Talk of the Town: August 11th, 2021

Map Search, template messages, and “kind encouragements” to fill in your profile!

Welcome to the third issue of Talk of the Town, the biweekly summary of the main points brought up, discussed, and debated in recent Community Forum threads! If you missed the first or second issue, take a look!

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Forum Digest: July 29-August 11 2021

In this issue, among others:


If you want to contribute to any of the below discussions, hop on to one of the topics linked below or start a new discussion on our community forum.

Searching and displaying location on Map Search

What is being discussed:

  • Some people intuitively use the search bar for location (e.g. “Prague”), and profiles of people outside that location show up if they mention that location in their profile (e.g. “I grew up in Prague”). Because location is not immediately visible in profile cards, this has led to some confusing situations.
  • The “correct” way to search for a location is to use the Filters dialog box:

Screenshot of the current method for searching users by location on Couchers.org

  • Clearly, this functionality is not intuitive for everyone. How can it be improved?

Ideas:

  • Put a “Location” search bar under the freeform search bar.
  • Display location visibly in users’ profile cards. The problem with that is, how do we properly display location?
  • Some people describe their own location by neighborhood, some by city. How can we make sure the former group is not excluded from a search for the city?

Read the full discussion...

Encouraging people to fill in their profiles

What is being discussed:

  • How can we encourage (or compel) people to fill in their profiles?

Ideas:

  • See 14 July’s Talk of the Town for a summary of previous incentives mentioned (e.g. hiding inactive users from the map search).
  • Some new contributors to this thread, with past experiences of frustration with inactive users, are strongly advocating for a “harsher” measure separating inactive from active users—not just an encouragement.
  • A proposed solution (along with the current measures of dashboard and email reminders to fill out one’s profile) is to filter out inactive users from the map search by default. Perhaps those users could be then searched by clicking a “show inactive users” checkbox.
  • Several Community Forum contributors are entertaining the idea of locking certain functions (such as sending/receiving a host request) behind the requirement to fill out one’s profile.

Read the full discussion...

How to write a quality reference? (continued)

What is being discussed:

  • A collection of ideas on what should be part of a good reference, and how such guidelines can be communicated to users.

Ideas:

  • Check out the last issue of Talk of the Town for other recent ideas on what should be included in a quality reference.
  • A nuance that was brought up is that being specific in your reference about what your host offered to you (e.g. keys, a tour) can be a double-edged sword as it can create the expectation that the host does this for all future surfers. Occasionally, surfers have left negative references on Couchsurfing™ because of things that the host didn’t offer them, even though those shouldn’t be an expectation of couch surfing in general.
  • A possible solution is for hosts to be fully transparent about their house rules and expectations (see Shared Beds discussion), but that can still put some in a vulnerable position. \

Read the full discussion…

Template messages

What is being discussed:

  • Should there be an integration of template messages on Couchers.org, like on other platforms?

Ideas:

  • Arguments for integration of message templates:
    • Allows very active hosts and surfers to manage a large volume of requests while keeping their messages informative.
    • Even if message templates are not integrated, people can still use other methods to copy-paste messages, so we might as well make it easier.
    • Users can design their templates with blank spaces to allow for personalized messages.
  • Arguments against integration of message templates:
    • It kind of encourages “lazy” requests? Although if requests are not personalized, they wouldn’t be accepted anyway.
  • Couchers.org plans to implement template messages, but it’s not a priority over other features.
  • Should templates be available for regular messages as well, or just for host/surf requests? Some people see advantages in having them available for all messages.

Read the full discussion…

Other discussions

Read some new and old ideas about incentivizing “one-time surfers” to continue to use the platform. On a mildly infuriating note, and on top of Couchsurfing™’s ban of online events earlier this year, read some users’ recent stories about getting banned from Couchsurfing™ because of mentioning alternative options, or even simply being active on the Couchers.org platform. Last but not least, if you were waiting for the opportunity to donate to Couchers.org, the donation system is finally open!

Did we miss an important recent contribution you made to the forum between July 29 and August 11? Feel free to privately message n.spark on the forum.

Written by Natalia. Published on 2021/08/11.

Natalia is a chemistry PhD student from Greece, living in the USA since 2012 and hoping to move to Europe soon. She has hosted many surfers in Madison, WI with her partner, and helped organize Couch Crashes in the area, where couch surfing enthusiasts from all over the world gather in each other's company to explore a city together.

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