I don’t think using Couchsurfing for dating or hookups should be viewed as a bad thing at all. Consenting adults should be able to do what they want. The negative part comes in when people get a) unsolicited, rude and lewd comments in messages and b) are being creeped on in real life despite having clearly said no.
Getting rude messages: I am inclined towards having a report system, but having to moderate these messages and users will be a strain on manpower, especially when we are a non-profit where everyone’s a volunteer. Is it reasonable to lower a user’s community standing by a few points whenever they have a report lodged against them for inappropriate messages? And this is automatically, without moderation on our end. This could potentially be misused, but I’m not sure what other alternatives there are.
Feeling uncomfortable in real life: To be totally honest, I don’t have a good suggestion for this. Using the community standing score or any other rating with an average still signals that your last guest gave you a less-than-ideal score. I’m a bit confused actually - from what I remember, it wasn’t possible to edit your review after both parties have submitted them. Can somebody enlighten me on why there were fears of ‘revenge references’?
That’s pretty dumb. I suggest we implement only one column of references for all types of interactions (meetups, hosting, or surfing). And only allow references if users have had any sort of confirmed interaction.
I do acknowledge though that it doesn’t completely solve the revenge reference issue. A predator can still leave you a negative review when you react badly to their advances. It’s a very complex problem imo and people definitely need to be reassured somehow that there are no consequences to reporting, and we’ll step in if such a situation happens. Safety needs to be a higher priority in our messaging, I guess.
a “this is not a dating app” message at the start for new users?
I respectfully disagree with you here Kellyt, I think this is exactly the problem. The purpose of couchsurfing is for meeting new people and making connections - yes, this might sometimes turn romantic or into a hookup as things naturally do in real life when you meet people. But when people use it with the INTENTION of finding romance/sex is when it becomes “creepy” and I think totally inappropriate, and is why using the app can be uncomfortable and unappealing for so many people.
I personally have had several negative experiences with couchsurfing - not necessarily cos the guy was “rude” or “lewd” to me, but because his intention was to meet women and so there is an expectation that this is a date, and then sometimes sex is expected later and then you are in a very uncomfortable and unpleasant situation (especially if you are alone with them in a foreign country!!!). Not to mention countless messages and friend requests all from men which makes my inbox look no different to tinder! It makes it very hard to trust people, and I have heard similar sentiments from many of my female friends.
I agree with Lucas, and think there should be a clear message for new users that this app is NOT for dating, highlighting the importance of this in order to make others comfortable. If two people meet and then happen to get along like magic then that’s great but it should not be the purpose of the app for anyone, and first meetings/hostings of people should be tread with utmost care in this regard (ESPECIALLY if you are the host or the local ‘tour guide’, as you are in a position of power as such, in which case hitting on your couchsurfer is probably never appropriate).
Ofcourse you can’t control people and it will no doubt happen regardless, but having some kind of message like this to new users at the BEGINNING and throughout might make a lot of people think differently about their actions. I think a lot of people would just react mad and defensive if they receive a message like this afterwards.
After all, most “creeps” are just misguided and they may not realise they are doing anything bad.
To sum up my long argument (sorry)
It’s not about overtly creepy or gross messages. Although these do happen occasionally, for the most part it is just a hundred polite introductions (all from men! ), exactly as you would receive in a dating app :).
People need to be told not to use this as a dating app to make people think twice about how/why they use the app
This could be perhaps a pop up message to new users? part of their introductory email? Part of the main ethos of the community with frequent reminders? Like when you go to send a DM or accept a couchsurfer?
I wonder if in the profile I could link to another social media, for example my Facebook ? Anyone wondering about us (we are a couple) could at a click see who we are and see about our daily lives. This would also mean we wouldn’t need to put many pictures on this website. It wouldn’t be the "silver bullet"of stopping website dating/hookups/casual sex, but would at least give a more rounded view of the member than the just the profile alone.
I’ve received more “hey beautiful” or “hi i am looking for friends” (female friends of course) than I can count, and this is without being particularly beautiful or coming off as particularly friendly. I agree with Eileen and others that it needs to be very clear that Couchers is NOT a dating site. Sure, if love happens, it happens, and that’s fine, but we’re at the intention level here, and the intention should not be love / sex / durex / whatever.
