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We have now been on the road for two months cycling from the north of France to Portugal. We have sent out approximately 20 requests, received 2 replies both negative. I am ok with the negative response. People have other lives, hosts are not hotels. It is the ones who don't respond at all that disappoint me. On previous tours we had nearly 100% response. We are still in touch with most of the people who hosted us.
I don't know how cyclists can predict where they are going to be more than a day in advance. Flat tires, bad hills, getting lost. I think it is worse to ask for hospitality then not show up than it is to ask the same day.
In the present age of smart phones, it is very unlikely that hosts are not receiving a request. We are 10,000 kilometers from home with an old smartphone and only intermittent reception and we still get email.
In my own case I have decided to refuse to host anyone who has less than a 60% response. I don't care if you never host or have no reviews but if you are too lazy to respond I am too busy to host you. If others would adopt this strategy perhaps some of those trying to take advantage of WS could be culled out.
I wouldn't disagree that reply rates are generally dismal on WS these days, but you might have more success if you added a photograph to your profile. Many hosts on hospitality-exchange networks are inclined to just ignore requests from people without a photo. Pretty much any photograph would be psychologically effective, even if it’s just your bike without you in it. It’s the blank space showing no photo at all that is a turnoff for hosts.
As per your suggestion I have posted a picture. Personally I think it is terrible but my wife likes it so that ends that debate.
The truly sad thing about this is that we are fine not being hosted. We have camping gear and a credit card, but we really enjoy meeting other cyclists and learning their stories. One woman we stayed with in Holland cycled around South America by herself. Another couple went around the world raising money for a water project. The fellow we stayed with in Rome introduced us to Hash tag running. These are the experiences that make cycling wonderful. Going along the side of a hot dusty road sucking fumes while trucks wiz by you is what you put up with, not what you go for.
Your picture is great! It totally shows who you are and what you two are all about!
You have received feedback, but have not left any. Some prospective hosts may see this and, like not having a photo, might interpret this as you are travelers who take and do not give back. Leaving feedback is an integral part of the community. It also strengthens your profile!
Yes, Shawn, your picture IS great! And, really helpful for prospective hosts.
But, as Ken observed, eight years' membership and no feedback given. Feedback for your past host or guest is important for them, but it is not the totality of feedback. Your quality feedback, today, helps good WS travelers, tomorrow. Also, feedback consistently given -- or not given -- about others really helps prospective hosts gauge what kind of person YOU are. Lots of people treat profiles as resumes. Feedback is the real measure of what kind of guest you will be or what kind of people that you consider hosting are. Right now, the WS host community is blind regarding the Killams.
I never particularly saw the importance of reviewing hosts. Anybody kind enough to put us up, as long as they are not slaughtering babies for breakfast, is a wonderful person. I never considered it as a resume for us. I will amend my ways.
Shawn, please, if you feel chastised then I failed. We're all here to make this program the best it can be, and to make cycle touring the best experience around. You have helped to strengthen the community! Look forward to having you pass through our way one day.
Educated would perhaps be a better term than chastised, but if I am going to rag on others for not responding and I have not lived up to the expectations of the community then I deserve to be chastised. That being said it still irks the crap out of me when people don't have the parts to at least acknowledge an email request. I remain chastised not withstanding.
Well, Shawn, I would feel neither chastised nor educated if I were you, since these are hardly the "expectations of the community". One must remember that only a tiny, tiny number of people read the WS forum. Among them are some who are particularly obsessed with the feedback system, but actually traveling through WS reveals their position to be very marginal: I myself have stayed with and hosted a large number of WS members, but I have not left feedback for them, nor have they left feedback for me. (Sending a followup "Thank you for hosting me" e-mail is sufficient to convey gratitude.) Furthermore, these members have recounted stories of past hosts stayed with or cyclists hosted, but there was absolutely no sign of that on their profiles, as neither party exchanged feedback.
I daresay that for the vast majority of WS hosts, all that matters is that a traveler has 1-2 references on their profile to show that they are a bona fide cyclist and not completely anonymous, and after that no further involvement with the feedback system is expected, though one is free to continue soliciting feedback if one really wants it.
