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Archive for the 'volunteer coordination' Category


Found at

Gardener / Landscaper


  • Creates beautiful outdoor spaces for the well-being of CS volunteers, personnel, and guests.


  • Create flower and vegetable gardens from scratch
  • Build any needed irrigation systems
  • Build bushes, vines, or related plant-based privacy screens
  • Establish house plants
  • Train residents how to maintain landscaping


  • Extensive knowledge of local weather and its effects on landscaping
  • Extensive knowledge of appropriate indoor and outdoor plants for various uses

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 :)

A Non-Profit Award for Couchsurfing?

Somehow, I always think it is funny when CS defines itself, knowing that whatever it says about being so wonderful and inclusive, doesn’t count for the organisation itself.

By the very definition of our mission, we have a commutation solution that is 100% inclusive. We invite everyone everywhere into the community: old, young, conservative, liberal, east, west, black, white, gregarious, introverted, rich or poor. The beauty of addressing a communications challenge of this nature—bridging cultural differences and building understanding between people around the world—is that the more diverse our membership base is, the more fully we will achieve our communications goals.

This excerpt is from the submission of Couchsurfing Inc. for the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR), where Couchsurfing won the Award “for Excellence in New Communications” for Nonprofits November last year.

We operate on a shoestring budget. This has required us to become experts in distributing our workload to a large, often remote, volunteer work force. We currently only have four paid staff members. We have two approaches to make this happen: sophisticated online volunteering tools that allow hundreds of members to easily perform needed tasks such as individually greeting every new member, and responding to every member inquiry

If you feel like ranting protesting, comments go here.

Uncoordinated Couchsurfing

We are just fresh in 2009 and CS finally launched its new feature: ‘News Channels’, one overview for all organizational communication towards all CS-member. It not only features the latest news from the organization and tech-news, it even hosts the earlier announced member-stories about hospitality experiences and also the news-letters that are supposed to arrive in your inbox soon again.

But what a completely uncoordinated launch this is. We’ve been anticipating this new features since a long while, and now that it is finally ready, you just have the feeling something is still not going right at the CS Basecamp. The only launch-news shown, dates back to news which is 4 months old, August and September 2008, and the thread on the communications channel that catches my eye the most is still the infamous ‘do we have a team?‘.

It could be just a simple lack of coordination but the impression you get from this launch is that volunteers are still not supported in the work they do. Imagine: you work hard on implementing a new system – or enthousiastic about writing news for the CS-members – but somehow you just don’t get the feeling you are receiving support from some key people to get this launched professionally. At the same time, while older volunteers are tired from their effort, there is a lack of empowerment of new volunteers, no news has been written, or the editors didn’t have access to the tools. Really, sometimes you just feel pity for the people that still work for Casey Couchsurfing Inc.

Anyway, let’s see how quickly this new feature will be used and how it will run. I just hope that somehow, the first news item will be a BIG apology from Casey himself about the 14,000 e-mails that got deleted corrupted while upgrading the messaging system last month, and an honest explanation why this took 3 days instead of an hour. Followed the next day by news about the 501c3 status, news about BaseCamp on the third day, new hires on the fourth, expenses and income of the past quarters on the fifth, and support for the OCS-campaigns on the sixth. Now that would be communication.

A Couchsurfing Career Life With Benefits that Money Can’t Buy

Have you always wanted to be a “Ambassador Management Coordinator” or “Safety Systems Coordinator” for CouchSurfing? Now you can! CS published their “career openings“, or “couchsurfing careers“. Since these openings are not even linked from anywhere on the CS-website yet, you might stand a fairly good chance (it got posted!) to get one of the 14 full-time jobs, and become part of their family.

You may wonder why so many talented people volunteer for CS when they could have high paying jobs in the corporate world. The reason is that CS provides benefits they can’t find anywhere else. We live and breath CouchSurfing, and we are all a family.

Although you have to pay your first travel to the “Couchsurfing Base Camp” yourself, CS provides all full-time volunteers and employees “with free housing and meals”. In addition, each full-time staff member “has the opportunity to live abroad for several months of each year at one of our amazing Collective locations while maintaining a home and life in the San Francisco Bay Area”.

If you are the lucky enough to get one of the 14 listed full-time jobs, you will first have to go trough a three month trial period, after which you will be rewarded with “travel tickets, travel expense reimbursements and eventually paid salaries”. However, you will have to consent to your bos(ses) (“supervisors”) and keep yourself to the following social rules, meaning that you shall

- maintain positive references from other surfers or hosts.
- treat your team supervisors and other volunteers with respect.
- follow standards and procedures established by teams you work with.
- follow priorities and objectives established by the team supervisors.
- communicate in a calm and compassionate tone (‘thou shalt not flame’).

