Community Standing: Improving the Reference System

Our plan to fix the problem of the Reference system


Trust is critical to couch surfing communities. Our trust model is based on two important measures on users' profiles: Community Verification and Community Standing. Verification tells users whether to trust who you say you are, and you can read about the new verification system here.

We will introduce a new score, Community Standing, which will measure how much other people in the community trust you and have found your company to be a positive experience. It indicates your reputation and if people have found you safe to be around. While we will still have references available, the number of references will not be the main indicator when choosing another member to surf, host or hang out with.

The community standing score

The following outlines our current plan on creating the community standing score. We don't believe in locking it down forever, and want to try a few different things in the future to perfect it, but what follows is a preliminary overview of what we're planning right now.

When you interact with another user, you will be encouraged to review them. You will be prompted with 3 quick questions:

  1. Would you recommend this person to other members?
  2. Does this individual contribute positively to the community?
  3. Did this person talk or act in any way that made you feel unsafe or uncomfortable?

You will then be prompted to write a reference where you can detail your experience. When both references are written, they are published publicly on each other's accounts.

The answers to the three questions, on the other hand, are kept private and are used to calculate the user's community standing score. The score takes into account each set of answers and the time they were made, so that old reviews count less. Some randomness is introduced into the system in terms of timing and altering scores so that it is hard to tell if a certain person has rated you negatively. If you receive positive answers to the questions, your score will go up.

When looking at another member's score you can expect an average score of around 70%. You can also filter it by sub-communities. For instance, you may wish to see how someone is regarded in their home community or with older people. Women may be interested in seeing if other women found a host safe to be around.


A simple positive/negative recommendation is flawed. Negative reviews are rare which makes it hard for users (especially women) to have confidence in their safety and consequently lends itself to the super-host effect, where very few hosts do most of the hosting even though others want to, polarizing the community.

We want the new reference score to have a few properties:

  • Negative reviews must be destigmatized and more common
  • The system must be simple
  • The score must be calculated from questions where the member answering believes they are anonymous
  • A review should increase your score if you use the platform as intended and so are a benefit to the community

These points are ticked off by our system. We destigmatize negative reviews by moving the goalposts from expecting everyone to be 100% as it is in Couchsurfing™ to putting people around 60-80% on average. People won't feel so bad about moving someone down from a 78% to a 76% if they've done something wrong. If a person frequently makes others feel unsafe or uncomfortable, you can expect that they'll have very low scores.

If someone is a great member of the community, such as an amazing host or organizer, this will be reflected in their scores. We hope this will incentivize users to become more active in their communities.