Better way to find hosts in the area

I live in a very small town outside of the touristy parts of Belgium. I already was glad to get some requests at some time, other times, like when there was the yearly music event I did get like 50 requests and couldn’t host that many.
Maybe indicating to people that sending a request for like a major town might be nice and will probably get you a couch but maybe looking to a town nearby might increase your changes of getting a great host, a nicer couch and a overall better experience.
Like people in Brussels Belgium get like 20 request a day sometimes, me being only 52kilometers away, 30min by train gets almost non. But the person you requested at in Brussels might still live 30min by subway on the outskirts of town. So spread your zone to look for a couch.

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Totally agree with that. On couchsurfing the location search strongly focuses on city centers. I think a map search that gives a list of hosts in the current view would be ideal (like airbnb).

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Hey guys! Great points. It’s been brought up during a recent UI/UX call that city searches focused specifically on one city and neglected another that was just a 30 minute train ride away.

The solution to this would be to have a radial filter for relevant features - such as events, hosts etc. This is a filter that CS had on its search, but I suppose it wasn’t used too widely or maybe people just didn’t notice it under the filters.

Oooor, it could just be hard to picture distance just based on text alone, and having a map would be most ideal! But that brings up issues of privacy for hosts, especially of stalking - this would be almost impossible to manually manage when we scale to a large number of users.

I’d like to hear your ideas and suggestions, especially if you have experienced a good map feature implemented on other existing sites (not necessarily hospex)!

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Trustroots has a great map! Location on the map will also be randomized a bit for privacy reasons.

Works wonderful outside of cities. For cities, they don’t have a list, and then it’s actually a huge pain to select hosts from the map.

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Could you elaborate on what you mean by randomised, and how it would affect/relate to its usefulness to people looking for a host?

When I looked at Trustroots’ map previously, I liked the idea a lot but my immediate thought was concern for safety. I’ve read of cases where people were able to guess a Tinder match’s work location using the distance proximity and occupation. It might not be a problem with TR cause of their relatively small userbase now, but I feel like we need to be prepared for such situations.

Maybe add a tab on a profile with travel times/distances to some major points (that are common on all the local profiles) like airport/big city centers… with either a private car/public transport

like for example
Brussel Grote Market - my house - 40min (Train) - 56km (Car)
Brussels National Airport - my house 43min (Train) - 48km (Car)
Antwerp Main square - my House 58min (Train) - 62km (Car)

Will give a rough indication on how long you would be traveling to get somewhere.

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Zoom in and drag the map below to place the marker over your home.
The location is publicly shown, randomized by a couple hundred meters.

That’s the instructions you get on trustroots. So for one, you can set your location entirely yourself and decide how privacy-concerned you are. Then every marker is randomized a bit by default, so no marker actually relates to a real address.

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In my experience, most of the time, I wanted to be hosted in a place close to a train station or public transport hub, so I think it facilitates if it is explicit in the profile

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We could have on the search results page a message: “Trouble finding a host? You could try the following neighbouring areas: …”

Re privacy concerns, from a technical side I would make the resolution of the host locations 200m or so (as in, everyone in a 200m area is shown as the same location), then randomise. If Trustroots only randomises, the original can be shown with statistics and triangulation.

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On trustroots you’re asked to set your location marker on the map manually. It’s not necessarily based on an exact address you entered, nor on your computed location. I think that’s a good approach.

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I think a problem here is that physical distance isn’t a great marker of how far you are from a city center, really we’re interested in time (usually by public transport). Would it be useful for hosts to input how far they are in minutes away from the relevant city center?

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I think a radius filter in the search would be wonderful, and easy to implement. Regarding travel instead of physical distance I’d say this is for the hosts to state on their profile – it’s something I’ve always done anyway in my couch section.

However, I don’t believe we ought to actively feature more distant couches to people not looking for them. As a traveller, sometimes I’ve been very keen to stay close to the exact centre of a place (e.g. where I had a departure set at a specific time, where I was looking to visit a peculiar site or where public transport was too expensive to use it regularly), sometimes I’ve been indifferent and accordingly extended my radius to improve my chances (on one memorable occasion during an interrail trip setting a public request for all of Italy). On bike trips sometimes I’ve stayed in some small village with the only host within fifty kilometres and I love that way of meeting people you’d never have encountered otherwise. On the other hand, other times I’ve been set on staying in the old town of [insert notoriously overcrowded tourism hotspot].

As a host living 30min by train from the town people wanted to visit I’ve received almost all my guests, excluding people I’ve met before and the odd cyclist, through their public requests. So that’s really the feature I’d want included, as I’ve detailed in another thread.