So what are you waiting for, go and apply for your role! Current (as per 1st of November) “openings” include:

Administrative Assistant; Ambassador Management Coordinator; Database Administrator; Developer, Events Coordinator; Human Resources & Personnel Coordinator; Marketing Coordinator; Member Communications Coordinator & Writer; Safety Systems Coordinator; System Administrator; Gardener / Landscaper; IT Assistant; Trainer, Educator, Coach, or Expert.

Note that there are currently 14 full-time positions available, while there are only 15 people supposed to stay and live in the Couchsurfing Base Camp. At the moment though, according to Matthew, there are already 15 people living there… – 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.

SHE & you for Sustainable Hospitality Exchange

Yeah! by robokow.netYeah! What about a conference on hospitality exchange, could we bring that about? A conference to share our experiences as volunteers, facilitators, organizers, hosts and guests? Let’s say a conference where we can create new concepts of sustainable hospitality exchange (SHE) and to discuss how hospitality networks currently interact with their users and members, how this could be improved and link this with sustainable forms of traveling, art, volunteer empowerment, cultural exchange, trust metrics, gift-economy and pre-modern roots of hospitality exchange? Wow, wouldn’t that be just awesome?!

So you’re interested? Great! Initiative has taken place to start facilitating this process and to pull the first things together. A small group of active participants within the networks are securing a location in Amsterdam on behalf of SHE as we write and they invite you to help organising this event, scheduled for a weekend in June. Your input is essential and you are invited to constructively help facilitating it.

SHE wants to be a tool of knowledge about sustainable hospitality exchange mechanisms and networks. SHE also claims that “though this is not a party-event, we do aim to walk all naked in the park, to exchange local practices and to increase trust.” All sorts of help is needed to bring the conference about as a dynamic flow of excellence and experience. Be warned though as SHE “will be potentially the most pretentious social networking event of 2008!

You know what? SHE already exists in wiki-space. Check her out and be creative!

How to Digg for News on Couchsurfing

After reading Mandys latest post on the present state of the communications systems in place on couchsurfing . I decided to write this how-to article.

CouchSurfing has morphed over time from a one-man gig to a volunteer-based community with people pitching in to help everyday. The problem is that no system has ever been developed to help those people communicate with one another.

That happened in 2006!!! But mandy makes it sound like it was yesterday.

I would love to think of myself as some sort of wonder-woman, but the simple truth is that I am not and my mere presence at this Collective doesn’t solve a problem that goes far beyond one person. But what I am trying to do is develop the system that will enable everyone to communicate with each other.

Once an actual system is in place, with each team understanding the communication channels that exist and how to access them and what information needs to go where and when, then I think we will see a dramatic difference in the way we all feel about communication within CS. But developing a system takes time, and that is what I have been working on


The best places to find news

Closed to most

The most important group on couchsurfing.You need to be vetted to get in here.
Ambassador’s Private

Member Disputes & Safety – Private 18 1 1340
Ambassador Management Private 9 – 1310

Important Orgs Groups

Community Communications

Location: CS Organization >> >> MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS >> Community Communications

[CS Tech] News Feed

Location: CS Organization >> Product Development Experts >> Technology Team >> [CS Tech] News Feed
(Notice the deeply embedded group )

Interested in being informed about many small changes happening on the website? In being up to date on what the Tech Team is currently improving? Then this might be the place for you!
Open but difficult to find

Ambassador’s Public

Casey emails certain close ambassadors how share the news with other ambassadors.
News from CSC Thailand, 2007-2008

CSC Thailand, 2007-2008 – Public

Location: CS Organization >> PROJECT TEAMS: Collectives >> CSC Thailand, 2007-2008 – Public (Almost a dead group right from the start of the collective )

CSC Thailand Public – Questions and Answers (Almost a dead group)
Location: The CouchSurfing Project >> QUANTITY VS QUALITY….IMPROVING CS THROUGH YOUR SUGGESTION. >> CSC Thailand Public – Questions and Answers

Discussions group with titbits of Information

Brainstorm – the old and original one….

The redefined same topics less feedback (People say techs implement stuff from here. Fact no they do not)
Thoughts from the General Manager (Almost a dead group)
The CouchSurfing Project >> Thoughts from the General Manager
Public Comments for GM (Almost a dead group)
Location: The CouchSurfing Project >> Thoughts from the General Manager >> Public Comments for GM

Present active groups /Groups with sprouts of activity.

Meetings upgrade team

Location: CS Organization >> Community Experts >> Events & Outreach >> Meetings upgrade team

Translation – General

Location: CS Organization >> >> Translations >> Translation – General


Location: CS Organization >>  >> ORGANIZATIONAL OPERATIONS >> Finance Coordination
Location: CS Organization >> Operations Experts >> Finance
Location: CS Organization >>  >> MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS >> Community Communications >> CouchSurfing Newsletter MrRico

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?

Casey Love

Damn Kasper, how do you do those quotes?

Thanks ;)

For your information: this is an extract of the original post by Kasper (

Thomas said:

It would be nice if Diederik could speak up about his experience and his own evaluation of the CS organisation.

