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Tag Archive for 'couchsurfing'

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CouchSurfing trademark

I saw a discussion about CouchSurifng International Inc attemping to trademark the term “CouchSurfing”. I feel like this is something I would like to take action on, but I’m not quite sure what action to take.

I guess that if we can find uses of the term “couchsurfing” before the incorporation of CS Inc, that would provide a basis to challenge the trademark registration. Does anyone have references to such uses?

Is this an issue worth pursuing? Comments on a postcard…

Dictatorship 0 – Pirates 1

Pirate flag by pioforskyOur Alaska mirror blog has ruffled some feathers. Somebody changed the CouchSurfing blog feed. Instead of the whole post being included in the feed, now only the excerpt is included. So anyone reading the blog in a feed reader has been highly inconvenienced.

I’ll bet some clever bod thought this would stop our mirror blog. Wrong! It’ll take more than a little inconvenience to keep us pirates down. I’m pleased to report, that after a brief outage, the mirror blog is now back in full working order, with full post text.

So if you want to read the blog in your feed reader, subscribe to our feed instead, and get the comments!

We have won the battle, but I suspect this will not be the end of the war. As a Sun Tzu disciple, I have studied the enemy closely. I have anticipated their next seven moves. Fear not, their incompetence will not stand in the way of democracy and freedom. The pirates wil overcome their foolish attempts to quell free speech. Vive la revolucion!

Alaska blog – comments not allowed

You can see Alaska Collective blog here and subscribe to the feed here.

Unfortunately, comments are not allowed on the blog. To be more precise, you must be logged in to comment. But registration of new users is not allowed. So in effect, only those with permission can comment. Let’s hope this will change soon.

However, as a quick alternative, I propose to create a mirror of the blog content, with the same open-comments policy we use here at OpenCS. It’s fairly trivial to set up, and would allow open debate on each post. What do you think? Please provide a +1 or -1 in your comment if you think it’s a good or bad idea.

Money talks – creating funds

People ask, how can they support OpenCouchSurfing? Likewise, I often meet people who support the ideals, but also want to support CouchSurfing. They might have paid for verification. They don’t totally agree with the way CouchSurfing is run, but they want to support the organisation anyway.

My idea is to offer people a way to support CouchSurfing financially, while also supporting the ideals of OpenCouchSurfing. That’s the basic premise.

I think it could work as follows. We create one or more funds or trusts. These funds are clearly constituted. They exist to support the work of CouchSurfing, within certain conditions. Rather like the government supports universities in the UK, but the money comes with requirements. The universities must behave in a certain way to be eligible for the cash.

A simple example might be server costs. We could create a fund to pay for CouchSurfing’s server costs. So long as CouchSurfing International Inc submits invoices for these costs, the fund would reimburse the expenses. This is just a simple example.

The underlying concept is to give members a way to financially support CouchSurfing, while still upholding the principles of OpenCouchSurfing.

We could also provide a mechanism for members to display and verify their donations. For example, images which could be inserted into the user’s profile, showing how much that user has donated. This might help to spread the message amongst members. In effect, we would be creating an alternative to the CouchSurfing verification system.

This is very much an idea right now. It needs considerable research and discussion before being implemented. Please share your thoughts at this early stage. Can you see merit in the concept? Would you be willing to donate money through such a framework? All feedback will be appreciated.

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

Channeling our energy

This site has become very active. There are a lot of people spending time and energy here. I would like to propose that we begin to channel that energy into proactive, positive action.

I think the first step is to identify areas or projects which can make a positive difference to CouchSurfing. A great example is the recent idea to create elected ambassadors. I think that was a great idea, and if it takes off, will make a really big impact on CouchSurfing.

I have more thoughts to share on that, but I will share those in a new post. I’d like to keep the focus of this post simple. What can we do to make a positive difference? Please share your thoughts, as a comment here, or as a whole new post. If you have any trouble creating a post, contact myself, Kasper, Anu or Thomas.

Let the brainstorming roll… :)

Parrallels between CouchSurfing and Scientology

I’ve been reading a (one-sided) article on Scientology. It struck me that there are some similarities between the methods employed by L Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology, and Casey Fenton, co-founder of CouchSurfing. This might sound a little far fetched. I’d urge you to read the article and consider the suggestion before making up your own mind.

Firstly, I don’t think CouchSurfing is nearly as dangerous / mind controlling / cultish as Scientology. I’m highlighting similarities, not suggesting they are the same.

