Vienna Calling | A CouchSurfing worship workshop
I decided to go to the Vienna Calling CouchSurfing event at 7am on the very day I left. I had mixed feelings about it mainly because I have mixed feelings about CouchSurfing.
I'd been on the website since it was created, hosted hundreds, been hosted hundreds of times. While the general concept of web-based hospitality was totally my can of beer, the shady way the Couchsurfing website was run gave me the creeps. Vienna was far from my home in Hamburg, but I went anyway because
- I dreaded to stay at home with nothing else to do than looking for a job.
- Some of my friends were going there and I wanted to see them.
- I had found a guy online that would subrent my room for a week.
- I had no money left so I needed that cash.
- But most of all, I hoped to get to get some insight about the way the CouchSurfing project is managed directly from the horse's mouth, as the founders and managers of the thing would be there.
Wednesday : legendary hitchhiking and hospitality
I set off from Hamburg, at 10am with a light pack and 1000km of hitchhiking ahead of me. That I completed in an astoundingly short 12h time and thus arrived in time for the first event of the gathering: a warmup party. I got there around 10:30pm.
I was really surprised to find already around 50 people there. It was set up in the Museumquartier, in the centre of Vienna. A sort of big paved court surrounded by museums. Probably swarming with tourists during the day. I walked through the little crowd to put down my bag when a guy that I didn't recognize immediately waived at me. I joined his little group and gave him a hug, since he seemed friendly. Then I turned to the group and introduced myself as noisily as usual (I'm a rather obnoxious person). Right next to my friend was a short guy that I recognized instantly for the founder, owner and alleged visionary leader of Couchsurfing.
A friend of mine that is a former volunteer for the website and heard that I was going down to Vienna asked me to kick him in the balls for her. Her story was an echo of what had happened to volunteer after volunteer: she showed up full of great ideas and motivation to further this wonderful project, they squeezed her like a lemon until she ran out of juice / started asking question about how they spent the donation money when all the work was being done by volunteers, they ostracized her until she slammed the door. She was promptly replaced by the next motivation-filled volunteer in line.
I told her that I would do my best (about kicking his balls, but there he was, smiling at me in such a friendly way. I just had to shake his hand instead. I finally put down my bag and started looking for my buddies. I found one of them in the person of Ulf, one of the most outrageous Couchsurfing whores that I ever met. If Casey raped a nun, he probably would be able to spin a story around it to show the world that, really, it was the nun's fault, and if we don't like it, we can always stop using the website, so shut up already with the finger-pointing. I like him for other reasons. Another hug later, I found myself hoping around from group to group, trying to find some cool people to hang out with.
It didn't quite work out. One particular trick I used as an ice-breaker failed lamentably. I went around with a little vial of cognac, walking into random groups and asking loud enough for everyone to hear: "Hey! Who wants some love?". My intention was to give the drink to the first one to scream: "me me me!". But so far, no one did. They just looked at me like if I was from Mars and I had just spoken Martian to them. At the 3rd group, a girl shyly raised her hand. I passed the vial over to her and she just looked at it. The fifth group had one guy that was unautistic enough to want some love and actually drink it. Couchsurfers suck...
Then arrived some friends from Berlin Beach Camp. They were at the end of an apparently exhausting hitch-hiking journey and were yearning for a bed. They were staying at the same place as Ulf. I had no host but Ulf had told me that there was enough space where he was staying for me as well. We set off with another girl as well to that prodigy host, at whom's they told me more people were already sleeping and even more were due. The name is Fabian, but it sounded unfinished. We'll call him Fabian-the-Great if that's OK with you.
I took a much deserved shower and went to sleep on a camping mattress under the fußball table.
Thursday: the minion army
In the morning, by the time everyone had woken up, a lousy roommate of Fabian-the-Great told us that he was leaving the flat, and so must we. I had millions of things to do in Internet. I packed all my stuff (unsure if I could sleep there again), went out, sat down on the sidewalk with my laptop and worked 2 hours from the wifi until my laptop batteries were flat. That happened around 13:30.
I had then planned to go to a big meeting held by the owners of couchsurfing.org but realised I had mixed up the dates and that the meeting was the day after. That happens to me all the time, and like always, I was furious at myself. There I was, with one full empty afternoon ahead of me. I tried calling Ulf that did not answer (he had forgotten his mobile at the flat) and obviously, he was the only one I had the phone number of. I remembered that some of the kids were joining a "Free hugs" action in the afternoon, and though I dislike this activity, it was my only way to get in touch with the group again.
