Option to hide Map Dots

Hello everyone,

I would like to ask your opinion about giving flexibility to the users to hide their profiles from the map. For example, I would like to be found on the couch request search, however I would prefer not be visible on the map.

In my opinion having the map may lead us to an undesired end. In example, if there is someone shows him/herself in a great location of the city they will get many requests. However the others will get less unless we have a smart system to limit how much request a person could get per day\per week\per month.

Not sure if any of us has any statistical data to see how lazy the users became. Even most of adds are using this slogan “one click away” , “it’s only one click” etc… So our lazy users* will only use maps and see the best located user and directly contact them.

*Especially in the last couple of years there have been many CSers, stopped reading references, stopped reading profiles. I call them lazy users :slight_smile: Initially I remember the requests I received, all personalized messages and it was very clear that they read my profile, they really want to meet me instead of using my house as a free place to stay.

If we let them to find a host through the map then in my opinion we attract them to be lazier.

In an ideal world having this map system sounds very helpful and useful.
On the other hand, due to the reason I find it risky to have it, you may see it useful because sometimes we are hitchhikers and better to know the location of potential host, or we need a last minute host or what ever the reason we have but we may be lazy by the circumstances we are in, to start any conversation or analyze our hosts properly. We may need to find a host quicker than normal, I mean.

All in all, in general the special cases are exceptional so I’m against to have a map because I see a big potential risk which may affect us negatively in the long run. Plenty of people already liked having a map and they want to have it/keep it, maybe we should analyze their reasons and motivation carefully. If they want to find host faster, then the risk I see will most certainly occur.

For privacy reasons, busy period of our lives, short trips to somewhere etc. I would like not to be visible all the time. I should be able to turn it On and Off to be shown on the map.

Cheers
Husso

4 Likes

Could this maybe solved by setting the “Location accuracy” dot* to the max (and maybe increase the max)?
I see how your point might be an issue in bigger cities (well, imo only really big, seeing as we already have a max radius of ca 2 km), but when cycling (or even worse, hiking) you need to search by location, and you need to do that in places where you maybe don’t know which village name to search. There is a point where a detour turns into a day trip in its own right…

You may see these cases as exceptional, but for example for me that would be the norm.

*by the way: is the dot itself displayed when searching the map feature, or does it appoint a random, but exact coordinate within that area (if so, it should probably give an indication how big the person set the radius or at least a warning “low location accuracy used” or something)?
Edit: just checked? It seems to give the exact center of the big dot, at least for me - if that is the case for everyone this feature would be kinda moot…

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I would like to say I really agree with Husso. I am also against being shown on the map, but I do see how it is cool how it shows how many people are already on the app and the spread of them - but then I think this is it’s real purpose, to advertise the growing userbase. I don’t believe it helps the users more than the system in couchsurfing did.

In addition to what husso said I also find it very exposing how my location is broadcast to the entire userbase on a world map, and I don’t see how this is necessary. Your name should only come up when someone is searching in a particular area, like in CS.

Yes you can expand the accuracy, but this is still quite violating in my opinion, especially if you are in a rural area. And then you can change your location - but doesn’t this completely defeat the whole purpose of what Hjall was saying he needed? So if people’s map locations can’t be trusted to be accurate anyway, why have them? It’s either a breach of privacy being too accurate or misleading and not useful to surfers.

Honestly, I feel like there’s a reason couchsurfing didn’t have this kind of function, and I think their system of searches is much better for the community and safety.

If anything, to achieve the effect of showing how many users there are already, you could just have the dots but not show people’s names? I have to say if being a host on couchers meant my home needed to be shown on a world wide map to everyone who signs in I wouldn’t use the app and I think many other people would feel the same.

4 Likes

I would also like clarification on what the map is going to be for since people can move their dots anywhere they like and adjust the radius to be relatively widespread. I don’t really understand how it will help hitchhikers or cyclists to think they’ve found someone nearby, only to then realize it’s a false location after spending some time trying to plan their route accordingly.

