Designing Search to support safety and diversity

I think the search model we aim for right now is based a lot on how search works on couchsurfing. The issue I see is that it’s also a common search model on dating sites. You are offered filters that let you narrow down the userbase to your preferences. This could even be very fine grained. In a way, this option to single out profiles seems to support predatory search patterns like: “Show me girls aged 18-25”

I feel we shouldn’t support a search pattern like this as a general usage option on the site. How about making search filters work more dependent on your own profile? So I define as certain gender, age group, have interests, speak languages… Search could just give me some simple options:

Show me hosts/travelers/members that share

[ ] my gender
[ ] any gender

[ ] my age group
[ ] any age group

[ ] my interests
[ ] any interest

[ ] my languages
[ ] any languages


I like the idea for gender and age, but not for languages and interests.

You might want to surf with someone with a particular interest in common, or who speaks a particular language - and I don’t think that’s really open to misuse like gender would be.


Agree with @lucas , this looks like a great idea for gender and age (I can’t see it used predatorily), but don’t see it as necessary for interests and languages; those two could just be individual search terms of checkboxes (e.g. filter by people who speak one of a few languages that the user selects during their search).

Question for the gender filter: if a non-binary person chooses “my gender,” does that mean that the search will only show non-binary individuals? That sounds like a cool option to me, but, as a “binary” person I may not be the best authority to judge this.


In practice the idea would not to be able to include any specific gender but to be able to “exclude men” or “exclude women.” In this way, non-binary people would never be excluded from searches, showing up in search no matter what, but if you so choose you can prevent either men or women from seeing your profile. If neither option is checked, your profile would be shown to everyone. I hope this makes sense :slight_smile:


I actually meant it to work the opposite way :upside_down_face:
You only have inclusive filters for searching the database. You will always be part of the search results you can query.

So you’re gender X: you can search for all gender X, or all genders overall.
Or you’re age group Y: you can search for all of your age group, or all ages.

So you can’t use search to single out a group that you are not part of yourself.

So yes, if you identify as non-binary, you could only search for all other non-binary members, or for all members. You couldn’t search for members of a specific other gender.

About the language, you would end up not filtering anything since everybody has English in their list.

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Another approach I saw somewhere (but forgot where, sorry to that person), was to publicize your search filters on your profile. If someone only filters for 18-25yo women, they’re allowed to but it gets put on their profile and everyone can see that. I like this because it approaches the problem with accountability rather than restricting use, which is our approach to other problems like with community standing. I’m not certain this’d be a good way to go but I think this does a few nice things:

  1. It would disincentivize certain demographic groups from filtering in ~creepy~ ways, because people would publicly know that and avoid them
  2. It allows users to keep flexibility in customizing filters (which they are accountable to)
  3. It allows users to better predict whether you’ll be accepted to their house/hangout/etc. when they’re looking for other users to interact with

It reminds me a bit of the “who visited your profile” feature on BeWelcome, that feature was very visible, and now it is still there but hidden. I think this feature did a lot of disservice to BW, it is one of those features that incentivized not visiting anyone’s profile.

Also it is really easy to go around it, just by doing a general search, or having a second account just for searches.

So that I’m not too negative, let me try to propose an alternative idea: allow people to not appear in results when “searched” by age, by gender, by language. For example, if there’s a female+age search, I do not want my profile to show up. If there’s a search for one particular language, I do not want my profile to show up for privacy or safety reasons as well.

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The whole point of searching for someone younger couchguy is that they are less likely to know they need to do this :stuck_out_tongue:


Not sure what you mean there.

I like the search model based on similarities in the profile–it makes sense to search for others in your own demographic, especially if you’re surfing, and especially as a solo female traveler. So 18-25 year old young women can find each other, but I can’t think of a use case where anyone else needs to be searching those parameters, seems like too much potential for abuse.

As for language, I have friends from other countries that have mentioned wanting to find travelers in their own language (they say it gets exhausting speaking English all the time if they’re not fluent, and it’s refreshing to find others speaking your native language). So a language parameter also makes sense to me.

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