Couchers doesn’t seem to be going too far away from the CS model.
The name is similar, the platform just about the same. One difference is no joining fee.
Perhaps, the bigger picture may be to find something unique that Couchsurfing doesn’t have.
Would it be a good idea in this planning phase to find something unique that CS doesn’t offer?
I would see the main goal of couchers being a club for travellers.
Perhaps expand on this to include more than meet ups and accommodation, but also the travel component, linking transport options like flights, boats and road. It may have budget airfares, or special deals on bus companies.
If couchers was ever going to develop something new it should be now with the aim to attract members, rather than relying on memberships coming from other couchsurfing clubs just because it’s free.
Couchers doesn’t seem to be going too far away from the CS model.
I think it would be wrong to say we are using the CS or any other existing model. The primary aim that BW and TR try to progress is enabling the activity of couch-surfing. CS’s primary aim is profit that they hope to gain also by encouraging this activity.
In all of these scenarios, what we have all observed is emergent communities that have formed around this activity. We all know and love them. People that start meeting up weekly and organising events, welcoming new people to their town and facilitating trips and language exchanges.
Where our model is different is that we explicitly canonise these communities as central to the platform and the organisation. These communities will be responsible for ensuring moderation, safety, community growth and general growth of the couch-surfing movement. We put a lot of power in their hands instead of centralising it. This model may only seem like a subtle change from the outside but is extremely fundamental to the future direction.
In terms of other functionalities that can be provided. The scope should be any activity that encourages non-transactional, in-person interaction between people and interaction with one’s community. This is why events fit so well into the couch-surfing model, they have the same underlying principle. Other people have suggested things like ride-sharing arrangements and things like that, and it’ll be fun to explore these ideas for implementing features after the first proper version has been rolled out.
Yip, I agree we can expand and put more services than CS does not have the cs platform is limited, CS members are pushing the envelope and CS slowly adapts these changes like couch crash, but still not not embrace social media ie fb, whatapp, ig that many people are using to communicate
members want to network and meet and plan as a natural progression evolving
on the other hand the platform expands too much it dilutes and people have no idea what’s going on and breaks down ie if something is planned and discussed in whatapp but not communitcate in the events calendar or pictures posted in ig but nobody see it to reinforce past events or request discussed in fb and nobody see it member think nobody cares
each of these platforms present something unique and the cs app is very limited
so my proposal is to create a team to discuss the good things that each of these platforms have we need min of 2-3 people the first phase and discuss what do we like about each and then go from there
Here’s an idea. Many other hospitality groups concentrate on travellers/tourists. People passing through for a few days. That has had a lot of problems and good things.
Perhaps an audience of people who are our " guests sharing our city" here but overlooked are international students and those here from overseas on temporary work visas. The plus is that they are here for a while and have some degree of independence, but need our friendship and support.
This has international relations ramifications in that if we build good relationships with these people they hopefully go back to their home and tell others good stories about our country.
I think that’s a great point that we will easily miss if we follow the cs layout too much. If a central aim is to connect people, we can’t think within a closed platform, that’s like a networking model from a past internet era. We have to offer a variety of access paths and contact points. That could mean embracing fb and other social media groups, rather than spending ressources trying to chip away from the activity there.
On the other hand, we’re not just aiming at picking up customers right where they are within a business logic, but want to provide a space for shared community ressources. So a standalone platform seems essential as well.
I’d say it just has to be balanced.
That’s what BeWelcome and Trustroots are doing, in different manners, with different philosophies.
BeWelcome is more the conservative side of hospex, Trustroots is like the liberal side with its focus on alternative lifestyles, what I found new about couchers (from the website and messages from the founders) is that it can recognizes the strengths that CS had instead of demonizing everything about it.
Many people weren’t around to witness this, but CS was pretty damn great at one time. There was nothing wrong with the old model which is why it was working so well back then. The sale that led to it’s demise turned out to be very unfortunate but is still evidence of what it once was, obviously no fool would fork over millions for what it has become. If it ain’t broke there is no need to fix it, thus we could offer exactly what CS used to be minus all of the reasons it is failing right now and be just fine. It would take zero effort to differ from CS in that case because the changes they have made, all of which have led to its decline, have caused it to diverege into something entirely different than the era we would recreate. To present anything resembling the old CS is indeed something entirely new and exactly what is needed. There is no need to water this down with other services already present elsewhere, the real couchsurfing is what is currently missing from the planet. Also in my experience with volunteer work and community involvement the people with the most ambitious ideas are NEVER the ones willing to do what it takes to implement them.
I’d been using CS since 2007 and HC before that. Now missing this sort of platform A LOT so keep my fingers crossed for Couchers!
Not sure though if replacing CS one-to-one is the best idea. Why? Because something brand new is being created, so why not make it stand out and unique?
But to the point - I was thinking about the question posted in here and have few ideas I’d like to check with you guys. How Couchers could stand out and make even bigger impact than CS? It revolves around money, I’m afraid.
- I totally appreciate that the project is non-profit, but… as number of members goes up (and eventually members should be counted not in thousands but in millions, right?), running this platform will require some significant money and this money could and should come from members. In this I agree with brenontheroad, who wrote great article about CS - paid services are usually way better than free ones.
And this is only fair in my view as it shouldn’t be expected that core team works their butts off and finances everything. Few ways to make money:
- ads, although this would be great to avoid this route and keep the platform as ads-free as possible.
- paid membership. One option is to keep basic profile with all funcionalities free to use for everyone and introduce voluntary paid premium membership only as a way to show support for the project.
- voluntary donations.
Now, as soon as money appears, it is great to keep everything super-transparent. So after end of each fiscal year there should be a financial statement published and available for all users.
As money comes in, not everything will be spent on the platform, so why not give some of the money back to users?