Is there a plan to force some degree of accuracy?
if so, I would expect an on/off switch for the map for sure.

Alternatively, I know the devs are planning to give all users the chance for profiles to be hidden from men/women/everyone to their liking. Perhaps hiding your map dot could be integrated somehow there as an option also.

2 Likes

When I used the terms, "exceptional or norms " I didn’t use them for my personal usage or based on my personal experience. This is a platform for travelers and usually people travel by plane, by bus or car. Traveling by bike or hitchhike could easily be considered as exceptions for a platform like this. Bikers and hikers are part of our community and they are all welcome of course but they are the minority, I’m saying this based on my 10+ years of active hosting experience.

I don’t believe this is going to be a problem for big cities only in the contrary it maybe a bigger problem for hosts in smaller towns because of privacy issues.

I’m not 100% against having a map. I’m putting my concerns together why we shouldn’t have and I would like to know more about other’s opinion to understand why we should have it.

Cheers
Husso

If us cyclist is a minority really depends on the location, I think.
In Greifswald i had maybe 10% car travelers, zero by plane, almost none by bus, but a lot of cyclists and quite a few hitchhikers, as we were both on the EuroVelo 10 route and along a route a lot of hitchhikers from Scandinavia took to central Europe.

Honestly, I feel like there’s a reason couchsurfing didn’t have this kind of function, and I think their system of searches is much better for the community and safety.

CS had this kind of function, back in the day. They just got rid of it somewhen and promised to reinstate it but never did - one of the reasons I joined Warmshowers around that time, because they still have that feature.

As to accurracy: an area with a radius of 2 km (that is 4 km in diameter!) is both useful for the surfer to see available hosts in the area and to the host by not giving away the location exactly - I can fit my whole village in that circle. And if you don’t trust people enough to say which village you are in, then why joining a site like this at all?

And as for being seen on the world map - maybe there could be a maximum scale for showing the dots? But I believe it clusters already if you zoom out a bit anyway.

I don’t really understand how it will help hitchhikers or cyclists to think they’ve found someone nearby, only to then realize it’s a false location after spending some time trying to plan their route accordingly.

Same thing: trust - I just have to trust the people to enter their location with at least some degree of accuracy. But I’d plan the exact route only when I have a confirmation anyway, and by that point you definietly should tell your surfer how to find you…

I mean, it’s not about finding someone “nearby”, but finding someone in a specific area. For example, let’s say I plan a trip to France takes me through the Paris area from southeast to northwest (so, roughly along the Seine). This is roughly 50 km linear distance, measured on Gmaps. On CS, when I search “Paris”, I get hosts from all over the place - and I have to check each profile for clues as to if this person might be near enough to my route to make it there with a reasonable detour. Or I have to do a search by entering the quarter names along the way and hoping that someone actually entered their quarter name instead of just “Paris” in the location field.
Another example where I really wished back the map feature on CS: I was biking from Kaunas to Klaipeda along the Memel river. I wanted to do a stop halfways, but could not find a single host on the lithuanian side of the River - all I got was the city on the other bank, over in Russia (where I couldn’t go, both for missing visa and missing bridge reasons). If CS still had had the map feature, I just could have searched visually - and I would have either found someone or at least saved me half an hour of searching that turned up squat.

I don’t say that everyone should be forced to appear on the map if they don’t want to, but I’d be stronly against removing the map entirely, and I’d also say that “appear on the map” should be a default yes.
(And maybe default to “no” when you set your profile to “not hosting at the moment”.)

2 Likes

There’s certainly a lot to consider with the map, and nothing is set in stone!

Perhaps we can not display people on the map (or offer the choice) if they are set to “can’t host”.

Personally I don’t see why one should be able to hide themselves if they are hosting, considering you can increase the radius or not put your exact location to protect privacy. If someone only wants to stay with someone in a good location, won’t they find that out after requesting anyway?