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Bike touring really made me appreciate staying with hosts in the smallest, most random little villages :sweat_smile:

SO myself, I never used the browser version of couchsurfing, just the app, and I think any host-search function would be better than what they got going on. Far as I can tell, on the app, there is no way to tell what part of the city, or whether they are outside the city, a host is while searching through them. You can set a radius in the search filter, but I’m not even sure how that applies since you just pick a city and then browse a list of hosts - it doesn’t define what it considers “the city”, where the extended radius starts, etc. It was very unclear on locations and search limits.

I remember trying to find hosts in less-populated areas while on tour, and I would search the nearby town, and a host would pop up, but that host was actually in another town like 50 kilometres away, which i only knew because I searched on google maps the town name listed on their profile. While I understand the app was just trying to show me the closest available host, it should have way clearer messaging, like “we couldn’t find a host in the area you searched, but there is someone X km away in X city” or whatever.

In regards to bigger cities, I agree withfrleon above that sometimes people are just dead-set on getting into the city centre, and should be free to search specifically in there, but I think a lot of times travelers don’t realize that they could have just as good a time (or even better) staying a bit outside the city, with good public transport options to reach the city centre when desired. I think, like Itsi said, marking distance by time of travel (and clearly stating it) to a certain location is a great way to help surfers realize that this place outside of the city is not as far as they originally thought.

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Completely agree, but in my opinion this is an issue of attitude and experience, not something that’d be improved much by messing up the search function.

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This wouldn’t work as well for cities that are very wide or spread out, or for places that have multiple city centers. And besides, in places like Mexico City or Istanbul, any normal resident might spend 1-2 hours getting around regardless of how centrally located they are.

On the other hand, I think it would be good to see how much you have to walk to get to public transport. I used to break it down for my surfers in the “My Home” section of my profile. Because we all know that walking around in an unfamiliar place with a huge suitcase or backpack is miserable :joy:

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Warmshowers had a map, though I can’t recall if it was on the website or app (which was different, and now unsupported).

In any case, I manually set my location at a nearby park. Very close, but not close enough that I was concerned about my privacy.

But it did accomplish showing my relative distance to downtown and other tourist areas.

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This is one of the toughest issues to deal with — and we discussed at length over the years on other platforms. Indeed, when living in Brussels or New York lots of requests arrived. But when living in rural areas requests are often few. And when living just outside a major metropolitan area it is the same — but living just 1km outside the metropolitan area as delineated on software platforms puts you at a competitive disadvantage.

Some members on e.g. Couchsurfing talked about how they got around this … and some got criticized for doing so. Some of the criticism stemmed from it seeming disingenuous to claim to live in City X when actually living in a different area. Others wondered if it was unfair to claim living in the city when hapless new members who don’t carefully read profiles thought somehow they would be staying in the city — only to discover they would be 20km or even 30km away from the “center”.

And speaking of the “center”: I recall vigorous debates about whether the “center” should be City Hall or a midtown-like area … one thing is certain: we probably will never agree on these issues but hopefully can respectfully carry on a discussion to help those who live outside city centers but are eager to host.

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We don’t need to have it as a option/info when searching for a couch/place to stay.
But maybe a good idea is if people get the option to add it to their profile page so people can have a look there to get a idea to see how far it is to travel from one place to a other.
Like in my earlier post, some (4 to 6) touristy locations in your country, you as a host post the. travel time to from your house.
Keeps your location private if you want to and still gives a rough idea on how long travel may take to get somewhere.

Any thoughts on letting hosts choose if they want to appear on the map? This is in addition to letting them choose where they want to put their pin. So it would be something like this while filling in details about your place:

:ballot_box_with_check: Would you like to appear on the map?

Your Address (will be randomised to within 400m on our maps):
[Search field]

For safety, you can shift your pin on the map to a more public location:
:world_map:

^ Where they can click and drag to place their pin elsewhere, or search for a nearby park.

@aapeli @lucas From the dev end, is this hard to do? It would be great if any other devs could chime in on the feasibility :grimacing:

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I think all profiles should be visible to logged in users (of course certain details may be hidden), and (very crude) location is part of that, e.g. city.

I think there should be three options:

  1. Show my address on my profile (and exact coordinates on the map)
  2. Show only my city on my profile and an approximate location on the map (starts off with a randomly chosen point within e.g. 400 m from their location, and they can move it)
  3. Show only my city on my profile and no granular location (not sure exactly how this will be visible on the map, maybe there’s some “center of city” or when you zoom in enough it’ll say outside the map “2042 users in London”)

This is very feasible to do.

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