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Archive for the 'BeWelcome' Category

Development as SPOF

I’m wondering what happened with me that I am actually writing an article on Reason for this wondering is that I wish the users, AND OWNERS the best of


Unfortunately, this seems not to be the case. In my short time as System Administrator at Couchsurfing, I’ve seem it happening more than often that the website was suddenly down. In 99% of the cases there was a change in the code, causing the downtime of one part (or even worse: the whole website). The second cause was MySQL, which just is crappy with the setup of Couchsurfing. In this case, the NDA caused good people to leave.


Lately, I’ve heared more moaning of the website being suddenly down. From my place (Rotterdam, The Netherlands), nothing seems to be wrong. Until lately. My mailbox is lately flooded of the loadbalancers that Couchsurfing use, and are no longer accepting connections. With the processing-power that couchsurfing does have (more than 7 webservers *AT LEAST!*), several database-servers, I unfortunately must conclude that the only reason why couchsurfing currently *FAILS* is the IT-management team of couchsurfing, especially the development-team.


So, can we conclude that the development-team fails? Unfortunately, this question must be answered as a no. Unfortunately, because otherwise the Couchsurfing Corpganization would be able to ditch the programmers, and get new, well payed, other guys willing to work their asses off.
The problem is deeper: CS is build in a iterative way: once build by Casey, extended by several guys. Unfortunately, the CS-MT is unable to get a firm grasp at the whole, is not willing to make it open-source, and is not able to program it the right way.


Even worse, the management has desided that *THE WAY* to program couchsurfing is to have several programmers in several timezones, programming at different (or the same?) things at the same time. In development-land (for what I have heard), a socalled OTAP-Street (Ontwikkeling, Testen, Acceptatie, Productie), meaning a line of Development, Testing, Acceptation and production, is *THE* way to develop things. I must say that I have said this several times to Casey and Weston and they claimed “it was to difficult”. With that decision they also chose a method that gave the following results:

Downtime May 5th 2009Now, would this above error be there when a decent method of development had been chosen? I sincerely doubt it.


This makes me conclude that Couchsurfing is *DEAD*. Yes, indeed, I must say this with pain in my heart, the current way CS works (ignoring willing programmers, DBA’s etc) is not the way CS will reach the 2 million people (?) they wish to reach. I sincerely hope that will not have the same problem.


Walter said it right: 1 million (?) people can’t be ignored. From my stance, we will have a favour of people applying for our couch via BeWelcome. I must conclude that my eyes are (unfortunately) opened. And that my English is worse than that I have hoped :) – 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.

Democracy in action

This weekend the BeVolunteer General Assembly took place in Essen, Germany. Congratulations to the BV volunteers for their diligent efforts toward establishing the principles of openness, fairness and democracy in the hospitality community. The minutes of the Assembly are available here.

Special congratulations to Thomas Goorden for his election to the BV Board of Directors. I was very gratified to have a voice in this democratic process, and happily voted for Thomas.

Among the accomplishments of the assembly was a new wiki page highlighting the differences between BW/BV and other Hospex networks. It’s worth checking out here.

Trust decreasing among CouchSurfers?

Trust metrics are techniques for predicting how much a certain user can be trusted by the other users.CouchSurfing doesn’t really have a prediction mechanism, but trust values are registered for every friendship link.

I never thought the denominators for the trust value made a lot of sense for the friendship links on CS (especially when translated, I don’t really know how to best translate “I somewhat trust this person” into my mother tongue). Still, there seems to be a definite trend of linearly (in time) decreasing trust on the Quality of Service page. It would be interesting to compare this to values from before and do a deeper analysis. The “average quality” doesn’t seem to be changing significantly on the other hand, maybe slightly going up? Possibly because it’s actually visible to the receiver.

Joe Edelman wrote the QoS code, and wrote to me:

Wow, that *is* interesting!

So the avg trust is calculated among introductions added in the last
week that are reported as due to CS and in-person. So it’s not because
of virtual users, and it’s not because CS is accelerating and includes
less pre-existing friends.

The only confounding factor I can think of, is that it doesn’t take the
“date you met this person” field into account — a lot of people don’t
fill it out, or don’t fill it out correctly. So it includes
introductions that are finally being reported from the past, as well as
those that actually occurred that week.