The problem with having an easy option to not show yourself on the map is it reduces your discoverability, so then you will definitely get less requests.

3 Likes

Thank you for mentioning a specific little town but I would like to talk about in general habits of the world and most travelers in the world. If I put comments here based on my little hometown I don’t think it would be very accurate and helpful for the growth of this platform. Because. for example how many people usually visit Greifswald? How many CSers we have had in Greifswald?
I don’t want to personalize this conversation more but I’m talking about widers perspective and places where people travel, just to travel there, instead of passing by a specific little town. We are not trying to make an app for cyclists or hikers either. Again statistically they are the minority within the travelers group. There is no offence here, this doesn’t make bikers or hikers less of something but we need to focus on our main goal which I believe it is to support travelers. (In my personal opinion bikers and hikers are much more cool people and usually most open minded easy going than other travelers but this doesn’t change the fact that they are the minority) How many people come to Greifswald just to see Greifswald? It’s population is less than 60k. Pisa has population of around 90k but how many people go visit there and looking for a host? So my point is, of course I don’t want to exclude bikers or hikers or any other group but regardless of the topic we should consider the general habits of the travelers. I hope my point is clearer this time.

Another point is finding someone on your way to Paris. I hear your point here and I would like this problem to be solved in different way. The person who is looking for a host for a very specific reason and in a very specific location then the person should spend a bit more time to search hosts in that specific neighborhood. This is exactly my point why I prefer not to have map. Your point is very clear that you want to find your host faster and more accurate on your specific location. This is exactly the reason I want to avoid having map because this will give opportunity to people to be lazy. In the long run this will discourage people to communicate because they don’t need to talk that much. Without the map people talk, get to know each other ask their location then decide. Many times I have said NO I can’t stay with you and cancelled my requests because their place is way too out of my way. But I still met some of these people in real life although I stayed with others’ houses. Also some guests in Istanbul declined to stay with me on the Asian side of Istanbul but thanks not to having this map feature we had to exchange some conversation and we met. Later on I have hosted the same person in Qatar :slight_smile:
I believe we should coverage people to communicate more with each other instead of finding a host faster on the contrary they shouldn’t find super fast. They should spend some effort to find the right host. They must spend some time in the platform. At the end of the day they are going to stay for free, finding a free guide which is more important than anything, finding a travel buddy or maybe a local family so these reasons are enough to spend some time and effort I guess.

For your biking experience between Lithuania and Russia, I totally understand your need but I’m not quite sure if Couchers are meant for that specifically. Maybe there is something like “Couchers for Bikers” with a fee will solve this issue. Since people are paying for that customized app for bikers then needs of bikers will be solved, too.

yes they will find it anyway but during the process of finding they will meet other hosts and create relation with them. This is what I want actually.
I’m not an authority here and maybe my idea is not the best but I’m just trying to explain my point why we shouldn’t have the map. And I’m asking people to provide some reasons why we should have, what kind of benefits we will get. Since that much people want to have it , there must be some good reasons to have it and I would like to benefit it, too. So far the reasons I have seen, exactly my concerns. :slight_smile:

Cheers
Husso

5 Likes

My main reason for having the map, and I think what others might use it for, is local community building.

Since one of the fundamental tenets of Couchers.org is a “community-first framework,” I just want to highlight these quotes from the Couchers.org website:

The aim of a platform for couch-surfers ought to be to foster the very act of couch-surfing by serving and growing the global community while creating and enlarging local communities.

These communities grow out of many purposes, some are formed based on where we live, others by where we travel, and even more communities form as we stay in touch after returning home.

I’m all for growing communities based on where we live, and unlike on CS, I think a good map will paint a picture of which hosts live nearest to you or in areas where events, nightlife, community and cultural events take place, and it will be far easier to connect with them when they are so close to where you live/places you go regularly/tourist attractions. By being able to see easily where hosts live (more or less), event organizers and other hosts can actually plan better and get people together in convenient areas for themselves and their potential guests.

