Make Membership Invite-Only

In CS, one of the major problems is people could open more than one account. Fake accounts…

I would like to suggest to have an invitation based account opening. This will certainly slow down the process of having more members however it will save from other points.

Just a suggestion to keep the couchers environment clean.

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Personally I’m going to disagree here. The nice thing about hospitality exchange is it’s open to everyone, being invite only is gatekeeping and just makes it a privileged thing.

I do agree fake accounts are a problem, but I think a robust verification and reference system like described on the website is a better solution, along with guides on how to be careful and choose hosts/guests well.

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Thank you for the opinion. I disagree that this platform shouldn’t be open for everyone. For examples, perverts, killers, rude people, people who are trying to take advantage of innocent people etc… List may continue more…
I understand your point which I can’t disagree that freedom should be there and I do not insist that invitation is the only method but just an opinion. For example we can ask paid e-mail address instead of hotmail, gmail etc… Which also brings another challenges.
C’mon folks, let’s put more ideas together to find the best way :slight_smile:

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This is something am also 100% in support of. If each new member has 10 invitations we can grow the community in a really healthy way. At least at the beginning.

Thanks for brining this up, Husso. As a host I have always had a problem with the fact that there were so many surfers floating around with no references, and I think one of the reasons that happened was that so many people just wandered in to the community straight off the internet, with no idea how it operated. Especially lately during events I hosted, a lot of members didn’t know about most features of CS or how not be freeloaders, and that was because the site was expanded so rapidly to increase revenue and with no sense of community in mind.

Some of us really miss vouches, too, which were limited in number and really emphasized who had built up trust in the community.

I also think that if we open it up to everyone at once, it’s going to be really hard to get people on the same page about our values and mission.

Let’s not forget that Facebook and Gmail started out as invite only, too, so it can also be a way to attract people, since it creates a sense of hype.

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I think you’re right husso in that we should do everything we can to pevent fake accounts and prevent those kind of people you mentioned from joining the system, but I’ll offer an alternative to invite-only.

We’ve designed a new verification system that will prevent fake accounts. You can read about it here. The idea is that when you sign up, you need to go to some events or hangouts in different locations so people can verify you in person with your documents. This also added bonuses. You can keep your information secure and not upload it online, and it’ll get people to meet members who can explain couch-surfing to them properly before they start hosting or surfing. Really engage them with the community!

Even with invite only, it can be possible to get people taking advantage of the system. A new approach we’re looking at taking is a community standing score to replace the review system. It’ll make everyone accountable to their actions, so if someone does something bad, the community will know about it and filter them out.

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Invite only is the best way to start in my opinion as well.

So @Itsi, let’s say you meet a user in real life who seems like a bad fit for the community. Maybe makes lewd jokes or racist comments. He or she is looking for verification. Can people like, refuse that? Or report them and say, don’t verify this person - they’re toxic? I could see it becoming awkward kind of fast if the person is like “it was fun hanging out, can you verify me?”

I think what Husso is trying to say is, meet people before they join, and if they don’t seem like a good fit, simply don’t invite them, rather than try to prevent them from ruining it for others. It may be easier to not invite them rather than get rid of them once they’re a member.

“The verification system will be based on a graph algorithm that ranks the amount of “connectedness” users have to the rest of the verified community, allowing us to weed out obvious cliques of fraudulent accounts verifying each other, and other fakes.”

Regarding the verification system though, it’s overall a really great idea further down the line once the community is more well established and we do “open up” to everyone. Because you’ll already have pretty tight-knit communities, it will be MUCH easier to come to an agreement and deal with individuals who are not using the platform properly, or on the other hand, work together to get the right people verified.

Just a small edit: I don’t think anyone is suggesting that Couchers.org remains invite-only forever, right? Because that would definitely make it hard to grow to a size large enough that it’s easy to find hosts or get requests in every part of the world.

1000000000% agree with Lucas here. If couchsurfing was invite only, I’d never be able to get on the platform simply because I’m literally the ONLY person in my social circle to be interested in traveling the couchsurfing way. It’s unneccessary gatekeeping and makes people feel unwelcome with that feeling of ‘exclusivity’ - I’d like to think that we’re welcoming to people across the spectrum, whether they’re hardcore couchers or just casual travelers who want to interact with locals.

