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Tag Archive for 'Participation'

Casey attempts to sell Groups posts to Google, members protest en masse

If he was any more blatantly deceitful, we’d have to call him Zuckerberg! Step right up trusting travelers, and watch how Casey Fenton attempts to sell all your old (and current, and future) Groups posts for profit!

And if not for cash, then surely for the added marketing value (worth real money, and lots of it), to allow Google and every other web site and search engine to add what you thought you were sharing with only fellow CS-members, to their fully public, permanent record that is the global internet.

All the personal trip and traveler feedback you thought you were sharing only with other CS members? Sorry, surprise, now everything you posted on CS is part of the public record, forever. And, perfectly searchable.

I realize Casey’s announcement(s) have mostly to do with Groups posts, but isn’t he trying to put into place the exact same kind of exposure and sale of all your information, including your profile? Your profile picture? Isn’t he playing the exact same kind of despicable game that Zuckerberg plays?

Make no mistake about what Casey is attempting to do, exactly like Zuckerberg/Facebook – blatantly deceive you, to gain your trust and persuade you to add to his mountainous pile of traveler feedback, then once he has your trust (and your posts and personal information) he sells everyone’s posted information to enrich himself, personally.

This has been his goal since the inception of the entire CS project, he just didn’t have any buyers yet. Until now. Until Facebook became the story to copy. Until he invested considerable effort in building the largest list of users he could accumulate, to ensure the biggest pay-day he could arrange for himself.

I’ve noticed that despite several fundamental issues which members have complained about for literally years, that are never even acknowledged… in all this time, the most visible efforts seen from the inner circle and their hiring decisions, seemed to always be about PR (public relations), suppressing the publication of complaints, outright denial of reality, and spreading the gospel. To grow the list of users. To fatten the calf before the slaughter.

In classic Cult-of-Casey style, he sells you out without a warning or your consent, but when the backlash proves substantial and it turns out that people don’t want any part of what Casey’s selling, he tries to spin his scheme as something that he only intended in the best of ways, something to help you!

I don’t know which kind of people I despise more strongly – users, or liars. Let alone a career scam-artist highly skilled in both exploiting and lying to people. But the recent investors want the maximum return on their investment, so just as others have predicted… let the sale (of information you donated in good faith) begin!
Fresh email from HQ, just received, sent to all CS “members.” Stare into the face of pure exploitation and bald-faced lies:

“We’ve heard you: Change to plans regarding groups”
Dear CouchSurfers,

Last week, we sent an email in which we announced our plan to make CS groups available to search. We made this decision because the team had received member complaints that some newer members of the site didn’t seem to be joining for the right reasons. We thought that allowing people to see more of what CS is about before they join might help address this problem.

The members disagreed! We’ve heard from hundreds of people who are very opposed to this approach. I’m very sorry to have caused so much distress. It’s clear that this is something that members care deeply about, and I respect the need to approach it differently.

We have made two major changes to our plan:

Group posts created in the past will not be available to search. The only posts that will be visible to search engines will be those created after February 15, 2012. This will protect the privacy of any members who no longer use the site and may not be aware of the changes.

All members will have the option to keep all of their posts hidden from search and from non-members. Just as we currently allow you to keep your profile hidden from anyone who is not logged in, we are now building another privacy option that will allow you to easily specify that your group posts should not be visible to search engines or people who are not logged in. This privacy option will apply to all of your posts, both past and future.

These two factors combined mean that the only posts that will be visible to search will be those made in the future by people who choose not to make their participation in groups private.

I sincerely hope that this approach will protect the privacy needs of all CouchSurfing members while also giving people who are considering joining CS an accurate impression of who we are – a community, not a place to find a free place to crash.

If you still have concerns about this, I invite you to email me at and share your thoughts. The team makes all of its decisions with the intention of making CS better for its members. It seems that this time the change we wanted to make would actually have made it worse, and for that I’m sincerely sorry. I’m glad that you responded with your concerns: your reactions helped us see various sides of the issue that we had not considered. I know that CS groups are considered to be a safe and comfortable place to express yourself fully, and I would never want that to change.

Thank you for your patience and for your passion,

Casey Fenton
Co-Founder, CouchSurfing International

So long, and thanks for the fish

Also posted in: ambassador’s public

It’s finally time to let go of all my remaining ties to volunteering in CouchSurfing, a few words about the why, if you will…

It wasn’t a bad year (1) In fact, it was a very good year. How often do you get a chance to see the world, settle down a bit in places, work for the things you believe in and meet the people you’ve been craving to meet all your life?

I’m still coming to terms with my feelings of this year, and CS more specifically. There’s a strong component of unjust treatment, and many questions which are to date not answered. I could probably write a book about all this but this will have to wait until a later date (you might want to check here in the near future though ;) (2)

There’s definitely some anger: after all, I started doing CS work after already been burned once in a volunteering setting (3) and for this reason really did not want or need a second similar experience. However, I got one. What makes me angry is not the “wasted time” itself, it’s more the fact that had I known the fundamental attitudes (4, 5) of the leadership a year ago, I would probably not have started volunteering to such an extent – my anger is more directed towards concealing these attitudes (with lack of real communication there was no way of telling what the admins were thinking) rather than having them in the first place – for at least it would have offered an opportunity for me to choose if these were the kinds of people I’d like to work with (or as it seems, for). This by now almost feels like purposeful deception to lure in willing volunteers (6).