From my personal experience as a guest, the absolute vast majority of hosts did not give me/us feedback at all. We give feedback to all guests and hosts ourselves. It may very well be a requirement of Warm Showers but it's certainly not that way "out in the field". Our perceptions on here may become somewhat skewed since, as Christopher points out, we are a very small minority of the Warm Showers community who post on these forums. The majority is out there and is not accurately represented by the few who post here. I agree with Christopher that a small handful of feedback is sufficient. It certainly feels good to have feedback in the dozens or hundreds but I don't see the value in it myself. We're not trying to sell ourselves, like a business with 5 star ratings on Yelp or Google, but simply letting people know that we're respectful and won't drop kick their dogs and cats into the neighbour's yard. Putting too many mandatory requirements on volunteers may very well result in less participation in the end.
To the best of my knowledge Michelle, feedback is not a WS requirement. Nor does anyone I can think of suggest that dozens or hundreds of feedbacks is helpful to anyone. There is a big difference between voluminous feedback and none at all. We give fb when behavior good or bad is out of the ordinary; far less than you chose to do. We never encourage people to provide feedback, either. This way, when someone comes through who has neither given nor received feedback that record has been a pretty accurate indicator that parts of what we have found make for a successful WS stay are missing. (We live off the beaten path, where a day's stayover is usually not feasible. In more extended stays, for whatever reason, we clearly find that people who give and receive feedback make their bed, clean up after themselves, are usually more interested in WS giving and receiving, are less in a hurry, &c &c than people without a record.) Given your WS record Michelle, and that of someone else who might be coming through town at the same time who has no feedback at all, you are going to get a warm invite 100% of the time. That just doesn't strike me as an abominable evil.
You twice noted mandatory requirements. Off the top of my head I can think of none. There are a number of people who seem to favor compelling host actions, but to the best of my knowledge this is not in the cards. If there is, please let us all know.
"You twice noted mandatory requirements. Off the top of my head I can think of none."
Ken has already said that the upcoming new version of the site will press people to leave feedback. He ought to clarify whether that means people must leave feedback, or if there is simply a nag screen that people can click through without leaving feedback.
Thanks for the clarification, Chris, and for your opinion. Yes, Ken said this, but as he said it, and you rephrase it, "press" is not a requirement. Michelle specifically cited 'mandatory', which is what I inquired to her about.
First of all, just so there's no confusion where I stand. I do not support mandatory feedback. In fact, I wasn't even aware of it myself until a few years into my presence here. It tends to produce trite and contrived feedback as opposed to more relevant feedback for very good and very bad behaviour as Jeff and Mary are doing. The latter is more useful than boilerplate automatic feedback. We give feedback each time since we've had positive encounters each time and that's also just who we are. We also tend to get newer members with little feedback so we try to help them by building their reputation.
It actually is a requirement of WS so we abide by it, whether we like it or not. We don't expect others to abide by it or fault them if they don't.
From the FAQ:
What are the responsibilities of a host?
Always provide feedback after any visit from a guest. This builds trust in the community. Normally it will be positive, but if it's neutral or negative, please provide it anyway.
What are the responsibilities of a guest?
Always provide feedback (and thanks) to hosts by clicking the "Provide Feedback" button on their profile page. Note that although it's unusual, feedback may be neutral or negative. Your honest feedback helps build trust in the community.
Wow Michelle, thanks for that. If I ever read that in the FAQ I'd forgotten it. And while it is "just" the FAQ, it is official guidance, and it is pretty black and white. Since, other than the few stalwarts such as yourselves, who made those directions work in both letter and spirit, lets see what the new software will say. If it does not come closer to the example you both have done, perhaps it will be a good idea to bring this up with staff -- either to come closer to making the requirement happen, or of abandoning the idea altogether. There seems to be a lot of people who do not want any performance standards at all.
You live in a beautiful part of the world, Michelle. I can see why you have so much company! Drop by if you two are ever cycling our area. Thanks again for your really helpful input here. R/ Jeff Gardner
Let's hope for a happy medium, but I'm sure at this stage whatever is coming down the pipe is already set anyway.
Yes, we do live in one of the many beautiful places of this amazing planet of ours. So beautiful that people will gladly put up with the endless hills covering almost the entire province.
New Mexico is on our list of places to visit, so we may just end up at your doorstep one of these days.
It'd be a return favor, for we already cycled Australia long ago. The greatest asset in the already-impressive country, like WS, is the people. BTW...having seen lots of places, we now look out over the only sunset that I've ever known to rival Ayer's Rock. Not very often, and only in the right conditions, but still. We'll look forward to having you come check it out yourselves!