From a safety and trust standpoint, if you have people being reported for abusing the platform for dating, commercial stuff, of other criminal type activity, and you can actually see where they are based, it might even be easier for people who moderate/lead their communities to approach or meet up with such individuals and try and educate them/build trust/understand who they are and what they’re about. I just see the map feature as a shortcut to really building trust in that way. Dots on a map aren’t just random people; they’re community members who are hosting and could be contributing to community building type activity.

I know this probably sounds bit idealistic and farfetched, but living in a population-dense city, I could never really know with CS how close I was located to other likeminded people. Meeting them at events, hearing about hosts nearby from our common surfers, or finding them through the search function would have been pure coincidence.

Whereas, if I saw them on the map, I might feel like reaching out, planning an event in our neighborhood together, or cooperating to make sure we can host any good requests we get that we can’t necessarily accept.

Consider too that a surfer may have legitimate reasons for requesting your specific area of the city, and if you know of others nearby who might be able to help, you save everyone a step :slight_smile:

These are some of my ideas but they are from a hosting/event organizing standpoint. I simply want to see who else nearby me is hosting and open to joining hangouts/events, maybe even within walking distance! In this way I could have hopes of even building a small community on my street someday, let alone my neighborhood, district, or city.

3 Likes

It’s not about “a specific little town”, it was just an example. In Germany, only about 1/3 of the population lives in cities >100k inhabitants. Granted, more people travel to the big cities than to the small ones, but should that mean we can ignore those? I don’t think so.

There is a seperate “Couchers for bikers” site (that would be the aforementoned Warmshower.org, don’t know about a hiker site). But it suffers from a much smaller userbase than CS had. That was the main appeal of CS - you could find hosts even in the most remote locations because it had a wide userbase, because everyone knew it. The only people hosting on Warmshowers? Cyclists themselves.

Point is, if this site is “to become the next CS while avoiding its mistakes”, there is no reason to not have a map. It doesn’t inhibit anyone from searching by search bar. You still have to read the profiles and write request. You still have to communicate! But instead of having to search literally thousands that would appear when I search “Paris” and often still not knowing if they are in the area I search for, i have to read but a few dozen. It’s not about “being lazy”, it’s just about narrowing down the search to a overseeable number of results. When travelling I have neither the time and the nerves to sift through hundreds of profiles on a tiny phone screen.

Without the map people talk, get to know each other ask their location then decide.

What is the difference to, for example, filtering by age? Anyone who aribtrarily sets the age slider to 20-30 won’t meet someone who just turned 31, even though they might have become best friends. It happens. It doesn’t have to do anything with “lazy” (which by the way is a word I hate with a burning passion in this context).
And what makes you think not having a map would encourage people to not “write lazy requests”? You even use CS as an example for that percieved problem, which doesn’t have a map! Why should that be different here then?

[…] they shouldn’t find super fast. They should spend some effort to find the right host. They must spend some time in the platform. […]

“How not to get a relevant userbase” 101.

yes they will find it anyway but during the process of finding they will meet other hosts and create relation with them. This is what I want actually.

But that is not what this is about. I mean, it is about building relations, yes. But having to create relations with a dozen potential hosts before travelling somewhere to even get a clue if they live where I wanna go, that’s mainly building frustration.

Creating relations is the goal of hospex, not the prerequisite. I’m sorry, but all this talk about “lazy travellers” sounds an awful lot like gatekeeping to me.

(No offense intended, by the way - I hope I don’t sound too harsh. I know I sometimes get into a heated discussion style. I’m sure you have your reasons for your opinion, I obviously just don’t share them.)

3 Likes

I am only hoping that you will make some points other than just bikers. If we only think about bikers and if this a platform for bikers than I can undersign all your points.
Cheers
Husso

This is a great discussion, thanks for everyone who’s been pitching in.

