This site was archived on 24 April 2012. No new content can be posted. The mailing list remains online and the site will stay in this archived state for the forseeable future. If you find any technical errors on the site, please contact Callum.

Tag Archive for 'leadership_team'

What happened to Chris?

I don’t really think it’s a great loss for CouchSurfing, but apparently Chris Burley is now a former “CouchSurfing Leader and core member of the Tech Team”.  The rules for “removal of Leadership Team members” are quite sincere. Now I know that Chris was embarking upon a wonderful study which would take quite some time, but that wouldn’t imply that he’d have to give up his role as a Leader and core member of the tech team. So, what happened, and why?

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!

Trust issues

Let’s take a step back and look at what hospitality services like Couchsurfing are really about. It is pretty obvious that almost all of the real-life activity associated with CS (hosting, being a guest, organising and attending meetings, collectives, etc) all require one simple thing from all participants: mutual trust. The content of profiles and of course especially the references (and vouches) are very much designed towards determining trust. Perhaps actually more a trust network than a travel network?

Yesterday, I loaned two American girls a key to my house. I had met them about 30 minutes before that. They followed me home from the train station, happily handing over parts of their luggage to relieve their own back. None of us asked for passports, identification, or anything. They are 19 years old. If you would try to explain this to an average person, they’d probably declare us nuts, but they would be mistaken. It is pure and simple “trust by default” and an extremely refreshing feeling considering the world we live in.

Oddly enough, it appears that for the organisation of Couchsurfing, this basic principle of trusting each other has been completely turned on its head. Of course, the most obvious and glaring distrust is between people in the leadership team and anyone critical of them. We have come to the point that practically any statement critical of the leaders results in the commenter being filed under the “haters” category, which can only happen if CS leaders like Jim Stone or Matthew Brauer distrust any interested volunteers by default. Worse, they have taken actions in return that can only be interpreted as defensive (moving of threats on forums, taking away rights on the Wiki, etc etc).

If you look at the organisational structure of Couchsurfing, you will notice that “distrust by default” is present everywhere. You cannot become ambassador if the already established ambassadors don’t explicitly trust you and it is very obvious they have a very different standard for that than they would as CS hosts. Worse still, you can’t ever become an admin or a leader if Casey doesn’t trust you personally and his criteria are, to say the least, murky. What do Jim and Matthew have in common which makes them elligable for this top position?

  1. A long term relationship with Casey.
  2. Americans.
  3. A fondness for partying hard*. (Burning man, etc.)

*This is something we hardly ever talk about, but common knowledge for anyone who’s been to a collective. It’s one of those unspoken truths that everyone seems to avoid on OCS, because it can easily be interpreted as a personal attack. To be clear: I’m not making moral judgements here about how they spend their free time (hey, go nuts!), but it does worry me that the organisational top is held together by this. However juicy the rest of the gossip is, I’m happy it doesn’t appear here.

Perhaps, and this is speculation of course, this situation has to do with some fundamental aspect of Casey’s psyche. If anything, the structure of CS is a reflection of his personality. And aren’t Jim and Matthew merely “channeling” Casey’s fundamental distrust, while of course taking it a bit further than Casey ever did? The fact that Casey started a trust network doesn’t have to be a contradiction to this, it could easily be an overcompensation on his part.

I don’t expect Casey to suddenly see the light and invite “us” into his castle. This would require an almost superhuman effort. But, something will happen eventually. Maybe something or someone will “break” eventually. (Casey has quit the project before, he might do it again.) Maybe people will drift off in separate directions.

The only thing I can hope for is that – somewhere in the future – the Couchsurfing organisation will reflect the one thing that it’s members rely on every day: trust.

Have a great weekend. Thomas

The Next CS Collective

Read it first on OpenCouchSurfing: The Next CouchSurfing Collective will be in… Thailand!

CS is “accepting applications for a small number of specific positions, including a full-time House Manger whose airfare to Thailand will be paid by CouchSurfing.”

I hope the Leadership Team is aware of the very strict laws in Thailand.

Making it official (Anu leaving, that is)

Whev – after quite a few weeks of cold feet and months of discontentment, it’s finally done: I’m no longer a CS developer. Since there was ample time to come to terms with this and make my own conclusions, rather than being told to take a hike, I am actually okay, and excited about lots of things (perhaps including some more volunteering as well, but only time will tell if that’s the right path for me from now on).

In any case, I would like to thank everyone I have had the pleasure to work with – regardless of the CS leadership team propaganda I do believe everyone writing and reading this blog are doing it because they care about CS, enough to be interested in the organizational issues as well. (consider this as my implementation of the culture of appreciation ;) )