Free-hugging is a hippie activity that consists into hugging total strangers like if they were your best friend, giving them a big dose of fake love and forgetting about them subsequently. I consider it the climax of hypocrisy, along with an intolerable intrusion in the intimacy of strangers. Hippies be hippies...
It took me one hour to get there on foot, because Vienna is big and I'm too poor even for the bus.
The free hugs campaign (yeah, "campaign" ; free-huggers are activists) was set up on Stephensplatz, THE tourist hotspot of Vienna. When I got there, I walked straight to a girl that I had met the night before. She didn't recognize me but tried to hug me anyways. I dodged just in time. Fucking hippies...
That's when a huge rainstorm dispersed the already moribund love-mujahidins and they switched to plan B.
Plan B was to go and have a drink together in a pub not too far from there. It must have been on the official program because around 40 couchsurfers were already in there when we arrived.
It was a really carefully decorated bar that would score "not too expensive" in the scale of value of a middle class Austrian, but that low-budget nomads like me couldn't afford even at happy hour (which is wasn't). I sat down with one of my friends called Dingo, an Australian street-artist-nomad.
He had spent the day "statueing" in various tourist places. That is to say: standing motionless and in full costume on a pedestal above a donation basket. He had made the tremendous jackpot of 3€ but was still in good mood, because that's the kind of guy he is. I was probably more disappointed than him, because I was going to try to get him to buy me a beer.
I swapped tables quite often, trying to get to meet as many people as possible, so one of them finally get me a fucking drink. I was a bit appalled that the couchsurfing.com website was the centre of pretty much all conversations. It being a traveler's website, I was expecting that people would be talking more about travels than about profile-optimisation and forum-reputation.
After a while, we all left, me still sober. Next point on the program was to get everyone to a barbecue place on an island on the river. The group moved towards the underground station. I was on too tight a budget so I decided to go on foot. You should have seen the shocked looks when I told them! Like they've never seen a moneyless hitchhiker. Seriously. Couchsurfing.com is a website for staying at people's place for free. It's the fucking Mecca of moneyless hitchhikers. Who the fuck were those people?
I plugged earphones into my mobile and into myself on the other end, started a good playlist and off I went for two hours of a half-visiting, half-getting-lost walk through Vienna. I took a pretty massive detour in order to try to hitchhike most of the way using a big boulevard but it didn't work. So I got to the river-island where the barbecue was set up quite late, and I wasn't there yet. It was a long island.
After some distance, a voice called my name behind me. It was Michael from Munich, that was my host when I had gone to Oktoberfest 6 month before, and he was some sort of overlord-level-member on the website.
There are many levels of membership in couchsurfing.org. Everyone starts as "standard member". After having gained some recorded experience, a standard member can ask to be promoted to the status of "couchsurfing ambassador". As an "ambassador", the member receives a little yellow flag on his profile, a better placement in the search results and a couple of other candies. There are many levels of ambassadorship. City ambassadors are below country ambassadors that are below continental ambassadors that themselves respond to global ambassadors. Ambassadors are granted access to ambassador-only chatrooms, and that is the extend of their power on the website. The scheme otherwise structurate the memberbase according to a hierarchical scheme based on "first arrived first served".
I find it lamentable, but ambassadors love it. Standard members usually don't give a shit.
Well, Michael from Munich is actually a global ambassador. He was walking among a group of people that I did not recognize, though one of the girls said she had met me at the Oktoberfest thing. I joined their group. It turned out that the little group was full of Couchsurfing celebrities. And since I'm an active participant in the forums where standard members are allowed (I'm no ambassador), they ended up recognizing me. One of the guys in the group in particular was the founder of a "new-features-ideas-for-the-website" forum where I was bound to take root in. The original purpose of the forum was defiled some years ago and the administrators of the website do not even read it anymore, even though discussion on website features are permanently going on there. Every single brainstorm on that forum is wasted.
I can assure you they turned pretty sour against the website's administration. The discussions on the forum included a significant percentage of very vocal uneasiness with the way the website is managed. A week before, thinking I might head to the Vienna Grand Mess, I'd started a post to gather questions and requests I could pass on directly to the leadership, since they didn't read our emails. The forum was shutdown without warning a few days later by said founder that walking casually right next to me right now. In two years of activity on the forum, I had never seen a single post from that guy. I was indeed very curious on the motivations behind his blockade. I mean, shutting down the only public communication channel commonly used for criticism a week before the summit sounds so fucking sinister I was convinced there were other reasons. There just had to be.
