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Tag Archive for 'Transparency'

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

And another one…

Too bad…


Hey team,

I’m resigning as a CS Amb.

This hasn’t been an easy decision. Firstly, I really like the people on the LT/AST – how can’t I? They dedicate all their time to a project I deeply love. And this project has introduced me to people who have changed the direction of my life for the better and made me a better person.

But I have realized lately that I’m not an ambassador for but rather an ambassador for hospitality, transparency, communication, fairness, radical inclusion and living life. CouchSurfing for me represented a collective of people who believed in that. People who believed in respect and equal rights and honour and integrity. People who wanted to make positive change in the world and have fun at the same time. I didn’t just want to be a member using a service, I wanted to participate on THAT team.

I don’t believe anymore that CouchSurfing is that nor can it ever be that organization that I dreamt it would. The specific incidents are just symptoms. From the mass exodus of the Tech Team in 2007 to the mass exodus of the Global Ambs this year, we have not learnt from our mistakes. And we are all to blame. From the Ambs who basically say “don’t worry be happy” to the Brainstormers who are bitter and twisted, and everyone in between. We have failed.

I suspect that some of you are like me. Hoping to stay on as a CS Amb so that you can change things “from the inside”. However, I realize now that this is all futile. All I’m doing is being a complicit representative to actions that are against my very nature.

For better or worse, CS is the best hospitality exchange we have right now. I will continue to promote the philosophy of hospitality exchange as a member but I can no longer in good conscience, continue representing this organization as an “ambassador”. All I can hope for is something better comes along before it’s too late.


Remember: All our actions either bring more light or more darkness into the world. – 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.

Right after the crash some people at the CouchSurfing Collective in Montreal had set up a Hyperboard. This appeared to be a huge success. (Unfortunately‘s web archive didn’t archive very deep. Please let us know if you happen to have some backups around.) A lot of people offered to help with rebuilding the site, with a slight slant towards a bit more transparency, decentralization and democracy. So this was probably a bit too overwhelming, since it was promptly closed by the current Volunteer Coordinator (2000 US$/month).

Another Hyperboard was opened by “Mentor” with whom I’ve been in touch through email and chat, without knowing his or her identity. Mentor had also set up, which was a huge collection of messages, and random information, with funny and sometimes harsh comments. In the beginning I think it was kind of silly, but I gradually started to appreciate the board. So I wasn’t happy when I saw it was closed a while ago.

Now Mentor is back with a new board:!

October 2nd Addition

Apparently the opencouchsurfing hyperboard, which is not accessible anymore now, was not started by Mentor of thecouchsurfingbuilding2 hyperboard. Also, as you can read in the comments on this posts, Mentor never took part in the public discussions that are OpenCS. Let’s discuss it on the mailinglist first if you think a public OpenCS forum is a good idea,

Appreciation of Culture

I can’t let Anu’s announcement pass by without an expression of appreciation of Anu and the culture she represented, much to my own personal enrichment.

When Anu visited me some weeks ago, we went to a bakery named “Sweet Finnish” in Boston, and met the Finnish owner. I got to hear a short conversation in Finnish for the first time. The owner had set up a posterboard with pictures and factoids about Finland. Very well done, and very interesting to me, considering its emphasis. Here are some quotes:

In 1906, Finland became the first country in the world to adopt universal suffrage that not only gave women the right to vote, but also run for office

Finland is one of 10 countries in the world that has a women president chosen by direct popular vote.

Independent since 1917, Finland is the only country in Europe that has never had a king or an aristocracy.

Finnish teenager’s skill in math, science and reading were rated the best among the 40 countries assesed in 2004. Education is free from Kindergarted to higher education including Medical and Law School.

Finland was ranked the most competitive economy in the world.

Finland was, for the 3rd year in succession, rated the least corrupt country in the world by Transparency International.

The openeness and transparency of Finland’s companies were ranked the highest in the world.

Linus Torvalds developed the Linux operating system while studying at the University of Helsinki.

Linux was the only serious competitor to Microsoft Windows.

Unlike Microsoft, Torvalds made his operating system open source and available free of charge.

Many consider Linux more secure and reliable than windows.

(All this — in a Finnish bakery! Makes me want to live there, except for the cold winters.)

This was so interesting because it suggests how Anu may have acquired some of her enlightened qualities and principles (though surely she’s much more than merely a product of her culture), and why ultimately, volunteering for CS (under the current management) turned out to no longer be right for her. They are against democracy, have strongly favored secrecy over transparency, and have taken a stand against open-source.