Keeping Couchers invite only in the first phase could be a good way to generate hype and excitement from a marketing standpoint though.

To tackle fake accounts, I feel that the ID verification system is pretty robust. You don’t have to interact with an account that is not verified through ID (i.e. possibly fake). The thing is, we’d have to really make sure there’s someone in every community to kick start that process, and it also means each community of trusted people will grow relatively slowly. It’s a trade-off of putting the onus on the community I guess.

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Just to play devil’s advocate, CS already had that stigma by itself in some locations. I ran events in Istanbul and Hiroshima, and in both locations I would often hear comments like “Oh, I didn’t realize anyone could join an event.” Sometimes, my surfers would be surprised that there even WERE events, having never noticed them on the app.

Or how about the ever common, “I joined x years ago, but I could never find a couch so I quit.”

What invitations can do is prevent this kind of situation - the inviter will of course mentor the invitees and give them an overview of how to use the app, help them find couches, and so on. As it is now, people sign up and all they get is a random welcome message from an ambassador, and trust me when I say (I’m an ambassador, haha) that mine often gets replies like “what’s your phone number” or “come to Algeria beautiful girl.”

Yes, I think that’s the way to go in the beginning, especially since no one can really travel right now and we’d all want to see that there are enough active, enthusiastic and trustworthy uses (i.e. people who have been specifically invited) to make the platform viable.

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My understanding was that verification and references are seperate systems, ie. someone who is verified it simply who they say they are, but could still be an ass! It would be important to make the distinction clear though, in that case.

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I’ve gone to a bunch of meetup.com meetups as part of professional work in the past; and to be honest, I’ve seen people ask this kind of question even there! It seems that it’s part of this kind of chasm that has evolved between online and offline interaction, and sometimes people almost expect they need some special invitation to join an offline event (even though online it says it’s open)!

I think this is a really good point, and it’s something we have to be aware of and prepare for.

I see that all of us agree on the fact that there are some people we don’t want them to be part of this platform. So we all agree on that.
Now, what is the best way to stop having them a member?
“invitation way” was just an idea. I believe we have discussed more than enough about this method.
Let’s find more alternative methods and discuss about the pros and cons of them, too.

Kelly has a point about ID however noone would want to share real ID information in today’s scam world. The verification is a must but shouldn’t be by an ID.

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How about an SMS to their phone. People don’t change their phones that often. They keep the same number. Even the perverts can change only a few times I suppose. What do you thin of this?
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They can open their account using what ever e-mail address they want and this will be their primary e-mail. For the verification purpose only they have to use paid domains. Company e-mail and such. What do you think?

Any other option you would propose?

Later we can put all these ideas in one list to chose which one gets the most vote, etc…
:slight_smile:

Yes, from Itsi’s post he seemed to be saying that verifying members would work to filter out untrustworthy people in place of invites. Maybe I did a bit too much reading between the lines though.

Hi sorry Husso I have more to say about invites :joy::joy:

From my experience with Couchsurfing I think it’s SUPER important that couchers should start with a reputation of having high quality/non creepy people, and doing invite only for the beginning would be a good way to ensure this, as these apps can so easily become clogged up with these type of people looking for hookups etc, and these are a big chunk of the people who actively seek out these types of apps outside of travellers. If it were to become overrun with these types of people before enough real travellers and genuine people got wind of it (which tbh Couchsurfing often was, especially in hangouts) it would immediately put a bad taste in anyone’s mouth and potentially mark it with a bad (and lasting) first impression.

I agree with the concerns of making the App harder to access for some people, but if it’s only for the beginning like said before, the hype and exclusivity of it makes it sound really legit in my opinion and definitely more attractive. And through the web of people’s connections it could get lots and lots of people pretty quickly who are high quality and in it for the right reasons. And the fact it needs an invitation requires more word of mouth than would have been before so potentially even better marketing and reach out!

This would also make the app stand out from other apps in this way, especially for females. And there was a clear gender imbalance on Couchsurfing.