I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the “hello” messages, though. I’ve found that some people send short “hello” or “hi” messages because of two reasons:
language barrier - it’s not that they don’t know more words, it’s just that writing long messages in a language you don’t know well takes a lot of effort, which is quickly seen as too much effort if you’re not even sure you’ll get a couch / a hookup / whatever at the end of it
social messaging - instead of writing one long message, they’ll write several short ones, first “hello”, then “how are you”, etc etc, ending up with “can you host me on 12th August” five messages down the line. Limited effort for limited certainty: they don’t know if you’ll host them / be friends with them / have sex with them, so first they’ll see if you reply, and if you do, they’ll continue the conversation, in the same way as many surfers will send copy-pastes out and then read the profiles of those who reply.
An automated “hey, this site is not for dating” seems condescending and potentially unnecessary to me. I’d rather see a more positively-worded “reaching out to introduce yourself? tell XXX what brought you to Couchers and how you’d like to contribute to the community” or something like that. I’m sure this could be far better worded but the idea would be to promote positivity rather than telling people off, and to use the opportunity to reinforce the idea that this is a travellers’ community of friendly people who meet and host each other, not a sexy international dating site where you can sleep with five different nationalities in a week.
Here are the ideas for a character limit warning message I’ve collected from the thread so far:
“Some hosts get a lot of messages every day - a more detailed message could catch their attention!”
“Reaching out to introduce yourself? Tell XXX what brought you to Couchers and how you’d like to contribute to the community”
“Just a warning - your message could be flagged as spam if it is too short.”
“Remember, Couchers is about forming sincere friendships across borders."
I think this could help if they try to send a message with less than 20 characters or whatever, and this warning comes up before they can hit send. I think it would be a great deterrent to dating spam and the phenomenon Emily mentioned, which is sending a few short messages instead of one with all the details.
Maybe go one next step further away from…couchsurfing and airbnb too.
Do not allow public references so that people dont feel obliged to leave a positive ref in order to receive one in return!
Allow them to leave extensive internal refs , like booking.com i think, after a stay in a hostel/hotel, you get an extensive bullet points questionaire about EVERYTHING regarding your stay altho the rating for ‘‘how close to public transport’’ kind of questions do not apply with hospex and when it does, it involves freeloaders who want to stay ‘centrally as possible’ which is not the spirit of hospex/exploring.
Then internal only rating could - if the tech allows it- be shown as a badge on each profile like this:
This user has hosted 4 couchers (1 female, 2 males, 1 non-binary)
Was hosted 2 times. (by 1 female, by 1 male)
Positive: 3 couchers said they trust this coucher
Negative:1 coucher said they dont trust this coucher
Neutral: 1 coucher said they dont trust this coucher
Map of where this couchers was hosted in.
Map of what countries/cultures this coucher has hosted.
From the above information we can get a sense of trust (and trust me some ppl will still choose to stay with someone despite negative refs). We know if someone is hosting only one gender (usually a sex predator). We know if he/she picks ppl from one region (again, usually but not always a sex predator). We can infer a lot of things about this info.
Another safety issue is prepare an safetey for couchers pdf ebook and send it default to each new member to download and have it always in some ‘‘resources’’ area called ‘‘travel library’’ or something where you can gather memoirs as ebooks from couchers, create even if you want a small bookshop if they want to sell them than give them for free, and allow ppl to pay and download memoirs of travel they want to read. Finally allow each member to have a blog if tech allows it, cause you can get a lot of personality traits and a lot of info about one’s personaity from his/her blog.
So overal trust would be shown by how much a user is engaging not just hosting (and socializing with ppl) but how much he/she support this concept of meeting and hosting or get hosted by a traveller/stranger.
A profile would be showing:
How many ppl he/she hosted and when was the last hosting
if they are hosting now or prefer only to meet up
if they created any events (im not happy with hangouts, they created a lot of bad vibes for me, events ar emore controlable and one can organize them ahead of time better and with more safety)
if they upheld any regular events (altho this can also indicate a sex predator, depends though what he/she do during those regular events)
if they write in this forum (yes, if they engage in online fora in couchers sharing their thoughts and ideas, this is also something a sex predator normally would not bother with, unless to promote himself to possible victims of his… like it happens in couchsurfing.com groups where you see peole with negative refs regarding their stalker behaviour, still having a profile, and still leaving comments to self-advertise their availability to women/men they like to host… need i say more?)
Overal engagement of a user should be shown on his /her profile with a badge and if they reach 1000 comments or posts in a forum get a new badge and so forth.
BUt i would not like to see a feature where you read all the contributions of a user. This is a good helper to stalkers. I think couchsurfering.com and facebook.com and any social network suffers from stalkers and haters (ppl you met already , you perhaps denied sex or whatever or they just hate you for whatever). COuchsurfing.com has allowed clusters and teams of old members to create hate squads to my knowledge. Racist hate squads even. IN a discussion you would see only europeans and australians and almos tnobody from other regions discussing.