The main reason we mandate coordinates + a display address for location is that geo-data is pretty difficult to get right. As @Hjall already alluded to with the Paris example, it’s impossible to search for people in a useful way given only a text field. In regions which have lots of users, it becomes unusable. There is no “standard” address format that is useful for search across the whole world, the only standard is coordinates. Additionally, we’re working on a set of community features where we really do need to know roughly where users are to make these work.

We definitely want to make sure that people feel comfortable with what information about their location is public (to logged in users) and that they feel it’s not exposing too much private information. There was a discussion on the forum some time ago about a good max-radius, and for now we’ve gone with 2 km. However, the location not being there is directly at odds with discoverability and being able to find hosts.

We’re working on a proper host search feature that will hide dots for people who aren’t able to host or do not satisfy a set of filters (e.g. max guests, etc). There will also be an option to browse through possible hosts as a list, and we’re thinking about ways to avoid the super-host effect caused by various factors, for example by hosts living right in the city center. But in the end, location and proximity to the city is a part that guests look at and we need to acknowledge that.

As to those who are currently unable to host, it’s completely OK to put the location somewhere nearby if they are not comfortable showing their true location. It’d be good if it was roughly indicative of your home though!

I definitely agree that we do not want to cultivate a community of users using Couchers only for finding a free place to stay, so called “freeloaders”. But making the platform difficult to use is not the way to solve this problem. We should create an easy to use platform, but come up with other ways to discourage and weed out freeloaders. I personally think a lot of the freeloading problem on CS was their own doing: they made money out of every new verified user, and the idea of a free place to stay by the city center is great marketing if that’s what you’re optimizing for! We won’t repeat that mistake.

Nothing’s set in stone yet :slight_smile:

4 Likes

This sounds great and I would like to have more explanation how are we going to stop the same mistake happening if we open this map feature for someone who is looking for a host ?

points from the current zoom discussion so they don’t get lost:

  • make clear that the location accuracy doesn’t do anything at the moment
  • maybe cap the zoom level at a yet to be determined size, so you can’t single out someone as easily
  • When clicking on a cluster, open a list of the people within

Oh, and maybe another base map with a little more contrast should be used, at least as an option (don’t think the current one is very good for people with bad eyesight, since even I have problems)

2 Likes

I’ve been traveling overland with the motorbike and always looked for a host on Trustroots first, because they have a map and it’s a real pain trying to find a host without a map. So I very much second @Hjall’s experience.

But I also hosted a few years in a popluar city and agree with @husso that we rather need more reading than less friction finding a host in that case.

We should try to better both experiences. We might need to tweak the working of the map a bit differently, depending on the number of hosts in the vicinity. Or capping the maximum zoom level could already work both ways!?

@Emily I could imagine users that wouldn’t want to be approached about taking part in neighbourhood networking. But just want to use the platform for hospitality exchange. If we want to support that use case, we should maybe have an option to express it as a preference, similar to being interested in hanging out?

4 Likes

I like your suggestion, and I tend to think the same.

Being able to search for hosts via the map will mean that the more central you live the more requests you will get. And this is not the best as it will attract ‘lazier’ guests as you say.

However, it would still be good to be able to see a host’s location once on their profile, just to double check that the location they’re in is not too far off where the guest is intending to stay.

I remember using CS a lot when travelling to foreign countries and there was definitely a lack of clarity on the platform in regards to where the hosts were, which sometimes made me reconsider staying with someone (say if they’re 10 miles away from the town you’re visiting and you don’t have any public transport options).

Maybe if we remove the map option from the search but keep it on each person’s profile it would be a good compromise?

2 Likes

That would essentially make it impossible to search by map again, so I am strongly against that. Also, it wouldn’t be a solution to the problem that some people might not want to have their exact location displayed openly, even in their profile.
A zoom level cap on the map at a smaller scale is better in both regards - someone like me can still search by approximate location, and no one is pinpointed more exactly than 1000 m (or 500 or 2000 or 777 or whatever).

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