It is important that you know that any WS changes or clarifications coming down the pike are pretty immaterial for you both, since your participation in the program is already in rarified air. Thank you for setting a higher standard than could ever be codified in any rules. Take care.
Often times people sign up for WS prior to starting a tour with hopes of hosting before embarking on their journey. I see this when reviewing new members. Their hope is to pay-it-forward; start as a host with some positive feedback that will make them more credible/desirable for hosting while they themselves are traveling.
The concept of hospitality is about helping others. This extends beyond a warm meal and warm shower. Feedback given also can be very useful, adding to the credibility of the member.
Thank you for posting this discussion! This is a good topic that has generated much interest. I can see where this topic has also helped other.
Haha. I just went into WS through the app on my iPhone this morning and looked at some profiles for fun. My picture was cut off at the top and my head is completely missing and there was no way to get to the complete picture. Same for the next profile I went to. Someone has to make the pictures scale or they can be pretty useless.
There seems to be a problem with emails not going through when people answer by mail. Could that explain something?
The advice is now to reply from the website, but it does not seem to be easy to change the wording of the email wrapper.
While one cannot ever rule out computer problems, the fact that we now have three responses (still all negative) suggests that the reply works. Intermittent bugs are not impossible, just less likely.
As Registrar for the site, I often send random, personal, "welcome" messages to new members. I also send welcome messages to those traveling down the Pacific Coast as well as other local hosts. I am amazed that I rarely get a response.
I wish I could say I am surprised, Ken. What I can say is that I am embarrassed by it. People who know really, really appreciate what you and the entire staff does. If you lose faith in that we won't see yo around very long.
The new website should be "live" at this time next month. It will fix many bugs from the current system and give some relief to the volunteers!
I was just looking in the forums to find out if this happens to other people in Barcelona and came into this comment. I live in Barcelona and was unavailable till last week and since my status changed automatically I have recieved 5 messages in 3 days. I am trying to respond to all of it but I was wondering if it is just in Barcelona (due to its touristic nature) or also in other places that it is like this. I like warmshowers and the experience but I cannot be replying messages all the time and especially turning people down since I do not have the time or the place to host so many. I am guessing many users that goes through this for a prolonged time decide to not to answer anymore. Of course they can choose to be unavailable but that takes you completely out from the warmshowers experience and there is no midpoint. If I have recieved a message or two every two weeks I could be inclined to accomodate them but I am not that available to neither respond nor host at this frequency. Any thoughts about how to solve this situation? I do not know if this is the reason why people wont answer but I can see easily how people can be overwhelmed by this situation.
I totally agree with your sentiment and experiences (we have hosted around 200 people and have lots of great reviews, but it makes no difference seemingly in terms of replies). I am thinking that if the WS emails had a "No sorry" button that people could click, like on Home Exchange, then people might be more likely to reply. More and more, I am thinking that this community is dominated by people who want to get accommodation and not give it.
Improving the WS e-mail might not help if people don't actually read their e-mail. In this age of social networks, young people (and that includes up to my own demographic in our mid-30s) might only look at their e-mail inbox once a week or less. That’s often too late to accommodate a cyclist passing through, so even if a host sees the e-mail, they might think that it isn’t worth replying to it.
WS would be a much more reliable network in terms of getting responses (even if it’s “no”) from hosts, if hosts were encouraged to post their mobile phone numbers on their profiles. Unfortunately, the board seems to be really hung up on “safety”, but I’ve never seen any evidence that phone-number-based hospitality-exchange networks are significantly less safe than ones where communication is directly through a website.
Plus, there is no reason WarmShowers can’t have both mobile-phone contact and the “safety” of profiles and references, if hosts were encouraged to post their mobile phone numbers, and cyclists were encouraged to send an SMS alerting the host to the fact that they have also been contacted on the website where the cyclist’s profile can be checked.
So where do you collate your social media interactions? Or do you not? And which mechanisms do you primarily use? I am asking out of interest to learn more about how different age groups operate. I set up my various social media to notify me through email so I have a single forum in which to function, because it is a nightmare with the many different mechanisms. Also, because I don’t have a separate work from personal email, if I want to earn money, I have to check my email a good deal more than weekly! But it sounds like people also don’t coalesce their personal with their work emails.
