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Tag Archive for 'brainstorm'

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

external tools

In Brainstorm Christian announced a page with links to external tools for CouchSurfing members:

  • CouchFinder: “Choose any location on the glob, specify a within-range and click search. This handy tool will show you all couches within your chosen area.”
  • Joined Members: “A little tool that, provided any CS group-id, will list the last recently signed up members in chronological order”.

I wonder how far this approach can be taken though…

Now I’m trying to get the profile export tool somewhere in a public space, so that it can be added.

Three easy ways for direct action

Did you ever volunteer for CouchSurfing? Please edit this (incomplete) summary of time spent volunteering for CS.

If you’re active in the CS groups you probably found out that it’s not allowed anymore to discuss politics and policy in the Brainstorm groups. Threads are moved to the newly formed Politics and Policy group. Since groups are ordered by number of members, it is not so prominent yet, but with 39 or 42 members (39 on the group page, the number 42 can be deduced from Casey’s profile; and I hope this is just a normal bug) in its short period of existence it is a sign that couchsurfers do care about the politics of this organization. You can help by joining the Politics and Policy group, so that it will be a bit more prominent (hint: you can set it to “No Communication”, if you don’t want to be on it at all times, that’s how I set all my groups, and that’s how I found out that someone kicked me out of Brainstorm and then joined me again).

If you haven’t already, please fill out this survey about the questions that will be offered to the Leadership Team. And although I would have posed them in a different way, I think the most important questions are:

  • Are there any full bye-laws of the corporation, further than the Articles of Agreement, or a draft thereof, and if yes, will you post it?
  • Are you willing to adopt a clause in the corporate bye-laws that irrevocably dedicates all assets to charitable purposes?
  • Is there any draft of the 501(c)(3) application (Form IRS-1023), and if yes, will you post it?

But of course, just pick your own favorites. You can choose 20!

501(c)(3)? Can Casey sell out?

The hottest thread in the Brainstorm group is probably the 501(c)(3) thread. The CS General Manager, the Volunteer Coordinator have posted, but apparently not with enough information to cast away doubts raised by a retired management consultant with plenty of experience with US law.

Apparently there is a way for Casey to sell out, as long as the bylaws are not sorted out properly. Of course, these are currently far away from public scrutiny.

As Callum wrote:

I think the key question for Casey / LT therefore is about the company byelaws. How was the company incorporated and are there any provisions for changing the company status? Without that information, I am of the opinion that if 501(c)(3) status is ever achieved, Casey could voluntarily remove that status, pay the relevant tax, and then sell CouchSurfing.

Valeri on Project Management Improvement and Communication

Valeri on Project Management Improvement and Communication.

I’m removing this text, since it’s slightly out of context. You can find it through clicking on the link though. — Kasper, September 13th 2007

The beginning of the end of CS 2.0

“It just feels bad to be asked for help and promised something in return by the captain after he set the boat on a riff and than when the ship is running being told: ‘What do you want here? This is the captains lounge. I’ve hired professional help now. You are just a stupid little member. Now stop whining, go down to where the swimming pools are and have fun.’ ” – Torsten (from the Brainstorm group).

As someone who was present in Montreal during the week of the crash, I can add some detail to the Captain’s behavior in those days.

We have been told that the particular combination of events leading to the crash (“The Triple Storm”) was highly unlikely, but even if accurate this excuse for the disaster obscures the fact that the organization’s extreme dependency on Casey in the technical area was a great vulnerability to the organization, and a disaster waiting to happen.

I believe this dependency was not due to the lack of willing, trustworthy and qualified members to spread the responsibility among (and thus provide redundancy and checks and balances), but to Casey’s intention to maintain control of the website and thus, in part, I strongly suspect, justify his privileged (and salaried) position. i.e., If others were doing all the work Casey was doing voluntarily, then it would be harder to justify being the only salaried member of the organization.

If the major crash was unavoidable (we’ll never know for sure), certainly many of the chronic server problems since then, that at times put members traveling in foreign countries at greater risk, were really a direct result of Casey’s policy.

A few days after the crash, Casey terminated the Couchsurfing Project. He did not discuss this with any of the members at Montreal that I talked with: people who had traveled from great distances at their own expense and on their vacation time to answer the call for community participation. It was as though in Casey’s mind, CS was the website and with the website gone (in his opinion) there was no CS.

But most of us there understood that CS was not a website but a community. The Community still existed and needed to come together for each other more than ever. Especially, there were members out on the road, traveling in foreign countries, using the website to make contacts with hosts as they went, many on a low budget who couldn’t afford to just start staying in hotels. It was the beginning of summer, and many others had made vacation plans based on CS. These people needed our help and support. Casey abandoned them.

I was stunned by Casey’s behavior. Not knowing him, I just assumed that there must be factors I did not know of, and gave him the benefit of doubt.

There was a leadership vacuum immediately following the termination, as Casey was absent for much of the time. Members were dazed and directionless, wondering if they should just go home. I organized some meetings, as did Heather. I proposed that the first order of business was to take care of the members. I suggested that we set up message boards on some free site so that members could at least communicate with each other. All agreed and we got to work right away.

