigate website. Right now, I can only imagine the confusion of a random surfer on OCS. I still heavily support our “open for all” attitude, even with all the negativity that comes with that, but I think it can be channeled better.

So, in the spirit of transparancy and cooperation: Who would be interested in helping “revamp” and organise OCS? We’ll need to digg through a lot of information and restructure quite a bit, but I also think there is room for new activism. Things on my mind:

  • An open call to ALL ambassadors for transparancy (and perhaps elections)?
  • A good Q&A section, where we try to answer what CS doesn’t answer.
  • Video?

I also wouldn’t mind separating this “public blog” from a better structured blog with some editorial control that we could move to the front page. We could “rewrite” a lot of the current knowledge into practical, well researched and well written articles that would be aimed at the general public (including new members and press) and not just people with CS background knowledge.

The trouble with the ambassadors

We’re doing a little experiment in Antwerp, called elections. Once in a while, somebody makes the simple observation that it might better to base any kind of hierarchy in a community on representation instead of appointment. This is one of the core problems as well in CS and something we’ve been tackling in our “Open Organisation” campaign for a long time now. I think it would be very much worth it to see if the Antwerp CS community would support this or not. So, the best way to find out is to actually call for community elections. We could have gone straight after the city ambassador positions, but since that’s practically uninforcable, we made up our own title: “community elected CS city ambassador”. Sounds cool huh?

What’s the major difference between the CS ambassadors and what we propose?

  1. CS ambassadors are appointed from “above”. Depending on the level you wish to attain, the group that decided changes to higher levels, so it might be other ambassadors, up to LT. Community ambassadors would be elected from the local community.
  2. CS ambassadors have to follow a “code of ethics”, which ironically includes accepting the legally dubious terms of use. Not only is protesting any of that de-facto not allowed (you can only accept or you don’t get to be ambassador), it may require you to agree to semi-legal and ethically dubious rules and systems. Community ambassadors do not have such a code, but would be judged for their behaviour, which obviously includes real ethics.
  3. CS ambassadors get a “job” description, like organizing meetings, etc. Community ambassadors would be required to outline a program before their elections.

In general, I would say the official CS ambassadorship looks much more like a corporate job than anything else. There is a job description, an appointment process (including fairly subjective selections) and even a contract (“code of ethics” – cough). Or, in other words, a CS ambassador is representative of the Couchsurfing corpganization. By contrast, a community ambassador would be much more about being a representative of the local community instead.

The resulting proverbial shitstorm that resulted from the announcement was both predictable and suprising. Predictable because it obviously threatens some people’s positions (even indirectly). Suprising because so many of the LT cliché’s popped up in the discussion. Arguments and techniques that seemed to come straight from the LT playbook. Let me give you some examples:

  1. “It is really easy to participate, just apply! Why are you complaining?”
    It’s easy to participate as long as you agree to everyting yes. Groupthink example nr 1.
  2. ” We are just doing the best we can here! Why are you complaining?”
    The sympathy card. Avoidance tactic nr 1.
  3. “We’re not a closed group (the ambs), we just didn’t make an agenda because it was a private meeting/we didn’t have time/…”
    This wouldn’t be accepted in any other non-profit. Meetings behind closed doors? Please. Groupthink nr 2.
  4. “Democracy is a wonderful thing but it is not applicable to all organisational structures.”
    The poster did apologize for this, but still one of the major points seems to be that democracy for some weird reason can’t work in CS, the evidence of countless democratic non-profits being discarded in one swift stroke. Avoidance tactic nr 2.
  5. “Please give us feedback instead of complaining.”
    This basically is the brainstorming red herring: allow people to “provide input” to be able to ignore what you don’t like while still looking like you “care”. Whatever. I disagree with the way ambs are choosen, period. That means I don’t want to provide legitimacy to what you’re doing by giving you suggestions. Although, I do have one suggestion: resign and participate in the election instead of clinging to your current position. Avoidance tactic nr 3.
  6. “I don’t support the whole election but I will not block it in any way.”
    This is basically claiming ownership over something you don’t have. Elections don’t need amb support, it needs people support. Groupthink nr 3.
  7. ” You will always get a quick and honest reply for us, as we are the CS freaks.”
    How this can be claimed in any serious way is beyond me. You’re probably not even allowed to talk about certain things.
  8. “You’re just being paranoid.”
    Thanks buddy, but I don’t think you’ve met a real paranoid person in your life – I have. Personal attack, yay!
  9. And then came the stuff that really reminded me of the LT:
    “Would you please stop this discussion? It damages the CS project a lot. [...] for us, CS-members, it seems a lot of bullshit! and a lot of spam too !!!!!”
    immediatly followed by:
    “I’ll create a group within the antwerp group about the election so we can have our discussions over there without bothering the people too much…”
    This made me so angry, to see that same argument “you’re all a bunch of haters, go away!” followed up by the same kind of censorship “please step over here sir, so the good people can’t hear your complaints”.

The only tactics that haven’t been tried (yet):

  1. Permanent silencing. (Deleting posts and or manually moving threads.)
  2. Discredit the people/movement behind this. (Although point 9 is pretty close to that.)
  3. Direct threats (remember the “your account will be closed if you make vague legal threats thing?”)

Shameful. Shameful and painful.