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Jeff & Mary,
You are so correct in that people frequently do not view something that is free as worth much. There is a marketing term (forgot what it is) that describes exactly your example. It is a cousin to the view that something that costs $12 gazillion must be "valuable" (for whatever reason) when in reality it may only be worth $1 million. Or another example are tents where we pay $400 for a tent when reality it costs less than $100 to make and distribute. It all boils down to how much perceived value it is and as you say, human nature discounts something that is free even if it really provides value.
That is why I am thinking that in order to get WS to be primarily made of "invested" or active members, a yearly fee should be charged for everyone. In the really old days, the WS-precursor was you had to write an actual letter (pre-email days) requesting to be on the list, and pay a yearly amount, and then quarterly you were mailed the list so even that required a fee. The amount wasn't much (IIRC it was the postage x 4 plus a couple dollars for paper and enevelopes) but it was still something.
Just my two cents (or is that $5). John
"Some of the guests that have stayed with us haven’t even bothered to leave a comment."
Profile comments are not supposed to be thank you messages. (IMO the most polite thing to do is send a lettre de chateau as an individual e-mail message through the site.) Comments are a tool to tell the community if a member is bona fide, but once a person already has a few comments, it is not particularly urgent that he get more.
If you really demand comments from your guests, otherwise you consider them impolite, then please tell your guest that, ideally in their pre-stay correspondence. There are a lot of people on WS who do contribute to the network as hosts, but they do not want to bother with the comment system. Take me, for example. I love to host, and I am absolutely fine with the fact that almost none of my guests leave comments. Being active on other successful hospitality exchange communities that totally lack a comment system at all, I see this as superfluous and unnnecessary.
I reluctantly agree that a pay site is probably the way to go. Unless we are talking in hundreds of dollars a single night hosted would more than cover the cost. I also like the idea of refund/ credit whatever for those who host. The sorry button is also a good idea. The question is, how difficult would it be for the site to implement these suggestions.
As an abendum to last years posts, in two and a half months, (France, Spain, and Portugal ) we were only hosted once. The couple that hosted us were wonderful and at the end of our trip we went back and gave them our recumbent tandem.
It is baffling to me how many people here are calling for WS to become a pay site, when for years now we have known that the root of the no-answer problem is the WS site admins’ intentional decision to sign people up as hosts by default, even if they do not intend to host. Why are none of you here venting your anger at the board? After all, it has raised tens of thousands of dollars in donations through heavy-handed tactics in recent years, without anything to show for it except the mediocre new website. People have repeatedly pointed out some big mistakes here on the forum, but they are never fixed.
I don’t think making WS a pay site would help. I host on WS much more than I am ever a guest, but I would be turned off and I would leave the site if it were no longer free and libre, meaning one more rare active host less in Eastern Europe. And unless the board actually changes the policy of listing people as hosts by default, most of those paying members would be just as unresponsive as the non-paying ones are now.
A brief rundown on some of what has happened since WS introduced member subscriptions/donations:
- There have been several changes of personnel amongst the ranks of the WS leadership under irregular circumstances which were not reported to the membership (not an oversight but deliberate policy as reported to me by a former chair of the board).
- The Executive Director used $300 of member donations to attend a commercial bike expo in Las Vegas, how his presence at such an event benefited the WS community in any way is still a mystery [ https://www.warmshowers.org/node/222894 ]
- WS code is no longer open source. It was outsourced to private contractors without advising or consulting the membership. The details of the license are still not known to the community and numerous questions regarding the handling of future upgrades/improvements/debugging remain unanswered [ https://www.warmshowers.org/node/237979 ]
- Meanwhile numerous bugs and layout problems which sprang up during the half baked 2015 Drupal upgrade still plague the site years later (the email system, forum navigation, forum searches, feedback formatting... and many more)
- Official development of the mobile apps has been abandoned.
- Board participation on the WS forums has reduced to almost zero.
And what did we get in return for adding $50,000+ annually to WS coffers?
- A new site theme that is far less intuitive and functional than the previous one.
- An ill thought out and ultimately aborted attempt at implementing official hosting requests. [ https://www.warmshowers.org/node/238358 ]
- The oft-requested search filtering is implemented and does not include any metric allowing members to filter out inactive, unresponsive hosts (responsiveness, last login, feedback, time as member) the very problem it was allegedly there to solve despite these metrics being repeatedly requested by members over the years. [ https://www.warmshowers.org/node/228455 ]
The fact that so many members wish to invent a reason to throw more money at the very people who have overseen the decline of Warmshowers beggars belief.