Perhaps the CS management should send a delegation to Finland and tell them democracy can’t work, since it’s known to crush minorities. That it is impractical and dangerous to let citizens vote for their leaders — only chaos can result. They might also want to inform Linus Torvalds that open-source is a dangerously insecure way to develop software. American corporate culture, Bill Gates-style, is the way to go. (Although, word is, even Microsoft is starting to explore open-source possibilities).

People that think like this couldn’t possibly fully appreciate the tremendous gift Anu was to the CS community and the hospitality movement in general. But some of us know better, and we hope she doesn’t let their lack of understanding and appreciation for her, personally, and the excellent Finnish cultural qualities she brought with her, to weigh on her.


Deconstructing the Leadership Circle

Wow. Within a week of launching OpenCouchSurfing, we’ve seen an immediate upgrade to the CS DB (resulting in the site being down for 18 hours). They (*) have announced upgrading the webservers as well (to reduce the current security risks). The “Leadership Team” has finally been made official. Now, some of these things have been announced before (the DB upgrade and Leadership circle), but it seems like to much of a coïncidence that all this happens in one week. So, this effort seems to have good and positive effects which strengthens us to continue to improve things.

What I wanted to talk about is the Leadership Team. At first view, it seems like it is indeed a step in the right directon. At second view it actually makes matters worse and formalizes the closed culture of CS. Let’s have a look, shall we? The most important sections to pay attention to:

  1. To become a new member of the leadership team (after May 2007), a volunteer must have been an ambassador in good standing for at least one year.
  2. To become a new member of the leadership team (after May 2007), a volunteer must be approved by consensus (unanimously) by existing leaders.
  3. [For a leader to remain active, he/she must] produce a biannual departmental progress report and goals for the coming semester.
  4. Ambassadors may officially censure any one or more leaders. Censure requires:
    - a petition of specific grievances endorsed by a simple majority of ambassadors
    - the leaders to immediately make a public statement regarding the planned course of action to correct the grievances.

What does this mean in practice? A boys club. You are not allowed in unless you are in good standing with the Leadership group, because they hold each and every means to allow or disallow you. Dissenting ambassadors are explicitely discouraged from even trying to apply (“in good standing”), not that they could get in anyway. Oh, wait. There is no application process defined. Never mind. But there’s no official end to a Leadership position anyway, so we don’t actually need candidates. But hey! Ambassadors can censure a leader, right? Uhm. No. Leaders are only required to make a public statement regarding the “planned action” to address this. Case closed. There is no way in and no way to get anyone out. A proper way to do it would have been to let the ambassadors actually vote for their “leaders” every year or so, but I guess that is too threatening for the existing power structure. The current state of affairs is just outrageous.

Transparancy by biannual reports? This is not transparancy, this is PR. We need insight into the decision making process and there need to be tools in place to ensure accountability, not just promises of “focussing on the mission”. We don’t need binannual PR reports.

Funny intermezzo: Look at the Leadership Qualities page. Now have a look at the self-evaluation form for level B registered nurses. E.g. “Teamwork: Interacts effectively and builds respectful relationships among individuals and in teams” (leader) versus “Teamwork: Interacts effectively and builds respectful relationships within and between units and among individuals.” (nurse). Some requirements are copied almost verbatim. So, are we getting leaders or nurses? On a more serious note, this is indicative of the increasing use of marketing speak coming from the Leadership Circle. They’re not talking, they’re making announcements/press releases. This is no way to treat a community run by volunteers. And it doesn’t speak well for the effort put into this document that parts are just copied of the net, it definitely makes it seem like a rushed PR job.

What is all of this lacking?

  1. Real transparancy. Where is the agenda/meeting notes section for the Leadership Circle? Where is any serious timeframe for anything? Biannual? When? In 6 months? Tomorrow? These people have consistently shown an unwillingness to commit to any kind of deadline, which is plain bad leadership. Slipping deadlines? Fine, worst case for that is a bunch of angry people and a bit of stress. No deadline? Not acceptable.
  2. Real representation. Not another boys club system please.
  3. Where the hell is the new NDA? It was announced half a year before the Leadership Circle was even mentioned. It shows you where the priorities are. (Hint: Power, not your average volunteering developer)

Say no to the circle of level B nurses**. Write to them and demand direct representation, transparancy and accountability. Help us make CS more Open and Free.
*: There has been a lot of complaining about using “us vs. them” language, which is just annoying. Raise your hand if you don’t know who “they” are. You’ll know when you’re not part of “them”.
**: It’s called humor people.