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Host searching filters

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WS Member WS Member's picture
Host searching filters

Hey folks,
I love this site and the people that I've met on it. One of the things that I found difficult was finding an "active" and/or recommended host in some of the larger cities. For example, DC has about 120 hosts. Of those, I imagine about half are inactive, or have no recommendations. It'd be great to filter those out, or at least put them at the bottom of the search results, so that I don't waste my time with messages to people who aren't around.
I know that you can see this when you click on the host's profile, but it would save a lot of time if these were automatically filtered out. Couch Surfing has this feature on their search, if you want an example of what I mean. Also, it'd be great to include filters on for number of guests, nights, etc.

I'm happy to help make this happen if there's anything that you'd like me to do!


WS Member @wsadmin@'s picture
Better search filters

Hi Kai - Thanks for the suggestion. We've had better search filters on our agenda for some time, - I think you'll see it within the next year. We're also going to make unresponsive hosts not be listed as available any more, also within the next year.

I've never understood why hosts in larger cities seem to be the least responsive of all. It's been my experience since the beginning of this site, and the same on CS.

-Randy Webmaster

WS Member WS Member's picture
Probably because they get no

Probably because they get no requests and give up on the site for the reasons listed below. Is there any reason we need to continue marking all new members as available to host?

WS Member @wsadmin@'s picture
New members choose

The choice of hosting is highlighted and explained, not automatic, and people are expected to set it when signing up, and many do. But it does default to "available", and yes, lots of people miss it. The reason goes back to when we were a spreadsheet of hosts :)

I definitely think it should be improved.

WS Member WS Member's picture
Trying to filter out non

Trying to filter out non active hosts with clunky mechanisms like a once a year purge (ie: all those 'hosts' I mentioned that have joined up in BA since the last purge will only have 9,10,11 months of membership by the time the next one comes around and thus will be clogging the system for close to two years before being removed - that is assuming they don't login at all) seems to be attacking it from the wrong end. Why take on so many fake hosts in the first place? I would suggest that the reason the rate of host availability on WS is double or more what it is on other hospex sites is precisely because of this.

The member who signs up to host is the one more likely to explore the site, get their profile in order etc, so having a default setting of unavailable, a clearly marked status icon at the top of the page and a nag message on each login along the lines of 'You are currently marked as unavailable to host, if you wish to host change your status by clicking...' until the status changes or the user clicks 'Don't show me again' isn't going to see a massive decline in genuine hosts but it will eventually remove a lot of false positives from the system.

WS Member WS Member's picture
This has been discussed quite

This has been discussed quite extensively:

-Searching for hosts by feedback |
-About trustworthy users |
-Popup Info Item |
-Lack of Responsiveness |
-unresponsive "hosts" |

There are a number of factors contributing to this problem:
1. New members are by default shown as available to host. This contributes enormous numbers of false positives in host searches. I'm not aware of another hospex site that does this.
2. List searches are ordered by distance from the 'city centre'. This just compounds the previous problem by pushing members who have not filled out their location (it becomes by default 0km from city centre) to the top of the search. I checked my own city only a few months after the last 'purge' of inactive members and already the list had filled up with many new members. It was clear from the profiles that the majority had little or no intention of hosting.
3. Lack of any filtering or ordering mechanisms as a remedy to 1 and 2.

We have somewhere in the region of 100 hosts in greater Buenos Aires and probably 12-15 who reply to most requests and have some interest in hosting. This is just asking too much of guests to click through what is essentially a random list of members (actually a randomised list would be more useful as it wouldn't push new members with no profiles to the top) trying to find active hosts. I have taken to asking guests how they found me (because with 6 years on WS, 20 positive references from guests and 100% feedback I appear about 50 places down because I live 6km from the city centre) and some have told me they don't even use the list search, they just randomly click on flags on the map as it is equally effective. Anyone 8,9,10 km from the city centre (which is certainly not distant suburbia here) would have almost zero chance of receiving a request.

The list search could actually be a useful complement to the map search with the top being reserved for a randomised list of members filtered by response rate and last login (say >50% and within the last month) before the remainder are listed. Unfortunately the response has been that the problem of finding hosts and guests in large cities is 'intractable'. If CS could do it during its boom years with 3-4 million members I don't see why it can't be resolved here, any contribution you could make would be more than welcome.

WS Member WS Member's picture
I have tried contacting

I have tried contacting several other hosts in my own city just to network, and have received a very poor response. I am thinking that several people do not link their email to their account, and thus do not receive messages. Helping to make linked email as more of a standard might increase local hosting options/accessibility

WS Member @wsadmin@'s picture
Every message results in an email notification

Email notifications of messages are not optional. Every message on the WS site results in an email notification. Some people may have problems with spam filters, as is the way with people and their email.