Gotta say Paul, if you are so disapprove of the management of the site, why stay. Honestly, if you want to change something get on the Board and do some work for free.
> Gotta say Paul, if you are so disapprove of the management of the site, why stay.
This is supposed to be a community-run site, even if the community has to be represented through a board. So shouldn't members express their opinions whether negative or positive?
Also, like myself, Paul has been a veteran of the hospex community for many years now. We have seen some networks fail. We know of some cases when communities made improvements that strengthened them. For example, in my opinion, Trustroots has now superseded WS as a relatively dependable hospex site for tourers. I just returned home today from a tour where I did not get a single response to any (well-written, personalized) requests on WS, but on TR I had some great times. The WS board could learn a lot from how that site is developed.
> Honestly, if you want to change something get on the Board
Perhaps WS should actually publicize its election process, then. Time goes by and a new makeup of the board is periodically announced, but it is never clear when elections happened, who is eligible to vote, and how one can become a board candidate.
Also, John, your long rant against me personally is out of order. If you don’t like the views that a person here holds, then certainly put forth your own, but it is rude to accuse me of acting "all high and mighty" – or hinting that I don’t get feedback from every single host/guest because I am a bad man. For the latter, it has been pointed out numerous times now that the broad membership doesn’t care about leaving feedback regardless of the quality of the experience. Ken has repeatedly noted this, even though he regrets it.
> $5 is a BARGAIN unless you are stealth camping.
In so much of the world, you can get a pretty passable paid accommodation for not that much more than $5. That place would have wifi, possibly a kitchen, and it would come without the obligation to socialize after a long, tiring day on the road. If WS switched to a paid system, its statistics would be even more dismal than they are now. WS is not only used in North America or Western Europe.
Your reaction to the board's excesses, lack of rigour and accountability and failure to communicate is to ask the person pointing this out why they don't leave?
I do plenty of work for free just on these forums - I respond to far more posts than the entire WS organisation combined. I have also been asked to participate voluntarily in a more official capacity several times and have replied positively on all but one occasion (when the offer came with the revelation that WS wished to keep a litany of upheavals and problems that had occurred at the board level secret from its members) only to never get a further response each time. As for the board - in addition to having grave concerns about the culture of secrecy there (and being forced to assimilate with it to some degree) I also have health problems which would probably prevent me reliably putting in enough hours to do justice to the position (though this could probably be alleged of numerous board members right now).
The default is not the issue. As site Registrar I review hundreds of new members each week and only about 20% of new members are listed as "available". What I see in new profiles is actually just the opposite of what we are saying; people write in their profile what they are offering as a host, yet are often marked unavalable for the next 5 years. So all members who are marked unavailable are not going to show up on any searches or maps.
The best thing any of us can do is COMMUNICATE. There is an article in the present newsletter reminding everyone to keep availability current. Leaving feedback is also a means for members to communicate to others how responsive a host or guest has been. Not communicating feedback fosters lack of information to others. With proper communication, which includes reading member's feedback and looking at their response rate, we can better set our expectations of follow through with any particular member.
Ken Francis, Registrar
"Leaving feedback is also a means for members to communicate to others how responsive a host or guest has been."
It is not clear what you mean by this, Ken. Are you saying that now if a user does not get any response (whether yes or no) to a request, he should leave neutral or negative feedback on that host’s profile to point this out to the community? This seems unnecessary when profiles already show reply rates, and seems certain to create lots of drama that might only discourage that potential host from ever hosting in future.
I feel the default setting doesn't matter if people are going to game the system by signing up as a "host" then promptly becoming unavailable for 5 years. However, unlike you, I use WS soley because it is ONLY for touring cyclists (not hobos). I do not offer my home to CS or any other hospitality service. However, if people are only wanting to be a taker and never a giver, I really do not see an issue for them paying $5 per stay so there is much less burden on fundraising. As others have pointed out, $5 for a shower and a bed or tent space, along with possible kitchen facilities, meal, wifi, laundry, sag service, local route knowledge, etc. really is a BARGAIN unless you are stealth camping.
Regarding feedback. I purposefully do not make my phone number available as I want to "check them out" before agreeing to host them. As I have stated in other threads, this is MY home, not the guests, and if I do not want to host them for ANY reason, that is my perogative. You can act high and mighty since you accept all but that is not for everyone. Honestly, I feel you are a way out outlier in your hosting style. I beleve most hosts are at least a little bit cautious in who stays at their home. Most like to see at least a little feedback from other hosts, especially if they have been a guiest several times. To me, the lack of feedback is a negative. Too many people do not want to make someone feel bad so instead of leaving truthful feedback, i.e. "Chris was very nice and polite but was messy, didn't arrive on time and didn't leave on time, and tried to convert me to Spaghetti Monsterism continually." so other hosts can decide for themselves if they want to host Chris or not.
