Do we really need so many checkboxes and filters?

I´ve been seeing lately more and more suggestions to add more and more options and more and more filters, and while at first impression it may look like a great idea to be able to customize the experience to the maximum: is it really such a great idea?

We all have biases and prejudices. Wouldn’t being able to filter that much reinforce them? Or at least not make us overcame them?

I don´t know, maybe I´m just an idealist but I do see the hospex community as a place to interact with people that are different than me, to learn from them, I wouldn´t like to see it becomes a place where people just filter out without a really valid reason, like security concerns, and just because. I think that everything that is not a safety option and it’s just a preference shouldn’t be facilitated by the platform. The platform should aim for integration and cultural exchange, not to segregation and prejudice.

Also: should we relay so much in built in filters? Or should we aim for people to explore, meet, learn, and make educated choices instead of just filtering for the sake of it?

What I loved about CS was that it did took me out of my comfort zone. It defied me to realize and face my own prejudices. And it offered me a clear chance to deconstruct them, over and over and over again. I learned a lot, and met people that I wouldn´t have if I had the choice to filter in the beginning. And turned out they were amazing people, who taught me a lot, and some are still friends I keep in touch with.

Not having so many filters forced me to read profiles, to chat a bit, to not exclude until I knew I didn´t like that particular person/situation without excluding everyone in certain category. I´d love to see the same on Couchers. See that it aims to be a community, not a set of groups that use the same platform. See that it encourages everyone to interact with everyone, without prejudice or discrimination based on generic checkboxes.

Any thoughts on this?

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I had the same gut reaction as Aleja reading over some of the other threads. I think there can indeed be a “just add another button/checkbox” impulse that sounds good in the abstract, but in practice doesn’t really accomplish much other than clutter things.

The most important feature to me personally is just that there is an easy, straightforward, and functional process for weeding out those who abuse the platform once the abuse has become clear to other members of the community. I don’t think CS really had this, which was the root of many problems.

That said, if a decent number of people are wanting a search filter (e.g. women hosts only), and they are going to just manually search through hosts based on that anyway, we might as well provide a filter. I want to see people spend their time actually meeting up and surfing/hosting, not wearing themselves out on the app doing something that could have been done much quicker with a simple click.

On a related note, I would be curious to hear more about what thoughts or work has been put into collecting analytic data on these sorts of things. Like do people ever even use certain buttons/features? I would think that might be informative going forward as the number of users expands.

Also, I just wanted to give a word of appreciation for everyone who does the work of making our checkbox and filter wishes a reality. I know it can be more work that it seems to the casual user.

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collecting data on what buttons and features we all use is not something you build in as an afterthought, it complicates things (technically, functionally).
I don’t think there is much to gain with this.

For the moment I don’t have the impression there is too much features in couchers.org.

Hi Jason! Analytics are important and so is user feedback. I completely agree with you as well regarding the importance of giving the community tools to weed out bad actors, make everyone feel safe, and improve the overall experience on the platform. This will be key as the community grows!

I’ve been working with the design team for about a year now and will try to give a summary of the design process of the platform to let you know how we’ve gotten to where we are now, and what we strive to do as we develop the platform:

  1. Discuss topics and features in this forum, and interview both new and long-time users of CS

  2. The design team discusses the various ideas, pain-points, design challenges, implementation plans and rough designs based upon the feedback from #1 and #4 in this list

  3. There are multiple rounds of iterating designs, gathering feedback, and making improvements/refinements

    • Draft initial design, discuss and create plan for making improvements to initial design
    • Second design is finished and a prototype is created, then tested by users, feedback is collected and final design discussed
    • Final design and prototype is finished, then tested again by users and discussed with devs
    • Final design refinements are made before sending over to the dev team to be implemented
      For visual people, here’s a chart that roughly illustrates this process:
  4. We collect and use real-world usage data to make further refinements, fix bugs and update prioritization of improvements and new features

    • This includes feedback in forum threads (like this one!)
    • With the help of cookies, analytics data are gathered on which pages are most visited/which features are used the most, and where improvements could be made
    • We perform real-world user tests internally and externally and gather feedback
    • Bug reports, feedback, and questions sent to the support team (feedback@couchers.org and support@couchers.org) also help give us data on where we need to make improvements / changes.

