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The social proof that a couch surfing reference brought was second to none. Each one boils down to this "I, a stranger, stayed for a few nights in this other strangers home for free, and they were good human beings". That social proof carried to any part of the globe you visited.

I cannot think of an internet app that brought people together in a more meaningful and wholesome way at scale.

It was great while it lasted.




It was well thought out too, hard to spam with fake comments etc.

My family hosted people for a year or two and we were never empty. The appeal of a family home with a private room that had dozens of reviews from well travelled guests was so overwhelming people would take an air mattress in my study if the private room was taken by others. We regularly had multiple groups of people staying. Our record was 11 which included 6 German 19yr olds who had a campervan but wanted access to a shower after a week in the Australian summer together.

We also were contacted by one person who was trapped in one of those "We paid for your travel here so we've confiscated your passport and you work in our shop until we decide you've paid your debt" situations. We gave her the comfort to know she had a place to stay and then a friend and I went round to collect her, he was accidently still wearing his police uniform from work, so unsurprisingly we recovered her passport quite quickly.

It was a truly great site at that time, I stayed in a few places using it, but switched to AirBnB when I could no longer find places to stay in the cities I needed to visit.


I love the "We somewhat casually freed someone from de facto slavery." anecdote. Made my day.


> he was accidently still wearing his police uniform

Hear, hear, fine sirs!


I like this feeling in my forearm bones when I just strike and hang my axe in a swollen vain of a pure and juicy Gold-pressed latinum of the Internet.

Naw, no judgement here - it's just a _gut feeling_ of a high-resolution detection/detector of the decline of the civilization-type-of-situation.

again, namaste to us all \m/


> It was well thought out too, hard to spam with fake comments etc.

Curious, what techniques did they use for that?


Actually I might retract that statement, further reading on https://couchers.org/ makes me think that it could have been a lot better. People may not have left negative reviews because they didn't want to be perceived as difficult hosts/guests.


> he was accidently still wearing his police uniform from work

Wait, this was a cop? Did they face any consequences for this?


Friend was a cop, not the guy who trapped the woman.


> That social proof carried to any part of the globe you visited.

> I cannot think of an internet app that brought people together in a more meaningful and wholesome way at scale.

It also carried over to friendships. For a few short months, I was one of the most active hosts in my city (mainly because we had a house with lots of space and all of my housemates were couchsurfers), until the landlord wanted to sell and we had to move. After that, when I could no longer host, couchsurfers were still my primary social group and we met up multiple times a week to hang out, party or do activities together. I miss those days. I also know at least three people who met their spouses through couchsurfing.

On the other hand, my Airbnb experience was that of a cheaper hotel/rented accommodation, with no new friends, no social aspect, just a place to stay in exchange for money.


It seems like for any tech company to be successful and sustainable it has to destroy the openness and community it was born from. I discovered couch surfing right as my wandering days came to a close and I feel I sorely missed out.


I think the destruction of openness is a reflection of the user they serve. When Airbnb serves only NYC they can be idiosyncratic to the population there, and their smaller user base is a more similar type of person.

Once at scale, they have to appeal to everyone in the addressable market, which is a very diverse set of people, which makes shared community and closeness harder (what do 100m people all have in common except superficially?).

They don’t kill the openness intentionally, it’s just a consequence of that fact that mass appeal is the opposite of tightknit


Pareto principle. 80% of people are decent human beings, but the 20% that aren’t cause 80% of the problems.


Price's law: the square root of the population produces 50% of the trouble.

Apply that to the US (328.2 million people) and we have that 18,116 individuals are responsible for 50% of problems.

Mic drop


Wait, what? Price's Law. The square root of the number of people in a domain do 50% of the work.

Nothing about trouble.


Causing trouble is work, of sorts.

But perhaps it would be clearer if restated as, "50% of impact in a domain can be attributed to square root the number of people in that domain".


Could also be applied to community discussion, both online and in meatspace.

There is an extreme minority of people who comment and up/down vote who drive the discussion of the whole. The 99% rarely participate and just go along for the ride.


Uhhhhhhhh... the golden ratio.


Totally and like... problems are fractal in nature, you have problems within problems within problems!


It's turtles the whole way down.


And the square root of that is 135, which causes 25% of the total trouble. If we could only find these people and get rid of them, we'd have paradise on Earth!

And that's how genocides start.


20% of people are not decent human beings? Harsh.


Have you met people?


Is one person out of five that you meet causing trouble?


Keep in mind, out of 25 people, one is causing 64% of the problems while the worst four besides that one are responsible for just an additional 16%.


> out of 25 people, one is causing 64% of the problems while the worst four besides that one are responsible for just an additional 16%

Also, if you have any influence over which 20 people you spend time with, they're probably the 20 out of 25 who are not those five.


