Bicycle-touring specific features

As Warmshowers (hospex specifically for bicycle-tourers) now requires payment I was thinking that some of their users could be willing to hop over to Couchers. The only thing stopping them would be that Couchers also is open to people who are not cyclists.

I feel that with a few small tweaks the Couchers app could provide a better experience compared to Warmshowers.

A feature I would like is to be able to distinguish “normal” couch requests (usually a couple of days, probably nicest if the host has some time to show you around) from cycle-touring requests (tend to shop up late afternoon and leave in the morning). Thinking as a host, I would often be open for short stays of touring cyclists, but not always have time to properly engage with a couchsurfer.

Does anyone else have ideas on how to make Couchers more attractive to cyclists? To me, it just feels like a superfluous to have a separate hospex site for cyclists (no offence to Warmshowers) if they could also use a modern and free platform here :slight_smile:

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we were never part of warmshowers, but we were certainly open to the concept and had cyclists staying for the night who used couchsurfing beside warmshowers.
Certainly in favor of this proposal.

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Are Warmshowers charging? First I know of it and I had people stay last Saturday.

It requires payment for new users. So definitely not as bad as what CouchSurfing did, but less then ideal if the service could also be free.

Seems like pushing monetizable models always comes with a changing culture where collaboration with engaged members is not valued, but rather seen as a hindering burden:

Regarding functionality I’ d think a map and a searchable filter for hosting and traveling preferences would be most required. A distinct icon/marker on the map for touring cyclists and hosts could be fun?

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Sounds great :slight_smile: I think having a map showing little bicycles for places open to cycle touring requests would make the app a good alternative to WS

Right now we have a spot on your profile where you can indicate if you have parking available or room for someone to set up a tent. Would it be sufficient to have a field “secure bike storage” with the following options:

  1. No
  2. Yes, inside
  3. Yes, outside

Or what other “biker friendly” options would be helpful beyond the bike storage issue and whether or not there is room to set up a tent?

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For me the biggest win would be if you would be able to specify different availability for bicycle tourers compared to other couch surfers. I would put my availability to cycle tourers as “available” but for other surfers as “maybe”, because hosting someone who has their own stuff and leaves the next morning is way less hassle.

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Instead of inside/outside/none, bike parking should differentiate between private (only the host can access it), semi-private (like a common storage room for multiple appartments), public, and none.

Other than that:

  • “Washer and dryer available”. Cyclists tend to travel with little luggage, so the chance to give those few things a quick wash and have them dry when you go on the next day is worth a lot.
  • “Bike tools available”. Sometimes you just need to fix something that you can’t fix well with your travel set of tools…

I also kind of like the Idea of having bike hosts show up differently on a map - maybe there could be more different signs in general? Like cyclist/hitchhiker/lgbt/pet/kid/disability friendly and whatnot (of course people can be more than one of those, but could set an emphasis with this). Kinda collides with the whole clustering on the map though, I think…

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I would not make a different thing for people going around with bicycle. but i would introduce useful features.
The bicycle safe storage option is one , on a par with options to show availability of car parking and access to public transit within 700 m (or other distance).
Good also to have a three state flag for oneday stay: notacceptable/acceptable/welcome (but then would be hard to explain for people as me that prefer 2-3 days stay and accept one dayer only people that travel by feet or by bicycle).
no need to put symbols in the map unless it were an option an only user selectable (so you could look for everyone in an area and have highlighted those that offer parking).
About space for tent: it is not something that would put as an option. It could be a different kind of accommodation, so would be hosting (in host premise) / do-it-yourself hosting (that is space for the tent) / not hosting. I do not see the need for an option, unless one want only the space and not sharing with the host. At most one could explain that some of the offered places need the guest to have its stuff, but at this point we could have also additional levels, so hosting (full)/hosting(take your beddings)/hosting(have your tent and beddings)/no hosting.and one can choose minimal acceptable level.

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I am an avid bicycle tourer, and I think it’s important in general, i.e. for other members as well, to be able to easily browse the map for hosts, for hosts to indicate availability of a tent space, and specifically for bicycle tourers, for hosts to indicate availability of secure bike storage. While I only skimmed the thread, the latter is the only suggestion not implemented that I imagine will bring actual benefits to a significant subset of the users, because many (almost all?) bicycle tourers are interested in knowing this piece of information and thereby will have to worry and inquire less. Jesse’s suggestion looks perfect to me.