As you can see from this summary, we’re striving to not only take a data-driven approach to building and improving (which is indeed an important component of the process), but also to actively engage and work together with the community to build and improve the platform. Please keep the feedback and ideas coming! Thanks everyone!!! :smiley:

PS: If you know anyone who might be interested in volunteering (especially if they are a software developer) please tell them about us and send them to the volunteering page to get in touch with us!

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I guess I agree, but depends on the checkboxes in question. Generally yeah, I also think people should not be able to filter hosts like on Airbnb - because it’s not one.

I actually have another concern. I feel there are a lot of restrictions discussed lately - mandatory fields, not-very-kind reminders, ingenious ways to let people filter for this but not for that. To me having a lot of those is killing the vibe and the idea of couchsurfing. It is supposed to be about trust and fun and freedom, and “you have friends all over the world, you just haven’t met them yet”. I guess this atmosphere is the main reason why we loved Couchsurfing, at least it is for me. And every restriction basically says - “Yeah, of course, we like to say that we are all friends. But let’s face the reality, people are stupid and mean and should be dealt with.” That’s what I feel every time I see another constraint discussed.
I’m not saying the platform should turn a blind eye to the issues, but there is a big difference between character limit and guiding questions or between reminders “it’s not a dating website” and a spam filter. The latter ones achieve the same goal and are maybe even more effective, while also being civil.

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I respectfully disagree. Just because something is “killing the vibe” for people who are experienced enough/tolerant enough to navigate the system it doesn’t mean we should eliminate that thing.

To use a very unfortunate analogy: putting on a condom in the middle of doing the hanky-panky may kill the vibe for some people; it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be there as a safety measure. :rofl:

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Seriously though, I know @phaula is not advocating for letting go of the safety features altogether - but I think it’s important to dig into these little details here on the forum, and help make the platform better. I don’t think we should use blanket statements like “too many checkboxes are killing the vibe” and try to think of the issue in detail. And we should collect information from a wider demographic of women, including those who have faces challenges on Couchsurfing and even left because of them.

Well, I respectfully disagree too, because I don’t see how, say, character limits in profile and references are like a condom or how they are better than hints and questions. Or how reminders are safer than spam filter. All I’m saying we should choose the tools carefully and respect the users of the platform.

If we go into unfortunate analogies - I guess you guys prefer US democracy over Chinese social credit system, even though the latter is way more foolproof.

I respectfully disagree. What was special about CS was that there were no discrimination for gender, race, nationality or class. We are going to have sex discrimination, wich I understand because it can be a safety tool. But we’ve come to tge point of discussing filtering is you have AC. Cmon.

What killing the vibe it’s not “not knowing how to navigate the system”. What’s killing the vibe is that we need to design a system to navigate around creeps.

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I agree, Aleja! I’m not arguing for checkboxes for A/C etc. or anything that makes Couchers like Airbnb. I was just referring to the safety related things, and that may include gender.

And that sort of misunderstanding is why I’m advocating for precise discussions about specific features instead of blanket statements.

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It’s all good. I sound a bit serious while writing in English sometimes, don’t take me so seriously lol

On the other hand, I understand and respect that some people want se sex filter. Me myself, I dream of a world where the rules set by the Declaration of Human Rights are something we can actually live by, and not an expression of hope

Anyways: I dislike any filter based on any of the points that the Declaration of Human Rights says should not be used to differentiate people.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

You may say I’m a dreamer, etcétera, I just refuse to filter someone based on their gender. I respect whomever wants to do it, tho.