Each year there could be a call for projects, which benefit local community or local environment. For a project to be accepted, at least 50 (or 100 or even more as platform grows) votes from users must be gathered. Once all projects are accepted, there’s a general vote among all users to select winning projects. And this could be a great addition with significant wow-effect.
No ghost profiles, no fake profiles, only verified members. Profiles of inactive members (no hosting / surfing / logging / no activity at all for a certain period) are being deleted.
What are your thoughts on the above?
Love and light,
Hi Lukasz! Welcome to Couchers and our community forum.
Let me share some thoughts on questions you’ve asked. I’m one of the co-founders of the project, and I have oversight over a lot of our core contributor teams.
Also, if you have more questions like this or want to meet some of the team, please join us on Sunday at the Open Town Hall which is specifically for this kind of stuff!
We have gone with a voluntary donations model for now. We absolutely want this to grow and have millions of users, and that certainly requires large amounts of money. The bare minimum is paying for admin costs (legal, accounting, etc); and for servers. The former is basically a constant yearly cost, the former grows somewhat sublinearly with users. The cost of admin should be around $1k per year, and the cost of servers is around 5-20c per active user per year. That money will be very easy to raise through donations (every 100th person would need to donate $20). However, of course we want to do more than the bare minimum, and we’d love to raise more money. We believe we can raise a lot more through donations if we are open to it (some projects reject donations beyond the minimum), do a good job, are transparent, and show people the money is well spent. We don’t want to run ads: that just makes the experience worse and the way ads are done on the web these days is not respectful of the users. We also don’t want to create different classes of users, and an expectation of better “service” from paid users.
If we get enough money, we would love to spend it on enhancing our local Couchers communities, and helping them operate, run events, and do outreach. For donations though, we should probably spend the money on the states purpose: advancing couch surfing, building and maintaining the platform, and encouraging related activities. So not veering too far in our expenditure.
This is something that we’ve been thinking about a lot both among the core contributors as well as here on the forum. I do not think inactive users need to be deleted: if someone can’t host for two years while living in a tiny apartment, there’s no need to delete their account, references, etc. It’s sufficient to hide their account from search and listing, etc.
This is what I think the model should be:
people to meet, places to stay, things to do, all over the world
Just do this really well and you are already vastly superior to every other platform. Use CS as a counter model - what did they get rid of that people got upset about? Whatever the answer is, do that: keep it free, be transparent about money, keep it community, keep it decentralised. Figure out an honest and community orientated way of making money. Figure out better safeguarding.
There is another model I’ve seen elsewhere which, although is basically a donations model, it is framed as a subscriber model - in that rather than there being locked features only available to subscribers, the “locked” features become available to the entire community once a certain amount of people become subscribers. So the subscribers are really just donating, but this way of framing it I find interesting for a few reasons:
- it can help make financing transparent if subscriptions are a fixed rate, the amount of subscribers are shown, and the subscriber goals/what features/etc will become possible if the subscriber count reaches a high enough number
- it can make the financing accountable, because the goals are clearly set beforehand and if the subscriber count hits the goal marker, then all users will be able to expect that feature/whatever to come out
- I think it would create more of a sense of community and ‘payoff’ for subscribers seeing their contribution is directly working towards the next goal
- it wouldn’t create different classes of users because everybody benefits
I suppose it would be similar to a donation drive model of like “we need x dollars by this date to continue operations for another year” in that we are communicating what we need, how much of it we need, and what exactly getting that need fulfilled will help us accomplish, only instead of dollars, it’s people (with each person representing a fixed dollar amount).
It interests me because, to the subscriber, it puts the emphasis on the community over the dollar amount, and i wonder if that might be more inviting for some people to become a ‘subscriber’
(an additional topic would be if this model were used, would the subscriber have something on their profile showing they are subscribers. I would say no, because otherwise it would just create the issue of different classes of users again)
It’s basically a community fundraising its own social network.
I’m not sure how that works? When talking about “business model”, we’re talking about dollars, it’s what we need. (Growing the community is a more important thing but a separate topic.)
Who is being held accountable here? I put a huge amount of effort into Couchers, and I want us as a team to provide the community with a quality service and keep our standards high. But I really don’t think it’s a good idea for us to sell an expectation of features coming out.
The one case where I could theoretically see this working out would be if we truly had a fully paid team. But there is just not going to be enough “subscribers” to pay several million dollars a year for a high quality team to build out this product.
Yep totally. I meant to communicate that it would show how many people those dollars are coming from, not that there are no dollars.
In this model, the team/platform would have direct goals, objective markers, etc. It’s a way of saying to the people “this is what we think we need to be able to do this.” The platform as a whole would be held accountable but who would be holding it accountable is another question.
And you’re right, it might not be the best idea to make such precise promises with the limited resources available.
I’m not really sure where this is coming from? I didn’t mean to suggest you haven’t been putting effort into the platform so apologies if it came off that way!!
Ultimately I brought this up and tried to write the arguments for it for people’s consideration, but it’s not necessarily what I think is the best model for couchers and I’m not arguing for it to be implemented
Sorry: I didn’t articulate my thoughts very well this morning. I also don’t mean to come off aggressive in any way!
What I tried to say is that I think such a subscriber model still wouldn’t incentivize enough people to contribute enough money for us to pay a full-time salaried team (we’d need tens or hundreds of thousands of subscribers).
Then if we tried to somehow mix this subscriber idea with volunteers, it would create unfair pressure and expectations on volunteers. For example, a member of the community that put up money for a feature could be annoyed at our volunteer developers for not having finished it as fast as they would have hoped or not in the way they desired.
I wanted to prefix what I wrote after that with a “disclaimer” that even though we don’t want to pressure our volunteers in those ways, that we still take this project very seriously and want to maintain high standards and expectations of quality.