But the last thing I wanted is to waste a good party (<- I'm a fucking coward is more like it). And there was no reason it was going to be a bad one. There was quite a crowd when we got there. It must have been around 8pm. One really loud Austrian guy walked toward us to sell us bracelets. It was 2€ for the night or 6€ for the whole week-end. I thought it was to pay for the barbecue coals, and since I had only peanut butter and bread to eat, I dodged. I realized later that there were some other expenses involved, and felt a bit bad for it.
One thing that I noticed very quickly was the prevalence of CouchSurfing t-shirts around me. Some of those kids were clearly using the website as a surrogate for spirituality. They woke up in a couchsurfing sort of mood, wore couchsurfing items, met up with their couchsurfer friends, and chatted online on Couchsurfing (until the chat was recently shutdown for obscure reasons).
I probably out-hospitalitied all of them. Hell, I had founded the emergency hosting squad in Hamburg. But wearing a trademark? Where was the punk in those people?
I wanted to have some fun so I tried ignoring the merch, with lukewarm success. I sat down with a friend to have my dinner. This was my second day on peanut butter and bread, and it already gave me the pukes. He complained about his back so I gave him a massage. I asked someone to work on me, and soon we had a massaging caterpillar on the grass.
Some kids had started playing frisbee. I joined them in the intention of organizing an "ultimate frisbee" game. It's a sort of team game that rules are similar to that of rugby, but more peaceful and with a disc. It worked, and I was glad. I was starting to lose hope of ever doing anything with these folks.
During a break, the loud Austrian guy came with an icebox full of beer, a girl was walking behind him with a box labelled "DONATIONS". Great! I got one beer and dropped 50c in the donation box. A beer can is 20c at the supermarket, so I thought I was being fair. I did it rather quickly, as I was very thirsty, and sort of overtook the girl that meant to take my coin. It turned out that they were actually selling the beer for 1€50, and that the donation box was in fact a cash register.
Which is so, oh so reminiscent of the way the couchsurfing website is funded. They don't advertise on the website and fuel themselves only through member-cash-flow. But instead of calling for donation, they sell a profile-upgrade for 25€ that they call "verification" instead of "donation" and try to make it look like they are just covering the costs of the operation, while 90% of the income of the website relies on it.
We played until dark. When the game ended, I needed a bath. So I ran to the Danube, hoping that the warmth of the physical effort would save me from certain death in the cold water. I shed my clothe very quickly, entered the water screaming, swam a couple of strokes, came back, jumped out of it and dried my shivering body as quick as possible. Some of the group went in the water after having seen me. On the side of the lawn, the massage caterpillar was still going. Another game of ultimate frisbee had started. It made me feel important, but worried at the same time. If I hadn't started doing shit, those kids would still be gossiping about bullshit that happened on the forum. The whole cult leader thing in Couchsurfing was beginning to make a little more sense. The very thing that makes my hair stand on end is soothing to the kind of people that apply to the status of Couchsurfing Ambassador. They love the visionary leader narrative. They'll do things only after someone else has started doing it. They aren't the kind of boring squares that believes in studies, jobs, mortgages and death. They want awesome shit to happen. But they won't create the situation in which awesome shit is likely to occur. But they'll follow right in if someone else does it.
All stoned that I was from the frisbee match and the cold water bath, I sat down on a bench, facing the crowd and the sunset, and watched the black silhouettes of the people cut out on the bright violet sky. Alone with my fucking melancholy. I let my thoughts run amok for a while on the fact that, when reduced to 2D, people are much more interesting: The 3D physical image of someone doesn't change much and when you've seen it once, you've seen it all, but flattened to 2D, people constantly morph into an infinite panel of shades, merging with the background, or with each other, without even knowing about it. Take away one dimension, and couchsurfers become more interesting.
A group of people on the nearest bench distracted me, as I heard them try to speak in French. I turned to them and tried to join the conversation. It was a conversation about languages. I have heard variations of this topic being discussed a million times. And somehow, I still always participate, all the while telling myself: "not again!":
"So you see, in German, the sentence is structured differently"
"But in French, we use gender for everything"
"Did you know that, in Finnish, there are no genders?"
"I prefer the way italian grammar is set up"
"Composed verbs in English make it so hard, but so subtle"
This is the second most common topic in a traveler's meeting. After "where is everybody from" and before "sex" or "politics".
