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Couchsurfing

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As of 2009 CouchSurfing is the biggest hospitality exchange network.

Events

The website features a searchable database of hundreds of upcoming events organised by CouchSurfing members. The big so called camps were started in 2004, mainly organized by former volunteers of Hospitality Club, including the annual (2005 - 2010)"Berlin Beach Camp" which drew over 1,000 attendees, the annual "WinterCamp", a New Year's Eve party hosted in a different city in Europe every year. Most organisers open there camps for members from CouchSurfing, Hospitality Club, BeWelcome and everyone else, that is interested.

Unofficial technical tips and tricks for CS

Delete your CS group posts

  • There is an addon or firefox for hiding posts via the "my group post pages". It's a radical resolution, but unlike the description said it's no real deletion, it makes use of the CS function to hide posts. So every post can be restored manually (and by CS-admins). If the post is an initial one, it is also hidden from the list of posts on the group page.

CS Data backup

  • backup_messages.sh: UNIX shell script for making a backup of a user's CouchSurfing messages. See the top of the script for usage instructions.

Protect your picture rights

  • Upload only a useless 1px by 1py image and use the caption field for a html image-tag to include a pictures hosted somewhere else. As this pictures isn't uploaded to CS you don't have to agree with the terms of use regarding the upload of images. More info here.

Information about CS going B Corp

August 25th 2011 it was announced CS turned into a B-corp. Some more info:



What are the roles of people in CouchSurfing?


Any CouchSurfer

Is sometimes a host, sometimes a guest.

Ideally many CouchSurfers would at some point start working on improving CouchSurfing itself. By partaking in editing on this wiki, helping out with answer Contact Us questions, setting up meetings, doing administrative work. ... Unfortunately the Leadership Team is still not ready for this in 2009.

Ambassadors

CouchSurfing ambassadors are representatives of CouchSurfing.

Collective

CouchSurfing collectives are meeting places for people who actively want to cooperate on improving CouchSurfing.

Admins

CouchSurfing has a limited number of administrators. They can do things such as monitor security on the site (dealing with users with suspicious motives), deal with other more sensitive issues, handle verifications, reset passwords, change usernames etc.

Founders

Four people started the CouchSurfing project, the founders.

Other

Note: these are higly speculative, CS organizational structure is still under discussion by founders, admins and collective participants.



Stuff

CouchSurfing was founded as a non-profit organization in the U.S. state of New Hampshire in 2003.

Under repeated assurances by CS management that CS would always remain non-profit, volunteers, dedicated members and donors helped build and rebuild CS after Casey Fenton accidentally deleted the database in 2006, gave up and walked away.

In 2010, CS was notified by the U.S. tax authorities that it would be denied the 501c3 charity status for which it had applied because the way in which CS operated was viewed as social rather than charitable in nature (and for a number of other reasons).

At that stage, CS had to change its status. It could have chosen another non-profit type, such as 501c7 for the social and recreational organization which the IRS said it was, or go for-profit. Although CS had always pledged to remain non-profit, it decided to break that pledge and go for-profit.

To prepare this “conversion”, the chairman of CouchSurfing, Dan Hoffer, had already been working at the venture capital firm Benchmark Capital months before the IRS denial was officially notified.

The bylaws of CS and the law stipulate that upon dissolution the assets of the non-profit organization had to be distributed to a charity or to the government.

CouchSurfing petitioned a New Hampshire court for authorization to buy the assets itself, telling the court that nobody else could receive the assets and that there were no interested parties to be notified of the plan to sell CouchSurfing. At the same, time CouchSurfing volunteers were told only that changes were coming, but not that CouchSurfing would be sold. Members and donors were told nothing. This lack of information deprived these stakeholders of their legal right to oppose the petition.

Based on a valuation commissioned and paid for by CouchSurfing, the non-profit assets were valued at only about $600,000, less than 1/3 of annual revenue.

The founders of CouchSurfing set up a new company under the name “Better World for Travel Inc.” (BWTT) in Delaware (a famous tax haven) which bought the CouchSurfing assets for a fraction of the actual value.

The proceeds of the sale went to a New Hampshire grant fund rather than to the CouchSurfing community which had created the assets in large parts.

The majority shareholders of BWTT, Casey Fenton and Dan Hoffer, issued shares to themselves and sold a minority share of the supposed $600,000 assets for $7,600,000 to two capital venture firms, Benchmark Capital and Omidyar Network. This puts the value of Casey Fenton’s and Dan Hoffer’s share at more than $7,600,000, most likely at more than $15 million.

Initially they announced that CouchSurfing had been converted to a Benefit Corporation, which was then corrected to “B-Corporation”. The right to carry the "B-Corp" label was obtained by submitting false information about the dissolved non-profit organization to B-Lab, the organization which hands out the label for a fee, and by using that label for the just created profit corporation under the false name “CouchSurfing International” (the real name being “Better World Through Travel Inc.”).

CouchSurfing has been misrepresenting the nature of the business as “half-way between a non-profit and a for-profit” when in fact the legal form is a conventional for-profit C-Corporation (like Coca Cola or Microsoft). The future of CouchSurfing is now uncertain because it will have to go public in the not too distant future in order to repay the venture capital with a profit and to allow employees to exercise their stock options. Nobody knows who will then be the new shareholders and what their plans for CouchSurfing will be.

So, in summary, there are serious issues with the dishonest way in which CS, against repeated assurances that this could and would never happen, has been secretly privatized for the personal enrichment of a few when other alternatives existed, with how this has been justified, with the impact this has on the CouchSurfing community which in large part built what is now being taken away from it, and with how the nature of the new owner of the website and of our data has been misrepresented as a kind of non-profit when legally it is nothing but a conventional profit corporation illegitimately parading a B-lab label.

The moral issues with the above should be obvious. The legal issues are currently being investigated. The first consequence of this investigation is expected to be the withdrawal of the B-Corp certification. Other consequences could include the criminal prosecution of key actors in the above "conversion", its reversal, or the withdrawal of the investors.



Other CS information


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