Also, I don’t see how verification would address this problem, as people behaving like creeps don’t have fake accounts from what I’ve seen. In fact I’ve never seen a fake account (that I could tell?). Those are more for scams and robots I would have thought, not real people who have phones and emails and all the rest of it.

Preach! And the chorus rang out, “HALLELUJAH!”

No but seriously, Eileen, you hit the nail on the head. I don’t think everyone realizes just how powerful having an initial userbase of people who are all separated by a few degrees would be.

Just to repeat the general stance in this thread, it wouldn’t be invite-only forever. Just until you have enough of that self-policing community in place that everyone seems to want, but won’t appear out of thin air…

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I’m more convinced, especially if it’s only initially invite only. As a compromise, maybe we could have some events (like the regular meetups) publicly visible, so then if people are super keen and they make an effort to go, someone at the event can invite them and it’s probably well deserved!

I remember Itsi/Aapeli’s idea about ID sounded really good, where you just put the last 4 digits of the ID number in, and you ask other people on the platform to verify you - you show them your id, they confirm all the details match and scan aqr code or something in their app.

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That example is a good point. There’ll be a lot of awkward situations that arise (this might happen for references too?). What if there was an ability to review and rescind verification and reviews for a period of a week or so? That may solve that issue.

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I was suggesting this! Actually I think it’d happen quite naturally. Would you verify someone you didn’t think was a good fit? Of course, it’s not a foolproof way to filter people because I think many would have low bars for verifying others, and it’s something we couldn’t enforce, but it could help a little.

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I had multiple profiles in cs but not for ill purposes , i thought its a great way to end the attention of one person to me (when i was very young…) and start aknew. (losing previous refs also).
But i will agree with husso. Cause maybe the ppl who harassed me and made me start new account to avoid them, they are the ones who start an account, harass someone, then if they get busted they start a new one.

Im in full support of some sort of interview process like Servas is doing (very strict interview process that takes 2-3 weeks and includes an 1 hour skype with the candidate interview by an old member), or accept new members with payment + ID verification not just payment so that ppl cannot effectively have 2 accounts (2 IDs?), and demand passport (there are external services checking ids I think that can be embedded in your app),

or just an interview process cause just the prospect of an interview wil scare away most predators/people will ill intentions but NOT ALL. It is well known some criminals are very charming until they are caught… Not all criminals are creeps like in hollywood movies :slight_smile: Some are very convincing etc.

But a long , 1 monnth long interview process with 3 old members via skype focusing on past experience as traveller/ past experience or not in hospex/ when having zero experience, ask about how one would decide to meet or host a stranger/ and so on.

Of course the scary part is if 3 members interviewing a new prospect think he/she is not giving good vibes, what do you do? Just say ‘no’ to their application and make them go after you from anger? Especially if you are dealing with real criminals, they dont take ‘no’ for answer.

Maybe the interview could be a long questionaire lasting 2 weeks, impersonal, so that the person being interviewed doesnt know who exactly is going to ‘‘reject’’ their application.

One to be a member should go through an interview via a questionaire, give ID check (there are websites that check ID with face photo that can be used as third party in couchers.org for checking the ID), give a valid telephon, and as many social accounts aspossible(facebook, instagram, twitter, linkedin, couchsurfing?).
And give credit for anyone giving up all that :slight_smile: Like a badge or points earned for going through all these stages. Yet people may go through all these checks and still do crimes as we know.

That is why a community feel locally to be cultured is the best way for safety on top of all that. If i know i will stay with X and she is member of a local group in couchers. about hiking, and she wil introduce me to B during a hike or will help me go hiking, maybe i feel safer than just staying over/sleeping over at X"s apartment.

To create communities you need locals who will do events regularly and not one offs. And im not sure where you stand on paid tours but i participated in couchsurfing paid tours and the tour leader had an empt profile often, all he did is the tours, and expecting money (donations) and didnt engage in travellers in any other way. So altho im not against some commercial aspects I saw in practise they turn the interaction between people into a purely business relationship which is not very nice when you want to discuss culture and give a value to an experience other than hard money can buy you.