In spite of my very tight budget, I got myself another beer. And doing so, I noticed that the loud Austrian that was there to take my order had spent the whole evening siting on the "donation" chest near the icebox, and that was going to be his experience of the evening. I felt really sorry for him, but he seemed content of his lot. Of course, someone has to guard the money, right?
A few year ago, I took part in a sort of "artistic experiment" called SPROUTBAU in Bremen in 2007. Sixty artists from all around the world living and working together in the same facility. On the 7th floor, there was a sort of "lounge", where most of the social interactions were going on. It had a fridge just for beer. On top of that fridge was an open shoebox with a sign: "Becks 1€50 | Hemelinger 1€". People would help themselves to the fridge, and throw a coin in the box, or not. Many times I took beer without paying, and then threw a banknote in the box when I had my wallet on me. The donation box was getting enough cash to replenish the fridge day after day. And I believe that it is the way to go. A community that doesn't trust its own members is not really sustainable.
But that's not the couchsurfing way. So I bought myself a beer, and went around talking to people. Some of them I knew, some of them I got to know. People were leaving by waves. Fabian-the-Great offered me a place to sleep under his fußball table again, but the sky was clear, the temperature bearable so I decided to sleep right where we were, on a bench under the stars. He soon left with his crowd of guests.
The last people to leave really tried to save me from sleeping outside. They were clearly not computing the thought of someone willfully choosing to sleep in a park.
In the end, one of them decided to stay with me. That's the kind of people I enjoy! After they had left, we walked to the Danube and sat on the grass for a last cigarette. I do not remember the content of our surely deep conversation. A much too common trope for drunkards like me. We went to bed then.
I slept on a bench very comfortably until 7am, when the hot sun woke me up ; and then I slept very comfortably again on the grass under the trees until 10am.
When I woke up, the guy that was with me the night before was gone, and instead was another one from the party. His name was Danny, and he had gotten so drunk at the barbecue that he failed to find the group of people he was supposed to be with, and then failed to find the exit of the park. But he had managed to come back to the barbecue spot and had slept there. I went one way, he went another.
The crowd was supposed to use a park not far from the centre of Vienna as a base camp. I headed there. It took me one hour. Fucking big towns...
The walk was quite pleasant though, with some good old heavy metal ringing in my ears, through some green parts of the city. When I got there, I found out that the park where it was set up was huge and the explanations to find the exact spot that were on the website truly sucked. It took me really long to find them. There was nothing particular to distinguish them from other groups of park-goers. I was looking for a big group but they were only five.
We played a game of poker that would have made a rich man out of me, had we played for money. And then I left them to go to a big-official-important meeting between the owners of the website and their loving ambassador-slaves. I really wanted to see that. If you remember the way-above-mentioned Ulf, he was the one that got me in there. He is an ambassador himself and put my name on the list as a "guest" when I was already on my way hitchhiking to Vienna. I was going to be the only non-ambassador there.
I got there right in time for the beginning, and it was a long ass day of greenwashing, listening to bullshit, politely asking non-threatening questions, listening to bogus-answers and saying thank you. I'd love to have news to break, but nothing I didn't already know was revealed there. What's the point of booking a conference hall just to rehash the same bullshit that was already on the website?
Then, the participants of the conference were invited by the "Leadership Team" (that's how the owners call themselves) to a dinner in a nearby restaurant, paid by the profile upgrades of standard members. I felt like an imposter there, not even being an ambassador. Not that they deserved it more... I found solace in the fact the food was unremarkable and there wasn't much of it.
I sat randomly and found myself in the company of utterly boring Italian ambassadors. Ulf came to my table and asked me what I had thought of the conference. I didn't want to sound ungrateful for his invitation, but I couldn't lie to him. Actually he expected my answer about the leadership people being at the same time full of themselves and ass-licking. He told me that their originally planned performance was even more full of emptiness and that he had hacked into it mercilessly. In facts, to all the "ambassadors" that I asked about, I got more or less the same answer: "It was a waste of our time and theirs". That's how much it sucked.
After the restaurant, there was a party planned in a nightclub somewhere in the neighborhood. They had reserved the whole thing just for us. I was really looking forward to this one.
On my way there I ran into my friends Trevor and Massimo. They had a bottle of something with alcohol in it that I helped them drink. And by the time it was finished, we were there.
The club was just the right size for our group. It felt full but not too crowded. The music was truly horrible. I mean, very very very bad. Somehow I was expecting it. I danced to the beat, unless it was too unlistenable.
