How do you write a quality reference?

In your opinion, what pieces of information should be included when you write a reference?

I am talking specifically about the text that you write. For example, is it possible to write a reference that is too long? What about too short? For example, “Jesse was a nice guy and a great host!” is very short, but says a lot. Does it say enough though? How specific/detailed should you be when you write a reference?

Edit: I updated the title to clarify a bit: I’m asking this in the context of creating a guide to help new users (and existing ones) if they are struggling to write a reference (don’t know what to mention in it, how long it should be, etc).


I think it shouldn’t have any limit. Sometimes that’s just all you can say about a person, especially when it was fine, but you didn’t really click.
Maybe there could be some guiding questions, like “What did you do together?”, “What was the best part of your stay?”. But I don’t think they should be compulsory.


I think it depends for whom the reference is written. When a member has no reference yet or very few, we could maybe have a nudge or hint about leaving a reference that will be helpful about informing others.

Beyond 20 or so references I don’t see how additional references have much impact (unless they’re negative). Personally, I really didn’t care about receiving more references at some point on couchsurfing. When profiles have tons of references it would even rather turn me away from reading them and I have to admit, in most of these cases I filtered for negative first to at least read something a bit more outstanding. No idea if that’s a common approach? Still, with regards to this topic, I think what constitutes good references is also about not being presented an overload of information overall. At least I’d prefer and would be more curious to read about 10, rather than being presented references without end.


When I write host references, I usually write about the positive character traits of my guests and how we spent time together. I try to describe something what I would like to remember about them- good memories we created together. Then (since writing references is also for future hosts) I like to mention how respectful they were. If they were clean, helpful, followed house rules, whatever I can find- I just write it down. If they did something nice for me (brought a gift/shared food with me etc) I do mention it, too- so their future hosts know they are thoughtful.

Same if I was a surfer: I want to read how was the host, how they spent time with guests and how was their home. References with such a feedback doesn’t have to be long: “XX was a terrific host. He was very cheerful and we had a lot of fun together. I especially enjoyed a hike XX took me on. His home was clean and my stay was comfortable. Would definitely stay again! Thank you for having me!”. This is a brief quality reference that everybody has time to write and read, too.

I personally enjoy writing references. Mine are long(er) and my guests always appreciate them (except those who got a negative reference of course :smiley: )

This kind of reference is very nondescript. I still have no idea what type of host Jesse is :stuck_out_tongue: I wouldn’t call it a quality reference. But I guess it’s better to get or receive this references than none!


I read negative first, and certainly read after that positive to balance the other references somewhat.

There are 2 approaches to this:

  • 100% free text
  • a form to fill in with fixed parameters, and some space for comment.

That last option would give us some tool for an extra filter, especially if you’re searching a host,
but I think it would be challenging to find good parameters to fill in that everyone feels about.

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Here are the things I usually try to include:

  1. Whether or not they were traveling alone or not and whether or not I was hosting them together with someone else or not
    • When writing a reference for “John” I would start with: “Natalia and I hosted John and Dan…” instead of just “I hosted John…
  2. If I knew the person from somewhere prior to hosting them, I explain the nature of our relations (eg: an old roommate, a friend from X country, met at a previous Couchers event)
  3. The context of their visit (why they were visiting the city/staying with me)
  4. A summary of the various activities (if any) and interactions I had with them
  5. My impression of them (as a guest, socially, their personality, etc)
  6. A recommendation (or lack thereof!) for others to host/surf with the person

This probably seems like a lot, but I think most of these can be covered in a short sentence and usually #2 isn’t applicable anyway.

I dunno… what do you think?! Is this too much info? Does this cover all the bases, or am I missing anything?


You cover a lot of things which is good. I also like to mention how many days I hosted my guest/s. I did check your Couchers profile and I like the references you give to others. Very informative. Very nice. I do not think you are missing anything. Your references are in fact top-notch


This is interesting, and since I haven’t used the reference system I don’t know if there is a manual entry for how long a person stayed. I know in CS it was tied to the request, but often times that might change or reflect differences and should be editable. That way you don’t have to write about it, and it just shows in the reference.

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On Couchers there is not an entry for it (yet). And on CS it wasn’t always like this either.

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That’s a good idea @michaela and @oskyldig: we can prepopulate it with the length from the request!


I agree with @michaela

I write the kind of references that would help me if I was looking for a host or considering hosting a surfer. I mostly want to know if they are respectful, but also, how were they to engage with? Did they want/expect a lot of time, or prefer to be independent (either as host or surfer)? Anything that isn’t listed in their profile that someone would want to know before saying yes?

There is an amount of subjectivity in what makes a “great” host or surfer, which will always depend on the person. So I try to give information that will help someone decide for themselves if this person is a good match, regardless of how I felt about it.


I try to mix the idea of having informational Value for the surfers/hosts after me as well as some nice memories - might sound stupid but i enjoyed reading trough my references from time to time because some where just really nice :slight_smile:

But it also spirals down to the Problem, that a lot of references were too nice and i also encountered the problem that a lot of my references called me a (pretty,funny,intelligent etc.) “little girl” at some point, making it sound like i was a playboy bunny.

What im trying to say: I think it makes perfect sense to write a guide! :slight_smile: maybe even include certain phrases that should be left out (or maybe just i had the problem ) ?


How do you feel about people mentioning in their reference that you gave them keys?

It always made me a little uncomfortable because I didn’t want that fact being visible to everyone. I also never put it in my profile to begin with because I wanted to decide if guests get keys after I had met them. In the end, I think everyone I hosted always got them, but still. Probably something I have to remember to mention to guests in the future.


If this happens to you often and you don’t feel good about it, I would probably tell the guests not to mention it in the reference (for safety reasons or for not making other people feel weird if you choose not to give them keys).


It is one of the things that should not be mentioned in the reference, since it may create expectations for other guests, such when a guest wrote a good reference telling that I had accompanied them to a visit, and pick them at bus stop, later another one wrote a negative telling that i had refused to pick them at bus stop.
Offer if valid only on certain days/times and is spontaneous. You cannot expect at any time (expecially when there are two groups)


How about having a link “what you can write about” or smth like that on the page where you write the reference?
It can lead to all these suggestions:

and maybe some examples of good references.

That would be great! And the place too :slight_smile:

I prefer references be individual, so you write a reference for John and one for Dan.>
Figure what happen if at a certain time they visit separately and the host does not know if the reference was influenced by fact that were two or not.

How do you write references now if you host several people together? I write “I hosted John and Dan and they were great guys…”, so at least that would go to both the profiles, not just to one guy who sent the request.

upd. anyway this is actually off topic, there’s another one on linking profiles

If the request come from one person for two guests i leave ony to the person that did the request; if both sent thir request each one gaet one, personal, possibly identycal.
I know from experience that there is people that is not happy to “share” a reference.
Beside this, if someone has a “shared” profile as a couple or a family does not get any reference.
What happen if they eventually part ? what happen to shared references ? (I had a few of such cases …)

I understand now the idea is to link profiles, so linked people can send one request for all of them and receive the same reference for all the profiles (not sure if I understand it correctly though). In that case, if they unlink the profiles, everyone still has all the references