I would say a forum where each country has its own subforum where they can talk in their own language if they want, that would be awesome and cool and a true sign of multicultural society in this project.
I dont like this cause in couchsurfing.com I had issues with constant suspensions because i got a team of haters constantly reporting my profile. Even couchsurfing safety team told me this. I also had one of them (an abuser member i met in public who was for some reason against me for speaking up about abuse in couchsurfing), tell me in PM '‘we will bring down your profile as often as possible’’. And the AI couchsurfing.com has allows this hater and his friends to actually mass-report and disable my profile every now and then, so this is one reason i cannot be member of couchsurfing.com anymore. The safety team say they cannot do something since its because of their software…
So AI can be good but if users now how to manipulate AI it can be very bothersome both for the user and allow abusers have some fun/tweeks with it too:/
@anon29844220: that’s a good point: we are working hard with some experienced community leaders on how they think moderation should work, and how we should build it, so we don’t end up relying on mindless bots to ban people.
I think what @lucas was referring to was to have a joke thing next to where you write a message to other people, and if you write something creepy or whatever, the thing would say “I don’t think that’s a very nice message” or something like that. Not just an automatic banning AI!
I am a researcher in the Tourism Department at the University of Otago. I love the discussion on this topic and points made so far. My research has mostly concentrated on the well-being of guides who identify as women in the adventure tourism industry. However, I have travelled extensively by using couch surfers and warm showers while doing cross-country cycling trips. Based on several anecdotal reports that I have had from friends who identify as women, CS has been quite problematic for several of them and I was told of some horrific incidences that never lead to anything when they reported it to CS. I am not sure what the best approach would be to ensure everyone feels safe on this new platform, but I must insist on the importance of thinking it through before the launch. I love some of the suggestions pointed to already (e.g., AI detection of ‘creepy’ message, ensuring references that can be anonymized…). I would suggest making sure that a team is able to respond to victims of assault/inappropriate behavior. This team would make sure to follow-up with the host or guest and not hesitate to ban them. I message emphasizing that this in not a platform for meeting people intimately or even for dates. This message should be very clear and not buried through tons of text. Feel free to email me if you would like any elaboration on these ideas/research about this. Cheers, Patrick, (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thank you for sharing your experience and anecdotes. I’ve been talking with many people about the issue over the last few weeks (And indeed, since I started CS 13 years ago) and your points can’t be emphasized enough. Women turned away from CS in droves because of the behavior of some people in the community. Many women I know personally gave up on it without even hosting/surfing ONCE due to messages they’d receive or a lack of other women on the platform in general. I know of people who were otherwise a great fit for CS not trying it just because they heard other women’s stories and were to afraid to join. I also think CS did next to nothing to curb that problem.
Some members of this discussion have pointed out that prevention is important, while others seem resigned to the fact that creeps are going to creep. I err on the side of preventing predatory behavior as much as humanly possible. Even one person who starts sending out dating spam to 100 people could ruin it for an exponential amount of others.
Quick edit: I think it goes without saying that I and probably other female members who’ve voiced their concerns here are speaking on behalf of women we know; we ourselves are likely equipped/unfazed to deal with predators, don’t mind them much, or perhaps even enjoy the attention, I’m not judging. The important thing is that there is a large swath of potential users that don’t have a voice here because they didn’t put upWith/accept/experience the stuff we may have for whatever reason, but they deserve to be heard just as much as we do.
Interesting discussion here Think (already mentioned and proposed on the main site) some anonymous feedback with the reference would work the best in combination with member rating.
Maybe it’s an idea to have some local representatives/ambassadors so after the anonomous feedback they can try to handle and moderate the situation locally?
Now on the CS website the safety team is dealing with it by they don’t know what’s happening 8000km away since there’s always two sides of the story. This kind of worked before on CS when local ambassadors could still send/warn messages to the local community. Got for example some messages not to host this guy with profile link since he robbed another CS’er (and updates about his new fake accounts). Or maybe even better some kind of automated tools integrated for the local ambassador/moderators? As well if somebody got flagged with anonymous feedback for dating purposes, (let’s say three times?) the local ambassador will contact him/her and can eventually suspend their account if needed. (maybe the safety team needs to approve it in case the local ambassador will misuse his/her power?)
Only sidenote is that you’ll need an active local community to get this work and maybe some clear protocols to follow and an overall safety team to supervise it and correct where needed.
And for sure some more things to add or overthink?
I think this is absolutely the way to go. Where possible, moderation tasks should be delegated to community members. Another reason for this is because it’s scaleable if implemented correctly. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that CS can’t handle all the reporting and moderation.