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Tag Archive for 'Kasper' – 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.

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.

More CouchSurfing Censorship

Not content with blocking Kasper from the Wiki for a week, Jim Stone has now made the block indefinite. Furthermore, he has removed sysop (admin) rights from myself, Phauly, Tgoorden, and Calum (not me, another one!).

It seems that Jim wants to keep all the power for himself. No longer will he be sharing his Wiki admin rights with us mere CouchSurfing Corporation Customers, no, no, no. He’s a paid member of staff now, he’s special… :)

It’s a little ironic, I was thinking about unblocking Kasper from the Wiki, but I decided it would be better to try and talk it out with Jim. With hindsight, perhaps that was a mistake. Jim apparently ain’t one for talking.

The CouchSurfing Censorship Plot Thickens

I learned today that Jim Stone blocked Kasper’s account 4 weeks after Kasper moved the pages in question. As I suspected, without warning, discussion or otherwise. In typical CouchSurfing Corporation Style.  Glad to see Jim is settling into his new job, getting the hang of how CouchSurfing runs things. He’ll fit right in.

CouchSurfing Censors Strike Again

Kasper (long standing CouchSurfing volunteer, founder of the CouchSurfing Wiki, ex CouchSurfing Tech Team Leader) was recently blocked from the CouchSurfing Wiki. Jim Stone (newly hired CouchSurfing staff member) explained the reasons on this group post.

Jim says that Kasper blanked a bunch of pages, then posted links to another web site. In other words, Kasper moved content from one Wiki to another. Kasper explained that he felt the content was more appropriate on the other Wiki.

In typical CouchSurfing fashion, there was no discussion, no explanation, no consultation, Jim simply blocked Kasper’s account. Gotta love dictatorships huh?! :)

In retrospective

During all recent events I often thought about what must be going on in Casey’s head. He’s the one pulling the strings. Then I remembered an email I received from Casey Fenton, a long time ago, November 29, 2005 10:01 PM to be exactly.

Subject: Censorship in Hospitality Club / CS

Hi Kasper,

I was just sent a link to your page about HC censorship.
You said: “The thing that I find most revolting is that it, at least to
me at this point, seems such a closed process. Rules are somehow being
set up, and the 90000 members of HC are just to follow them.
CouchSurfing has actually the same problem, and I think it will be good
to address this.” I was wondering what the problem is that CS has that
you’re referring to? We always want to make sure that we’re doing
things right… and it there’s something we’re not doing right, please
let us know! If you need any questions answered, I’d be happy to answer

btw, love your photos… especially the one of those kids in Bamako and
the one of you on the beach with the guitar.


Which implies that Casey read about the ideas I have for hospitality exchange a long time before we actually met in Montreal. As Joe wrote: “Many aspects of CouchSurfing have been marred by these issues: (a) a tendency to do
things in the dark, (b) a tendency to tell people what they want to hear, and (c) a tendency to work *near* people, but not *with* them.”

Sometimes I feel sad, sometimes I feel bitter. But…

Life is still good, though I hope that some things will change. In my opionion there are several principles a free hospitality exchange network must follow:

  1. Open policies
    It should be clear what is going on. Policies and guidelines should be accessible by anyone.
  2. Democratic processes
    All people making part of the network should be able to take part in discussions.
  3. Open data
    People should be able to “take” their own data in a portable, open format onto their computer, into their phone. It should be possible to give permission to others (based on a trust level) to copy part of one’s information. Similar to ideas implemented in Indyvoter (
  4. Free software
    Like Wikipedia, hospitality exchange networks should be based on free software. This will attract more programmers, open up new possibilities (like integrating electronic authentification and encryption ( or efficient access on portable devices (, extending it into a getting-car-rides system where drivers and hitchhikers can get in touch using GPS…).

Round up

It is difficult to describe just how shocking the last 24 hours have been. The final result is pretty clear though: instead of taking any practical step towards Openness and Freedom, Couchsurfing has decided to take the path of a closed, protected, corporate-like structure.