For example, Jon Atack states that Scientology orders followers to “disconnect” from “Suppressive Persons”. Disconnect means to break all contact with a person. “Suppressive Persons” are anyone critical of Scientology or L Ron Hubbard. It seems like there is a similar practice going on at collectives. Members who speak publicly about CouchSurfing seem to go quiet very quickly.

Other similarities might include:

  • Very long working hours
  • Closely confined working conditions
  • Limited contact with the outside world
  • Attacking of anyone critical of the organisation or its “leader”

This ties into Thomas’s earlier post “Is the Couchsurfing collective a cult?”.

From Atack’s article, I then read about Deprogramming and Exit Counselling. It struck me that perhaps we could learn from these techniques in dealing with current CS “volunteers”. Just to be clear, I’m not proposing that we start kidnapping people!

I think it would be useful to learn from the practice of Exit Counselling. I think it would also be useful to learn about how to approach cult members to discuss their situation. I think these techniques could help greatly in dealing with core CouchSurfing “volunteers”.

This might sound like crazy talk. It seems logical to me, but I’d welcome any comments / criticism / feedback. I will do my best to ignore inflammatory comments or trolling.

Proposal: CouchSurfing legal fund

I believe CouchSurfing and Casey Fenton have broken, and continue to break, the law. Among other things, I believe that member’s “donations” are being misused. I think this misuse is the clearest breach of the law.

As the membership continues to grow, the potential for abuse also continues to grow. I think this situation must be brought to a head as a matter of urgency.

My proposal is to start a CouchSurfing legal fund. A financial fund where individuals could choose to donate money. That money would be used to pursue legal action against crimes perpetrated by CouchSurfing International Inc and Casey Fenton.

I think a number of issues would need to be addressed prior to any donations being accepted.

  • The constitution of the organisation / fund
  • Who would direct the legal action (I propose Pickwick as a core figure, if he accepts)
  • How lawyers would be appointed to carry out the action
  • Specifically, what action would be taken

Pickwick has diligently researched the legal constitution CouchSurfing. I think this work has made the greatest progress towards the goals of OpenCouchSurfing. I believe this area of work should be financially supported on a larger scale.

To start the ball rolling, I, Callum Macdonald, pledge $100 to this fund. I’ll make the actual donation once the fund is in place.

I warmly invite you to share your opinion, and if you feel appropriate, make a financial pledge. (Dislcaimer, financial pledges will be entirely voluntarily, so any commitment you make here is not legally binding.)

CouchSurfing Thailand Collective Visas

According to the FAQ:

We’re researching which visa type collective volunteers will need.

Later in the same paragraph:

CouchSurfing will ensure that all participants are in Thailand on the legal and appropriate visa, and that they are able to stay for the duration of the Collective.

The collective is due to start on 1 December, that’s in 6 days. Yet apparently they’re still researching visas? If I had volunteered to go to Thailand to participate, I’d expect to know by now what visa I need.

Volunteers are required to stay for a minimum of 2 months. To stay in Thailand for 2 months you need a visa, and you need to get that visa before you arrive. Visas on arrival are for 30 days and getting to the border and back can be costly depending on where the collective will be held.

I hope the volunteers are aware of the situation and have considered the consequences of volunteering for CouchSurfing, I fear most have not.

CouchSurfing going 501(c)(3)?

CouchSurfing members received an email yesterday telling them that, at long last, CouchSurfing has filed for 501(c)(3) status. The email also claimed that currently, CouchSurfing is a charity, and is legally dedicated to charitable purposes.

What was missing, as usual, was any sort of external verification. Casey helpfully provided a link to the Wikipedia page on 501(c)(3) status and an page for those eager to learn more. Neither of these links have directly relate to CouchSurfing, nor do they do anything to confirm CouchSurfing’s current legal status, or confirm that any application for 501(c)(3) status has been filed.

There was no link to a copy of the paperwork, no postal tracking number, no evidence whatsoever that anything has been filed anywhere. There was no copy of any filed paperwork regarding CouchSurfing’s current status, no links showing that “non-profit” status cannot be easily revoked in New Hampshire. As usual, we are expected to trust our “visionary leader”.

Personally, I think it’s clear that Comrade Casey felt the pressure from Pickwick’s legal questions, and the openCS campaign in general. The response was as usual, ignore, ignore, ignore, then organise a seemingly unrelated press stunt to make people feel better without actually proving anything.

In conclusion, until I see independent confirmation that CouchSurfing has filed for 501(c)(3) status, I will consider it a possibility at best. It is clear to me that the CouchSurfing leadership cannot be taken at their word.