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Is there an option to search for members by feedback, which is another way of looking for hosts with a proven track record?
In any case, thank you!
No, but there should be (along with sorting by last log in date and responsiveness). As the site grows we are taking on more people who aren't in it to host making it harder for guests to find those who are. Sorting by distance only tends to put people who couldn't be bothered marking their location at the top of the list. I know in my city at least, those at the top of the list tend to be newer members, with zero feedback and response rates of one third or worse. I think there need to be better mechanisms to sort the active members from the takers - too many reports of travelers not finding hosts in cities with dozens of members.
Now that we have the response rate for each member, which will grow more meaningful with time as members receive more messages, it would be great to be able to perform a search for responsive members in any given location. That seems to me to be one of the most helpful things we could do for travelers.
I love this site and all that it does, but I do not plan my tours around it. I think it is a mistake to set off on a journey, and then email potential hosts with an urgent need and expect to be hosted. That would be more like getting a reservation in a motel. This is a volunteer thing. Having ridden thousands of miles without WS, ACA maps, or GPS, I know that a big part of the journey is spontaneity, and learning how to fend with all the road throws your way.
It would be wonderful if everyone one who signed up for WS was a committed host, but that's just not the case. It would also be wonderful if prevailing winds always blew as they should, but as cyclists, we learn to deal when they do not.
I guess I could say I had more than 9 years of accumulated touring experience behind me when I signed up here having never used WS, GPS, Google Maps nor Lily the Pink's medicinal compound but I don't see what it brings to the debate. If this is a site to bring touring cyclists and hosts together surely any measure to make that easier would be a welcome addition. You would still be free to have all the spontaneity, randomness and entropy you like (or if its so good perhaps we could force more of it on people... we could have 20% of messages disappear and another 20% go to the wrong person in the wrong location).
Of course its an immutable fact common to all hospitality sites that there will be far fewer committed hosts than than those who just log in when they're travelling, so why not make it easier to find those hosts? I live in a city of 15 million people, its fair to say quite a lot of tourers arrive here feeling somewhat apprehensive for various reasons. We now have about 50 members marked as available for hosting I would estimate there are about 8-10 members from whom you could be confident of a response and reasonably confident of an offer of accommodation or assistance, so why not make it easier for cyclists to find those people?
This is how I feel, too.
I think that offering a list of established hosts who are actively available would provide the following benefits:
- Reward active hosts via the website
- Provide convenience for short-notice guests (hosts who are experienced may be more readily available)
- Incentivize passive hosts to become active hosts
- Create some friendly competition in high-population zones (by host)
I think that offering a list of established hosts may provide the following disadvantages:
- Active hosts may receive more attention than they want (Finding an active host now is luck of the draw, and maybe some people don't want to be the FIRST person everyone calls when they get to town.)
* A possible solution for this is for any host to offer a limit of guest encounters they will entertain in a given amount of time (week, month) and once that limit is reached, the host is removed from the list of available hosts.
In my limited experience, I respect the idea of spontaneity for those who choose that path, but would also like to see an option for people who just rolled into town, and may not have pre-planned their entire routes (so, lets say they're in town on a detour) and need on-demand access to a safe place to sleep.
It may be fun to find this for yourself, but then again it may not. Why not have an option to hit the website and find out if there are any reliable locals that you can lean on on short notice.
If you want to live by the wire, that's fine too!
Another problem is that as the site grows it becomes harder for new members in larger cities to host. There were complaints on Couchsurfing about this several years ago and they altered the search algorithm so there was a degree of (yes) randomness so that newer members had a chance of appearing on the first page near the top while also rewarding active members by (I think) calculating a score from data such as last log in, number of positive references, responsiveness etc... I saw my requests go down but that was OK because I didn't particularly want to deal with 4-5 requests a day. Its a difficult balance to reach but one that I think should be considered here for the future. Perhaps the default search order could be derived from a similar calculation with a degree of randomisation but also include options to sort by responsiveness, feedback, last login etc. Default sorting by distance from city centre doesn't seem particularly fair or useful to me for reasons mentioned above. It seems redundant anyway as we have map search.
IMO the whole large metro area thing is basically intractable for hosts. My experience both living in Denver and searching for members in larger cities is that there are way too many hosts and way too few cyclists going through most of those areas for hosts to get much activity. We hear this from time to time "I never get any requests". And yet when *we* have looked for hospitality in larger places we didn't end up with successful arrangements.
I think in short I'm trying to say that the really is no perfect solution. And considering the vast array of people to sign up for Warm Showers, i am thinking that the present website works pretty well.
Absolutely! I don't disagree... The site does work, and it works well, and I am thankful for that.
That doesn't mean it can't get better. :-)
Great thread. I added https://github.com/rfay/Warmshowers.org/issues/340 to look at search and sort by responsiveness and feedback.
I understand that a lot of the activity on Warmshowers is rural / small town hosting on established cycle routes in the US but as WS grows there are increasingly diverse scenarios for hosts and guests. As I said, in Buenos Aires we have around 50 people marked as available to host but I still hear about tourers who didn't get a host or even a reply. BA is a major entry/exit point for tourists of all kinds from Europe, North America and Australia/NZ to South America. Of all the interactions I've had with cyclists over the years here the vast majority have been flying in or out at the beginning or end of a trip. I can't recall anyone arriving by road on bike (do-able, but admittedly a somewhat daunting proposition) - I doubt anyone was using map search in those scenarios. If they did cycle in it would be a useful way to search but why not have the list search complement the map search by offering something different? As it stands it's an inferior version of map search that will give some distance information but no orientation. I don't think the problem is intractable, things will never work perfectly but I think they can be improved.
Adding to my remarks about how CS dealt with the problem of new hosts not getting requests, I think it would be a difficult mathematical proposition to get the balance right between experienced hosts and new hosts and possibly it will never be necessary as WS by its own nature will always be a smaller niche hospitality site.
Another possibility would be to have default filters on list search (eg: has logged in within the last month + has response rate of 75% or more) then the list that is generated from these filters is ordered randomly. In addition new members with let's say a total of 3 requests or less could have a pending response rate so they could also be included (as a failure to respond to 1 message would automatically filter them out otherwise). The user could have the option of clicking on advanced search to alter these filters as well as clicking on column headings to sort by last login, response rate, join date and feedback. I think these default settings would give a good mix of users who are active or new.
If this negatively impacted in any way on the way WS is used in rural areas etc I would understand arguments against it but I don't see how it could be anything other than a complement to map search.
Another thing Randy, are new members by default marked as available for hosting? I don't think they should be - perhaps you could have a pop up for new members reminding them that they won't appear in host searches until they change the setting in their preferences.
In answer to at least some of your questions:
Don't you think the unresponsiveness in urban areas has something to do with the fact that new members are by default available for hosting? Again, just from my experience with my own guests and from spending time regularly on several hospitality sites I think the majority of new members sign up when they are about to go on a trip.
The ratio of available hosts to members on the front page of the site has always caught my attention - it looks nice but isn't it counterproductive? I think its creating a lot of false positives. If we began to mark new members as unavailable by default with a popup that appears on each login warning them that they need to change their status to appear on host searches (this could keep appearing until they check 'don't tell me again' or change their status for the first time) wouldn't this give a more accurate picture of people who actually want to host today, tomorrow, and next week?
There does seem to be a problem with members knowing their status, remembering it, etc. We have an issue open to work on this that I think will actually come about within the next year or so. There are a few things we can do (listed there) to improve it. I did add a note about your suggestion to that issue.
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