There’s also sadness: thinking of what might have been, the possibilities for creating real difference, all in vain. And not because people, the community didn’t want it, they were ready to take CS to the next level, to decentralize (7) along with the mission crafted up after the big crash of 2006 (7, 8 ) to create a better world, one couch at a time. No, it was the attitudes of the leaders, lack of any real communication by them, lack of meaningful, respectful dialogue with the community or even volunteers who are actively striving to make things better that stopped (sometimes even reversed) (9) the momentum of the community to decentralize itself. I also feel sad that this potential of the community was never recognized by those in power and that corporate structures, top-down management and weeding out all possibility to self-organize were seen as the only way to go forward – where’s the space for diversity, more bohemian attitudes towards life and independent thinking that are very present in the spirit of this community?

But there’s (always?) a silver lining: if it wasn’t through CS, it would have probably taken me years longer to find the people I connected and hope to continue working with (some, though by means not all ;) of them here: 10,11) to create a better world, one whatever (Line of code? Guest bed? Idea? Freedom?) at a time!

I’d like to thank all the great people I have worked with and met on my 21st century version of the”Grand Tour” (11). Regardless of my issues with the leaders at the moment, I believe the rest of you are still good people and deserve far more credit and appreciation than what you’re given now.

Finally, just a fair warning from someone who cares about all of you: please keep your eyes open before jumping in the deep end with CS or if you’re there already, and don’t stop asking the questions (13) in case there’s something worrying you…

Goodbye, and happy surfing,

9. (original) (backup)

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.


I never got my application in

On August 2nd, Couchsurfing Announced that they were looking to hire a full time developer. I look back today (August 10th) and I notice that:

***We Are No Longer Accepting Applications***

I’m not sure what day they posted this notice, but it seems a very short period of time to advertise a vacancy. I always suspected that announcing this was just to escape criticism about “hiring all of Casey’s friends”. I guess soon we will get to see who the developer is, and if it is indeed a familiar face.

2000 US$/month

From Jim Stone Aug 4 Met in person

Extremely Negative

I once thought Kasper was able to separate friendship from business and keep things professional. I was wrong. Friends don’t routinely bash each other personally in public and scream “you’re a f*cking asshole!” in public forums. I should have known better, but Kasper will do whatever it takes to push his twisted agenda. He’ll demand special treatment and then cry when he doesn’t get his way. Beware – this man will stab you in the back after he borrows the knife from you. In his own words ( ): “I don’t know what I’m trying to achieve. But I’m not stopping.”

Thanks Jim. How do you seperate friendship and business now that you get 2000 US$ a month to coordinate volunteers?

The CouchSurfing Corporation

Warning: This post contains sarcasm, read it at your own risk. You have been warned.

CouchSurfing recently announced that they have hired two new staff. As we’ve come to expect, there were no interviews, no positions advertised, no visible application process. Instead, Casey invited two of his close friends to join him in receiving a salary from CouchSurfing.

In other news, Chris Burley said in a recent group post, “I wish you the best with democracy, it is known that it tends to crush minority voices. Besides, the majority rarely knows best.” Wow, that’s an interesting statement. But we all knew CouchSurfing isn’t a democracy, didn’t we? Now we do.

One might suggest Chris is in danger of falling foul of the US Patriot Act if he’s not careful. ;-)

CouchSurfing 2.0 is dead

An appropriate system for a hospitality exchange network will not rise from the ashes of CS 2.0: Today the Newsletter Wanderlust was published, announcing the expansion of hired manpower. I guess, it’s not wrong to call it CS 3.0, the short blossom of CS 2.0 and the chance to open the whole network is over.

We have to face the fact: CS is a company and simply can do what it does. We are “only” users of a (so far free) service offered by a company, not members of an open network. There is no such thing like participation in CS and in consequence the field “How I Participate in CS2″ on the profile pages should be ditched. Also the mission should be changed to:

“Donate for Creating a Bigger Corporation, One Job at a Time!”

Things left we can do:

- hosting/surfing/meeting
- don’t forget about all the nice experiences
- demask attempts by CS to call a top-to-down structure a place of
- being aware of the fact that most couchsurfer simply don’t care
- looking for / creating projects with an appropriate form of structure
- don’t get frustrated

Her mit den Abenteuern! (German for something like “Gimme adventures!”)

And here I go

I said I would continue to contribute if it does “more good than harm,” but I’ve decided to change my stance on an issue, and I’m resigning from the CS dev team & mailing lists.

Prior to working on couchsurfing, I decided that I only wanted to work on Open Source software. When I heard that Kasper was pushing for couch surfing to be open it sparked my interest.

Open source is important to me, because it represents a freedom of information and ideas. But for the record, it wasn’t the non-opensource thing that made me leave per-se; it’s the resistance & lack of communication to comment on, or work towards a New NDA.

Maybe I should hang on and wait, because something is right around the corner?
These issues are old, months old. Now I’m cynical enough to think a delay or a ‘not now’ is a politically correct way of saying ‘no’. So, I’m now changing my tactic; If they get addressed then I’ll rejoin.

There’s no reason we need a non-compete clause. I had contemplated signing a non-compete that still permits me to just work for MySQL; but now I’ve decided I’ll choose who I work for.

I had some good times at the Collective. My two most treasured memories include learning how to drink scotch and beer with Gardner (a first for me, and a lesson that will no doubt further me in life), and performance hacking with Joe & Kasper in a 3-way screen, sitting next to each other.

Walter: I’d like to still come and visit the Collective, but I’m withdrawing my request to participate. I enjoyed seeing your comments on MySQL optimization, and that you could also spot so many of the changes that needed doing. It’s unfortunate we didn’t really get the
change to work together.

I’ll still keep couchsurfing like everyone else, so keep making the site better!