I flirted with a couple of girls, talked to many friends over the loud music, bounced between the bar, the toilets and the dance-floor ; bounced on the dance floor. I was really counting on scoring myself somewhere to sleep that night, possibly along with someone to sleep with. But nightclubs are probably the worst place for that kind of business, not aided with the fact that couchsurfers aren't quite the sex positive kind I sort of assumed they were. I left alone at 4 with my backpack, a bit disappointed, but not overly so. It's a nightclub after all.
I did enjoy the irony of coming to the grand meeting of an hospitality exchange network, and spending half the nights on the street. Of course I probably could have arranged a host in advance, but I had wanted to try it on the fly.
I found myself a bush in a park. The sun was not out yet but it was already quite bright. I crawled in my sleeping bag and very soon I was off to a better place.
Saturday: Get me out of here
When I woke up, a few hours later, I found out there were dried dog shit all around me. Best spot ever.
From where I was, it would have been too long a walk back to the base. I took a train. Then I walked back to the same place I had found the others the day before and there, I found nobody. I was 5 minutes early...
The reason why I was so punctual is that there was supposed to be a workshop on hitchhiking right at the beginning, and I wanted to participate. I put down my bag, got my computer out and that's where I started typing this story. After a while, a swiss guy showed up. We waited together. The guy was this typical frustrated kid on an ego trip that makes the raw material of all ambassadors. Sure enough, he was one of the superior kind. A country-ambassador, supervising many less important city-ambassadors.
But it was still interesting to talk to him. Frustrated kids are not necessarily boring. After a while, I started to wonder if we were the only ones that found the place. And I knew it was the place because I had been there the day before.
I went off for a walk around the gigantic park to try to find lost-looking people. Then I remembered that the previous day, there'd been only five people. That couldn't be right. They probably had changed the meeting place, forgotten to update the website, and posted on the ambassador private forum only.
I decided to go to Bratislava. It suddenly occured to me that I wasn't enjoying it at all, that this Saturday was going to be just as boring as the days before, and that I could always come back for the second big important-people meeting on Sunday. Bratislava is just 100 km from Vienna.
So I walked out of the park and into a cybercafe, and connected to both BeWelcome and HospitalityClub, two competing hospitality networks that have a dedicated "phone number" field on the profiles, so were much better suited for same-day hosting. I harvested 10 phone numbers from people in Bratislava and went off to a public phone to serial-call them. Half never answered, the other half wasn't available. I hang up the phone feeling a bit empty.
I walked out the the booth, looking at the crossroad. Left? Right? Straight? I pondered for a while and went back to where I'd left the ambassador.
In the park there were still nobody. Fuck couchsurfing! I was going to see the sights!
So I plugged myself into some more heavy-metal, and walked back to the centre, not too fast, trying to stop at each cute building or nice little street.
In the evening, the participants were invited to come together at a restaurant. I thought it was my last chance to join up with them. But I stopped in a park before and ate my lot of bread and peanut butter, as it was unlikely the restaurant would be within my budget limits. At least, I was going to watch them eat on a full stomach.
The restaurant turned out way above my initial budget estimate. It was one of those really "typical" Viennese restaurant with reproductions of portraits of Mozart on the walls, that no sane Viennese would ever go to. The floor was jam-packed with tourists. Couchsurfing had booked the basement for us. We had to walk through the main room to get there, there was a violin player going from table to table, playing romantic music to couple in exchange of offending tips. The waiters were as impolite as in Paris, the food was fine, but nothing special... Have the couchsurfing people ever heard of a freaking Vokü?
I sat down near a British guy that I had made friend with at the barbecue. I said hello to everyone at the table. One of the girls turned to me: "Hello, I'm Kerstin, are you an ambassador?". Here we go... And it was pretty much like that all through it. "Hi, I'm the ambassador of Marseille.", "Oh... he's an ambassador too?"... I think that this (relatively) posh restaurant was the most awkward moment for me. I felt as out of place as a tramp at the king's court.
The good part is that a lot of people ordered more food than they could eat so, even though I didn't buy anything, I still walked out fed. There was a going-out-in-a-bar meet-up planned after. I found some kids that wanted to go there at the restaurant and we all went together. It was a walkable distance but they insisted on riding the train. I told them I didn't have money to pay for the ticket. To which they replied that they were not going to pay for it.
Walking out of a 15€-a-dish restaurant, to use the public transportation network without paying... I felt like slapping them. But I really wanted to meet up with the others and I didn't know where the place was (and was too stupid to collect phone numbers...), so I followed. One of them even tried to make the point to me that riding the mass transit without paying was absolutely sustainable and that paying for the ticket was actually a bad thing to do. There was even that Unitedstater guy that I had heard talking up the wonderful public transportation in Europe, lamenting about the evil Babylonic system in his own country... My mood was degrading by the minute.