We could be seeing an ever-greater percentage of weirdos from the past.
You know, those random people that blew through a collective, and much
later are friending everyone. And the people they are friending hardly
remember them and so don’t trust them. This would be a result of social
graph “fill-in”, perhaps as a kind of recoil from expansion last summer.

Or, perhaps it’s an accurate result, and as CS grows, people that meet
find they have less in common, since CS includes more demographics.

In that case, it could be interpretted as a *positive* result: perhaps
the ideal would be to take people who DON’T trust each other INITIALLY,
and give them POSITIVE EXPERIENCES such that later they DO trust each
other, or they start to trust other people from a new demographic MORE.

Let’s just hope this trend does not continue. If it would, the average trust would be zero by the end of 2010.

In the meanwhile, some active work can be done on designing and implementing a trust system from scratch on BeWelcome.

The data:

year   week introductions users  quality  trust

2008    16         6625   3890    1.526   0.370

2008    15        14238   7345    1.506   0.377

2008    14        14818   7591    1.490   0.379

2008    13        16520   8201    1.527   0.388

2008    12        13895   6952    1.500   0.387

2008    11        12252   6291    1.479   0.379

2008    10        12303   6490    1.493   0.392

2008    09        12796   6482    1.480   0.382

2008    08        11336   5875    1.483   0.376

2008    07        12484   6408    1.486   0.391

2008    06        11778   6215    1.469   0.409

2008    05        11201   5945    1.453   0.406

2008    04        10570   5998    1.479   0.415

2008    03        10757   5983    1.489   0.410

2008    02         9560   4872    1.503   0.410

2008    01        13972   6425    1.484   0.417

2007    52         7749   4279    1.476   0.414

2007    51         9332   5118    1.467   0.421

2007    50        10975   5500    1.480   0.422

2007    49        10309   5632    1.454   0.415

2007    48        10664   5500    1.454   0.413

2007    47        10335   5734    1.487   0.425

2007    46        10835   5762    1.492   0.429

Hospitality Exchange Communities and real-life campaigns

This document is created because the discussion about the relation between HospExchNetw and the real-live comes more and more into the focus. The question “So how can we reach the 5 billion people that have no computer?” rose in a discussion on the BeWelcome Forum and a post on the the Open Couchsurfing Blog with the title: “Is travelling noble? Or: “The Emperor´s New Clothers”. The replies/comments to this thread/post motivated me to publish this approach.This document is a proposal for the second General Assemly of BeVolunteer in 2008.

It does only raise one idea of how Hospitality Exchange Networks, in this case BeWelcome, could take a step into the real world. It s not intended to be the only way/step but one of plenty. It brings up reasons why BeVolunteer should be a part of The Other Campaign which is based on the Sexta Declaracion de la Selva Lacandona of the EZLN.

I m posting this on the OpenCouchsurfing Blog because most of the reasons I bring up here could be applied to Couchsurfing as well.

What is the Other Campaign?

The goal of the The Other Campaign is to create a diverse, plural and multiple world-wide network of subjects of social rebellion. The mission of the Network is the creation of another way of organizing our entire world – without exploitation, unequally, oppression or discrimination. It is explicitly anti-capitalistic and anti-systemic. Invited for participation in this network are: Truly left-wing parties without an official register of members, social movements, collectives, cultural groups, independent and critic media, civil organizations and Non Government Organizations. The organization of this network is fundamentally horizontally without any hierarchy or authorities. It refuses all uni-personal leadership. It encourages all members to take there own decisions and use there talents in their own way. The lax network refuse from the beginning all tendencies of homogenization or uniformity. It is intended to be a Network of help, solidarity and mobilization of all the members. This network should be able to create alternative ways of social communication. This is the point where BeVolunteer comes into the game. [1]

Why does BeVolunteer/BeWelcome fit in this description of participants of the other campaign?

The members of BeWelcome and all our Volunteers are creating an alternative way of bringing people together. We offer hospitality, and soon other things like bikes or books to share, without expecting money for it.

