As the goal is developing the platform as an open-source project, I think it could be interesting to imagine the software not only as a solution for couchers, but for a general application. The model for this approach would be Wikimedia, having developed MediaWiki to be used for Wikipedia, but offering the software for anyone to use as a wiki platform.
I could see a software bringing together hosts & guests being useful outside of the global travel community. Let’s say universities that want to offer new students the possibility to stay with other students for their first week/month. Or political parties/associations that hold a member meeting and would have local members interested in hosting visiting ones. Or the christian churches, they propagate homestaying for international church events.
Providers from the sharing economy target similar groups by offering “for events”-functionality (e.g. https://homestay.com/events or https://news.airbnb.com/introducing-a-new-way-event-organizers-can-offer-attendees-more-accommodation-choices/ ) Other hospex platforms already have their codebase open-source, but not taylored towards general application.
Some advantages I could see:
- attract a broader range of stakeholders and feedback
- more engagement with the codebase, especially if institutions and not only individuals see the solution as valuable
- make genuine hospitality sharing more widely known and recognized
- diversify opportunities to attract donations and grants
Hi @nolo: this is a good point and we’ve been thinking about this a bit.
However, I think it’d be quite a lot of effort to “abstract” the codebase into such a state that it’s easy to rebrand/white-label and release into this kind of model. It’d be great if people took it and did other awesome things with it, but I think for now the priority needs to be on getting Couchers off the ground and filling the specific needs of this particular community
Yes, I totally agree it’s good to focus on getting off the ground first!
I’d still have another more long-term consideration in mind, so I’ll just post it in this thread as well. A short background story from cs to put it into context : about two years ago I opened a support ticket, asking how I can not only archive, but delete old messages in my inbox (1000+ messages dating back years and revealing a lot of private information that i didn’t want to sit on their servers forever). Their reply stated ‘Thank you for reaching out to us. Your data has been deleted.’ This really meant what it said, they had deleted my entire profile. I answered to clarify my request and asked them to restore my profile, receiving: ‘Thank you for reaching out to us and my deepest apologies … Your data has been removed and if you need any assistance with establishing a new profile, please let me know.’ The profile had 60+ positive references from years of hosting, so the following discussion got a bit heated, but effectively lead nowhere. I even had a recent backup of all my data, but they were unwilling or unable to use it to restore the profile. In the end, I took their ‘assistance’ to establish a new profile, which was basically an offer for a lifetime paid account. The upside of the story is I was quite unaffected by the recent mess, also emotionally…
Bad support and automation aside, I think there is one issue that is generally not easy to solve. That’s how to translate the central status of trust/credit/references/community standing to the code architecture. It seems at cs references where practically just stored as plain text, information they couldn’t trust the moment it was off their servers. I saw at trustroots they published a viewer for cs profiles (https://couchspinner.com). It’s a very handy tool to go through your personal data, but it illustrates the point: you can make up whatever profile you fancy, there is no way to identify this information as authentic.
I’d be curious if there’s already a discussion about how the standing-system will/can be designed with technical trust in mind. Could it be stored outside of the platform and still be valid? If cs had stored the references in a verifiable way, a project like couchspinner could be of much more use now.
I’m one of the volunteering devs. Sounds like a really cool idea. Something like Blockchain is usually the go-to for decentralised trust, right?
Unfortunately something like that is quite a bit out of our scope for now - especially as a team of volunteers. In the future, who knows?
@aapeli has done work in Blockchain I believe, maybe the new foundation will get a massive grant for him to create a hospex blockchain
PS. That CS support story is awful…
I don’t think a blockchain is necessarily the way to go here. We still want centralised powers (e.g. deleting racist references) and it’d also make editing references an absolute pain.
We could perhaps look into using some public-key cryptography (the bit used in blockchains to verify accounts making the transactions). Data would be stored centrally still, but users who downloaded their data would be able to have it authenticated whether we stored it or not (all we need is the relevant public keys to check), making it easier for these kinds of data re-uploads
I don’t think the codebase will be interesting per se for other orgs to use but it’s essential for attracting people to work on it.
Also, it’s much easier to start with an open codebase than opening up a codebase that is already in production.
That sounds workable! It’s obviously not a urgent matter, but I think it’s good to keep in mind some kind of possible authentification of the community credit. In the end people might be active for decades and as can be seen with couchsurfing now, many could be happy to switch platforms while still showing a bit of their prior history in a reliable way.
Why do you think so?
My thoughts: let’s say a local group of some wider organization is setting up an event. There are 20 local members that would be available to host and build closer bonds with visiting members from other places. In my experience (within an alpine association and taking into account European privacy regulations) making these connections is an administrative nightmare already on such a small scale. If I could employ a ready software platform, where people can briefly present themselves and their housing offers, communicate without revealing more private information at first and then exchange their contact details without my organization’s administration needing to be involved again, I’d find it interesting.
@itsi could you explain more why you don’t believe a Blockchain is a good idea for the far future? Why do you want to delete racist references? Couldn’t you just tag them as racist with the couchers team stamp? And why would editing referenced be a pain? You would just still be able to see the history, why is that bad? Again I’m talking about the long term so you don’t even need to answer now, just putting the question out there…
Would already like to chime in here with a consideration, because I’d assume a blockchain can be the right place for anonymous or inherently public transactions. Now references are certainly not anonymous and while we might treat them as public in the context of the platform, they are not public information in the way a contract, a legal transaction or my civil status would be. I think it’s important to mind that references are actually very private and personal information, that I can agree to be related to me and have public on the platform for the sake of building trust, but never in the sense of a public transactional register.
A few reasons I can think of:
‘Branding’ profiles is a really bad user experience. That is what the trust score is for
It’s not nice for people to read hate speech, even if it’s disapprovingly marked as hate speech
On the positive side, people can change for the better, so simply giving them appropriate consequences at the time is better than leaving them permanently marked
I was actually kidding about the blockchain