But when I arrived, Dingo and Anne-Sophie and Aine were there and I could be myself again without being afraid of hurting someone's stupidity. The place was all hip and upscale, I ground my teeth. After a too short while, the two above mentioned girls wanted to go home, and I felt the cruel dilemma of going home early with my friends or staying at the party, alone with the ambassadors. Had I stayed, I might have had a smashing time with the couple of nice people that were probably somewhere to be found in the crowd of assholes, but I chickened out. I was a bit tired too. You don't sleep so well in dog shit.
They brought me back to Fabian-the-Great. I taught them to play Caps. And while I was watching a game, I fell asleep with a beer on my stomach that ended up spilling on me. I woke up when Ulf came back.
Sunday: Screw you guys
On Sunday, the Leadership Team had planned another afternoon of greenwashing and buttering up. I sat painfully through it taking notes for my non-ambassador friends and then, we all went again to the barbecue place where I had slept Friday evening.
With one of the ultimate-frisbee players, we set up another match, that ended with another bath in the river. The Loud-Austrian-beer-keeper was faithful to his duty, I invested in a couple of beers.
I spent a lot of time in a conversation with Nonesee and Sarah, two really nice persons. As it was really hard for me to eat peanut-butter-on-bread, I managed to feed from the leftover food on the barbecue. A lot got thrown away anyway, which didn't even horrify me, because I was starting to accept that that's what couchsurfing ambassadors did.
And when night had crept on us, we moved it to the next chapter. That was a nightclub in downtown-Vienna, right in the super-touristic area near Stephensplatz. I was dreading it a bit.
Instead of sticking with my team, I took the train (it was 1h walking) with a group of strangers. One of them was carrying a drum. One of those african design called "jembe" in Europe that hippies are very fond of. It took me quite some time to make them accept the idea of an improvised tram party. The drummer was really hot for it, but the other were all like: "Now come on... / You can't be serious... / Is he kidding us?". In the end, it was just him playing and me improvising a dance and chant. And with just the two of us, we probably did look a bit silly.
The question holds: Is it a fucking stupid idea to play drums and sing and dance in the tram instead of sitting and looking out the window? Whatever the way I distort the question, I reach the same answer. What am I missing? In case I hadn't already lost all faith in humanity, on the way out of the subway, one of the girls found out she still had two cans of beer in her bag. She asked if someone wanted to help her, as it was likely the doorpeople of the nightclub would not let them through. I was really quick to volunteer. She asked me 1€ for it. I stopped talking to her. That woman, was an ambassador to couchsurfing. Somehow... it felt fitting. She ended up giving it away for free to someone else.
I bet her profile header says that she's open minded and that she likes to meet new people.
The club was not just for us. It was Sunday, there wasn't so many left. The price of drinks was prohibitive, but I harvested many forgotten or abandoned half-full glasses. The music was pathetic when we got in but became better and better, song after song. One of the "Leaders" of the website was outrageously drunk and was embarrassing every single girl on the dance-floor.
He was later accused of sexual harrasment by one of the girls present there. Other girls came out and accused him as well. The leadership tried to brush it under the carpet. It was disgraceful. But it didn't surprise me.
My friends were a bit scattered but it mattered little, as the music was too loud to talk. I stayed really late, dancing the anger away. I left when the club closed, with a very drunk-loud-and-awkward Fabian-the-Great. I slept a couple of hours and hitch-hiked back home via Prague, Dresden and Berlin.
I stopped using the website altogether a year later, after a couple more scandals on how the leadership dealt with dissent / spent the donations. When the community found out that Couchsurfing wasn't a registered charity, while a banner claimed it was on the website, the banner was removed and claimed to have never been there in the first place. When the community demanded to know with what money the leaders were constantly traveling the world and renting huge properties in exotic places for their invite-only "Couchsurfing camps", they dodged by assuring them they were non-profit and every donation was needed to make the website work. When asked if they ever planned on selling the website, they repeatedly said they would never ever do that. Then they did, of course. And the new owners laid them off. That was quite epic. Now Couchsurfing an unashamedly a data-siphon that's clearly in it for the money. The lies have stopped but the dream has died, and the motto "making the world a better place, one couch at a time", was removed from the website.
What do I use? Well, Trustroots of course.
Enough already with blog articles?