I assume that most people my age in Eastern Europe use Facebook for most communication. I know this because I deleted my Facebook account a few years ago, but took friends’ e-mail addresses so we could still keep in touch that way. It usually takes about a week to get a response from them because they don’t check their e-mail that often. If I had contacted them on Facebook, I might have got a response straightaway.
With younger people I have met during my travels, I have been stunned by how many don’t have an e-mail address at all, or have one but virtually never check it. Everything goes through Facebook/Snapchat/Instagram.
In South America, I was told by many people that WhatsApp was the standard way of getting in touch. Quite a few potential WS hosts specified their WhatsApp contact details on their profiles, and I got the impression that if I had used the WS website to contact them instead of WhatsApp, I would have never received a reply.
And in China, WeChat is the de facto standard for messaging, with e-mail very much an afterthought limited to a minority of internet users. Any hospitality exchange network that lacks WeChat integration is going to fail in China except for a small bunch of expat members.
the % of response doesn't taken it in account
so you can have answer every sms and have 0% of reponse
I take out my cell number as I don' t want to have call when I 'm working or driving
If It is OK for hosting then I give my number to coordinate RDV
I also get about 20% of people email back within a week or two. Maybe they don't check emails, maybe phone is better. But I just have Google voice. Only works on USA numbers or WhatsApp and they need WhatsApp for that to work .
Have you sent last minute requests or several days/weeks in advance?
In my case, I received several requests at the last minute like "I am arriving today, can you host me?" which forced me to add to my profile that I would prefer to receive requests at least two days in advance.
I am planning a bicycle tour to Europe eurovelo route 8,
I send request over a month in advance via e-mail. Maybe 10% have gotten back to me
I got a request yesterday to host someone on November 12. YIKES! I have no idea at this time, where I will be at that time. I have grandkids where I help out, and can't tell now, what happens on the 12th.
I did however reply, please contact me again about 3, 5 days, or a week in advance. This is just way to early for me to commit.
PS, it says in my profile tell me a couple of days in advance if possible
I have in my profile a link to a page where i have my calendar, so people can see when i can host.
It is a classic problem of many communities: the management keep thight the functions and estetic , often forgetting usability and functionality.
If for example were allowed an iframe one could show the calendar, syncronized with all possible applications, without having to resord on the hope that the person read it and click on it to have the list of available days.
A sad thing is that now the reply via email does not work, and email notification got magled, so unless one is so smart to put his email and phone num,ber in the first line of request, it is unlikely to have a prompt answer from those that rely mostly on email (and checking email have not to be a weekly thing - i get instant copies of email on the phone ...)
I am just finishing lining up hosts for our Land's End to John o' Groats trip next month. More than a third of the hosts to whom I have written have not responded, which seem less than with my prior trips. Should we "report" unresponsive hosts, and if so, how, or does this happen automatically?
That's a pretty good response rate. There's no need to report unresponsive hosts, their failure to respond will be reflected in the message responsiveness stat. Once we get some useful filtering and sorting options it will be easier to find active hosts.
I am pleased to report that Warm Showers is alive and well. My cousin, Richard, and I stayed with six families in England on our LE2JoG trip during May, and made some lasting friendships. I make it a point to offer to bring something for dinner, or take our prospective hosts somewhere for dinner or breakfast. Because of where I live, I stay with many more hosts than we have guests who stay with us. To assuage my guilt I send periodic contributions to Warm Showers. Keep up the good work!
We have used warm showers for years. This is the first year we are not getting responses. Of 6 messages and calls, we received 1 response. They were unavailable. This year does seem different.
This spring (2018), I wrote to 12 or 13 hosts for a trip between Vichy, over Le Puy en Vélay to Sat Jean Pied de Port, on to Logroño (and further to Compostella and Portugal).
This is an area of France (and Spain) which has not much WS hosts.
Only two of them did not reply, all the rest did.
Two people had moved from the dot they left on twe WS map, but if we would pass by we would be welcome.
One was about to move so she could not confirm if she could host yet.
All the other ones confirmed.
That means that actually nobody said "no"!
Some statistics may explain this "success".
- We are both in our sixties and aimed at "mature" hosts where possible.
- We wrote them four weeks ahead
- At the end of May and early in June, you find more people home than in July or August
- The two non-repliers were women alone and professionally very active.
- We stated that bedding was not an issue as we have mattresses/sleeping bags
- We asked for an answer, even a no, in order to organise the trip easily
- We invited them back if they eventually would visit our area.