Once we were set up, there was only one problem: how to let members know about the message boards? We knew that the home page of was still working. So all we needed was an announcement with a link to the message boards put on it. It took about a day to find Casey and get him to put the link in place. No one else could do it because Casey was the only one with the password to the servers.

The next order of business was to get the website back up. While Casey was still out of the picture, we made a group decision to bring back CS any way possible, however long it took. This was the true beginning of CS 2.0.

We knew that the software was not lost, only the data (i.e., members personal information and friendship links). So, the website could be restarted quickly, but members would have to re-register and re-establish their friendships. If this was the only obstacle, I could not understand why Casey would shut down the organization, unless perhaps, he was burnt out and just wanted to be done with it.

One thing very crucial here is that Casey did not offer the community access to the software. We could have quickly (in a matter of a couple weeks at most, which is how long it took anyway to restart the site with salvaged data) brought the site without the data. There was a tremendous, self-organized offering of support from programmers all over the world. They even formed themselves into teams and began extracting member data from Google’s caches. This was the community I was proud to belonged to and wanted to support.

It was clear that Casey considered the software to be his own property, not the property of the community, and he was not willing to just give it to us. The Captain had abandoned the ship and took the steering wheel with him, being willing to let the ship sink rather than give up control and let others save the ship.

In this crucial meeting, I personally committed to take the responsibility to rebuild the website myself, if necessary, but was sure many would help in the effort. I would have done it free of charge and claim no ownership of it. Also, I would have always been accountable to the community, and followed their guidance and stepped down if they asked me to. But I was a new member, and did not have a reputation within CS. Heather, who was an Admin, argued that “we have to get Casey back on board”. She held sway. I did not know at the time that she was romantically involved with Casey (or so I have been told), as this was kept discreet.

Over the next few days, pleas were made with Casey to come back, led by Heather, although, at least, the group insisted that the new CS must be different from the old, and that there should be much more emphasis on member participation. Casey agreed to this. In Heather’s word’s: “CS should not be about just one person”. Heather even expressed that the crash was a blessing in disguise, and urged that the recovery be delayed if necessary to ensure that fundamental changes were made and that CS did not just return to business as usual.

Casey tentatively agreed to explore the possibility of reviving CS, and when he began to have success recovering the data, resumed control over the project. I was relieved at the time, because Casey’s return meant that I could go on the vacation I had planned. But now I realized that those few days were the one chance for CS to become a truly community-based self-governing organization. The seeds of the demise of CS 2.0 were planted almost as soon as it began.


Rewriting history – Replacing “us vs. them” with “those, who hate CS”?

When the OpenCS campaigns were published, the Leadership Circle had to face the fact, that ignorance wasn’t working this time. While some “followers of the true Couchsurfing spirit” (i. e. Mikky, Donna, Naz) were doing the dirt work of insulting the main protagonist of OpenCS in public, the Leadership Circle constructed an “us vs. them” legend, give some marketing bloats to the users and tried to avoid every real communication. The result was the resign of many volunteers. Surprisingly more than the Leadership Circle expected.

OpenCS became a lost cause and as a result the campaigners themselves failt to fullfill their own requirements. It was never meant as a clear frontline against someone, but more or less the “discussions” end up in the “us vs. them” logic. The Leadership Circle strategy of keeping more or less quiet and as a result lacking a place for a discussion makes it worse: users at brainstorm began to feel annoyed about the same issues again and again in nearly every thread. In the meantime, forced by deeply personal disappointments, injuries and feeling betrayed, the reference war started. But leaving each other negative references not only symbolized the edge between “us” and “them” very well, it was also bad PR for OpenCS at all, even if the Leadership Circle answered in the same way (and Casey himself started to remove friendlinks).

Then things began to change again: Kasper – listening to the advice of others – made the brave step to remove the bad references (something I could not appreciate enough). This – supported by some apologies – changed the situation at brainstorm a bit. Additionally some new people at brainstorm have begun to ask questions. With the same result as ever: not much answers, even if this is from time to time hidden behind a lot of words. But the tone is different this time:
no more “us vs. them”, what means at least a form of dispute, no, now some people are adressed as “those few who hate CS”.

Who is that? A small group planning to destroy CS out of pure hate against CS as such? More conspiracy theories, please! Do I hate CS? Don’t expect me to answer this question, but maybe I should create a group “those who _really_ hate CS” (no worries: I won’t do it really. Like the “Goovy is an arsehole and we know it”-group). Seems all in all more a reason to laugh out loud than to worry. But the problem is: The Leadership is rewriting history here. If there are no answers or alternatives, the ideas of OpenCS will disappear more or less completely. The “usual supects” will end up as couchterrorists, who tried to destroy the happyhappy couchsurfing family, but failed thanks to the good and visionary leaders.

I claim the right of my own history. Remember, this is the digital age: history written on paper rolls by winners only is history itself.

PS: Didn’t I mention “The little leninist’s cookbook” before? One very important task is to define the own opinion as a majority and every critics as a small minority. Don’t worry about real numbers, it’s just important to say so. A perfect historical example about this can be found with the keywords Menshevik (from russian the Russian word for minority) and Bolshevik (from russian the Russian word for majority).
PPS: Nonviolent communication is not a good concept for people who don’t understand (or don’t want to understand) that non-communication is probably one of the most violent forms of communication at all.

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.


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?