However, the overall problem isn't that people want to be a guest, it is with the "hosts" not responding. Unlike you, I feel the board is doing a pretty good job overall. Yes, I would like a better reservation system. Yes, I would like some method to better get responses to request for hosting. Yes, I would love it if people were honest in what they intend to be (this IS a RECIPROCAL hosting site, i.e you are EXPECTED to offer to host in order to be hosted).
Even though you may leave (part of me hopes not), I still feel getting people to value the site (host and guest) is paramount (instead of just some free app out there) and feel that a small yearly fee would be one way to get those who "game" the system to either pay their fair share or leave altogether. Actually, if I had a real vote, I would say everyone pays $5 year, and you pay $1-5 each time you are hosted. Yes, I understand some may never host since them live in the middle of Nowhere, Alaska, or other valid reasons but then no one is forcing them to sign up. To me, this fee-based system would encourage only those (hosts and guests) who truly value the site/community to join. Lots of way to do a fee system but clearly lots of guests are having issues with hosts not responding even after they have hosted several times and are questioning why they do it. If hosts would respond, the guests would be happier, and hopefully in turn be happier guests.
Christopher, I know you and I will never agree on this issue but I thank you for listening to me. I wish you the best in your touring and hosting endevours. John
John, I get the feeling you don't understand how the system works. You can't sign yourself up to be available to host AND mark yourself as unavailable for 5 years, Ken was talking about members who mark themselves as unavailable to host with expected return date in 5 years but writing in their profile that they wish to host (I'm having trouble finding a profile like this but I can easily find hundreds with members available to host but writing only about their travel plans in their profile).
"However, if people are only wanting to be a taker and never a giver..."
I (and many others in the hospex world) view the guest - host relationship as an exchange. I don't welcome them at my door as individuals who owe me something, I host because I enjoy hosting. If I though it was inherently an act of me giving and them taking I would probably resort to signing up to AirBnB or some other similar service where I could be compensated.
"I beleve most hosts are at least a little bit cautious in who stays at their home. Most like to see at least a little feedback from other hosts, especially if they have been a guiest several times. To me, the lack of feedback is a negative. "
Then thank goodness there are some members out there prepared to host newcomers or nobody would ever get started.
"However, the overall problem isn't that people want to be a guest, it is with the "hosts" not responding."
Yes, the hosts that aren't actually hosts but guests who didn't change a setting when they signed up.
"Yes, I would love it if people were honest in what they intend to be (this IS a RECIPROCAL hosting site, i.e you are EXPECTED to offer to host in order to be hosted)."
Yes, and this stubborn insistence on framing the guest-host relationship as giver and taker has massively compromised site functionality instead of just providing a means for active hosts and travellers to find each other and trusting sufficiently in its membership that enough people will want to host.
"I still feel getting people to value the site (host and guest) is paramount (instead of just some free app out there) and feel that a small yearly fee would be one way to get those who "game" the system to either pay their fair share or leave altogether. Actually, if I had a real vote, I would say everyone pays $5 year, and you pay $1-5 each time you are hosted."
Why when there are numerous examples of functioning hospex communities out there without fees (some of which had far larger memberships)?. What makes WS different that it can't function without fees (I remember this question from the subscription/donation threads and nobody could come up with a reason)?
Your first response. You said the system signs newcomers up with the default to host, not me. I totally agree you can make yourself unavailable AFTER you are signed up but again, you implied people could sign up only as guest. Maybe that is where the confusion is.
Giver/Taker. So if came and stayed at your place and kept asking to stay on and on and on until I decide to continue down the road, would you keep saying yes? If so, you are a far more generous person than me. If not, why? Everyone has a limit, Mine I guess is just more restrictive than yours. The host provides/gives a cyclsit a place to stay. The cyclist accepts/takes the offer. Eventually, the cyclist may want to accept/take more than I am willing to offer. Regardless how you look at it, ALL exchanges have a give/take relationship. Granted, the cyclist can give talks on their experiences but even then it is still a give/take relationship. I like you I enjoy hosting cyclists. People passing through in their car that they live out of so they can go to the local bar and earn $15 in tips playing their guitar, not really my cup of tea. I enjoy listening to them but really have nothing in common with them. I guess you are more into hosting all types of people than I am.