A brief history:

  1. Sunday 6/May/2007: is launched after about 2 weeks of preparation. It was the result of months of uncertainty and dissatisfaction in the development group. First real reaction comes from Leo (who later turns out to not be a part of the “inner circle”. No “official” reaction.
  2. Wednesday 9/May/2007: The CS site goes down for 18 hours to upgrade the database. No warning to the tech team. Casey finally proposes to talk over the phone with me; on Sunday.
  3. Thursday 10/May/2007: Casey announces the Leadership Circle. Couchsurfing will be run by a self-appointed and closed group of (mostly) his personal friends.
  4. Friday 11/May/2007: Casey suddenly and unannounced decides to move the SVN server with all of the CS code, quoting “upgrades”. It stays offline until today and now everyone has to reapply for commit rights.
  5. Sunday 13/May/2007: I finally get to talk to Casey over the phone. He tells me he doesn’t want “politics” in Couchsurfing and clearly has no real-world knowledge or experience with code licensing. We agree to try and investigate two things together: a community code license of sorts and some form of elective experiment to determine a tech team “coordinator”. We agree to call again the next day. It gives me hope. (False hope as it turns out.)
  6. Monday 14/May/2007: Casey postpones the phone call by a day. He’s too busy communicating with others.
  7. Tuesday 15/May/2007: Everything seems to happen at once.
    • All day long, there is a flame-war (warning: long and ugly) between Naz (a completely new and unknown developer since 2 weeks) and Kasper on the developers mailing list. Naz is simply nasty and basically tells Kasper to take a hike. Chris Burley, our “tech team leader” does not step in at all.
    • I talk to Casey on the phone again. He basically states that he wants to split CS into a “staff” of sorts and “volunteers”. Ambassadors would be mere volunteers and developers would probably have to be split into people within and people outside of “the circle”. (I’ve now come to understand that they simply don’t want developers outside of the circle.)
    • Morgan Tocker resigns (see his Blog article).
    • Appearantly the long awaited NDA is now called “Volunteer Agreement” and is sent in secret to “core devs”, including John, Walter, Naz (who has been a developer for 2 weeks!) and Anu. Kasper, who has at least 1/3rd of the code commits to his name, is not included as a “core dev”. We learn all of this by accident. Chris Burley chats with both Kasper and me and tries to talk “off the record” with me, which I decline. We know it contains the following:
      - Automatic transfer of all intellectual property (=ideas) to CS.
      - A non-compete agreement, which basically states you can’t work on any travel or social network site simultaneously or 1 year after volunteering (working) for CS, profesionally or otherwise.
      - A complete gag order. You are not allowed to discuss anything “internal” with non-NDA people.
    • Kasper resigns.
    • Chris Burley offers me the Volunteer Agreement document, under the condition that I don’t talk about it. I decline. He tells me certain people might get “exceptions” to the NDA rules.
    • I quit.
    • After at least three people tell Chris that he should have stepped in with the Naztyness on the mailinglist, he finally does. The discussion is by that time already long over and done.

After that, there was a mixture of saying goodbye, total apathy and more nastiness (style: “Glad you guys are gone”). The Leadership Circle still doesn’t have the guts to publish the Volunteer Agreement.
So, what are we left with after 1,5 weeks of campaigning?

  1. A completely closed CS organisation that is heading for a semi-commercial structure. Volunteering is considered second rate.
  2. An NDA/Volunteer Agreement that is probably 3 times worse than the previous one. In all practicality, no IT professional could ever sign it, unless you never want to work on travel or social network related websites again besides CS.
  3. Open sourcing, transparancy and representation seem farther away than ever. They have succeeded in getting Kasper to quit, which clearly was something they wanted. “Not a core dev” is probably the closest one can come to being tarred and feathered.

To put it simply: OpenCouchSurfing has failed miserably in its goals. Even though around 70 people ended up signing our petition, including Heather O’Brian and Jim Stone (both part of the Leadership Circle), none of it made any difference.

Have we made matters worse? I don’t think so, because clearly these things were already being planned for a long time. We have however clearly accelerated the process and discovered things that were meant to be kept secret. The back-room dealings, the secrecy, the buddy-systems, the social manipulation, all of these things are not new to me and can happen in any organisation. The scale and rate at which they happen in Couchsurfing, an organisation that boasts a mission to “Participate in Creating a Better World, One Couch at a Time” is however frightening.

There are only three options left:

  1. Waste energy and time whining and being ignored.
  2. Start taking destructive action.
  3. Bow out.

Out of self-respect, I will obviously choose the latter.
The End.