A (small) word of warning: Speaking out against CS will almost automatically get you lumped in with the “OCSers”, even if you specifically state that you aren’t.

Well, to be honest, I probably already am. Some months ago, I had some posts, also on my own website. Seems that the communication went dead afterwards.

Let’s start at the beginning. I think this gives a better insight in my current feelings towards the Techteam, and in general: the leader of it, and Casey (ok, here comes my ban…)

My CS experience started at my former employer. Walter was a programmer then. I and Walter could (and still can) get along quite well, and I was invited in his house.
There were several great people, which had the same “frequency” (another word of saying we could get along, but that sentence would became corny ;) ). I met Duke, Aldo, Tiina, Paul and some others I forgot due to the use of ethanol ) My current position then was system engineer, and I was asked for that position at couchsurfing.

That would become handy, because of the start of the Rotterdam Tech Collective. Some several others were there too. Anu* (love!), Weston, Naz (great friend), Chris where several of them.
I got introduced with Nicco and we had great chats about the code (I’m not a programmer, so having some insight is perfect for me), system engineering, the couchsurfing system etc, etc. At that time, there were several things an issue. Nicco and I (as the only admins, besides some Indian people) started to work.

We had an agenda, and could start.

Several issues were addressed quite quick. Most of them are not-to-be-disclosed, but several were visible from the outside:

That time, the collective was already 3 months (or something like that) in the past. Several people came to become “sysadmin”, Nicco was degraded as leader, while Weston became TT-Leader (managing dev and sysadmin). Communication became less and less. From some times, we couldn’t reach Casey, which was our first contact for the code. At that time, my irritation began (my irritation towards the OCS was already there ;) ). Could some parts from OCS be *INDEED* true?

(Anu isn’t really stupid, you know, and Daz is just Daz and should drop dead, etc etc ;) ) At that time, it seemed to *ME* that some people were only busy programming, and not with management.

We had a great CSInterklaas weekend, and the Thai-collective started. We had several “incidents” before and after that (not-to-be-disclosed), and my irritation was at top. When I decided to resign (1 week ago) at the same time the poweroutage at the datacenter happened. Bad timing… Or probably not, because there were some more “incidents”.

This morning, I pulled the plugs from cs-sysadmins, cs-erc, cs-devel(|public). At my desktop is a Freemind scheme (, go get it) with my thoughts, idea’s and remedies. I had the idea to post it in the CS-Sysadmin group for learning. If only someone would not only *READ* it, but also *REPLY* to it. Therefor, I decided not to do so. I have the feeling that I’m being ignored, so why should I put more energy in it?

From my opinion (an censored version of the mindmap):

  • Where’s the communication?
    We are having more and more people, which asks more communcation to happen. The group only has 3 or 4 skype-meetings, and no real agenda. LT has, I believe that dev has. Why doens’t sysadmin have one?Miscommunications happen too often. Get a good IRC channel, AND STICK WITH IT. Use it like SVN, and make sure that you are the only one working on one problem.
  • Weston should resign from being a techteam-leader.
    Weston is a great guy (as well as Casey btw), but he is a programmer (as well as Casey). I believe that Casey and Weston should either resign from sysadminning and start programming OR do resign from both, and become a real manager (that is: delegate and check).
  • Get things prioritized
    Sticks with the communication part. Changing passwords is not an problem, but if changing OSes is having an higher priority, get that done.
  • Have more communication between CS-Sysadmin and development
    Commit often
    Commit the build to the webservers *NOT* often, but on an weekly base, and *COMMUNICATE* what the differences are. This ensures that everyone knows what is going on, and can act upon unexpected behaviour…
  • Learn from mistakes
    D’oh ;)

Let’s end with some positive notes:

  • I met all those great people. Some of those I want to mention: Nicco (thanks mate), Anu, Naz, Aldo (thanks a lot with the thinking), Martine (hug), Stijn, and all those others. Not to mention all those people that we hosted, will host, and I blatantly forgot.
  • I still believe that CS works. It needs to change. An negative one here is that I don’t believe that that will happen in the near future.
  • I still will be hosting with my girlfriend. We have a lively community in Rotterdam, which I love.
  • I seem to understand better and better where this OCS is all about. I only hope that I won’t reach the cynical level of communication that some of OCS have. At the same moment I feel that I will become only more bitter.

I guess that the post shuld be called “Casey Love”, the feeling that you were loved, but the other end just decides to move on to the next one.

Love from Rotterdam!

Diederik (And Frank Sinatra… “The best is yet to come”)

p.s. When resigning from cs-sysadmins this morning, I saw the description of the group. Guess that this one is not NDA bound:

“Description: This group is free from political agendas and personal ideologies. It is a place to serve the one of the core needs(server administration) of the CS Organization in order to make sure that the members have access to the site at all times so that they can experience inter cultural understanding.”