Can we bring references from Couchsurfing™?

I saw this coming up more than once, not only on the forum, but also on various threads on reddit.

Personally I don’t see a way how to integrate actual references from Couchsurfing™ in a trustable way. The issue I see is that at Couchsurfing™ they had a lot of marketing talk about the importance of references to contribute to a safe platform. But when you look at how they implemented it, you’ll see that there’s nothing supporting this claim about references being especially important for safety and security. They are stored as plain text alongside any other information you had on your profile. Once you download your data and references from Couchsurfing™, they won’t even trust these references themselves. Because anyone can edit these plain text references to say whatever they like.

But as said, this understandably comes up often as a feature request. Maybe there’s a different solution or other ideas how we could give credit to previous experience as a host and surfer!?

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Would it make sense to allow people to claim a certain experience, and having others verify that?

Suppose I would have hosted 114 people who gave me positive reviews on a different platform. I could then claim to have 100+ positive reviews on couchers.

This then first shows up with a big red flag saying we can’t verify this. When more people vouch for the claim that I am very experienced, that big red flag slowly turns into an green checkmark saying this claim has been vouched for by N people. Presumably if some of these 114 past surfers have moved to Couchers, it should be doable to get a few of them to press on a button verifying a claim to be legit.

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I second this. The main question has ruminated in my mind for months, as a lot of members of Couchsurfing have amassed a great database of references (long or short). I’ve backed mine up, in case of calamity, but I would love for it to be somehow be reflected in Couchers.

Being an active host since 2006 and having a good deal of references reflects commitment to the community, particularly as a host, and would be a good way to “push off” and show trust and experience in the hospitality community. This could apply for older or newer users, as it feels unfortunate to “start over.”

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The biggest issue I have with “porting” references is it undermines one of our really important goals as Couchers.org, which is to encourage references to be more true and reliable. Our reference system has anonymous elements, which may or may not affect the way people write public references in the future.

Many CS users have a story about hosts with hundreds of positive references, but the experience in person was not positive at all. The trouble was that with the CS system of the only feedback you provide being public, there was a kind of snowball effect where positive references begat more and more positive references, and no one wanted to be the one to “out” the host/surfer as not what they seem, or even worse, feeling like their negative experience was an anomaly… and maybe you’re the one with a problem!

I think this is an excellent chance for people to start fresh. Let’s not forget that some of the references on CS are 15+ years old, and people change. I don’t think there’s much sense in autofilling Couchers profiles with a bunch of old references that we can’t really compare to the new ones people will leave through our revamped reference system.

All this aside, we are going to have community standing, and if we did import old references for some reason… we really couldn’t factor them in to that standing score.

tl;dr I’m against importing references. Although it would be convenient, it won’t make Couchers.org more safe, imo. And let’s be real: if you’re like me, and you had 200+ references, why not use the fact they aren’t imported as an excuse to convince people to sign up and leave you new references? :slight_smile:

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I don’t have a problem starting from scratch, although we had a nice bunch of references, both as guest and host.
The fact that I lost contacts that were dear to me IS something that bothers me.

The past is the past, it’s here and now that counts.

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If the exported data from couchsurfing contains both given and received references, we could pair them together. If both the surfer and host uploads their data, we could check if the texts matches; then we know they are not altered and could show that refereence on couchers.

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It’s understandable if people want to bring their CS references to Couchers so to answer the question: you can always archive your whole CS profile and provide a link on your Couchers profile. This way when people click on the link they will get the exact and unaltered copy of your CS profile.

As I learnt: the concept of Couchers references is different and promises to include an anonymous element that might help provide more genuine feedback that was so often lacking on CS. We all know that CS has a lot of fake positive references and a lot of retaliatory references as well. I see nothing wrong to share a link or screenshots just to give people some idea what type of guest/host you might be but I would say that it’s better NOT to officially merge CS references with Couchers references.

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As others have stated, we have the pros:

  • People really want their old references, for proof of experience as well as attachment to the people who wrote them
  • (^for this reason) it would be great for our growth if we could implement a porting feature from other platforms. I think everyone can see from the amount that this is brought up that this feature would be a major selling point

and cons:

  • we don’t believe CS’s reference system is a good one, so we don’t feel that they’re accurate and we won’t compute them in community standing
  • they’re very hard to verify

How would people feel about a separate section on profiles where we have “imported references”. They’re not really counted in our systems, they’re kept separate from proper Couchers references, and we can give a warning not to trust them. I think this could potentially get around a lot of the issues being discussed. This would function similarly to @michaela’s idea but people wouldn’t need CS accounts, which you would need to access a link.

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the thought of starting over on a new site sounds nice to me, but now that there’s an idea of an option to import your references, suddenly i think i would probably do that, still the idea of starting over sounds good

still isn’t there some privacy violation to use names and avatars of references from CS on this site?