Lots of Volunteers working voluntarily for our common dream. It would actually violate statutes of BeVolunteer if any volunteer would receive money for his work. Voluntary work does not fit in the capitalist logic. In the pure capitalism you exchange your work force for other goods or money.
The organization BeVolunteer is a Non Profit Organization. An organization in the capitalistic way has to make profit to be competable with other concurrents.
BeWelcome is not a competitor to other networks. BeWelcome is more likely another option for people who care about democratic way of organizing an organization. (at least thats what I believe)

The members of BeVolunteer have all the power. This makes us, like the the other Campaign slower, weaker and lower but like this we guarantee that BeVolunteer is really driven by its members. The Board of Directors is based on annual elections and the members of BeVolunteer or lets say the General Assembly is the highest power. We refuse uni-personal leadership. Each year there are elections of the Board of Directors who are representing the members of BeVolunteer and managing the daily issues.

One of our goals is the intercultural exchange with people from all over the world. Thanks to that our members are aware of the consequences of the neoliberalistic policy in the world. We meet face to face with people who are suffering in the current system. We are desperate for a high plurality within our members to increase the possibilities of our members to really enter in a intercultural experience. One objective of the Other Campaign is to bring the political discussion into daily life. Democracy is not done with going to vote each 4,5 or 6 years not even with a vote every year at the GA of BeVolunteer. Everyday there are decisions to take. It s not always necessary to organize a huge congress or a manifestation to get people together for a discussion or for protest. That can happen everyday in the decentralized network of BeWelcome.

To be Part of the Other Campaign BeVolunteer has to subscribe the Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lancandonan. I don t know yet how you sign this declaratio but thats just a formality. The question right now is if BeWelcome/BeVolunteer or any other Networj wants to take this step into real life political campaigns or not.

[1] Carlos Antonio Aguirre Rojas, Chiapas, Planeta Tierra, Mexico 2006, S.165ff

PS: I hope it s readable – the Spell Check didn t work …

Actually, do HospEx Networks really facilitate ‘Intercultural Understanding’ successfully?

As it seems interesting to set the things here in a wider frame (see, a.o., “Is travelling noble? Or: “The Emperor’s New Clorths” by PickWick), and some thoughts around this theme come up a couple of times recently (e.g. we vs. them), I would like to continue with this and publish more thoughts in this direction. I hope that this post is appreciated and will, hopefully, function as an opening to an interesting discussion and to new insights. And maybe even more people do so in future. Those lines have been first published, by me, on the HospEx Ne>>t Wiki under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.





Prejudice and Discrimination will always be with us.’
Hospitality Exchange Travel Networks a respond to this?

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by the color of their skin
but by the content of their character.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)


After a short introduction to Hospitality Exchange Networks, prejudice and discrimination and their relationship to each other, this essay will examine two widely known psychological theories that can be relevant in the reduction of prejudice. At the end, the relevance to Hospitality Exchange Networks will be evaluated.


Read the whole essay on HospEx Ne>>t Wiki.




Interesting Further Reading

What’s happening in the other networks


I just received a BeWelcome newsletter about what is happening there; main point was that they just had their first conference (where following my knowlegde everybody could participate, not only “approved people”, so if you want to go to the next one keep your eyes open for the dates). I’m not going to post the whole text here, but there were some interesting links in it that I’m pasting in at the end of this post. I want to point out that this is not supposed to be advertisement for BeWelcome, but an insight in other networks and more specifically a network claiming to be transparent and democratic.

I want to draw your attention to this line in their blog, which I found interesting (but make up your own mind!):

“We had 200 € in expenses, which covered all of the food and drinks for the entire weekend, except of course the party on Saturday night. The participants payed 9 € on average (2,2 € minimum, 11 € maximum), no BeVolunteer money was ever used. To put this in perspective, we could (theoretically) do 58 of these weekends with the money that Couchsurfing spends on their collectives and meetings in 3 months (as an example), without spending any of our donation money.”

As said, make up your own mind, here’s the links about the conference which were inside of the message:

(Sorry, I don’t know how to make the direct links on this site, you’ll have to copy-paste them) Update: Links have been added.