We don't have reviews for all our guesting or hosting, but we are in the system since 2011 and I think we hosted about 20 times while we slept out maybe 25 times. Some hosts came back to us as a guest, others even sent a friend on their behalf :-)
I have sent 10 requests to potential hosts in London and have received no replies at all. Is there a problem with the messaging service? I am really confused and am not sure what to do next?
What were the response rates of the hosts you were contacting?
So far 9 requests and zero responses. All within Greater London
I sent 3 on 11th June and left it until this morning before I sent the following 6 but to date nothing.
Ironically I sent a message to 2 people in Dover asking if I could leave a car there before catching the ferry for a different trip and had a response within 10 minutes from one of them.
So at least I know the system is working!
Paul was asking about the response rates of those members as listed in their profiles. If those response rates are low, it is no surprise when they do not answer.
I used to belong to an Outdoors Group similar to Meet-Up, but before Meet-Up (Meet-Up killed this group). Like Warmshowers, it was internet based. I would host kayaking and bicycling events; maybe 30 of 40 people would sign up to attend each event. On the day of the event, I might get 10 of the 40. We called this the "flake factor". Most of us trip leaders actually added in this factor when planning the actual number we wanted for attendance.
The internet depersonalizes contact, despite being an instrument to bring people together. It was just too easy, back in the day, to wake up for a bicycle or kayak event and just decide you felt too sleepy to get up for the event, or something better came along. There was no remorse in not showing for the event. I think it is the same for Warmshowers in that many people sign up for the site with good intentions, but then lose interest or forget that the message request came from an actual person (deleting a text is impersonal, and easily forgotten).
We see the same "flake factor" with Warmshowers members in many large cities. While Admin are trying to increase member participation, retention and responsiveness, we must all accept that the community is not perfect and plan our trips accordingly.
After more than 10 weeks in East & West Europe have sent off many emails and left phone messages and only ever got a single response.
A - single - response. Some requests were for info only and still didn't get a response.
It’s kinda sad and have given up on the idea of even bothering with it, and am actually considering deleting my account. I know many people do respond and even host but we're having a bad run.
Some of the guests that have stayed with us haven’t even bothered to leave a comment. I find this technique the most bothersome as it shows a person using hosts like couchsurfing/mooching.
It seems in the recent years many people have joined to become “guests” as they were doing a trip, or joined out of a whim and not bother again. "Another personal profile to let the world know about oneself."
Maybe an alternative would be to have to pay a fee when wanting to use warmshowers as a guest. Or to have to pay/donate each time it’s used as a guest.
Hosts should never have to pay as they already are donating. Many other organisations do similar.
I agree that WS should charge the guest something, I don't care if it is $1 (or the equivilent). However, some feel this is an absolute rip-off and that the website should be free for all and that all should be welcomed regardless. I am not in that camp. I believe, you use a service, you just might need to pay something for it. I bet it wouild dramatically reduce the amount of members.
However, the bigger problem, to me and you showed it exists, is that a LOT of hosts simply do not respond for whatever reason. I am starting to think that everyone (guests and hosts) should be charged something per year to be a member. My thinking is that if the member is serious about WS, they would pay $1, $5, $10 a year. Full disclosure: I only give a $5 donation per stay in the years I actually am hosted but I host a few cyclists every year and consider that a donation. To appease the "free people", perhaps it could be structured that if you host, you get a credit for the next year. Heck, people pay for all kinds of bike related services (Ride With GPS; Garmin maps; magazines; ACA, CTC, etc. memberships; etc.) but for some reason some people think WS MUST be free. I am NOT saying the host should get any of the money; all money/fees/donations should go to WS for the administration of it.
Like you, I am thinking about quitting WS due to the almost universal "No Answers" I get when I tour.
Hello Wendy and Fred, and John,
These are two accounts that appear to be the kind of backbone that built WS. The comments from such experienced people deserve weight, but they are saying something none of us want to hear.
I fear that we may be dealing with a 'human nature' factor, not especially a WS one. In a completely unrelated example, here, we offered a service in our business space for free, for years. To us, it was important to keep this particular service free. Not many takers, and the ones that did came with headaches. Now people, the right people, line up to pay a lot for it and they couldn't be happier. Seems to be a human psychology thing; we aren't built to care for and nurture the goose that lays the golden eggs when it is free.
I am sorry and embarrassed that these members of really good standing have this experience.
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