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This is exactly what I did on my Couchers profile. You can basically write something like this on the “Additional information” section of your profile:

MY COUCHSURFING REFERENCES

You can view my Couchsurfing account and references here:

From guests
https://archive.ph/9U6t8

From hosts
https://archive.ph/O55RB

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Sorry, personally I don’t think the references-system om CS was that bad. Sure, I support the motivation to make things better and more secure. But I don’t like the idea of having a system generated score on my profile. For me, that is a kind of alienation from real life. I just want to read the stories in the references. No score needed for me, not even positive or negative. That is all that it takes for me. Why make it as complicated as life already is? A story can contain a lot of subtle information, that you will never be able to express in a score.
So I just made a screenshot of the references and put it on my profile. (I didn’t know of the archive.ph that @jesse used then. Tried archive.org but that didn’t work.) Anyway, I deleted my profile on CS, because I definitely don’t want to go back there. So a link to my CS-profile is not an option, but a screenshot to show would be enough for me. No need to import this in a complicated ‘fair’ system.

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I found the following instructions on Reddit about how you can get an archived version of your profile even if you’re behind the paywall (or suspended):

  1. Visit https://archive.ph/
  2. In the search field where it says “My url is alive and I want to archive its content” enter the following URL from your couchsurfing account, but replace the word “USERNAME” with your username (case-sensitive!):

https://www.couchsurfing.com/people/USERNAME/references

  1. After you have entered the URL, click the “Save” button.

Disclaimer: I’m not condoning people use this method since it could be a violation of CS’ ToU. Not sure if it is, but I just don’t want to recommend/condone something that apparently circumvents CS login to view profiles.

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So just by using this service I can access anyone’s profile, regardless if I’m actually signed in as a member myself!?

Sounds like another awful security bug :exploding_head:

Correct. My thoughts exactly!!!

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Yes, your data on Couchsurfing are not safe. People can access and archive anyone’s CS profile as long as they know their username. You can archive your own CS profile and as correctly mentioned by you- nothing stops other people from accessing and saving your profile either. The profiles are being accessed through fake CS profiles that can archive whatever you want from there. All you need is the correct URL.

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I’ll chime in and say that while I hear the arguments for CS references not necessarily being a great way of actually establishing trust, those references do actually carry a lot of personal/emotional value for me. They’re basically a cumulative guest book of my travel & hosting experiences over the better part of a decade, and I’d be sad to lose them.

I know that’s not an entirely rational reason, and perhaps I’m the only here who feels that way, but figured it was worth sharing.

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One of those times being when I hosted you! What’s up Bryce, welcome!!

I think I understand everyone that we still want a reference system, even if it’s different from CS. And that’s good, because I think it’s a glue that binds what is, at the end of the day, a community of strangers, together. @Emily makes a very good point that once someone has a lot of good references people were usually reluctant to write a negative reference against that. At first I didn’t like the change when you could only write a reference within a time window and not edit it, but I’ve come to prefer it. It really cuts down on retaliatory references, and if there’s an update in your friendship later you can write a reference for them as a friend.

There’s a chicken and an egg element that hasn’t really been touched on. Couchers is starting from zero. What’s going to motivate people to join? In this case, knowing that the people they want to stay with have been vetted, via references. How are members going to get (let’s say) 5-10 references when our whole community right now is a hundred or so? (last I checked). It’s going to take a long time.

I see importing CS references as a good jump start. If we want to keep them separate from the new community standing feature, I think that’s fine. And it seems like it’d take a lot of effort for someone to import CS references and then alter them - besides using Jesse’s method of making an archive I also took screenshots, and those are several magnitudes more difficult to alter.

There are changes worth making in the CS reference system, and I already like the anonymous feedback and different gradient that y’all are using. But by and large there’s a level of trust that comes from being a positive member of the HospEx community for several to many years. I think it’s important to recognize that.

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Thanks for chiming in :slight_smile: We actually have 1,600 members of Couchers.org at the moment! And I think a good way to start getting references is by asking your past surfers/hosts to switch over and leave you one on Couchers too :slight_smile: It has been working for me to some extent, depending on whether or not the person is traveling/hosting, they are more interested I’ve found.

Good points all the same!

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Just an idea: it could be “imported” just as a number on a badge. And since a volunteer has to verify it manually, a donation could be expected in exchange.

What if we could import our old profile data. From that, find emails of my old references and friends. Whenever one of my old contacts joins with the same email, send both of us a notice to reconnect. That way, we would get reminders without effort and we could rebuild our old networks. This would not be a direct import, but it would give us a really good way to rebuild.

If emails are not available, you could add field for “Old Couchsurfer Name” and use that to match our old friends and references?

We have the data, so let’s try to use that, even in an indirect way.