In my experience there are many non-touring travellers who carry their own stuff and are likely to leave early in the morning. And I am a lazy bicycle tourer that very often might not leave early in the morning. I agree that the proportion of qualifying bicycle tourers is much higher than the traveller average, but still, it seems too arbitrary an observation/correlation to warrant any kind of bicycle-related site official association. If guests belonging to such categories (carry their own stuff, leave early, etc.) make signiciantly more attractive guests to some hosts (this would be understandable), I can see an argument for putting options for hosts to indicate (the strength of) a preference for such guest characteristics, but several of these would carry their own drawbacks, so I am not sure…

But I am happy you are bringing this up now that Warmshowers is monetized; I will do some brainstorming. :slight_smile:

Edit: Sorry, I was in a hurry and did not read it all. I like some of Hjalls’ and cdmbs’ suggestions as well, but I am not sure they will provide enough value to justify implementation. Maybe the washer and dryer one…? As for bicycle repair tools: Most tourers carry quite a few. If a different, more esoteric tool is required, one would have to ask the host anyway? One would probably have to ask fewer people, yes, but still… I suspect, again, that the category might not be sufficiently meaningful.

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If I look at this threat as an IT person I see suggestions for two feature-sets:

  • A set of additional properties which would help filter hosts on cycle-touring specific(ish) features such as secure bike storage, laundry and tooling
  • Specific properties of travellers that might allow them to stay at more hosts compared to others.

The less controversial properties for the second feature set are length of stay and their degree of independence (i.e. have tents/sleeping bags/etc). For the second feature set I still believe that a signitificant group of bicycle-tourers would like a ‘WarmShowers’-mode where they could choose to exclusively host bicycle-tourers. I believe quite a few of them would not be convinced to do hospex in general, but would be willing to host a ‘fellow’ cyclist out for a night. I do get that this feels a bit weird and has downsides because it ‘discriminates’ against other travellers, and more evidence is needed that WarmShowers-users would want this to actually have this feature then just my gut feeling.

To add to @nolo’s suggestions I think you could implement the first set of features as a filter/search overaly in the Map view, filtering for instance hosts that do have the features you require. Perhaps it could include ‘nice to haves’-filters where non-matching hosts would still show up, but matching hosts get shown in bold/a fancy color/with some cool icon. I could imagine being cold and hungry and preferring to find a host allowing me to crash indoors and offer me a meal, but not wanting to exclude all other hosts immediately.

The second set of features could be implemented by allowing a searcher to fill some info in about his/her trip. Where I guess you would want a host that only has a bit of grass available for 1 night at a time to not show up on the map for everyone as ‘fully available’, that host can be added to the search result for a user that fills in that he/she has a tent and is trekking. I can imagine this can also work well for hosts who exclusively host members of their own gender.

If I have misrepresented anyone’s submisison, sorry, and please let me know :slight_smile:

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I definitely think having a bike-touring specific feature would be cool, not only for ease of use for bike-tourers, but also because having it in the app would be a great way to initiate non-bike-tourers into the community just by the exposure of seeing it exists as a possible way of traveling.

I think another cool feature could be to find other bike-tourers nearby going in a similar direction who might want to bike together for a while. Maybe being able to turn on your location and search specifically for other bike tourers nearby who have their location on and message them? I have previously used another app that lets you seek out nearby travelers to look for other bike tourers, but unfortunately that app did not filter for bike-tourers specifically. That’s something I’d love to see.

There are a lot of other features that would be cool to see but might become a bit too much for this app - for example, being able to leave comments attached to locations about road conditions (if it has a shoulder or not, if it’s actually paved or full of holes, etc, and the date of the comment). I think what keeps a lot of people away from cycle touring is not being sure about safety and road conditions along the way, and maybe having that kind of information available would encourage more people to try it out. But again, this might be moving beyond the scope of this app

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I love the idea of finding other travellers going in the same direction! Might be interesting for others as well - hitchhikers for example, or bringing car travellers and hitchhikers together?

Not so fond of the road information though. There are other apps for that which already do a better job that a hospex app could do.