I did not say I would never accept people with less than postive responses. I am just saying not having any responses from hosts when they have been a guest several times, to me, is not a favorable thing so I would be a little more cautious. Yes, I have and will accept new members without responses. They just get a little more scruitany. I still say more are like me than you would seem to accept all regardless of anything.
My "stubborn insistence" is because the community I joined explicity states it is a RECIPROCAL group. Reciprocal basically means we agree that I will do for you what you do for me and vice versa. So if someone comes into this group KNOWING they will never host, in all honesty, they should not sign up and/or be a member. If they want to just be a guest, they can (and probably do) go over to CouchSurfing or somewhere else. Again, I really do not see why you do not understand the simple concept of reciprocity.
Regarding the $5/fees. Maybe other hospex groups manage their community better. It really doesn't matter. If our community needs $100k a year to work, the community can pay up or move on. Yes, it would be nice if it didn't need funds but it does. Yes, $5 can be a significant amount in certain parts of the world. That is why I said $1-$5. Again, if you are in high-country Peru, I would hope (ideally) the system could charge $1 based on the host's location. If I could travel in Peru and get a local cyclists providing me at least a bed, I would be willingt to pay $1. If I were a high-country Peruvian, I doubt I could even cycle-tour so the cost is really geared toward the cyclist. While I have no stats to back it up, I would guess 99%+ of cyclotourists in really poor regions (where $1 is worth a lot), are from outside the area. If a 1st world or even 2nd world country citizen can not afford $1, then maybe they should not be EXPECTING a bed for the night and can camp out like they have undoubtedly done many times to save money.
The vast majority of your points deal with the extremes (can't afford $1, we should accept all oeople regardless, etc.). Again, the OP ponit was that hosts are not responding. I have tried to offer solutions on how to improve the acceptance rate. While I have seen you offer a suggestion or two to improve acceptance, the majority of what you and Christopher say comes across as quite negative, i.e. you know how to do everything.correctly, everyone elswe is an idiot.
I do think as members we should offer our suggestions both positive and negative but once said, the powers that be can decide what they think is best and do it (or not). After that, we can accept their decision or quit the group. Again, if you are not happy, move on.
At this point, it seems we will never agree so I am backing out of this thread. You, and everyone else, know what I think and I really do not think I can make myself clearer to the point of changing your mind (or vice versa) so I see no point in continuing this dialog. I wish you the best, John
People sign up, go to the trouble of changing their hosting status to unavailable then write in their profile that they want to host - that makes zero sense.
There has been an enormous accumulation of members who have signed up without the intention to host who failed to change their status to unavailable and now clog the map and list searches, to deny this is wilful ignorance (do a list search in any metro area and have a look at the members you are putting at the top). Response rates have declined every year that this nonsensical policy has been in place [ https://i.imgur.com/lvCCL9b.png ] and yet somehow you stick with it but neither you nor anyone else from WS have been prepared to come on this forum and articulate why and defend your ideas. What are the benefits?
I will try again, here are the reasons I (and evidently every other online hospex site I know of) see it as counterproductive to sign up new members as available to host by default:
1) Out of the three broad groups of people signing up (those signing up to host, those signing up to be hosted on a trip, and those signing up to check out the site at a later date) the group most invested will be those signing up to host (they are going to have people in their house after all). Instead of trusting the most invested, conscientious new members to change their hosting status you are leaving it to people who often just want to quickly register themselves with the least effort possible because they are on the road at the time or just heard about the site and want to quickly sign up for later reference - these people will all go through to show up as hosts, not only that but they will go to the top of list searches for hosts.
2) You are wasting incredible amounts of your own and volunteers' time manually vetting profiles - to what end? If members were marked as unavailable by default most profiles that don't pass the sniff test or whatever aren't going to go on to clog host searches. Any other unacceptable member behaviour can be trusted to be reported by members themselves. This would free up time to actually respond to the bug reports, suggestions and queries on the forum for example (amongst many other pressing tasks).
As has been mentioned before a big icon with a drop down menu to change host status (green for available, red for unavailable) in the header of every page will be a constant and visible reminder for any member about their availability, you could additionally send pop up reminders to new members on first sign in if they signed up marked as unavailable just to make sure they understand what that means and how to change it. You have no problem sending pop ups asking for donations so it shoulnd't be a herculean task.