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I totally agree with

and

I think blanket statements are actually the problem. When you say “predatory men”, it sounds scary and leads to the idea of blocking them all. When you say “spam messages” it leads to the idea of a spam filter, and same with other issues and features.

Haven’t we all?

Show me ONE woman that hasn’t been sexually harassed in CS and I’ll buy you a beer lmao

What I mean is: all woman have been through this. The ones that left are not the type to speak up. But we are their friends, roommates, partners, travel buddies, etc. We know. Because it happned to us too.

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You owe me a beer :joy: :joy: :joy: I haven’t had anything outright inappropriate. Probably has something to do with the fact I use that gender filter and stay with girls when possible though :joy:
Don’t mean to say it’s not a problem or do like I do or anything like that. I also have less experience than most of you here. The reason I feel it’s good to ask more women is that I didn’t see anyone from really traditional countries here, and they are the ones with almost non-existent female couch surfers. Like, I suppose the hiding option could be helpful for girls in Muslim countries, but those girls might have a different opinion.

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Hello to all! What concerns me here is that a small set of enlightened people (whom I hadn’t joined until now) is discussing rules or filters for the good of a larger community which has not yet started using the site. Larger potentially means: much larger. Why don’t we start with the smallest possible quantity of rules/restrictions/filters and trust the experience of ‘real’ users, that they communicate us? We use it only then to put on whatever such rules are essential (not just convenient). And there may be issues which haven’t even come to our minds…
It could be done in the open. First an encouragement to people to communicate on a forum like this one any experience they have had here, which they think ought to lead to a change in features of couchers.org., through an enlarged discussion. Then at some point, a dedicated team discusses it among themselves, takes a decision and explains it on the forum. And posts the change (if any) for everyone to see, explaining the reasons for it.
Filters are not bad in principle because people can choose to use them or not. But if there are too many, they make the site illegible and unwieldy. It would put off users and I feel should be avoided.

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I think forum discussion is one great way to get some (not a lot of) perspectives, but I personally think that a larger-scale survey could give us a better idea of what most people want. Forum discussions are harder for a team of volunteers to “deconstruct” and draw actionable conclusions from (although we are attempting this with our newly-implemented Forum Digests!), and I think that information could be “processed” better if a survey with structured questions (e.g. a Google form) was administered.

This is a good idea, but here again the survey questions would be set up by the current set of volunteers. And the surveyees would only give output to these select questions, not input from their own experiences. So the two approaches can be useful, but I still privilege a minimal intervention from the organisers to let the community develop spontaneously.

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Where to draw the line on being willingly naïve in your aim, or as a result of it?
Did you magically turn the tide at one point? Isn’t there some reasonably dangerous landscape you are navigating, or somehow came out of, but yet are still in?

Where does the danger of putting trust in categories that are just user-selectable begin and end?
The world can not be just prejudices away from being solid-state.
Consider your instincts are motivated by the longest line of evolutionary selection.

I am not a fan of clutter or inconsistent options, but if you go at it from the point of view of seeking one aim, at-last try to figure out what you would do to achieve the total opposite.

I argue your newfound experience is only yourself, with added experience.
Surely you would have to think less of yourself to call your resulting moral impetus the result of checkboxes and filters?

There are enough options and fields now to where some users don’t have a full profile.
That gives a meaningful representation of how much effort is on the table.

Nobody has to fill out or search for options, but they will. Furthermore people will use them for convenience where security or trust is a better model.
I think with options that actually do something functional more effort can be directed towards saner defaults.

If checkboxes and filters aren’t going to take away the anti-social behaviours an pathology of people,
why should it somehow even try to help anyone, when the sentiment here is that people are great and then some not.

For example, being able to pick males from females is primarily a dating feature, end of.
Couchers is not changing the primal drives of human nature regardless of checkbox amount or content,
and that is a good thing considering how under-cooked the ideas of individuals (like myself) can be.