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lenart: I expect that it is true that some Warmshowers members might prefer a “Warmshowers mode” whereby they would be able to filter out all potential guests that aren’t bicycle touring, but honestly I find this preference so peculiar and arbitrarily specific regarding types of people I don’t much like the idea of accommodating for it in the feature set… at least not only this partiality, but yes, I think something more general, with several available icon-represented categories, like Hjall suggests, would be useful to more people and and appear less randomly schismatic (I use this term mildly, but still). Trustroots already has something like this (Circles). While I really like some of what it can achieve, I also think there are strong(-ish) arguments against it, insofar as it is bound to facilitate categorisation of people based on parameters which needn’t matter to most people. I would certainly use it to find people who share my passions or whatever, but I am not sure it would be for the better of my travels or the community. The more such categories would be limited to describing host and place characteristics of more direct (potential) practical importance, the better, I think… probably. :stuck_out_tongue:

I also really like the idea of integrating in the map functionality that might help travellers find travel companions. How about offering the ability to choose (1) a method of travel (there would be an icon for several common methods), (2) a current location (indicated by time since created/updated; the icon might fade as time passes), a location which optionally, with the user’s consent, may be fetched automatically from the OS at some chosen interval and then randomised (within a chosen radius), and (3) a general direction, represented with an arrow? The length of the arrow might also be a method of transport-relative representation of the preferred average distance per day, but maybe this would be overkill… travellers could cover these and other details in the description.

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Disregarding any idealistic aversions I might have towards mechanisms to filter members based on their memberships to groups representing types and interests, I think the primary argument against it is that the set of available categories, unless users are able to freely create categories (with associated icons) themselves, is bound to reveal the predispositions of the community (and probably also, which would be worse, the site administrators) more than would be beneficial for a community which aims to be and feel inclusive. It can certainly be made “better”, as in “more general”, than Trustroots’, but still… if members can freely create categories, the system is likely to become extremely messy, and yet, the process surely must be moderated somehow; I think this process will become an uncomfortable one and a minefield.

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I think the downside @cloudcastles points out is realistic. I agree that if the benefits of such a ‘WarmShowers’-mode, be it for cycle-touring or something similar for other communities, would be small, these downsides would outweigh the benefits.

The foundation for my guess that the number of people intresested would be pretty large is the success of WarmShowers. I think the main reason people have used WarmShowers instead of CouchSurfing (when they were both free) is that the first is exclusive to cyclists. Since WarmShowers is the second largest hospex website around (160.000 users vs 150.000 on BeWelcome) this group is apparently very large. If we could attract a significant number of their users and volunteers (I heard @nolo mention something about an Android dev team gone rogue…) this could be a big benefit for Couchers that outweighs (IMO) the problems of being perceived as biassed towards cyclists and therefore less open to others.

However, I cannot prove that allowing hosts to exclude non-cycle-tourers would be the only way to do this. I think we need to ask that question to people who are part of the cycle-touring community that are not part of the couchsurfing community. That excludes almost all of us, since the cycle tourers here probably wouldn’t be here if they are not interested in couchsurfing outside the context of cycle touring.

A way to get that info would be to do some low-key polling. I guess a poll on r/bicycletouring could give us some idea if a cyclist-only mode would be necessariy for them to switch form WS to Couchers, together with being advertisement for the app. I would also wonder if maybe a trekkers-only mode including both through-hikers and cyclists would appeal to them in the same way, or if adding some of the less controversial features mentioned in this thread would cause a lot of cyclists to switch.

Do you guys think creating such a post/poll on a few cycling subreddits would be a good idea?

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I think you are correct that functionality like this will attract rather many people, but a part of me feels it would be best, or at least just fine, not to directly try to attract people with such strong and overt partiality to a type of traveller: The majority of these people are already free members of Warmshowers, and among those who aren’t, most can probably comfortably pay the $30 lifetime fee; those who cannot may also apply for a discount. But whatever, these are mostly just my instinct talking… I am not fanatical about it and think the community should decide. :slight_smile:

About posting a poll e.g. to /r/bicycletouring: I would at least be very curious to see other bicycle tourers’ responses to a question like this, so I think you should do it!

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I also think the overall goal is to build a general purpose hospitality exchange platform. If accommodating more specific needs can be integrated well, it’s an advantage. But when we’d need to categorize or segment the community in order to attract specific audiences, to me that would be the criterion to not do it. In that sense I could imagine adding a variety of icons how users want to show up on the map could be a fun feature. But adding a lot of detailed filters and checkboxes will become detrimental to that overall purpose.

We already have a variety of different icons planed for the map (users, hosts, travelers, events, hangouts,…). Once these are implemented, it could be a good time to re-visit the idea of having more visual variety on the map or not.

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Yeah, I agree it would be too much for a hospex app. Which apps do a good job of finding road conditions, though? I don’t know of any good ones - would be interrested to know about them!