Hey all, I read a bunch of posts on this forum and wanted to add my 2 cents, but there are so many things i could reply to, that I just thought I’d start a new discussion thread (sry if that was just the easy way out)
To me, people are accountable to the communities they are a part of.
Creating a strong sense of community (online and offline) increases the chances of bringing people to account for shitty/predatory behavior. The less anonymous someone feels they are, and the more accountability they feel they have, the less likely they will feel they can get away with engaging in shitty/predatory behaviour. This leads me to think a good way to increase safety and accountability is to implement features that build a strong sense of community and reduce anonymity (online and off).
Back in the golden days of CS (10+ years ago, before they sold out and became a corporation) there were quite a few features that increased the perceived sense of community and reduced anonymity.
These golden days of CS were great! In Melbourne at least, there was a great community online and off, and although i don’t believe harassment or abuse were eliminated, there was certainly a sense of trust. I had way more trust for someone i had just met if i knew they were active on CS. …I say this as a cis male though, so I acknowledge others have different experiences. But in those days, there was such an excitement around CS, people were even kind of evangelical about it. I’m not sure exactly what that ‘special sauce’ was, but I’m pretty sure it was to with this strong sense of community and trust.
Some of the (safety) features that were removed when CS became a corporation and contributed to the decline of the community include:
- ‘degrees of separation’ or ‘friends of friends’ feature showing how many degrees of separation you are from any specific profile on cs
- the Vouching system (you can only vouch for someone else once you yourself have been vouched for 3 times or more)
- the original ‘city groups’ (i cant remember exactly what it was called) which acted like a knowledge base, discussion and event organising forum, and online meeting place for people new to the city, all in the one spot
- City Ambassadors
- the Volunteer driven nature of the platform
- other kinds of ‘badges’ like the musician or ambassador badges etc
- filtering profiles by keywords or groups, and other features that allowed easy site navigation and searching
For me couchsurfing as a community died when these features were removed, not to mention the countless hours of volunteer contributions that were lost.
Anyway, sorry for this somewhat disjointed post, so back to the point…
What I’d like to see for this Couchers project is a return of some of these key features that reduce anonymity and brought people into community more, namely the degrees of separation, vouching, and a kind of online city hub/discussion forum like the original city forums/groups.
I would also suggest an invitation system (not invitation only tho) where it shows publicly on your profile who invited you to join the platform and publicly who you have invited. This would add a little more transparency, trust and integrity, similar to vouching. It could still be open to ppl joining without an invitation, but those profiles would have less ‘credibility’ (or ‘standing’ if you like) than those invited by someone. Similar to vouching, the person who invited the new person would then have some responsibility in participating in any accountability processes for the new person if they do behave shitty. The person invited/vouched for will feel they have some responsibility to the person who invited/vouched for them to behave accordingly and not be shitty/predatory/abusive. This, to me is a part of building that sense of community and trust.
The bottom line, next to the reference system, verification system and ‘community standing’ score… I think features like invitations, vouching, the ‘degrees of separation’, and public local city discussion forums/groups would increase member connectivity, ‘community feel’ and sense of trust, reducing anonymity, and increase the chances of people feeling responsible to behave appropriately, and not predatory/abusive.
That said, some people are going to behave shit no matter what, but I do think its a responsibility of the hospex platform to implement measures that makes it hard for those people to behave shitty, stay anonymous and avoid accountability, and its a responsibility of the platform to respond accordingly and seriously to reports of abuse.
Soz for the long post… I’ll stop now