And finally to the question, what are the advantages as you see them of signing up new members as available to host by default over signing them up as unavailable to host by default?
There is not advantage of signing up by default as a host or a guest per se. The only reason I can think to default to a host is that this is a reciprocal community. In part, this is what WS is "People who are willing to host touring cyclists sign up and provide their contact information, and may occasionally have someone stay with them and share great stories and a drink. All members agree to host others either now or in the future, but for some members hosting may be in years or even decades in their future."
Therefore, since everyone is expected to host at some point in the future (if they are being honest) even if they never are hosted, then defaulting to a host is OK. Honestly, I signed up years ago and don't remember I had an option, you jsut to give your info. Are you saying, just allow people to sign up as "I will be a guest only and never host."? If so, WS definitely needs to make the person's membership "category" shown in their profile as I personally would be disinclined to host people who identify as only "takers".
Since Response rates have declined every year (expected since everyone starts out at 100%), something needs to change. The green/red button is a good idea. However, even that really doesn't help if all people do is continually hit "No". That may improve the Response rate but probably doesn't improve the acceptance rate which, to me, is actually much more important. I would much rather have 3 hosts in a metro area who would actually host than 100 "available" but only 3 actually are willing and able to.
"There is not advantage of signing up by default as a host or a guest per se"
I have just gone to some trouble outlining why it is counterproductive to default to available to host in my previous post (and in dozens of others) - if you disagree with any of my points then I would be happy to hear your arguments but just waving it away as not a problem is not an argument.
"Are you saying, just allow people to sign up as "I will be a guest only and never host."? If so, WS definitely needs to make the person's membership "category" shown in their profile as I personally would be disinclined to host people who identify as only "takers"."
People can sign up NOW as unavailable to host the problem is it is not the default setting (WS is the only hospex I have encountered that does this). If every member had their setting correct you would only receive requests from people marked as unavailable to host, so apparently you would refuse them all accommodation because of this?
"Since Response rates have declined every year (expected since everyone starts out at 100%)"
How are response rates declining every year to be expected? What do you mean by people start at 100% ?
" I would much rather have 3 hosts in a metro area who would actually host than 100 "available" but only 3 actually are willing and able to."
This is exactly what I am advocating for. If you would rather have 3 hosts in a metro area who would actually host than 100 available but only 3 willing to host why are you in favour of continuing to sign up members as available to host by default? Surely you would want invested hosts to be required change their setting on sign up and all the rest not appear on the map?
You don't make an argument except to say cater to the lazy people who want something easy, free, and quick (point 1 of your 2018-07-18;16 (at l;east my time zone) reply), point 2 is not an argument). I counter with make it so you really want to become a member, not just so it is easy. Sort of like making an app free or you have to pay. If you are really interested in an app, you might pay but if it is more like Hey, lets give it a shot since it is free, why not. Lastly, you are failing I guess to get the point that this is a RECIPROCAL group. We should not encourage those who only want to take, not give, since that is the stated mission of this community. What part of reciprocal do you not understand?
For your reply in 2nd paragraph stating people can NOW _SIGN UP_ , if you say you can sign up from scratch now and have the option (not requirement) to sign up as hosting, I guess I will believe you. Yes, anyone can make themselves unavailable anytime after they sign up. It is not suck a big deal to make themselves unavailable. You are seriously getting worked up so lazy takers do not have to do one or two extra steps. If you are saying those lazy takers will never host so why make them do the extra steps, I really have no response that you would appreciate since I basically do not care what those that only take want. This is for those that are willing to host (even if they never get a chance) since they are asking to be hosted. It really doesn't matter what others do and how many of them do it. Yes, we can learn from them, but it doesn't always make it better or right. We are dealing with a very specialized niche group. AirBnB is one form of hospex group. Should we follow their lead since they are one of the biggest???
People start at 100% response rate. I guess mathmatically it could be 0% but I guess I am a half full kind of guy.. If you have had a total of 2 requests and you respond only oncel, you have a 50% response rate. Is this starting from 0% or 100%. I was counting down. Regardless, it really doesn't matter what the beginning point is. It is the actual response rate that matters.
Your last sentence. Actually, I want invested hosts who occasionally tour also. I do NOT want just those that tour with no intention of ever hosting and I would encourage all methods to prevent those type of members. It sounds like you do not care who a member is, just that they bike. I guess I am a little more picky/snobbish than you.
I think the key people in this thread have made their point repeatedly. I think we all have the right to disagree, and would all be having more fun cycling than beating a dead horse. With that said, I am closing this thread for commenting.
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