WS Member WS Member's picture
I wonder how many people have

I wonder how many people have multiple email accounts and use an alternate, or less used account for WS. Like the ones we all use when entering drawings to win that shiny new car...

WS Member WS Member's picture
If they were members with a

If they were members with a history of replying and logging in then I think it would be more down to the fact that members of this community aren't as accustomed to answering non-hospitality requests as those of other hospex sites.

WS Member WS Member's picture
I´m a new user myself, and

I´m a new user myself, and while I´ve had some success so far, I´ve also had plenty of time to experience the low-reply ratio, and perhaps what I would consider a more than questionable "friendliness" when I do get a reply (It´s obvious some people do reply just not to damage their "Reply ratio"... if they care at all). I´m travelling soon through a not-so-populated area, and the natural lack of hosts, lack of replies, and even smaller percentage of willing hosts, is making my trip quite challenging, TBH.

So to give you guys a little bit of feedback, I mostly see a couple of main problems when trying to find a (good) host, other than the aforementioned:

A) Reply ratio and willingness to host have very little to do with each other: a user may have a 100% reply ratio with a permanently "Available for hosting" status, just by replying every single time: "I´m sorry, I´m out of town/not available/having a baby those days!" If you want to give us reliable stats, we should have a number of times asked/times hosted ratio.

B) Feedback is not encouraged/well implemented: in the previous case, feedback does help to know if a certain user does offer some help from time to time, but even then, I´ve already found plenty of users with several years old profiles who have a ridiculously low number of comments, even when I know for a fact that´s something that doesn´t correlate with their real-life activity on the site. Guests and hosts "forget", or simply don´t even bother to leave feedback, way too often. This could be alleviated if it was actively encouraged by the system through reminders, and much more effectively, if the users were offered some kind "reward" ("points", "perks", whatever) after they leave some feedback, perhaps in exchange for useful features on the site ("Advanced filters" sounds great to me... ;)

C) I do not feel free enough to give neutral/negative feedback: since the community is so small, and the feedback ratio is even much smaller, I cannot "afford" to downvote a host/guest that I cannot recommend at all, if I don´t want to "hurt" my profile with his or her negative vote back. As such, perhaps some kind of "anonymous" voting from users with active, legitimate profiles should be implemented, which BTW, may be one of the reasons the voting ratio is not as high as it should be ("If I cannot vote what I truly want without hurting my profile, I rather not vote at all").

Other than that, a truly fantastic idea, and a place where I still feel much more at home than Face-Surfing... ;) Keep it going guys!

WS Member WS Member's picture
After some thoughts, I´d like

After some thoughts, I´d like to add a "D" point:

D) If we´re trying to increase transparency, we should not allow any member to read the Warmshower messages directly from their personal inbox, since as it is, it doesn´t leave any trace they actually read the message, which means they can always give the fake excuse "Sorry, I didn´t read your message on time!", which is something that we cannot tell for sure whether or not is true. If you force them to be able to login if they want to read their "surprise" email, though, at least we do have the confirmation that they most likely read it, and simply ignored us, so it helps us to better "filter" users.

WS Member WS Member's picture
I'm not sure how many cities

I'm not sure how many cities there are that suffer from an excess of active members with high reply rates in need of further filtering. Another negative outcome of the problems I've listed above is that if an active member with a history of replying happens to appear near the top of the list in a city they attract a disproportionately high number of requests and can ultimately get burnt out.

WS has some quite unique challenges as a hospex network. There are numerous members in remote areas (particularly on US bike routes) who have limited access to internet and typically do not log into the site with much frequency but rather review requests through email software. Additionally many stays are negotiated entirely offsite by telephone.

As for feedback - I agree, this site has not had a culture of leaving feedback for much of its history but that has been slowly changing in recent years. Retaliatory negative feedback can be reviewed by WS admin, and with a relatively small number of members and a dedicated team working behind the scenes I'd be fairly confident that any problems would be taken seriously and dealt with as swiftly as possible.
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You've been on the site for little more than two weeks, give it some time before rushing to conclusions. Perhaps you could review your profile or the content of your requests. Making multiple simultaneous requests is a good strategy in large cities, and always have a Plan B even when you get a positive reply.

I guess we could have a roaming WS investigations unit in each country that ascertains if a host really did come down with the flu or ensure that the 'my grandmother died' excuse isn't used more than twice but ultimately, as with any hospex network, each host is entirely within their rights to deny a request for any reason (as they are entirely within their rights to keep that reason to themselves). Expecting to get a positive reply in every destination or doubting the sincerity of your potential hosts doesn't seem to me to be the right way to go about it.

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