The video:

The blog:

The tech blog:

I hope nobody minds me writing this here; I think comparing the networks and their ideas is interesting for all of us. In my opinion the OCS site is not only about Couchsurfing, as the ideals of transparency and democracy (I dare to suggest all people writing here share those) are not about a specific network.

Nevertheless I want to draw special attention to Kaspar’s (in whose critical opinion about the conference I’m interested) stylish hat while he is “Couch-Surfing” (Couch-Relaxing? Being Welcomed on a Couch? Alright, I’m not funny..) in the video. ;)

All the best


10 reasons I use

On this day of celebration for some, I’d like to share with you 10 reasons why I continue to use

  1. I have and continue to meet wonderful, amazing people through CouchSurfing.
  2. CouchSurfing has more members than BeWelcome.
  3. My messages or profile updates are not held for manual approval on CouchSurfing, unlike Hospitality Club.
  4. I can arrive in a new city and be confident there will be some local CouchSurfers to show me round, potentially host me, and so on. I don’t have that confidence with other sites.
  5. Generally, the system works. It has downtime, I would describe it as unreliable, but overall, it works at least 90% of the time for me.
  6. In most major cities, there is an active CouchSurfing group. The groups are a great resource for meeting locals, finding events, and getting to know a city.
  7. Likewise, in most major cities there are regular CS meetings which are generally filled with interesting people. I find the meets a great place to meet locals in new cities, more so than individual emails.
  8. I have built up a reputation and profile on CouchSurfing, it will take time to establish that profile elsewhere, and there are currently no easy means to do that.
  9. I, occasionally, use the related to feature, which shows how you’re connected to other people on the site. (If we could search based on that, it would be a major bonus).
  10. Finally, I continue to use CouchSurfing because it’s become a habit. Habits are notoriously tough to break.

I wanted to share this list to remind people that OpenCouchSurfing is not full of CS haters. In fact, many of the most active openCS supporters are very active CouchSurfers.

If you celebrate Christmas, have a very merry Christmas, if not, have a wonderful day.

Modes of Governance

For me, the failure of CS to sustain any democratic principles, freedom of speech, or abiding to the law or ethics, equality was the breaking point. So realizing they were not, nor ever would become that kind of an organization I had to go before further hurting myself being involved with people who could never understand what I stood for, what made me tick, and originally made me want to volunteer for CS. I tried as long as I could and was in no way “politically active” as the new race of outcasts on CS now is called (I was present in a situation where new person for some site tasks was needed, and the ones in charge went through their groups posting history to see there was nothing whatsoever that could indicate this was a person with critical thinking of any kind, especially towards CS). It’s only after seeing quite a bit of behavior and attitudes that I could not align with, as well as quite a bit of undermining, bullying and ignoring those who had, despite their differences with the LT worked very hard for CS that finally destroyed my faith in the leaders.

As an interlude, there was a strong push (in earlier times also officially sanctioned by the CS elite) to act in a more ad-hoc way (term coined by Dani I believe as “do-ocracy”). For me, this provided a way to get things ahead when no leadership was around to deal with many real issues rising up from the “bottom”, the community, through various means: groups, contact us section on the site, personal connections, real-life meetings. But at some point it became clear that in absence of leadership of any kind, it was those only interested in their own goals and visions for which Couchsurfing was merely a supporting platform, who were going to be the ultimate winners of the do-ocracy model. So naturally the LT might have been scared, I know I was. The critical error the Admins aka Leadership Team did in regaining their power was however to not take the good coming out of do-ocracy model so far, and not learn ways to actively listen to and engage with their community, which could have made all the difference in creating a network truly in line with its (current or future) vision statement and the values of its members.

On BeVolunteer/BeWelcome on the other hand the statutes clearly state what the values are, so that anyone wanting to volunteer clearly knows where they stand since the start. I’ve seen & heard “democracy doesn’t work” quoted by some along with rather condescending wishes of good luck. Well, this might be true – it’s certainly not easy to handle multi-national organization just starting out where many of the active people haven’t even met (yet). But still I’d say there’s a far bigger chance of survival thanks to the explicitly stated democratic principles (so neither dictators nor lone gunmen with their own motives can thrive for very long) to produce a sustainable organization and gradually grow into a viable alternative for those seeking hospitality.

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)