If driving on a highway is any indication, then yes


People who are shit are probably excluded from many social circles, so I don't think that's a great indicator.


If the answer is "no", it's probably you.


This seems about right, just anecdotally though.


If only we had some kind of "credit score" but for social things..


The old Accidental Black Mirror.


The episode focused only on the downsides of this idea, not the upsides. And of course they chose the worst possible implementation to make the plot more juicy. With this attitude you can make any technology look bad.

If 20% of people cause 80% of the trouble and this idea fixes that, then perhaps there is some merit in the idea even if you consider the downsides.


I'm surprised /r/UnexpectedBlackMirror doesn't exist yet.


Unlike the inquisition, everybody expects Black Mirror these days.


And it should be algorithmically driven with all sorts of fun edge cases and poor maintenance.

Edit: oh, and obviously closed source, and have it's entire db leak about once a year due to excellent security.


Nah... surely there's no way that software could mess up... people have all kinds of strange ideas, like traffic cameras looking for people using phones, and tag a guy scratching his head.... this surely is impossible to happen in real life with modern software.


非常有趣,请告诉更多


On Couchsurfing we did. The problem was that it was ultimately under the control of a small group of people, and they sold out.


Hello from China


I am very much still living this, Couchsurfing got more difficult to use and a lot of people don't use it because of the so called "pay wall" but luckily alternatives are there and will hopefully with more posts like this get more traction... I like Trustroots most


Hey Chagai! Nice to see you on HN :)

How active are online meetups on Trustroots? It's nice to see that they do now exist, but I wonder whether the map limits it to people in the same geographical area. And I'l always be happy to see you on Thursday's BW Asia-Pacific weekly meetup.


Hey, long time no see! They are pretty active (the past few weeks are an exception I hope), you mean the volunteering meet ups?

I'll try dropping in to the BW online meetup soon!


I agree it's not the same, but AirBnB profiles with a long list of positive ratings as a guest play a similar role. "This person slept under my roof, acted well, and treated my home with respect". When I advertised my apartment for a sublet on Craigslist, I received a couple AirBnB profiles and considered them pretty compelling as references. I ended up subletting to one of those people, and they were great.


The dynamics are such that bad reviews are rarely given by host or guest. The flow is carefully tailored to produce this result. As a guest especially, why complain about a place you’ll never revisit when the payback could be a negative review of you that makes it more difficult to use the service?


As mentioned by another comment, both host and guest submit their review before seeing the other's review. And they rarely interact again. Having looked at many property listings, and stayed at places with marginal reviews, I'm quite sure bad hosts get bad reviews. And I am pretty sure the same is true of guests.

Furthermore, guests and hosts submit a review a very high fraction of stays, and one cannot submit a review without actually hosting or actually spending substantial money as a guest, so AirBnN avoids most of the problems that Amazon reviews have.


You could make the same argument about Couchsurfing.

But actually, on Airbnb you can't see the review of the other person before both have submitted their review. That ensures that neither party retaliates.


Does AirBnB provide a “super-guest” filter, or equivalent so that you can brainlessly and reliably filter for suitable guests?

I would host independently minded guests that don’t want/need hand-holding, and guests that are vetted for being socially respectful (tidy, no 3AM drunks, etcetera). My property is tobacco and alcohol free, which surprises friends, so I can imagine strangers being disrespectful.

Do trustroots.org or movingworlds.org provide filtering? I really never want to have to trawl through reviews, because I find it wasteful and also I think reveiwers tend to avoid writing anything truthfully negative (allusions and omissions might occur, but are not always obvious).


it's funny because when it comes to any real disputes, AirBnb sides with landlords as much as possible (and as much as PR will allow), because that's who are they getting the money from. The guests are just the 'meat' in the machine so it would be more consistent if they allowed property owners to vet guests even more to avoid any issues/disputes in the first place. For RoboCat's case - it does still allow to not accept a certain guest after looking at hteir profile etc, but IMO that's too far into the journey - it'd be better from UX perspective and satisfaction if such a guest never found the property as available in the first place.


> [because they are getting the money from landlords]

Which is weird, because of course the money comes from the guests.

I have seen the opposite dynamic when it was a buyer's market with real estate: the vendor is paying however the agent was actually helping the buyer (to the detriment of the vendor). Real estate agents make their money from volume of sales, to a first approximation.


This was also the success secret of the early church. The apostles and shepherds who visited believers in other cities brought with them such social proof in the form of a written letter.


That was very standard in the Roman empire at the time. Formalized patronage relationships were one of the core social organizing principles and given the distances, a letter from your patron to one of their contacts was _the_ mechanism for social proof.


It's amazing what a well written software is able to accomplish. Other remarkable examples of establishing trust between strangers are eBay and most darknet markets.




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