Drupal's Hospitality Network as a Couchsurfing.com replacement

christefano's picture

With the "digital nomads" breakout session at DrupalCon Portland still on my mind, I came across an intriguing blog post today by Nithin Coca about the so-called "rise and fall" of Couchsurfing.

For me, one of the big takeaways from reading the post is I learned that Couchsurfing.com went commercial last year. Nithin Coca's argument is that as a result of its commercialization, its business model makes room for "quantity over quality" and the site and its community has gone downhill. Some of the inter-related issues that he brings up are:

  1. His experience at a Couchsurfing meetup was that attendee ratio leaned toward more socialites and fewer travelers and hosts;
  2. Trust between Couchsurfing.com travelers and hosts has diminished over time;
  3. A gender imbalance has always existed on Couchsurfing, but the treatment of women has worsened over time.

My feeling about our Drupal Hospitality Network (and the Drupal California Travelers Program) is that because our groups are already deeply connected to the Drupal community, we're automatically solving those issues:

  1. We have a strong, global community with individuals who are active contributors;
  2. Having public profiles on Drupal.org creates visibility, enables communication, helps establish trust, etc. — our members are less likely to flake, as that may affect trust in one another and our working relationships;
  3. Our community appears has a healthier gender balance than Couchsurfing.com (at least from my reading of Nithin Coca's critique).

What I'm left with now are questions. What kind of lessons can we learn from Couchsurfing.com that would make our Hospitality Network even better? Is there a uniform message or badge that we can put on our Drupal.org profiles to show our involvement? Is there interest in building a new website that recreates the best parts of Couchsurfing and AirBnB but is specifically for the Drupal community?

Discussion is welcome both here and at https://largerobot.com/articles/finding-a-couchsurfing-com-replacement  

Comments

warmshowers.org as a model

jhodgdon's picture

Are you aware of http://warmshowers.org, which is a Drupal site managed (in part) by Randy Fay (rfay)? Warmshowers is a hospitality network specifically for bicycle touring, which has been in existence for many years now. The site works well, and it is quite a successful community (from my personal experience using it as a host and as a traveler, it seems that way anyway). This seems like a good model to strive for, rather than specifically couchsurfing.org, because it's a hospitality network specific to a particular niche, and has some of the same attributes as I think you're looking for. For instance, I feel a lot more comfortable both hosting and staying with other cycle tourists than with the general couchsurfer crowd. Also if I am cycling touring, generic couchsurfing hosts don't probably have a place to put my bike and a willingness to deal with "I'm not sure exactly when I'll arrive" (in the case of Drupalists, it might be that I can assume they have WiFi and don't mind if I come back late from the Drupal event we're both attending). Plus you have something in common to talk about in the evenings. :)

One thing that warmshowers does that I think you'll need to think about with the Drupal network is that by policy, you can only use warmshowers.org when you are actually on a bicycle tour. The analogy would be that you could only use the Drupal hospitality network when you're going to a Drupal-related event. I'm not necessarily advocating that this policy be adopted, but it is a question that probably needs to be discussed. It might also be possible to have that be an option on the site: members could say whether they're willing to host Drupalists for non-Drupal-related travel or just Drupal-related travel, and then when you search for a place to stay, you could check whether it's Drupal-related travel or not. That way, everyone's preferences in that regard could be respected. I can just imagine that a Drupalist in Paris, for instance, if the site was open to non-Drupal-related travel without a way to restrict it, could get innundated with hosting requests and burn out. Anyway, it's something to consider, one way or the other.

You also mentioned AirBnB in this post... that is a site for finding paid lodging, and I don't consider it to be too much like Couchsurfing. A lot of the listings in there are actually pretty expensive, and are actually time shares and the like, rather than being lodging in someone's spare room or living room. In any case, my opinion would be that mixing couchsurfing and AirBNB on the same site is not a great idea.

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jhodgdon, thanks so much for

christefano's picture

jhodgdon, thanks so much for this awesome, detailed response! I especially like your idea of making a more explicit connection between the use of the hospitality network and attending a Drupal-related event.

Regarding Airbnb, their paid model is not something that I'm personally interested in copying but the idea of having member profiles, displaying physical places and supporting a network of trusted individuals are things I am thinking about all the time.

I'd heard of warmshowers.org before but had no idea that it was a Drupal site. Next chance I get I'll talk with some of the webmasters and glean some advice. It's very similar to what I've been thinking. I applied for an account in the meantime.


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Beyond couchsurfing?

Kendall Totten's picture

There was some discussion at Drupalcon Portland about using this group as a means to trade spaces. This means instead of staying with your host, you would swap houses for a week or two. Perhaps this should be another discussion thread altogether but is this something anyone else is interested in?

volunteer network

camiloche's picture

Hello

I built www.kindmankind.net a straightforward D6 site for independent volunteers
View and maps are extremely powerful, and I think the only big issue to solve is the creation of a web of trust... couchsurfing is really good at that.
I plan to put up a Drupal 8 site do experiment with this.
In particular I want to go beyond CS. Profiles should be semantically richer (www.metaweb.org) so suddenly the hospitality site is ALSO

carsharing
freeganism
hitchwiki
housesitting
foodsharing
volunteering
dating :)
etc

Best

Kamiel

Drupal California

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